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Writing Advice

In this section, you will find a collection of blogs dedicated to writing advice. So, if your manuscript is starting to drive you crazy, or you’re not sure how to get started, read on for the push you need to create your masterpiece.

When do you show your work in the revision process?

One of the (many) reasons I would make a lousy writer is that I hate revision and self-editing.  This may seem contradictory when it's what I do for a job, but I cringe when I read my prose.  When I'm reading someone else's writing, I have that sense of detachment that allows me to see what is and isn't working.

Do you enjoy revising your work?  And when should you show your work to someone else for another opinion?  Or indeed - should you?

The golden rule is - don't show your work to anyone else when they are likely to come up with a list of suggestions that you are already half considering.  So if their comments are going to make you say things like 'yes, I thought that', or 'well this is only a rough draft', or 'I already know that needs changing', don't show them.

Showing a reader - whether a friend or relative, or an editorial consultant, a half-finished piece of work is frustrating for all concerned.  The reader wonders why you are asking …
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Introducing the remix

Mohana RajakumarThis being my second year as a guest blogger, we’ve covered a lot of the startup issues related to writing: what publishers are looking for, how to get a writers’ group started, why keeping at writing even during change is important, and now that skill none of us (even Hemingway) can do without: revision.

I notice that as writers we tend to make one of two errors when it comes to revision: we either think it has only to do with grammar and so do it too early, or we think it has to do with our concept, and do it too late. In this post, we’ll talk about the basic principle of revision and in succeeding entries, various aspects of revision which do involve both grammar and revisiting your general concepts. This piece begins the first in a four month series on revision.

When I taught university students I often had to explain to their disbelieving faces that a paper should have been worked at least 2-3 times before landing in my in-box or on my desk. Whatever they sat down to …
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Leaving no loose ends

I make no apologies for this blog being about Harry Potter.  My daughter, who has been a competent but disinterested reader for the last two years, has suddenly discovered the Harry Potter books.  As a direct consequence of this, she has also discovered that the 'film of the book' is never quite the same as the written text.

At least JK Rowling managed to keep editorial control over the story changes in the films - unlike most authors - so the travesty of the film of  Philip Pullman's Northern Lights - (The Golden Compass) - (where the complex and dark ending is just completely ignored) is avoided.  He is pretty terse on the subject - as you can see from his website.

You may be wondering what this has to do with you, especially if you are concentrating on your written work, not dreaming of Hollywood.  Well today we watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and decided to watch the deleted scenes on the extra disc.  It was an interesting …
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Tips for peace of mind

It's a horrible moment, the moment when you sit bolt upright at 3am and realise that you've made a critical error.  Regular blog readers will know that we encourage writers to check, and check again when they are submitting, but errors still creep through.  We've all done it.  So here are my top five tips for getting a good night's sleep.

1.  Do not rely on spell check. And if you have relied on spell check, double check it.  The cautionary tale for this tip belongs to a friend of mine, who discovered she was pregnant shortly after signing up to a gym membership.  In pregnancy, she suffered from symphysis pubis disfunction (SPD), a painful condition that relates to the softening of your pubic bones in preparation for birth.

She wrote a letter to the gym, explaining that due to this condition and her pregnancy, she would like to stop her membership.  It was a few days later, after she'd sent it, that she looked at the saved document on her …
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Countdown to Keep Your Novel Pacey

Over the summer I had the pleasure of reading Colm Toibin's Brooklyn.  For all the routine of his female protagonist's days, I found myself compellingly drawn less into the narrative and more with the narrative. A personal lover of jazz, there is a rhythm here that pays homage to another time, another pace.

10. So, musicality is one technique for drawing the reader on.

9. Formatting is another.

But the myriad of ways in which this can be done are magical. First, look at Passoa's The Book of Disquiet. Here he presents the internal thoughts of a man simply sat at his office desk and yet, with the first person narrative segmented into journal entries, each new entry revives us.

So Diary format makes 8. Conversational tone makes 7.

Over the course of his literary career, Passoa himself wrote in many different and contrasting styles. But going to the top of my list of a single book that does this superbly would be English Passengers by contemporary novelist Matthew …
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