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Developing an idea

Are you at the very beginning stages of your story? If you have an idea for your manuscript in your mind, but aren't sure where to go next, then our Developing An Idea section is for you. With advice on researching, different genres and - the hardest thing of all - how to actually start writing, we can help you get past that first blank page. 

#PleaseRetweet Everything - Or, Is It Time For A Social Media Detox?


Did you know more people die from taking selfies than from shark attacks? One man even got attacked by a shark while taking the selfie. It didn't put him off taking another snap from his stretcher though. I guess he was thinking about all the potential 'likes' and 'retweets'. Getting bitten by a …

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10 Steps To Writing A Novel

Gilly McAllister

So, before you get a publisher, and before you get an agent, you have to write a book. And you have to write the best book you can. I’m sorry to say that there is no way around that. There are no life hacks and quick fixes that will circumvent this. You have to write a book, and it will likely …

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10,000 Hours and Where to Find Them

Sally O'Reilly

Before you send your work anywhere, it needs to be as good as possible – original and exciting as well as beautifully presented. Making your work excellent takes practice – a lot of practice. It might be tempting to imagine that you can write a novel in a year, or even a month as many …

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A Truth Universally Acknowledged

Katie Oliver

Pride and Prejudice was written in 1813. Two centuries ago...and yet Austen's story of Elizabeth Bennet and the prideful Mr Darcy is as popular and relevant today as it was in the early 19th century. Numerous film adaptations have come and gone, from the 1940 version starring Greer Garson and …

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A writer who doesn't read

Whenever I get the chance to talk to aspiring authors, I tend to chat about what we've read, what they've enjoyed, what they felt shouldn't have been published, it's a great way to start connecting.

Every now and then I come across a frightening response, 'oh no, I don't read very much/at …

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Another Skin

Karen Campbell

Write about what you know, they tell you. So, with my first book, that’s exactly what I did. Having been a police officer in the city centre of Glasgow, I wrote about what it felt like to walk down a street in uniform, full of  this strange mix of power and vulnerability – your uniform is …

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Balancing Your Writing Life

The life of a writer is a solitary one – as shown by the fascinating series on here written by Ian Philips.  We have our own particular garrets  - noisy, quiet, at tables or desks, or scrunched up under the stairs or perched on the end of the bed.

All this leads on to a chicken …

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Beetles & Books: My Journey to Publication

I wanted to be a writer for years but came to the conclusion I was no good at it after ten years of half-heartedly scribbling bits of stories and nothing amounted to anything good enough to finish.

 But then, I had a light-bulb moment, caused by the panic of not being able to answer a seemingly …

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Biographical Fiction: The Pleasures & Responsibilities

The Lodger by Louisa Treger

Recent years have seen an increase in the popularity of ‘biographical fiction’: novels and films based on real lives. The Hours by Michael Cunningham, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, With Billie by Julia Blackburn, and Allan Massie’s Roman Quartet based on the lives of Antony, Augustus, …

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Creating a Memorable Sense of Place in Your Writing

Lucy Cruickshanks

How often have you heard someone say of a book they loved: “I felt like I was there?” 

The setting of a novel can take many forms. It can be vast and all-encompassing like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or small and stifling like Emma Donoghue’s Room. It can be exotic, like the colonial …

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Creating Complex Protagonists

Imogen Robertson

Imogen Robertson asks: are you a lover, a puppet-master or a Dr Frankenstein?

Every character in a novel starts off as a ghost - someone we catch a glimpse of from the corner of our eye - the idea of an idea. How do we create a living being out of that smoke? It’s not easy. For a character to …

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Do your research (and the characters will write the book for you)

Polly Courtney

Perhaps it's because I fell into writing by penning a semi-autobiographical novel about my time as a junior banker in the City, but I truly believe that the best books are written by people who have breathed the air that their characters breathe and - even if only temporarily - lived the lives that …

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Elephants, Murder, and India: My Magic Formula for Getting Published!

Author Vaseem Khan offers words of encouragement by recounting his road to publication.

Twenty-three long years, six rejected novels, over a million words, a decade in India, and a baby elephant – that’s the journey I made before my first novel The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – …

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Extract from Writers' & Artists' Guide to How to Write by Harry Bingham

Some Common Mistakes

When you set out on your adventure, dog-sled harnessed, runners greased and pemmican packed, you may even be heading within a degree or two of true north, skimming over the snow, full of a justified confidence that you’ll wind up within an …

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Fact in Fiction

Kate Manning

Readers seem to have a voracious appetite for a species called “the strong female character.” Where does this elusive heavily-muscled creature reside, and how does a writer hunt and capture such a class of heroines on the page? One place to search is the attic. Excavating little-known female …

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From Idea to Series: Adventures Abroad

I’ve always had a severe case of wanderlust.

When I was twenty, I finally found an excuse to leave North America, and by the end of that summer, I’d visited a friend in China before spending a month in Italy on a study abroad program. Oh, yeah, I’d also worked in a quick stop in the city of my …

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Fusing Real Life Into Fiction

Sticking to the adage of writing what you know – rather than what you think is clever, as a friend’s Mum once painfully observed of a short play of mine – I put a lot of recollections and personal experiences into my first novel, Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story

I first …

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Getting A Boost For Your Writing

Cath Barton on how the belated success of her novella has boosted her writing momentum...

Every writer's journey to publication is different, but I think the important thing is to embrace the chances that come your way and never say never. This is not about the blind and misguided faith of the …

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Going Public

So, you want to be published? Are you sure about this – by which I mean: have you thought about why you want to be published?

I certainly didn't. Not before I’d written my novel Tree Magic, received a few rejections from leading agents, concluded it was rubbish and tossed it into a cupboard. It …

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How Do You Begin A Novel?

When I first started writing I used to think that there was nothing in the world quite as intimidating as a blank sheet of paper. A thought I was reminded of only a few days ago when staring at one myself, waiting for the inspiration to begin my new novel, the next in the series after

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How I Reluctantly Learnt To Write What I Know

I hate the advice ‘write what you know.’ Lots of people seem to understand it intuitively, but for a long time the phrase stood between me and the keyboard and told me loudly that I what knew was precisely nothing. So, I was a little surprised when a recent review of Before This Is Over

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How To Gather Ideas, Turn Them Into A Novel - & Finish It

In her third article for Writers & Artists, Nail Your Novel author Roz Morris gives her advice for researching and developing your book ideas.

Writing a novel is a lengthy undertaking. Many novices launch in, compelled to write by an idea, a situation, a character or a world. But often the story …

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How To Treat Writing Like A Job

Charlene Allcott

Charlene Allcott, debut author of The Reinvention of Martha Ross, offers thoughts on the importance of how to start treating your writing like a job...

When I tell someone I’ve got a novel coming out, I’m often asked how I did it. Generally, I claim that I just typed for as long as it took to …

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I Started Here

The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney

I often ask myself why it took me so long to realise I wanted to be a writer. Over the years I’ve filled piles of notebooks with story fragments and poems, carting them from house to house, but I never dared share my work or imagine writing as a career. Being an author was a fantasy job, reserved …

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Images: One Little Painting At A Time

In an exclusive adapted extract taken from The Writer's Eye: Observation and Inspiration for Creative Writers (Bloomsbury, 2018), Amy E. Weldon looks at how pictures in your mind often ask to be illustrated by words...

The Writer's Eye by Amy E. Weldon

Think about a memory you’ve held onto for a long time, some mental …

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Inspiration Is For Amateurs

Shubnum Khan

Inspired by endless tapes of Anthony Robbins and stories from Chicken Soup for The Soul, I wrote ‘Publish a novel by 25’ in my goal book when I was 12 years old. In my mind, I also had Penguin’s little penguin attached to the spine with my name on it. It was a dreamy time of my life, filled …

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Inventing A Genre: Culinary Gothic

When I started out as a hopeful young writer some twenty years ago, I learned about genre from the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook by studying the types of submissions agents and publishers accepted. There was a high demand for women's fiction, romance, literary, and horror, and a lot less …

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It Takes Two: Collaborative Screenplay Writing

Ordinary Joe by Jon Teckman

‘Collaborative writing’: a concept guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of many writers! We’re a strange breed: we tend to work alone, weaving worlds full of characters and plots that we control and often finding it hard to show the fruits of our labours, even to our publishers. While …

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Learning From The Masters

When I started writing my first novel, I knew only that I wanted to create a fictional biography of a 1920s dancer called Lucia Joyce.  I had never been on a writing course or read a creative writing manual.  Fortunately, Lucia was the only daughter of James Joyce and a large part of her …

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Making It Funny: Writing Comedy Retreat

A few years ago, I was asked if I would conduct a workshop on the subject of “Writing Comedy”. Not an unreasonable idea, except that after a few days of thinking about it, I reached the conclusion that some people are just funnier than others, and apart from telling students to write some …

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Over-active research syndrome

Do you get bogged down by research?

It’s expected that you’ll know all about your characters, but the time to worry is when you catch yourself knee-deep in research about their not-mentioned, not-part-of-the-plot Great Aunt Sadie Twice Removed.

Researching is part of the fun of writing, …

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Planning Ahead

Thomas Mogford

Crime writer Thomas Mogford discusses the importance of planning before writing, and how doing so helped him to find the perfect ending for his debut novel.

Last year, I had the good fortune to be shortlisted for a CWA ‘Dagger’ award for best debut crime novel. Having never won a prize in my …

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Pouring 'Real Life' Into Fiction

Kerry Hudson

Like many of you reading this, a few years ago writing a novel seemed like an impossible dream to me. Yet as I sit down to write this I am also checking Twitter at regular five-minute intervals because last week the pre-publication proof copies of my second novel, Thirst, were sent to journalists, …

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Prompt Writing

We’re at the Turner Gallery in Margate, in one of the anterooms with a panoramic view of the sea. The wind is blowing the tide over the seawall.  There’s a group of about twenty people sitting in a semi-circle around Yann, our life model. Someone opens one of the huge doors and for a …

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Research, Atmosphere & Setting

When I begin a novel, it isn't the setting that comes to mind. In my latest novel. The Last Photograph, I wanted to explore the psychology of a photojournalist: someone who visits conflict zones as an observer, rather than in combat. I researched recent wars to determine which one I wanted to …

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Should I do a writing course?

'Should I do a writing course?'  is a question often on the lips of new writers.

Some quickly talk themselves out of it, believing the adage that writing is a solitary pursuit, to be battled out alone. (Picture the traditional scene - the …

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Stay Motivated & Write Your Book

E. R. Murray

“Everyone has a book in them.” How many times have you heard this said? I’m guessing lots. But how many writers have you heard say this? Probably very few, if any.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that everyone’s got a book in them. I do believe that everyone has an idea or ideas – some …

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The Feeling of a Place

The Boy in The Tower

The more I write, the more surprised I am by the places that it takes me. It happens quite without guile or planning. I am conjuring a setting and suddenly I am thrown back into the memory of walking down a particularly grotty alleyway on my route to work. It always featured a half-drunken …

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The Impact of the Landscape

Wolf Winter

Writer Cecilia Ekbäck discusses the importance of place in Scandinavian literature and how this has influenced her debut novel, Wolf Winter. 

Just before Christmas, I was asked to write an article for Strand Magazine in the US. ”Write about Scandinavian crime novels,” they asked. ”What …

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The Importance of Asking Why

Ahead of her appearance at our How to Get Published conference at York Literature Festival, Claire North discusses developing a premise...

Let’s start with the simplest premise we can.

On Thursday evening, Sally quits her job. She picks up her coat, doesn’t bother to say goodbye to her …

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The Influence of Travel on Writing

I write romantic fiction about food, family, friends and love and believe every story should have a happy ending. Each of my stories are set in a fabulous setting, with food and love at the heart of it; because I believe once you find the food of an area, it takes you by the hand and …

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The Making of a Book: Conception to the First Draft

Arnie Jenks and the House of Strangers

In this new series for Writers & Artists, successful self-published author Tim Bradley will be explaining the process of writing his first children's novel, Arnie Jenks and the House of Strangers, from initial conception through to getting the book into readers' hands. 

Part One

It’s going …

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The Novelist as Detective: Searching for Fiction in Non-Fiction

Jenny Hubbard

I am not the first writer to fear that I will run out of ideas.  Now that I, at age 50, write stories starring teenagers, I can’t help but think that there are only so many resources left in my memory bank.   When I began writing And We Stay (a 2015 Printz Honor Book), I had no idea …

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The Value of Writers’ Retreats

Reputable employers offer their workforce career development (or “training” as we used to call it!) But writers are their own bosses, and so we must provide our own education programmes, if we’re to remain fresh, productive and motivated. 

To my mind, no training opportunity for writers …

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The Writer’s Ultimate Workspace

Arranging for a space to write in a domestic environment can be a mammoth challenge. Scriptwriter Rib Davis shares his experiences of writing from home, and the lessons he’s learned – or nearly learned – as a result.

This is a work of fiction. It is based on fact – as much of the best …

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The Writing Tips They Never Teach You

 Benjamin Myers

Author, poet and journalist Benjamin Myers serves up a list of writing tips they never teach you.

I’ll be frank: I’m afraid I can’t offer much in the way of practical advice as to how to strike that elusive book deal. My last three novels – dark and squalid poetic explorations of …

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To Plan or Not to Plan: My Balancing Act

The Tea Planter's Wife

To say this conflict is uppermost in my mind is an understatement; it’s banging at my skull and pretty much driving me crazy. To plan or not to plan? That’s my struggle. 

My first book, The Separation, was published by Penguin in 2014; my second, The Tea Planter’s Wife, is being published …

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What Do We Write About When We Write About Love?

Everyone likes a good love story, right? Love is, after all, a fundamental part of the human experience in one shape or another.  

Inspired by an invitation to discuss literary love at a book festival this month, and by some early reader responses to my latest novel, I’ve been looking into …

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What genre is it?


‘It's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman’ – The Player

At recent events with authors, I kept hearing people discussing their genre.  Mostly in slightly baffled tones.  This is another example of the disconnect between a writer and the publishing industry. 

An …

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What if...?

Rebecca Mascull

How is a story born? From where do the ideas for novels come? Some start with a character, an image, a scene or even a place, something that catches the novelist’s eye or mind. Stories can often start with a question that needs answering. One of the most interesting questions we can ask of a …

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What inspires your writing?

Mary Hooper writes for children and young adults. Her historical novels including At the House of the Magician and The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose have a huge fan base, as do her contemporary novels for teenagers.

In my last post, A writer with nothing to write about, I explained how, …

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What would it take to start you writing today?

This article is inspired by a good friend of mine, who has been flirting with the idea of being a writer for many years.  She's just had a birthday and decided this is the year she is going to write her novel.  She has a very busy life, works part-time, has four children, many pets, …

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When things start to happen...

“Where does it all come from?” runs that favourite query of literary festival audiences. “Where do you get your ideas and your inspiration?”

Oh dear, I’ve always dreaded that question. I can answer anything, literally anything at all, about the writing process. I can talk at length …

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

The one question people always want to ask writers is – where do you get your ideas?

That’s no surprise – it does seem like a strange, mysterious phenomenon. How on Earth did Philip Pullman come up with the idea for Northern Lights? Did it just pop into his head, complete with daimons, …

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Wild Writing

The Light That Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew

The natural world draws writers: for solace and inspiration, and for a wealth of narratives.

Even if we don’t write about nature, nature generates the stories we tell. This is because everything we know about creating, we know intuitively from the natural world. One can set the stage for creation …

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Worldbuilding with Lucy Saxon

The first step of writing any novel, fantasy or otherwise, is deciding your setting. Set in our world, in the current time, with no secret parallel universes or hidden lands? 

Great! Your job is done; get writing.

If your story is set elsewhere, however, it’s going to involve worldbuilding. …

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Write Now

Sarah Plater author

Writer Sarah Plater shares five research-backed motivational strategies for aspiring authors...

You’re confident you’ve got a book in you. You just haven’t quite finished it yet. If you’re honest, you haven’t actually started. Perhaps you’ve got outlines and scraps of paper with scene …

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Writing a Chapter Outline: A Necessity?

I write historical fiction for kids with an aim to educating them about the ancient world. Because there are so many facts and historical details in my books, they must have a strong plot to keep kids reading. Plot is the train that carries them through the world I want to show them.  

Because …

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Writing a Novel That Crosses Genre Boundaries

Radhika Sanghani

My debut novel, Virgin, is just about to be released here in the UK. Whenever someone asks me what genre it belongs in, I'm never quite sure what to say, because it doesn't really fit into a typical genre. I sum it up by saying 'women's fiction', but really it's Comedy, Young Adult, Chick Lit, New …

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Writing Advice for Debut Authors

I've worked in publishing since the age of 20 in a variety of roles, but perhaps the job I enjoyed most was working for two years as an assistant at a literary agency. Not only because the agent and I shared the same taste in books, but also in strong coffee and chocolate.

I had decided to …

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Writing as Therapy – When the Past Demands to be Acknowledged

How to Be Brave

“It’s under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth.” – Gao Xingjian.

One of the hardest and easiest things I’ve ever done is write my novel, How to be Brave.  I’d needed six years of breathing space in order to look back - very intensely - at one of the most difficult times …

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Writing at a Slant

A Perfect Mother is about a middle-aged man, Jacob Bedford, who is estranged from his wife and living separately to his teenage sons. At the start of the novel he arrives in Trieste (in Northern Italy) to write a magazine piece about the city and to do research into a lost ancestor. There he meets …

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Writing for the Fashion Business

Writing for the fashion business

Kristen K. Swanson and Judith C. Everett, authors of Writing for the Fashion Business, have shared two exclusive extracts with Writers & Artists. In this first part, we take a look at the writing process. Take a look below for advice on planning, purpose and audience.

Writing fashion messages …

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Your writing zone

Where do you write? You’ve probably seen those articles in the newspapers about ‘writers’ rooms’. It’s almost as if there’s a magic to the physical space where a writer writes.
Pictures of a writer’s room usually feature personal items: photos pinned to the wall, objects collected on …

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