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Story and plot

A well-paced plot that keeps the reader hooked from the very first sentence to the very last is one of the hardest, but most important, things for a writer to achieve. Our section on Story & Plot gives you advice on planning and pacing, to help you make your novel a page-turner.


'It Was The Day My Grandmother Exploded'

Malcolm Pryce

As part of his series of articles for writersandartists.co.uk on his new Howdunnnit Machine, author Malcolm Pryce considers the employment of shamelessly effective writing tricks.


In previous posts on my Howdunnit Machine I have described the fictive dream as an altered state, a walled Garden of …

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Balancing the Natural and the Supernatural

Bryony Pearce

Our world is shrinking: we can be in other countries in hours, we have excavated the past and broken the atom, our eyes have reached the stars. Knowledge renders the exotic ordinary - yet whenever we hear of a new discovery, don’t we feel a thrill? 

What is that thrill we feel? For me, it is …

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Building Suspense: Keeping Your Readers on Edge

While I was writing my first novel, I worked for the literary agency Darley Anderson, whose many bestselling clients include Lee Child, John Connolly and Tana French. I enjoyed the work so much that it took three years longer than it might have done otherwise to finish The House at Midnight. It was …

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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 …

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How Setting Can Create Tension

The Girl In The Photograph by Kate Riordan

For me, a strong and memorable setting is a huge part of any story. I’ve been entertained and diverted by books where setting doesn’t play much of a role, but the fiction that really stays with me – and made me want to be a writer in the first place – is the kind where the characters …

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Introducing the Howdunnit Machine

Malcolm Pryce

Author Malcolm Pryce introduces an innovative online course that shows how the concept behind the 747 Flight Simulator could help you write your first novel.


A century after a simulator teaches you to fly a plane, they invent one for the novel.

It’s called the Howdunnit Machine, a rather innovative …

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Pacing your plot

Do you find yourself 90% of the way through writing your novel, but with a lot of action left to cram in? Or have you galloped through your main ideas, only to find there's another 40,000 words left to write?

Pace is one of the trickiest things to get right, and one of the most …

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Sarah Perry Discusses Not Being a Woman Writer

Some time ago I was asked by a novelist of world renown why I - a woman – had written a novel featuring a male protagonist. Did I not think (as a woman) that it might be more appropriate to have a female protagonist? Was I not (as a woman) interested in the female experience? 

I was a little …

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Seven Secrets of Writing a Page-Turner

I wasn't classically trained in creative writing as such, but I did learn a lot of lessons ‘on the job’ from my brilliant editor, Marian McCarthy, the pick of which, I've listed below. 

1. The characters have to be believable and relatable with a real sense of depth.

2. Every …

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Soap Opera Redux: The Returning Popularity of the Saga

Pam Jenoff

Bestselling author Pam Jenoff discusses our enduring love affair with sagas and shares her advice on what a successful saga needs if it's going to engage readers and draw them in.


For many of my younger years, I watched a soap opera called Guiding Light.  I’m convinced from my years at …

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Starting A Novel

Richard Beard

A novel has to start somewhere. It doesn’t, however, have to start at the beginning.


Here lies the challenge of writing a novel: decisions need to be made, but the options can feel close to unlimited. Defer making decisions, and the novel will never take shape – the decision of where …

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Structure and Occam's Razor

I'm terrible at structure, let’s be clear about that. Whenever I have an editorial meeting, it’s always the same: ‘I love it! Change all the words, none of these ones make any sense.’ It’s the hardest thing about writing. I've got ideas, some of which are good, I can see the characters …

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The Currents and Colours of Setting

For me, the when and where is as important as the who and what. In fiction the actual setting (geography) and the ephemeral setting (historical moment in time) tell the story alongside the who (character) and the what (plot). The location is another character, as important as the ensemble I've …

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The Importance of Developing Engaging Subplots

How can you develop your story, add depth to your plot and create engaging & believable characters that will remain with readers long after they've turned the last page? This is where subplots are important.


The impact of your main plot is something that you probably give a considerable amount …

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The Miracle Under Your Nose

Malcolm Pryce

As part of his series of articles for writersandartists.co.uk on his new Howdunnnit Machine, author Malcolm Pryce now considers a question no one asks. What is reading?

After sex and shopping, it is probably Mankind’s most popular recreational activity. Yet few people ever bother to inquire about …

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Thoughts on the Unreliable Narrator

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

Dana is the main character in my book The Pocket Wife. She is bipolar and off her medication; she’s also going through lots of “stuff,” and this toxic mixture is beginning to bring on a manic episode. In Chapter One, Dana is poised for flight. Still, she is quite lucid. In fact, except for a …

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Why characters are the heart of your novel - & how you can write them effectively

In her fourth article for Writers & Artists, Roz Morris discuss the importance of character development in your novel - and how you can make sure your characters are the kind readers connect with and remember long after they've turned the final page.


Why is character so important? Isn't plot …

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Writing Dysfunctional Families

I started to write this, then thought, hang on, what is a functional family? Does one actually exist? Even those perfect-looking ones, with happy parents and cute, well-behaved kids probably have their own hidden layers of dysfunction. The kids are well-behaved only because the parents are …

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