Archives for On Writing

Great Opening Paragraph 126… ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne  ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison  ‘1984’ by George Orwell  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ej via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#FlashPic 46 Tap Going Two ways #writingprompt #amwriting

Two families live side by side, cheek by jowl. They must share one tap for all their water. In this exercise, the challenge is to take a basic unexciting situation then make it dramatic by adding a mixture of character, confrontation and threat. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First decide the setting of your tap. Perhaps it is a tap at a domestic house which, during a drought and water shortage, must be shared. Perhaps it is a water pump in a remote village. Imagine the place, the time, the century, and the circumstances requiring the sharing of water. Consider the practical difficulties, the emotional consequences. Is the water supply constant, or intermittent. Why is the water supply under threat. Now add your two families. Concentrate on two main characters but sketch out two other family members so you have the option of using them to add tension or balm to the situation. What key emotions and experiences sum up the relationship of your two protagonists? Have they met before, or are they strangers. Resentment. Community spirit. Jealousy. Pedantry. Hatred. Isolation. Shyness. Admiration. Suspicion. Pragmatism. Attraction. Decide the specific water needs of each family. Now put your
Read More

Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

My Porridge & Cream read… Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish #shortstories

Today I’m delighted to welcome short story writer Amanda Huggins. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “There was strong competition for my Porridge and Cream choice, and I’d just like to mention two of the worthy runners-up, both of which I return to time and time again. The wonderful Jane Eyre needs no introduction or explanation, and has been in my top ten since I was a teenager. Another contender was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I’ve loved since first reading it in the 1980s. A beautifully written story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. But my final choice has to be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the all-time bestselling – and most translated – books ever published. “I own a signed copy of The Remains of the Day as well as a Folio hardback, and I also have two copies of Jane Eyre – though sadly neither of them are signed! But I have to confess to owning a rather extravagant seven copies of The Little Prince. In my defence, they’re all in different languages – however, as I’m only
Read More

Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

Great Opening Paragraph 125… ‘Beloved’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had runaway by the time they were thirteen years old – as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny hand prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill.” ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor  ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng  ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara BELOVED by Toni Morrison #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ec via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#Bookreview ‘On Writing’ by AL Kennedy @Writerer #amwriting #writerslife

If you want an insight into the nuts and bolts of a writer’s life, this book is for you. On Writing by AL Kennedy is a compilation of her blog posts written for The Guardian Online and essays on specific aspects of the fiction writing process. When you finish it, you will no longer believe that a writer’s life is full of glamour and applause. Kennedy’s life is hectic, mind-spinning in its variety, and inspiring. Join her on a journey as she writes one book, promotes another, teaches creative writing, gives talks and performs her ‘one woman’ show. Sympathise with her through her various debilitating illnesses – name a writer who hasn’t suffered with a bad back, as she does – and cringe as she travels on delayed trains, stays in poky B&Bs, and flies, terrified, to book signings across the world. Some of her stories made me laugh out loud. I loved the fact that she travels with a survival kit to enable her to survive unedifying overnight accommodation, including teabags and longlife food. She has learnt the hard way how to survive. Kennedy has written six novels, five story collections and two books of non-fiction, and she won
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 124… ‘The Camomile Lawn’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Helena Cuthbertson picked up the crumpled Times by her sleeping husband and went to the flower room to iron it.” ‘The Camomile Lawn’ by Mary Wesley BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway  ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr ‘Back When We Were Grown-Ups’ by Anne Tyler  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE CAMOMILE LAWN by Mary Wesley #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-48b via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

How Jacqueline Wilson writes #amwriting #writetip

Jacqueline Wilson on writers’ block: “I don’t often feel blocked, though I often worry that I’m writing rubbish.” [from ‘The Author’ magazine, Winter 2018]  Dame Jacqueline Wilson has written more than 100 books for children, which have been translated into 34 languages. It is not surprising, given her output, that she doesn’t often feel blocked. She credits this to her background as a journalist, “I worked as a magazine journalist in my late teens and had to write my allotted thousand words within an hour or I’d be in serious trouble! It was very good training. The rare times I haven’t got a clue what to write next I go for a walk or a swim.” Sound advice. What is more interesting though, is her worry that she is writing rubbish. Writers, new and experienced, face this dilemma on an almost daily basis. I don’t know if it’s reassuring that she feels this way, or depressing that it’s not a feeling you shed as you publish more books. BUY THE BOOK See how these other authors write:- AJ Pearce, on immersing herself in the 1940s  Philippa Gregory, on putting the reader into the historical moment Sebastian Barry, on writing the
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

#BookReview ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill #amreading

I selected this book off my to-read shelf where it has sat for at least two years and, on reading the first paragraph, knew I must read on. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill is a gem of a memoir, a year in the life of a crime novelist who decides to read only the books on her bookshelves. But this is more than a review of books – it can be dipped in and out of, the chapters are conveniently short which makes you want to read ‘just another’ – because Hill attaches a personal story to each book, each author. I have always felt an affinity with Susan Hill; she was born eight miles from my own Yorkshire birthplace, and I was intrigued to learn about why she writes. I learned so much more; how her first novel was published when she was only eighteen, how she lives an ordinary life but mixes with some breath-stopping names. She met and/or knew TS Eliot, EM Forster, Cecil Day Lewis, Penelope Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Bowen; it is a mirror image of my reading list at university, except for the Bond. Above everything though, the book
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous #writers, writing… Jodi Picoult @jodipicoult #amwriting

You’ve read every word, every line, every page and yet there is still room for improvement. Every writer knows the stage when the book feels as if it should be finished but isn’t, not quite. Jodi Picoult has sold 14 million print books worldwide in 34 languages but the scene shown here is familiar to every writer – Jodi is editing surrounded by Post-It notes, the latest draft from her editor with tracking changes, a sheaf of papers held together by a bulldog clip. Picoult’s most recent book, A Spark of Light, was published in 2018 and was a New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestseller. It is her twenty-fifth book. BUY THE BOOK Read the opening paragraphs of Nineteen Minutes and Vanishing Acts, and here’s my review of Vanishing Acts. See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Gregory Peck JK Rowling John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… @jodipicoult #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-49E via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

How AL Kennedy writes @Writerer #amwriting #writetip

AL Kennedy on spending time with a Harris hawk; thanks to the man who decorated her mother’s bathroom who was also a falconer: “I have no idea if or when I will make use of Mr Hawk, but he will have rattled something somewhere which will eventually rattle something else and meanwhile it was a blast to meet him.”  [from ‘On Writing’ by AL Kennedy]  I love this story from On Writing, AL Kennedy’s book about her life as a writer and based on the blog she writes for the Guardian newspaper. I love it because it demonstrates how authors collect ideas like squirrels store nuts and that the process can, perhaps should, be enjoyable. Given an unexpected opportunity [the decorator/falconer] Kennedy grabbed it and stored away the observations, the experience, the emotions, for another time. It may appear in her writing in any number of ways but on the day she saw Mr Hawk she had no plans. She goes on to protest, mildly, that the day spent with Mr Hawk was for purely professional reasons. ‘It’s not fun with Mr Hawk – it’s work’. Researching becomes enjoyable; a treat, even. Surely this is reflected on the page when the
Read More

Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

How Penny Vincenzi wrote #writerslife #amwriting #bestseller

Penny Vincenzi “I haven’t the faintest idea what is going to happen, ever. I just get the kernel of the idea, which in this case was supposing a company was about to go under, and then the characters wander in. I never have any idea what is going to happen at the end, I truly don’t, which is why they are so long.” [on writing ‘A Question of Trust’, in an interview with ‘The Telegraph’ on June 16, 2014]  Penny Vincenzi didn’t get writer’s block. And she didn’t plot. The first I understand and I think that is due to her journalistic background. But the second; no plotting? At all? It didn’t stopped her selling 7 million big books, her novels came in at around 300,000 words. Her first, Old Sins, was published in 1989. She died in 2018. On writer’s block, she said, “I don’t agonise. I do have terrible days when I realise I have gone down a completely blind alley and I’ve got to come back. The only cure is to press the delete button, I’m afraid. I once deleted 20,000 words, and I felt much better after that.” Read the full article at The Telegraph. BUY
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read Clare Rhoden @ClareER #books #Regency

Today I’m delighted to welcome dystopian sci-fi author Clare Rhoden. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer. “I’m now onto my third copy of The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer. What’s that? There’s a copy in your local charity shop?! Let me at it! “I first read this book as a teenager, home from school with a bad case of something or other. My big sister assured me I’d love it. As usual, she was right. I have since read all Heyer’s Regency romances, and own most of them. My little library of happy, witty, female-centred adventure books followed me through several house moves. Then, after a somewhat uneventful decade, I was stuck at home for a long recovery after surgery. Time for The Talisman Ring again! “Imagine my surprise to discover that the book had changed. Well, of course it hadn’t changed, but I had. I recalled a dashing young couple diving headlong into adventure, assisted by an older cousin and a clever spinster. But no! Instead, thirty-year-old Sir Tristram and Sally Thane – unmarried in her late twenties – were actually the heroes in the story. I enjoyed it all the more. “The
Read More

Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

How Holly Bourne writes #writerslife #amwriting

Holly Bourne “People think that world-building is something you only need to do in fantasy novels. But [with the character of Tori] I had to think: what’s the name of her book? What’s her brand? How does she write to her readers? How do they respond? I had to work on this imaginary career trajectory that she has.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, March 9, 2018]  I reacted to this remark by young adult author Holly Bourne, who is now writing adult novels too, with familiarity and and a degree of puzzlement. Familiarity because I understand what she means, how she places her character into a world and sees what happens, how she makes decisions about the framework of that world in order for the story to progress. Puzzlement about the reference to world-building as being limited to fantasy novels; really? Isn’t that what all novelists do, whatever the genre? Imagine a world, create characters, let the two combine and see what happens. Isn’t that part of writing? Or am I missing something? How Do You Like Me Now? is Bourne’s first adult novel. She is a successful YA writer, her YA novels include It Only Happens in
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read @JuliaThumWrites #writing #childrensfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s writer Julia Thum. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. “The story is about a beautiful valley called Moonacre that is shadowed by the tragic memory of a Moon Princess and a mysterious little white horse. When 13 year old orphan Maria Merryweather is sent to live there she finds herself involved in an ancient feud and is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley. “I first read this magical story when I was eleven. My father had just died and we were living on a farm in Somerset. I still remember transposing Moonacre’s fantasy world onto my own life and spending many happy hours wandering around the fields pretending to be Maria and looking for the mysterious little white horse. “I read and re-read the story all through my teens and tweens, picking it up whenever I needed a safe space. In adult life, I’ve read The Little White Horse to all my children. Now they’re teenagers, and I’m moving from writing adult to ‘middle grade’ children’s fiction, I’m re-visiting the story, looking at the form, the structure, and trying to ‘bottle’
Read More

Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘The Writing of Fiction’ by Edith Wharton #amwriting

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She won for The Age of Innocence in 1920; it was her twelfth novel. First published in 1925, her advice is still current today and will interest readers as well as writers of fiction. Part literary analysis, part writing recommendations, this is not an indexed guide on how to write but more Wharton’s thoughts on writing fiction. At the beginning she reviews the development of ‘modern fiction’ that she says began when the action of the novel was ‘transferred from the street to the soul’; moving through the trend for providing a ‘slice of life’ via the French realists to the early twentieth century ‘stream of consciousness’. The early chapter is a little dry but the meat of this book is in three chapters: ‘Telling a Short Story’, ‘Constructing a Novel’, and ‘Character and Situation in the Novel’. Wharton’s main points have lasted the test of time. Dialogue should be used sparingly. Originality is about vision, not about technique. Minor characters should all serve a purpose, or be cut. All novelists will to a degree write the autobiographical, Wharton says, but to be a truly creative novelist one
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 42 Ethereal Rubbish #writingprompt #amwriting

A plastic bag is blown along a pavement by the breeze. Use this moody scene as your trigger to start writing today. An inanimate object like this is a useful tool to use in a short story or novel. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. This plastic bag can:- Illustrate a particular theme. For example, perhaps your character is a rolling stone, always drifting, never settling in one place. Or your theme could be climate change; Reinforce a character trait. Perhaps you want to hint to the reader that a character is transparent, flimsy, without foundation. Or if your bag is paper, perhaps they are vulnerable, easily damaged and never repaired. You get the idea; Be a linking device to introduce two characters to each other. Imagine watching a film where a lonely man drops a plastic bag which is picked up by the wind. He runs to pick it up and put it in the rubbish bin, and collides with a woman who is part of a charitable litter collection scheme. If it helps, visualise this scene as if you are watching it on television; Demonstrate atmosphere. Perhaps your scene is described in black and white. The
Read More

Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

#WritersLife Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #writingcompetitions

The last time I saw Jane Davis was at the London Book Fair 2019 at 9am in the morning when she was standing on a stage talking about her eighth novel, a finalist in The Selfies. Later the same day, Smash all the Windows won the inaugural award. The Selfies is unusual in that while only novels by indie authors are eligible, the announcement took places at the UK’s major traditional publishing event. So Jane is a trailblazer. I asked her to share with us her journey with Smash all the Windows and her experience of writing competitions. “London Book Fair 2018 provided an excellent venue for the launch of Smash all the Windows. It was a high-concept (and potentially high-risk) novel, in which I created a fictional disaster to explore my outrage at the reaction of the press to the verdict of the Hillsborough second inquest. “It has taken conviction to right the wrongs. It will take courage to learn how to live again. For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

How AJ Pearce writes #writerslife #amwriting

AJ Pearce immersed herself in the music of the 1940s and watched air raids on You Tube “with the volume turned up as loud as possible, trying to get some idea of what on earth it was like.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, January 12, 2018]   Any novelist who has set a story in the recent past knows the joys, and pitfalls, of online research. Such is depth of digitised records now that there is almost nothing from the 20th century that is not accessible online. Author AJ Pearce, whose debut novel Dear Mrs Bird, is set in World War Two, turned to contemporary novels and You Tube. In Dear Mrs Bird, Emmy Lake becomes an agony aunt on a magazine, offering advice, or not, to letter writers. Obviously Pearce immersed herself in magazines of the period. But she also read novels of the time, particularly Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell, published in 1940, and Henrietta’s War by Joyce Denys. “It’s funny and light but every now and then there’s a line that takes your breath away because it is so sad,” she explains. In The Bookseller interview, Pearce is asked why she chose the World
Read More

Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 41 Over-Exposed People #writingprompt #amwriting

These over-exposed people are simply a photographic trick but for today’s writing exercise, imagine this is what you see. Everything is blurred, fuzzy, indistinct. Create a character starting from this fact. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First concentrate on the practicalities. Decide what your character can and cannot see. How much definition is visible and how this affects their daily life. What they can and cannot do, what they would push themselves to do in an emergency. Next decide if this condition is new, perhaps temporary. Due to accident or illness? Or perhaps try a sci-fi spin; is this a side effect of a chemical attack? Whatever the reason, you must consider the character’s emotional reaction of reduced vision. Put yourself in their place. Or perhaps your character has only ever known this degree of vision. How has their life unfolded and what would have been different with full vision. Now it is time to put your visually-impaired character into a dramatic situation. Choose one of the following:- An argument with a loved one; A disagreement on public transport with a stranger; A disciplinary meeting with the boss; An emergency where your character must run to the
Read More

Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Famous #writers, writing… @jk_rowling

This is a typical writer’s scene. Laptop. Coffee. Intense concentration. Notebooks. Stack of reference books. JK Rowling appears to be writing in a hotel room [my assessment based on the hotel-style lamp and glossy table top]. Is she writing about wizards, or a private detective? I have a feeling she may be writing about Harry, rather than in her later guise as Robert Galbraith.   ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith BUY See these other writers, writing:- Rose Tremain Zadie Smith John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous #writers, writing… is @jk_rowling writing about a wizard or a private detective? #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3B1 via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.