Archives for On Writing

Great opening paragraph 10… ‘Sacred Hearts’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Before the screaming starts, the night silence of the convent is alive with its own particular sounds.” ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway ‘Time Will Darken It’ by William Maxwell ‘Nineteen Minutes’ by Jodi Picoult And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: SACRED HEARTS by Sarah Dunant #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-f0 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 9… ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names.” ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’ by Haruki Murakami ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jr #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-eX via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with Lynn Barber…

Lynn Barber “At Vanity Fair I had to ‘pitch ideas’ and then go through layers of editors, all of whom asked what my ‘angle’ was going to be. I have always deeply hated and resented this question. If you have an angle on someone, it means you have already decided what to write before you meet, so you really might as well not bother interviewing them.” [excerpt from ‘An Education’ by Lynn Barber] As a journalist, I hated that question too. And I find the same principle applies to writing fiction. It’s good to have a vague plan at the beginning, but it is good to change that plan as you write as the characters and story develop. Predictable = boring. It’s good when your characters start surprising you. If you agree with Lynn Barber, perhaps you will agree with:- Truman Capote – learn the rules then re-arrange them to suit yourself Roddy Doyle – learn the rules then re-arrange them to suit yourself Sarah Hilary – research can become an obsession – and a distraction   ‘An Education’ by Lynn Barber [UK: Penguin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Don’t
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Categories: On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 8… ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the Highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began.” ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ by Carol Birch  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Guest Cat’ by Takashi Hiraide ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind ‘The Ghost’ by Robert Harris Read my review of Orphans of the Carnival, also by Carol Birch. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? JAMRACH’S MENAGERIE by @CarolBirch http://wp.me/p5gEM4-ea via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with… Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel “I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre: probably every woman writer does, because you recognise, when you have hardly begun it, that you are reading a story about yourself.” [excerpt from Giving up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel] I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre too. I must have been about 12 or 13, and I still retain a clear picture in my mind of Jane and Helen cuddled together in a hard wooden bunk. I’m not sure I thought it was a story about me, though. If you agree with Hilary Mantel, perhaps you will agree with:- Frederick Forsyth – all authors are separate, taking notes, watching Antony Gormley – everybody says what does it mean, but what does life mean? Deborah McKinley – the lean years focussed me on what I really wanted   ‘Giving up the Ghost’ by Hilary Mantel [UK: Fourth Estate] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Do you remember the 1st time you read JANE EYRE? Hilary Mantel does #writing via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cQ
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 7… ‘The Big Sleep’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.” ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler https://wp.me/p5gEM4-8B via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Ideas at dawn

Like most writers, I keep a notepad and pen beside my bed. Sometimes an idea comes to me in the middle of the night, so I try silently to slide the drawer open, extract the book, and scribble in it in the dark without waking my husband. It’s interesting, the effect complete darkness has on your writing skill. Often when I read my notes, the next morning, my handwriting is double its normal size and slants alarmingly across the page. Ideas often come to me in that phase between dream and wakefulness, when the brain mixes up elements of memory, dreams and imagination and comes up with plot solutions. Some of my big plot decisions originate from notes taken on waking. It can be frustrating trying to stay in the zone, when your body is waking up. Sometimes I will try to extend the moment, screwing up my eyes to exclude light, and going deaf like a teenager ignoring the alarm ringing at 7am for school. In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande advocates getting up an hour earlier than usual and writing before doing anything else, and particularly before reading anything. Write about whatever is in your head, she says.
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Categories: On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 6… ‘Goldfinger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.” ‘Goldfinger’ by Ian Fleming Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Murder Room’ by PD James ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche ‘Couples’ by John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7F via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 5… ‘Moon Tiger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

” ‘I’m writing a history of the world,’ she says. And the hands of the nurse are arrested for a moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old ill woman. ‘Well, my goodness,’ the nurse says. ‘That’s quite a thing to be doing, isn’t it?’ And then she becomes busy again, she heaves and tucks and smooths – ‘Upsy a bit, dear, that’s a good girl – then we’ll get you a cup of tea.’ ” ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell       Here is my old copy of Moon Tiger, well-read and much-loved. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MOON TIGER by Penelope Lively via @SandraDanby #amreading http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7w
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Reading for research: Man with a Blue Scarf

I am writing this in Spain where our internet connection has been intermittent for the last few days. We live in such a rural place that our telephone and internet are by satellite not land line and both are unpredictable. So, unable to blog, there should be no feasible distractions from the process of writing. The weather here is foul – cold and wet, yes in Andalucía! – so I hunker down in front of the fire with a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf here for a while. I’m reading about art and artists, as on-going research for my current novel, Connectedness. Having read last summer The Yellow House by Martin Gayford, the story of Van Gogh’s stay at Arles in the South of France when he painted the Sunflowers series, I would read anything he writes. Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud is a diary kept by Gayford as he sat for a portrait in Freud’s studio from 2003-2005. The book made headlines when published in 2010 because Freud was initially dissatisfied with the portrait. He couldn’t get the blue of the scarf right. Gayford finally admitted there were two scarves he
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 4… ‘Sophie’s World’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware?” ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4S via @SandraDanby #amreading
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with Stephen King…

Stephen King “Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.” [excerpt from ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King]  He’s right. Ideas come at me all the time, doing the most prosaic things. Doing the washing-up, queuing to park at the supermarket, wandering around an art gallery, sitting in a traffic jam. The fun starts when I realize two [or three] bits belong together. It doesn’t work if I force things to fit, so I’ve had to learn to be patient and let things be for a while. Some of my ideas have been kept for years until they find the right home. When a character finds a setting, a setting finds a story, a name in the newspaper fits a so far unnamed character, the resulting buzz is incredible.   ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King [UK: Hodder] If you
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Categories: On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 3… ‘Herzog’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.” ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McKewan ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: HERZOG by Saul Bellow http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4G via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Last Runaway

Tracy Chevalier is so skilled at getting under the skin of the protagonist in a specific period whether it’s a 19th century fossil collector or a 15th century Belgian weaver, you always believe her. Honor Bright is a real person from page 1 of The Last Runaway and you are rooting for her. The book tackles a difficult subject: the rights and wrongs of helping escaping slaves, and the moral issue this poses for Ohio’s Quakers. Honor struggles to understand this sometimes frightening new country with its huge skies and geometrical roads, forthright people and different social rules. Even the air seems strange. “I feel when I am in it as if the air around me has shifted and is not the same air I breathed and moved in back in England, but is some other substance,” she writes to her parents. Chevalier does her research thoroughly, but feels no need to wave the depth of her research in her reader’s face. Instead it informs every simple description. Woven throughout the book is Honor’s sewing of quilts. Even this is different in Ohio where Honor’s calm nature and precise sewing is admired by the local hat-wearing ladies, but her needle
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Top 5… Music to Write to

Music with lyrics messes me up when writing, so I stick strictly to classical. My current Top 5 albums of Music to Write To are:- ‘Coppélia’ by Delibes [Decca] I’ve just bought this after hearing it on Classic FM while driving in the car. The first track took me straight back to seeing the ballet as a child: something of a coup in 1960s East Yorkshire! ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins [EMI Classics] The journey to war, the rhythm of trudging of feet and marching drums, never fails to be poignant. Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ [Deutsche Grammophon] This is the most-played classical CD on my shelf, replacing the old cassette bought as a first exploration into classical music. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Patrick Doyle [Sony Classical] Soundtrack to Ang Lee’s uplifting film. A must for Austen fans like me. ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Howard Shore [Rhino] The standout track for me is the male voice choir when the Fellowship are fleeing through the Mines of Moria. … and not forgetting:- Verdi’s Requiem Holst’s Planets And anything by Jacqueline du Pré, I have The Complete EMI Recordings. Do you agree with my other ‘Top 5’ choices?:- My Top 5… books about
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Categories: My Top 5... and On Writing.

Book review: All Points North

For me, as a Yorkshirewoman, there are many laugh-out-loud moments in All Points North by Simon Armitage and other moments which make me feel fond of my home county. But the piece that stayed with me longest was the page on ‘Writing’. Writing, he says, is “a form of disappearance. Burglars watching the house from outside for four or five hours would think it empty. There isn’t another human activity which combines stillness and silence with so much energy.” I know exactly what he means. I will be upstairs in my attic study, writing all day, my husband out, my only movement to make a cup of tea and scrounge a handful of fruit and nuts from the snack jar. When I come down at the end of the day, turning off the lights as an unconscious signal to myself not to go back upstairs and start working again, it is not uncommon to find ‘we tried to deliver but you were out’ postcards on the mat, or parcels piled up outside the front door. It’s not that our doorbell isn’t up to the job, simply that when you’re in the zone that’s where you are. If you like ‘All
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 1… ‘1984’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.” ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey       It is 38 years since I first read this paragraph, here’s my old university copy of 1984.  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: 1984 by George Orwell via @SandraDanby #amreading http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2d
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.