Archives for how to write

Great Opening Paragraph 130 ‘Gilead’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old. And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren’t very old, as if that settled it. I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you’ve had with me, and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to life a good life. And you said, Mama already told me that. And then you said, Don’t laugh! Because you thought I was laughing at you. You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother’s. It’s a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I’m always a little surprised to find my eyebrows singed after I’ve suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.” ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson BUY THE BOOK Read my reviews of Gilead, Housekeeping and Home by Marilynne Robinson. Try one of these
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#FlashPic 48 Wet Leaves #writingprompt #amwriting

Today you are going to prepare the place where an action scene will take place. It is a wet day, everything is dripping. It is outside, perhaps in an isolated wood, a city park, a garden. Underfoot, the fallen leaves are drenched, soggy, squelchy. Describe the sensations of the wetness – the sounds, the dripping, the raindrops, is it windy, warm or cold? Consider every point of the physical surroundings that occur to you, develop each one in detail. Think about words that recur, the overlying atmosphere of your day. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Introduce your action into this carefully imagined place. Make the place a part of the action. You have spent a lot of energy developing your place, don’t forget about it now. How can the wetness, the squelchy leaves, the dripping raindrops, affect the action? Does someone slip and fall. Are footsteps heard as someone tries to approach by stealth. Write your action scene then edit it – write one version where the place has a strong presence and affects the action lightly; write a second version where the influence of the place has a muted effect. Which do you prefer? ©
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Great Opening Paragraph 129 ‘The Paying Guests’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The Barbers had said they would arrive by three. It was like waiting to begin a journey, Frances thought. She and her mother had spent the morning watching the clock, unable to relax. At half past two she had gone wistfully over the rooms for what she’d supposed was the final time; after that there had been a nerving-up, giving way to a steady deflation, and now, at almost five, here she was again, listening to the echo of her own footsteps, feeling so sort of fondness for the sparsely furnished spaces, impatient simply for the couple to arrive, move in, get it over with.” ‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte ’Personal’ by Lee Child ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE PAYING GUESTS  by Sarah Waters #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4eA via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

How Deborah Moggach writes #amwriting #writetip

Deborah Moggach“One of my great tips for writing is not to start too quickly. If you get excited about a book, don’t plunge in and write it too quickly, because until you know the characters pretty well, anything could happen to them. They could do anything, and that’s chaotic. The novel could go in 800,000 different directions and you’re lost!” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine on May 3, 2019] Great advice. Deborah Moggach’s novels are well-loved and sell by the bucket load. Two have been turned into films – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Tulip Fever – and she writes screenplays, adapting Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate for the BBC, and being BAFTA nominated for her screenplay of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. And I know what she means. I think all debut authors have made exactly the mistake that she warns against here. It’s a natural thing to do. You have a brilliant idea and just want to get the words down. But time spent preparing, exploring and just thinking, do pay off. My first novel was written over a long period of time, I had my key character Rose nailed but had neglected to give
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Categories: On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 128 ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.” ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by JD Salinger BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ by Sebastian Barry ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ by Patrick Hamilton ‘The Rainmaker’ by John Grisham  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE CATCHER IN THE RYE  by JD Salinger #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ev via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 127… ‘The Road’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none.” ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Affinity’ by Sarah Waters ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4er via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

How Sadie Jones writes @ThatSadieJones #amwriting #writetip

Sadie Jones “I know I’m writing badly if I’m making it up on the page…. It’s going well if it’s a thing I am reporting. So I’ll imagine [the scene] and let it play; try to hear it and see it, and then I’ll be describing that. If I’m thinking, ‘Oh, that’s quite a nice sentence’, then I know it won’t do.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine on January 11, 2019]  Until The Snakes, Sadie Jones wrote historical novels. The Snakes is a contemporary novel, a kind of anti-thriller in that it is a thriller without all the answers. She says she wanted to write a book about there being no answers and used the ‘fuel’ of the thriller to do that. An experienced screenwriter, this affects how she visualises her scenes. Two things in her quote above struck a chord with me. One, she doesn’t make it up on the page. She plans first. Second, it is fatal to stop and admire your own prose. Jones’ first novel, The Outcast, won the Costa First Novel Award, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club and adapted for the BBC. Three more novels
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Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read… @SueJohnson9 #books #duMaurier

Today I’m delighted to welcome novelist, poet and short story writer Sue Johnson. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. “My Porridge & Cream read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (first published in 1936). I can remember finding it in the school library one wet Friday afternoon when I was thirteen. (We’d made ginger cake in our cookery class that morning and I still associate the book with the smell and taste of ginger and spices.) Our English teacher liked us to read at least two books a month of our choice that were nothing to do with our school work. We also had to write book reviews saying what we liked – or didn’t like – about the books we’d read. From the first page of Jamaica Inn I was hooked. My friends had to prise it out of my hands when the bell went for the end of school. I then went on to devour everything else that Daphne du Maurier had written. My other favourites are Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek.  We used to spend family holidays in Cornwall and I still love the county. I never tire of Jamaica Inn
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

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
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

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
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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
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#FlashPic 45 Railway Line Under Bridge #writingprompt #amwriting

This exercise is about two paths crossing unexpectedly. Two people, who know each other but do not know where the other is today, will be in the same place at the same time. This meeting has consequences for both of them. The idea of two paths running in parallel is echoed by the railway tracks, running separately in the same direction, remaining exactly the same distance apart. When you make these two people meet, your railway imagery should follow suit. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First decide how to use the railway in your story. Where does the action take place – on the bridge, on the platform, beside the railway tracks. Is this the story about a railway accident, a journey by train, or a story of unrequited love. Who are your two characters and what is keeping them apart today? Which key emotions sum up their relationship? Secrecy. Shyness. Stubborness. Emotional blindness. Unfulfilled passion. Disguised hatred. Envy. Jealousy. Concentrate on the railway imagery and how it might lend itself to your story. Two railway tracks, strong, unbending, no diversion, a single focus. A timetable, supposedly fixed but truthfully varying from the schedule and subject to
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

#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
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 123… ‘The Ashes of London’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The noise was the worst. Not the crackling of the flames, not the explosions and the clatter of falling buildings, not the shouting and the endless beating of drums and the groans and cries of the crowd: it was the howling of the fire. It roared its rage. It was the voice of the Great Beast itself.” ‘The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor, #1 Fire of London BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Personal’ by Lee Child ‘Back When We Were Grown Ups’ by Anne Tyler  ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE ASHES OF LONDON by Andrew Taylor #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jn via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

#FlashPIC 44 Green Chairs #writingprompt #amwriting

Some stage sets are minimal, no furniture, no accessories, which has the effect of concentrating the audience’s attention on character. Consider these two green chairs in the same way and stage a scene here. This may be a complete story, or a scene from a larger work. Remember, if something is not shown in this picture you may not use it. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. There are two chairs, which implies two characters. But what happens if you add a third person, someone who cannot sit down? How does the choice of two chairs and the conversations about them show the nature of the relationship of your characters. Are they strangers, being bullying, or polite? Perhaps they are a couple with a former partner. Or three siblings with hidden resentments. Consider how each of them in turn reacts to the shortage of one chair. Now decide on the dynamics between the three people before your story starts. Map out how this changes between them as the scene progresses. And what is the finishing point? Finally sketch out the context for the meeting. Is it accidental or pre-arranged. Are they in a quiet corner or a busy
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

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
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Categories: 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
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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
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 122… ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ #amwriting #FirstPara

‘Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.’ ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng  ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan ‘Couples’ by John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES by @john_boyne #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jk via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

#FlashPIC 43 A Tree Alone #writingprompt #amwriting

A single tree on the horizon. It’s an enigmatic setting. This exercise is about how setting can add to the context of your story, adding layers of complexity and mood. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First, decide what you want the tree to symbolise. Is it a meeting place, the place of a confrontation for your rights, a liaison with a lover, a battle? Write a paragraph, a page or however much you need, to work out the details. Give the tree some history, a legend, a rumour. Is treasure buried there? Was a murder committed beneath its branches? Is it a portal to a different world? Do its leaves have magical powers? Work out how your description of the tree can add to the story. Consider all parts of the tree, its roots, branches, leaves, in all four seasons, in different weather. Choose the species of tree – deciduous or evergreen, young or old – and think about this can add hints about your theme. This is not a story about a tree. It is a story in which a tree features. You just need to decide how to use the tree to help you tell
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.