Archives for how to write

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.

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
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Categories: On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 121… ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay; but below it was steep and he could see the dark of the oiled road winding through the pass. There was a stream alongside the road and far down the pass he saw a mill beside the stream and the falling water of the dam, white in the summer sunlight.” ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway BUY Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend 90 ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant 10 ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey 76 And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3JG via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

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
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Categories: On Writing.

#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
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Categories: On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 120… ‘The Pursuit of Love’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“There is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea-table at Alconleigh. The table is situated, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, in the hall, in front of a huge open fire of logs. Over the chimney-piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans one by one as they crawled out of a dug-out. It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination to us as children. In the photograph Aunt Sadie’s face, always beautiful, appears strangely round, her hair strangely fluffy, and her clothes strangely dowdy, but it is unmistakably she who sits there with Robin, in oceans of lace, lolling in on knee. She seems uncertain what to do with his head, and the presence of Nanny waiting to take him away is felt though not seen. The other children, between Louisa’s eleven and Matt’s two years, sit around the table in party dresses or frilly bibs, holding cups or mugs according to age, all of them gazing at the camera with large eyes opened wide by the flash, and all
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 119… ‘Peter Pan’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up. And the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.” ‘Peter Pan’ by JM Barrie Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr  ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach  ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Hardy  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: PETER PAN by JM Barrie #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jw via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘On Writers and Writing’ by @MargaretAtwood #amwriting

At times a glimpse into the writing life of the author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin, On Writers and Writing by Margaret Atwood is a curious mixture of literary study of what it means to be a writer, and funny personal recollections. If you want a glimpse into how Atwood writes, this is not the book. If you want to understand more about the role of being a writer, the responsibility, the tricks, the two faces, the ego, then read on. This book evolved from a series of six Empson Lectures given at the University of Cambridge in 2000, aimed at scholars, students and the general reading public. That explains, I think, the eclectic subject mix which fluctuates between laugh-out-loud anecdotes and literary analysis. She is good on the state of the writer. “All writers are double, for the simple reason that you can never actually meet the author of the book you have just read. Too much time has elapsed between composition and publication, and the person who wrote the book is now a different person. Or so goes the alibi. On the other hand, this is a convenient way for a writer to wriggle out of responsibility, and
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Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 40 Rocks, as if Split by an Axe #writingprompt #amwriting

Some huge force is at work here. Imagine the scenario… a huge rockfall in the middle of a city street. Where have the rocks come from? How did they get here? And how were they split? Is this strength mechanical, human or alien? This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Try creating a new character for this scene, rather than one of your familiar creations, and write a short story or a flash fiction exercise. Today try writing out of your familiar genre. If you usually write historical, try sci-fi or horror. If you write horror, try comedy or romance. You get the idea. Study the photograph and decide what split the rocks. Place them in a location and add your character, one or two people only. What is the conflict in the scene – perhaps an external threat to their safety, or an unexpected meeting that brings excitement, panic or stress? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Hotel Corridor The Meaning of Purple Wordstorm Lament What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to help you put words on the page. Those words won’t necessarily be the first line of your novel, or indeed
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.