Archives for how to write

#BookReview ‘Time to be in Earnest’ by PD James #writerslife #diary

Time to be in Earnest by PD James is not a conventional writer’s autobiography. Instead it is the year in her life between her 77th and 78th birthdays during which A Certain Justice, the tenth Adam Dalgliesh book was published, and in which dates, places and events trigger memories from her life. She died in 2014 at the age of 94 and was prolific to the end. Her final book Death Comes to Pemberley was published in 2011 and two editions of short stories were published after her death. James sets the tone of the autobiography in the Prologue, “There is much that I remember but which is painful to dwell upon. I see no need to write about these things. They are over and must be accepted, made sense of and forgiven, afforded no more than their proper place in a long life in which I have always known that happiness is a gift, not a right.” Her diary entries, some brief, some long, make this an ideal book to dip in and out of. She is a pragmatic, factual commentator who is at times forthright, other times secretive. Like all good autobiographies, familiar names are scattered throughout –
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#FlashPIC 56 Could She Climb to the Next Balcony #writingprompt

This is a dramatic situation. Someone is considering climbing onto the next balcony. Why? Where is she? Will she do it or not? This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Follow these four steps:- Decide on the tone of your piece: dramatic action, or contemplative; What is the motivation of your character – excitement, rebellion, escape, boredom, futility, a youthful dare, a drunken error of judgement; Describe the setting, the building, the height above the ground; Populate your scenario with other characters, or none; Consider the risk. Turn this into a short story. Now experiment with motivation. Write separate stories for new characters with different reasons for climbing to the next balcony. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- The Meaning of Purple These Feet were made for Walking Cranes on the Skyline 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 anything to do with your novel, but they will be words to fill that intimidating blank space. And it couldn’t be quicker. Writers’ BLOCKbusters is a collection of three ebooks of writing
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

#BookReview ‘How Novels Work’ by John Mullan #amwriting #writetip

The advice often given to inexperienced writers is to read, read, read. But alongside this reading must go the ability to analyse the novelist’s technique, learn, and apply that to your own writing. Professor John Mullan dissects the craft of the novelist in How Novels Work, based on a series of essays originally written for The Guardian newspaper. From structure to voice, he considers the mechanics of putting a novel together with frequent references to familiar novels from Robinson Crusoe to Brick Lane, The Corrections to From Russia With Love. This book is a toolbox of writing techniques, starting with Beginnings – title, epigraph, prologue – right through Narrating, Genre, Voices, Structure and Style to Endings – epilogue, postscript, false endings. It is a dense read, but each chapter is broken into 2-3 page sections making it easier to digest. I found the Devices section particularly interesting, including the use of fictional documents presented as real in a narrative. Signs, advertisements, maps and timetables in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, letters in Possession by AS Byatt and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, emails in The Human Stain by Philip Roth and I Don’t Know
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#FlashPIC 52 A Lion on a Tube Train #writingprompt #amwriting

Today’s writing exercise considers a surreal image – the juxtaposition of the mundane and the unexpected, an unconscious expression of fantasy, of the inner world of a character. Let’s explore how the surreal can be used to hint at a character’s conscious and unconscious mind, deepening the reader’s understanding of his motivation, perhaps misleading the reader about what a character is really like. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Consider this image of an everyday scene – a train – with a dreamlike image – the lion. Is the lion really there? If it is, write an action scene of what happens next. If the lion is a figment of your character’s imagination, what in his sub-conscious makes him see the lion at this particular point in time? Is this a regular vision? Is the trigger internal or external? What does this vision say to the reader? And how can you use it to convey additional information about this character? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Ethereal Rubbish  Anonymous People  Waiting Beneath the Clock What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to help you put words on the page. Those words won’t
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Great Opening Paragraph 132 ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Dr Juvenal Urbino noticed it as soon as he entered the still darkened house where he had hurried on an urgent call to attend a case that for him had lost all urgency many years before. The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.” ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford ‘A Good Man in Africa‘ by William Boyd ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4eK via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#FlashPIC 51 Sky on Fire #writingprompt #amwriting

Changing weather is a useful technique used over and again by writers of fiction, poetry and films. It can convey atmosphere, increasing or decreasing dramatic tension, signal turning points in the story and hint at the inner world of a character. Today’s #FlashPIC is Sky on Fire. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. This is a brainstorming exercise. Consider each of the following, one at a time, and write a list of what this photograph suggests to you:- Weather, climate or environmental conditions; Atmosphere, the external feelings that come from the environment; Mood, the feeling this Sky on Fire creates in the reader; Man-made actions that could create a sky like this; A person’s instinctive actions and words, suggested by this #FlashPIC – thoughtful, considered, impulsive and rash; A character’s deeper emotions and motivations, hidden to others and perhaps unknown to the person himself – key in suggesting a conflicted character. Can you make connections between items on your different lists, what do they suggest to you? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Rocks, as if Split by an Axe  Plastic Bag  Lion Gatepost  What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Great Opening Paragraph 131 ‘The Go-Between’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” ‘The Go-Between’ by LP Hartley BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Peter Pan’ by JM Barrie ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr ‘To Have and Have Not’ by Ernest Hemingway And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE GO-BETWEEN  by LP Hartley #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4eG via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

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.