Archives for writing tips

#FlashPIC 53 Wheatfield after Harvest #writingprompt #amwriting

Imagine you are a teenager again, laying in a recently harvested field of wheat. Recreate those lazy hazy days of summer when school was out and days seemed endless. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Remember what it was to be a teenager when your life seems on hold, when days seem empty and infinite. Put a teenage character into this wheatfield and write a short piece in real time, minute by minute, dwelling on the slow passing of time. Not a lot may happen, the action is in the character’s thoughts – this moment, remembering something that happened, anticipating something hoped for. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Wet Leaves  Laburnum  Cable  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 prompts. Why are they different? Precisely because they are short, easy to use, and flexible. Designed for writers of
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

#FlashPIC 50 Tube Platform #writingprompt #amwriting

One setting, one character on different days. Today’s writing exercise puts you into the mind of a person who is in the same place, same surroundings, on different days. Explore the variations possible as the day and time changes. The scene is a platform, deep underground, on the London Underground. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First create the setting. Use the five senses to consider this place in 3D. Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch. Taste. This is an everyday scene, predictable, familiar. Create an outline of a character who visits this place regularly. Why are they there, how do they feel about it? Build up a picture of your character’s interaction with this place on an ordinary day. Now put your character into this place and make one sense dominant above all others. Use it to dramatic effect – perhaps the smell of a commuter’s perfume, the sound of an alarm bell, the sight of something which is a surprise. Concentrate on this one sense until you can write no more. You might write a description piece, an action scene, an inner monologue – whichever seems best to you. Repeat this exercise using a second sense. And
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

#FlashPIC 49 Painted Sky #writingprompt #amwriting

Today you are an artist and you will paint a picture of this sky. First work out the practicals – where are you, time of day, what is your skill level, what are your expectations. Don’t worry about the technical details of painting, your artist can use paints, pencil, crayon, charcoal, iPad apps, felt tip pens, whatever you want. Amateur or professional, it doesn’t matter, you decide. Choose a name. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Now put your mind inside your artist. Consider the sky, the shapes, the colours, the contrasts, the images it conjures in your mind, the things it makes you think of – including the odd associations you mind may jump to. Take one of these images or thought associations, and include it in your artist’s day. How does it change the painting – does the artist decide to paint something else, do something else. Perhaps someone arrives and interrupts. The sky changes – a storm approaches, a plane leaves a con trail, a noise nearby interrupts his/her concentration. What happens after this disturbance and how does your artist react? How important is the picture of the painted sky? Why is a picture of
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

#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.

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.

#FlashPic 47 Union Jack and Trees #writingprompt #amwriting

Central London. A special occasion. Something happens here… you decide what. First choose your year, perhaps a date from history. Now make the story your own by putting you character there. Close your eyes, imagine the time, listen to the noise, the voices, the traffic, the shouts, the whispered conversations. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. This photograph shows The Mall in London during the summer of 2012, the London Olympics. But the scene lends itself well to other landmark days in history. Using a true event as the background to a fictional story works well. Choose your true event according to your narrative and what you want to happen. If you are starting a new story, try one of these ideas as a starting point and see where it leads you:- VE Day, London – May 7, 1945 – Bring together one character mourning a loved one, and another who is celebrating the beginning of freedom from war; The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – June 2, 1953 – watched by a schoolchild standing at the kerb; A man who works on the building of The Mall in 1660 when King Charles II ordered a redesign of
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

#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
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

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
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Categories: Book Love and 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.

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.

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.

#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
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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
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

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
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#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.

Great Opening Paragraph 118… ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In the middle of the lonesome town, at the back of John Street, in the third house from the end, there is a little room. For this small bracket in the long paragraph of the street’s history, it belongs to Eneas McNulty. All about him the century has just begun, a century some of which he will endure, but none of which will belong to him. There are all the broken continents of the earth, there is the town park named after Father Moran, with its forlorn roses – all equal to Eneas at five, and nothing his own, but that temporary little room. The dark linoleum curls at the edge where it meets the dark wall. There is a pewter jug on the bedside table that likes to hoard the sun and moon on its curve. There is a tall skinny wardrobe with an ancient hatbox on top, dusty, with or without a hat, he does not know. A room perfectly attuned to him, perfectly tempered, with the long spinning of time perfect and patterned in the bright windowframe, the sleeping of sunlight on the dirty leaves of the maple, the wars of the sparrows and the blue tits
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Categories: Book Love.

Famous #writers, writing… Zadie Smith

Not your normal shot of a writer, writing. This looks like a stylised photograph of Zadie Smith, beautifully lit and posed, unrealistic. I certainly don’t look like this when I’m writing. I’m sure it’s not a normal part of Zadie’s writing routine to be naked, but it did make me wonder if any other authors write naked? If you’re a writer, have you ever written while unclothed, and what did it feel like?   ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith BUY See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Bella Lugosi Iris Murdoch Madonna And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous #writers, writing… Zadie Smith writing, naked? #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3AW via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 39 Parking Suspension #writingprompt #amwriting

Imagine arriving home to find access to your home is blocked. Parking suspended. Entry forbidden. A cordon closes the street. A police presence. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Try this picture to kickstart a short story or a flash fiction exercise about dealing with an unexpected situation. How do you feel? Irritated. Angry. Guilty. Fearful for your family, your home, your possessions. Consider the surroundings. Is there a crowd of onlookers or are you alone? Does a helicopter hover, perhaps police or news. Perhaps a fire engine or ambulance. What is your priority? What do you do? And what are the consequences of your actions? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Freddie Mercury Wordstorm Bronze Waiting beneath the clock 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 prompts. Why are they different? Precisely because they are short, easy to use,
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

I agree with… Pat Barker #amwriting #writerslife #writetip

Pat Barker “I do think that sometimes the seed that sets you off on the process of writing a novel can have been around for many years, even decades, before it actually – for some mysterious reason – comes to fruition… I think it’s almost a good sign if an idea has been fermenting for quite a long time in a sort of semi-conscious way. I’ve learnt to distrust the staggeringly brilliant new idea that was triggered by something that happened quite recently. Ha Ha! You need the dog-eared thing that’s been around for a long time, quietly nagging away at you.”  [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, May 25 2018]  This is so true. It is easy to be carried away by the bright new idea that seems to tap into the zeitgeist, but in my experience these don’t have the legs and can turn out to be superficial. Better nurture the idea that rumbles away in your sub-conscious, allowing it to unfold and multiply, to make connections with other reflections. Barker was talking ahead of the release of her latest novel The Silence of the Girls, a retelling of The Iliad, the story of the Trojan war,
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Categories: On Writing.