Archives for writing tips

Famous writers, writing… Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch in 1963 Creating a character is a fascinating process. I start with the exterior, a feature or expression, perhaps a habit or tic. Getting inside, working out what makes them tick, why they behave the way they do, is something I’ve got better at with practice. Murdoch said: “People have obsessions and fears and passions which they don’t admit to. I think every character is interesting and has extremes. It’s the novelist privilege to see how odd everyone is.” Absolutely. We are each a mystery to everyone except ourselves. Read the first paragraphs of A Severed Head, The Sea The Sea, and The Philosopher’s Pupil. Read here about the first edition of The Sea The Sea.   ‘A Severed Head’ by Iris Murdoch [UK: Vintage Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Jack Nicholson Madonna George Orwell And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Iris Murdoch via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-AY
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: “If you are to be Hercule Poirot, you must think of everything.” In other words, you’d better have thought of everything, every twist and turn, every character trait, every possible and impossible plot angle… or your readers will catch you out in unpredictability, spot your mistakes. And then there are the things that happen out of your control. So beware! Click here to read The Guardian’s article about bloopers in books… … and here to read how the UK edition of Jonathan Franzen’s Corrections had to be withdrawn from print because the wrong version was printed. Click here to read The Bookseller’s report on how Penguin had to pulp copies of Lolita because of a missing foreword.   ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ by Agatha Christie [UK: Harper] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- George Orwell Iris Murdoch John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Agatha Christie via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-XE
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… William Golding

Sometimes I fear that I have missed my chance, that now in my fifties I am too old to be published. And then I remember William Golding who said: “It wasn’t until I was 37 that I grasped the great truth that you’ve got to write your own books and nobody else’s, and then everything followed from there.” I know that I am now better prepared to write novels – with experience of life, of love, of death, of freedom – than I ever was in my twenties. I want to write what I want to write about. Read the opening paragraph of Lord of the Flies. ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding [UK: Penguin Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Agatha Christie Joseph Conrad Benedict Cumberbatch And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author William Golding via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-B2
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad said “Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.” I write because I can’t not write. Since I could hold a pencil, I have written stories and I will die before I manage to write all the ideas in my head. Conrad knew this too. Read the opening paragraphs of The Secret Agent and Lord Jim.   ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad [UK: Penguin Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Gregory Peck Beryl Bainbridge Jonathan Franzen And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Joseph Conrad via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yn
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, reading… Virginia Woolf

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” Ah Virginia… and so she must.   ‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf [UK: Penguin Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Charles Dickens Peter Carey Beryl Bainbridge And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous people, reading… Virginia Woolf, possibly proofreading a manuscript via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yq
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Peter Carey

Peter Carey on re-writing:  “If you ever read one of my books I hope you’ll think it looks so easy. In fact, I wrote those chapters 20 times over, and over, and over, and that if you want to write at a good level, you’ll have to do that too.” It’s good to know that even double-Booker winners don’t get it right first time. So re-draft, re-draft, re-draft… Read my review of Amnesia and the opening paragraphs of Jack Maggs and Illywhacker.   ‘Illywhacker’ by Peter Carey [UK: Faber] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Agatha Christie Joseph Conrad Benedict Cumberbatch And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Peter Carey via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yn
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, 1939 I’ve always been fond of Hemingway, blame it on Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. Hemingway the lover of Spain, the journalist-turned-novelist, that is… I dislike the bullfighting and other macho behaviour. His ability to frame a quotation is legendary, my favourite is:- “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” If it were only that simple. Read the first paragraphs of The Old Man and the Sea and To Have and Have Not.   ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway [UK: Arrow] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Agatha Christie Jonathan Franzen William Golding And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Ernest Hemingway via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-y9
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 47… ‘Enduring Love’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The beginning is simple to mark. We were in sunlight under a turkey oak, partly protected from a strong, gusty wind. I was kneeling on the grass with a corkscrew in my hand, and Clarissa was passing me the bottle – a 1987 Daumas Gassac. This was the moment, this was the pinprick on the time map: I was stretching out my hand, and as the cool neck and the black foil touched my palm, we heard a man’s shout. We turned to look across the field and saw the danger. Next thing, I was running towards it. The transformation was absolute: I don’t recall dropping the corkscrew, or getting to my feet, or making a decision, or hearing the caution Clarissa called after me. What idiocy, to be racing into this story and its labyrinths, sprinting away from our happiness among the fresh spring grasses by the oak. There was the shout again, and a child’s cry, enfeebled by the wind that roared in the tall trees along the hedgerows. I ran faster. And there, suddenly, from different points around the field, four other men were converging on the scene, running like me.” ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan Amazon
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… George Orwell

Eric Blair, aka George Orwell 1945 Animal Farm was the first adult book I read, as an eleven-year old, and I have retained a fondness for Orwell’s writing ever since. Like Hemingway he is another journalist-turned-author, both share a clarity of language I admire. George Orwell said: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity” Read the first paragraph of Animal Farm and 1984.   ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell [UK: Penguin Modern Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Ernest Hemingway Iris Murdoch William Golding And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author George Orwell via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-y6
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Applying the rules of art to writing: read!

“Art is a continuing dialogue that stretches back through thousands of years: What you make is your contribution to that dialogue. Therefore, be conscious of what has come before you and the conversation that surrounds you. Try not to repeat what has already been said. Study art history and stay alert to the dialogue of your moment.” Excerpt from ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White In other words: read, read, read. To quote Stephen King [above]: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White [MIT Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: To quote @StephenKing Read!: applying the rules of #art to #writing http://wp.me/p5gEM4-xc via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 46… ‘After You’d Gone’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The day she would try to kill herself, she realised winter was coming again. She had been lying on her side, her knees drawn up; she’d sighed. And the heat of her breath had vaporised in the cold air of the bedroom. She pushed the air out of her longs again, watching. Then she did it again, and again. Then she wrenched back the covers and got up. Alice hated winter.” ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: AFTER YOU’D GONE by Maggie O’Farrell #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-mP via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen “The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels?” Jonathan Franzen famously writes in a quiet room without telephone, wearing headphones to blank outside noise and distractions. Renowned for being anti-Twitter he criticized Amazon, in an interview with The Guardian, for spearheading the culture of immediacy at the expense of traditional authors. Read the full article here. Read my review of Purity and the opening paragraph of Freedom.   ‘Purity’ by Jonathan Franzen [UK: 4th Estate] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Vincent Price Marilyn Monroe Virginia Woolf And if you’d like to tweet a link
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 45… ‘The Secret Agent’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Mr Verloc, going out in the morning, left his shop nominally in charge of his brother-in-law. It could be done, because there was very little business at any time, and practically none at all before the evening. Mr Verloc cared but little about his ostensible business. And moreover, his wife was in charge of his brother-in-law.” The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey ‘Original Sin’ by PD James ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-eE via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 44… ‘The Hunger Games’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.” ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene ‘The Last Tycoon’ by F Scott Fitzgerald ‘Tipping the Velvet’ by Sarah Waters And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-eT via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 43… ‘The Crying of Lot 49’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“One summer afternoon Mrs Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed, executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary. Oedipa stood in the living-room, stared at by the greenish dead eye of the TV tube, spoke the name of God, tried to feel as drunk as possible. But this did not work. She thought of a hotel room in Mazatlán whose door had just been slammed, it seemed forever, waking up two hundred birds down in the lobby, a sunrise over the library slope at Cornell University that nobody out on it had seen because the slope faces west; a dry, disconsolate tune from the fourth movement of the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra; a whitewashed bust of Jay Gould that Pierce kept over the bed on a shelf so narrow for it she’d always had the hovering fear it would
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with, Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce “I have to have faith in good stories and good characters winning through. They are what I look for when I read – and they are what I want to try to write. There’s absolutely nothing wrong, though, with hitting all those story ‘beats’ and making sure your book works as a page turner. That is good story telling, I think.” [Rachel Joyce, in an excerpt from an interview with ALCS News] Although The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was Joyce’s first novel, she had already written more than 20 original plays for Radio 4. Harold Fry in fact started life as a radio play called To Be a Pilgrim about a man walking. It was broadcast and won Joyce the Tinniswood Award for radio drama in 2007. It was writing for radio that taught Joyce about story beats, though she says there were signs that she was ready to write a novel: “The narration in my radio plays was getting longer and longer, and my dialogue shorter and shorter!” Thinking of the story I want to tell is the easy bit, the ideas, the creation. Working out how to tell that story and keeping the pages turning,
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 40… ‘Norwegian Wood’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg airport. Cold November rains drenched the earth, lending everything the gloomy air of a Flemish landscape: the ground crew in waterproofs, a flag atop a squat airport building, a BMW billboard. So – Germany again.” ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov ‘A Passage to India’ by EM Forster And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: NORWEGIAN WOOD by Haruki Murakami #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-lW via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Top 5… books about writing

When I first made the switch from journalism to fiction, I did what journalists do; I researched, I read books. So here are my top five books about writing fiction, the ones on my bookshelf which I still turn to. ‘Story’ by Robert McKee [UK: Methuen] If the number one book is to be quantified by the amount of underlining and number of Post-Its, then this is my ‘most-used’ book on my shelf. The sub-title reads ‘Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting’. Yes, it’s a book about writing screenplays, not novels, but it is full of wisdom about storytelling. For example: “If you make the smallest element do its job, the deep purpose of the telling will be served. Let every phrase of dialogue or line of description either turn behaviour and action of set up conditions for change. Make your beats build scenes, scenes build sequences, sequences build acts, acts build story to its climax.” And this, on risk: “We’d all like to have our cake and eat it too. In a state of jeopardy, on the other hand, we must risk something that we want or have in order to gain something else that we want
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Categories: My Top 5... and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 39… ‘The God of Small Things’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.” ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Hardy ‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Ellis And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-n7 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 38… ‘A Severed Head’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“’You’re sure she doesn’t know?’ said Georgie. ‘Antonia? About us? Certain.’ Georgie was silent for a moment and then said, ‘Good.’ That curt ‘Good’ was characteristic of her, typical of a toughness which had, to my mind, more to do with honesty than with ruthlessness. I liked the dry way in which she accepted our relationship. Only with a person so eminently sensible could I have deceived my wife.” ‘A Severed Head’ by Iris Murdoch  Amazon Try these other 1st paras by Iris Murdoch:- ‘The Sea The Sea’ ‘The Philosopher’s Pupil’ And read about the first edition of The Sea The Sea, first published by Chatto & Windus in 1978. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Nineteen Minutes’ by Jodi Picoult ‘1984’ by George Orwell ‘The Cement Garden’ by Ian McEwan And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: A SEVERED HEAD by Iris Murdoch #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-ml via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.