Archives for writing tips

Writing tips: learn from the masters

Learn from the masters. Take an author you know and love, and aim to emulate. Analyse the way they write by de-constructing the plot and characters of a novel. I’ve done this with AS Byatt’s Possession and John Grisham’s The Firm. Patterns and techniques become evident. Apply what you learn to your own writing.   ‘The Firm’ by John Grisham [UK: Arrow] Buy now ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt [UK: Vintage] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Writers’ BLOCKbusters: learn from the masters http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1u0 #writingtips via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

Writing tips: find what works for you, then write

Find your own way of writing creatively and get the words down. Write in a notebook, on the computer, on a tablet, in perfect quiet, to rock music, with noise-cancelling headphones. Train yourself to be able to write anywhere – on a train, in a coffee shop, in a library, at home, in a hotel – and you will write regularly. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Writers’ BLOCKbusters: find what works for you, then write http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1tY #writingtips via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 7 Cranes on the Skyline #writingprompt #amwriting

Giant cranes dominate the sky… like animals, alien vehicles, or as the scene of a power struggle or romance. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC writing prompt to help you write a short story, a brief flash fiction piece of only a few words, or something longer. You choose. Study the photo and allow it to inspire your writing, or use some of the following phrases:- Altitude Sky Down Vertigo Wobble Wind Balance Challenge Fear Space Freedom © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Orange railings Two empty glasses Death Valley 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 fiction, any genre, novels, short stories, flash fiction, they are suitable for all genre of fiction precisely because each exercise is
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Writing tips: learn to recognize repetition as you write

Develop a second sense for repetition. Not just words, but favourite phrases. If you know you are guilty of over-using a phrase, use ‘find’ on Word and change every repetition to red. Then re-write it. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Writers’ BLOCKbusters: learn to recognize repetition as you write http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1tU #writingtips via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens “There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” [excerpt from ‘Oliver Twist’] We have all read books like this. The ones you can’t remember why you bought them, the ones recommended to you by friends who read books you wouldn’t normally pick up, the ones bought in a rush at an airport or a train station, bought in that desperation of ‘any book is better than no book’, the fear that haunts book readers of being caught on a transatlantic flight without a book. This still applies today even with e-books I think, as they are even easier to buy. Just one click and they appear magically on our Kindles, a bundle bought in a weak moment from Amazon, the complete works of an author when you haven’t read even one book.   ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens [UK: Penguin Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Beryl Bainbridge Peter Carey Joseph Conrad And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Charles Dickens via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-11K
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Beryl Bainbridge

Beryl Bainbridge “I don’t know why everybody doesn’t write because everybody talks.” So says an author who reached the very top of her profession, but her quote is misleading. It implies everyone can write, and ignores the years she spent working on her craft, perfecting it. We can all admire the skill of a gymnast dance on the beam or a concert pianist play Rachmaninov, but we know we could not do it ourselves no matter how much we tried. Beryl Bainbridge was shortlisted five times for the Booker Prize but never won, until she was presented with a one-off award, the Man Booker Best of Beryl, created especially to honour her five shortlisted novels. They are:- 1973 The Dressmaker 1974 The Bottle Factory Outing 1996 An Awfully Big Adventure 1998 Every Man for Himself 2000 Master Georgie My favourite Bainbridge novel? The Birthday Boys, a fictional account of Captain Robert Scott’s 1910 expedition to Antarctica told from the perspectives of five men on the voyage: Scott; Petty Officer Taff Evans; ship’s medic Dr Edward Wilson; Lieutenant Henry Bowers; and Captain Lawrence Oates. To read The Guardian’s obituary of Dame Beryl Bainbridge in 2010, click here. Bainbridge was renowned for
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

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.