Posts in The writing process

A Story From a “What If?” Moment

One evening in Crete, a couple of years ago, I saw something that made a lasting impression on me. A small boy, maybe eight or nine years old, sitting in front of a large green rubbish bin, with an accordion in his hands and a mournful-looking dog by his side. He wasn’t playing the accordion, but just holding it and gazing at nothing in particular. I felt compassion, of course. But I also felt that the scene had been highly orchestrated to produce exactly that response. I felt sorry for the… Read More

Creative block? It’s not about the time

It can be hard to find the time for things we want to do, whether it’s writing a book, completing artwork, learning to speak Russian, or anything else. Life is busy, we say. I don’t have time. The thing is, that’s not strictly true. In even the busiest lives, there are pockets of time in which extra things could be accomplished. But these are times when we’re either too stressed or too tired to do anything worthwhile. What’s missing is not the time, but the mental energy. For example, I… Read More

Latest UK book stats

Came across some interesting stats on UK book sales in the latest issue of The Author magazine from the Society of Authors, and thought I’d share a few of them with you: Sales of physical books fell 5% in 2013, while sales of digital products rose 19% Digital now accounts for 33% of fiction sales and 7% of non-fiction/reference (and 15% of publishers’ total business) Paperback sales have fallen 23% since 2008 The average selling price of a paperback was £5.46 in 2013, compared with £5.83 in 2008 UK publishers’ total… Read More

Calling all unpublished novelists: here’s your break!

In February 2008, I was in despair. I’d given up a good job as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal in New York to pursue my dream of writing fiction, and all I had to show for it was a stack of rejection slips. Exactly a year later, I was standing outside a branch of Borders in Islington, looking at dozens of copies of my debut novel neatly stacked up in the window display. What happened? The Luke Bitmead Bursary happened. The bursary was set up in honour of… Read More

A guide to independent publishing: interview with Arachne Press founder Cherry Potts

A couple of years ago, frustrated with her publisher, writer Cherry Potts decided to set up her own publishing company, Arachne Press. She’s now published five short-story collections (one of which had a story of mine in it), and has a novel and a poetry collection in the works. In this interview, Cherry shares some of the lessons she’s learned, and gives some tips and warnings to anyone who wants to follow a similar path. From the trick she uses to persuade bookshops to stock her books right down to… Read More

Generalities are the enemy of good writing

That was quite a general statement, so let me explain. Good writing involves seeing something in a fresh way, and that means seeing it for itself, not for its category. I was sitting here writing this morning, and saw a fly land on my desk. I was about to swat it away, but then I stopped seeing it as a fly, and started to see it as an individual creature. I watched it closely. I watched it reach up and clean its wings with its back legs. I watched it… Read More

Interview with a writer (and his cat): James Higgerson

Check out this short interview I recorded the other day with James Higgerson, Manchester-based author of The Almost Lizard. In the interview, James tells us how he wrote the novel, what he wanted to communicate, and what most surprised him about getting published. He also gives us a sneak preview of his next novel, Kid Gloves, inspired by Britain’s tabloid-fuelled obsession with child protection. And watch out for some unscheduled guest appearances by his cat, Omar… For more information about The Almost Lizard, you can: Read the review I wrote on… Read More

The ten rules of writing fiction

There’s an old Guardian article I’ve used a few times when giving talks on the craft of writing. It was called The Ten Rules of Writing Fiction. The Guardian asked a whole load of famous novelists for their advice, and then printed each novelist’s top ten rules. When I first read it, it made a lot of sense. But then I rearranged the piece a little, and started to see a strange pattern. See if you can spot it… Roddy Doyle says to “Fill pages as quickly as possible –… Read More

A bit of nonsense

I was struggling with my writing this morning, and somehow ended up procrastinating by changing all of the words in the first paragraph of my novel A Virtual Love to the first option that came up on Word’s thesaurus function. This was the result: The timepiece marked noisily cutting-edge the still obverse area. We observed on him, consequently that we didn’t must toward appearance on all additional. The pointers of the timepiece remained altogether that enthused, separately after certain well atoms of powder whirling cutting-edge the motionless, sincere mid-air. I… Read More