Thursday 31 January 2008

RIGHT Thats enough of that... and NEWS

Snap out of it.

Sorry Mimi (for those who don't know, Mimi is a writer who pops in here, either as Mimi or Anonymous, and glories in my downturns...)

Sorry Mimi... but out of the desert comes forth water.

I was curled on the bathroom floor, have a good session of what girls do best, (crying over a spilt photograph), when I cursed mood swings, and a light went on. (metaphorically, Mimi... know that word??)

See I'd started the day roaring with laughter at a prizewinning story of a writer called Joel Willans (check him out, and look for a story that came second in Derby), and less than two hours later I was a weepy mess.

But what a great creative mess!

So in the midst of the anxt, I emailed Salt with an idea for the flash collection, and they came back... with a yes.

YES second book on the chocks.

sorry Mimi....

Quiet Weep....

Dear old Mimi, she's going to be chortling over this one.

It is looking less and less like the cover Salt spent so much time on will actually BE the cover.

The agency can't track down the photographer, but a person there who knows him well says he is unlikely to approve it because of the colourwash and text over the image.

It's one of his favourites.

I understand that. I wouldn't want someone editing my work without my permission, and I wouldn't want them to turn a piece into something other then itself, if itself was already as I loved it. (grammar, woman!)

So. Yes, I just went and cried.

And yes, it's awful, as all the promotion's been done with that cover, and it has built up recognition already. And yes, it won't be the same without it.

But hey.

Worse things have happened.

and I'm handwriting invites to the launch today... so lets hope the Foundling Museum doesn't fall down.


Wednesday 30 January 2008


Great afternoon. I spent most of it in the excellent company of writers from the Lower Sixth at Brighton College, a local Independent School.

What a buzzy, mature bunch they were. Incisive, focused, sharp as razors. An impressive group of young people.

We talked about the processes of creating fiction, about commercial versus literary writing, about 'why' they wrote (and they all knew with no prevarication). They showered me with questions, and there just wasn't time to do as much as Id have liked!

But we did do a little flash writing.

So hopefully they have a useful tool in their writers' toolbox for beating blocks and silly voices that say "you can't write THAT!"

They are editing the internal school magazine, running a short story competition, and I'm delighted to be judging.

Tuesday 29 January 2008



Today, January 29, bloggers and writers all over the 'net are helping to promote the paperback release of Patry Francis' novel, The Liar's Diary.

Patry is a talented author who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She's had several surgeries, and her prognosis is good. Her debut novel The Liar’s Diary came out in hardcover from Dutton last spring. The trade paper release is Tuesday, January 29th; however, given that Patry won't have much energy to promote the release, a large number of blogging authors are banding together to do it for her. This is going to ROCK THE BLOGOSPHERE!



In support of Patry Francis and this remarkable blog initiative, Penguin Group USA would like to offer 15% off the paperback edition of The Liar’s Diary when purchased online from until 2/15/2008.

On the shopping cart page, enter PATRY in the ‘coupon code’ field and click ‘update cart’ to activate it.


I had a fascinating conversation last night with a creative friend, an artist.

I was grumbling (I do that well…) about the constant noise in my head. The ‘need’ to work at editing, critiquing, running The Workhouse, planning workshops, running workshops, reading and feeding back to students, debating writing craft on a couple of other writing sites on the web, meeting up with my face to face writing group, making time to have one to ones with writing colleagues, embarking on learning about poetry with David,

Etc etc.

And what am I NOT doing?

You’re there. I am not writing. Other than twiddles, flashes, the occasional longer short story.

Then, a ‘lightbulb moment’, applicable to me, and to a million kids, or more, and to every person who wants to be creative in any medium, but who fills their time because it's meant to be ‘a good thing’ so to do.

My friend told me of a talk she’d heard from children’s author Shirley Hughes, in which she bewailed the ‘loss of boredom’.

Boredom is bad, these days. Don’t let the kids be bored or they’ll do something dreadful. Don’t ‘do nothing’ yourself… you’ll get bored, and that’s awful. It’s a killer.

But Shirley Hughes was arguing the opposite.

We NEED to accept periods of ‘nothing’. Because it’s in those periods that creativity is at work at its most potent, and will bubble something to the surface, when you least expect it.

Think about it. Don’t ideas seem to pop up when you go for a quiet walk? Or when you are half asleep, in the early morning, or late at night? Or when you are driving? Ironing?

Kids need to daydream. Not have their every waking hour filled with noise, image, chatter. That leaves no room for the imagination to work.

Perfect examples:

Me, and my rushing around ‘being a writer’, actually stopping the process in its tracks!

A boy I met recently who wouldn’t accept that he could create a dialogue exchange between classical characters, because the film says….

A younger boy who got stuck in a storyline, and left the room. I thought he was frustrated, and had given up.

He came back ten minutes later. “I’ve got it! I know what happens next!”

“Wow,” I said. “What’s the secret?”

“I went for a walk…..”

Monday 28 January 2008


My accountant tells me that my competition wins, such as they are, are subject to tax.

Can anyone out there advise if this is right?


I'm taking a morning workshop at The South, turning people into flashers in three hours.

Can't wait!


Review of Jamie Hawkins' Muse

I was sent this link to a review of one of my stories from GUD Magazine (Great place... original, zingy, edgy stuff)


It's interesting. And great. The reviewer has picked up exactly what I was trying to do with this one.

And this story is one that was rejected some thirteen /fourteen times before 'hitting' at GUD. It's lovely that it found the right home after its wanderings, and what a lovely review.


Sunday 27 January 2008

More Rules of writing debate

The 'rules no rules' thing seems to be bubbling on. For anyone who is interested, here:

'Rules' debate

Half way down the comments is a good one, from Nik. That steering a middle path seems a sensible way to go.


And it is wonderful, no it's WONDERFUL to see a teenager's face light up (as it did when I was teaching at Gateway Tilbury on Saturday), when I say, "All I want is your ideas... write them how you want.. I don't care, not here, not now, about grammar, handwriting, spelling."

But I then said:

"But other people, elsewhere, will care, so at some point you will need to think about that... " and the kid wrote like a demon. He'd learned the difference between letting go just going for it, and academic concentration.

He has learned to splurge creatively, but still knows and accepts that he will need to spell correctly, and write grammatically for his GCSEs.


A busy week.

For those who like to know what other writers are up to, this was last week.

Sunday: Wrote a flash to the prompt of an encaustic collage done by Beverley Jackson, one of The Workhouse writers. Decided to do a group submission when we feel all work is ready to send.

Monday: received final proofs of Words from a Glass Bubble. Same proofs have gone to an agent who asked to see the collection.

Tuesday: Received The Drowned Book from Amazon. Read several poems, and was stunned by how bloody fantastic they are. They SAY so much. Proofreading. Drove over to see Sara from The Workhouse, talked writing, novels, fab time.

Wednesday: To London, to meet poet, novelist and short story writer David Grubb at The South Bank Centre. David is mentoring me as I grapple with poetry. He introduced me to the Arts Council poetry library (wow!) and we talked through the outline of the mentoring scheme we agreed on. Proofread a story on the train.

Thursday am: More proofreading.
Met writing friend for lunch, discussing her radio work, agents, collections, strategies, writing journeys...
pm: Wrote a short story to the encaustic collage image.

Saturday: Morning spent at Gateway Academy, Tilbury, where I am running a series of Creative Writing sessions and acting as a sort of writer in residence for most of the term.
Watched film with family ('The 3.10 to Yuma'... fab.)

Sunday am:(today) rewrote the short story, adding at least another third. Finishing proofreading this afternoon.

oh and:

running The Workhouse
writing bits of novel notes
planning a couple of workshops I'm taking in the next week or two.
rewriting a short story for a competition, final polishing.

This post was prompted by some silly bugger on Zoetrope who asserted that no one could call themselves a writer unless they made a living at it.

Oh yeah?

Thursday 24 January 2008


I do lots of teaching/facilitating, and the best work I do in terms of how it makes me feel, is with people who have real ‘stuff’ to write about. I’ve tutored groups of many writers who have struggles that get in the way of life. In general they understand quickly about raw, honest writing.

Last year I co-tutored a course entitled Writing For A Living, aimed at ‘marginalised writers’, whatever that is.(an excellent New Writing South initiative). We focussed not only on fiction, but journalism in its various forms. (and had a visit from Alexander Masters, author of Stuart, A Life Backwards… extraordinary stuff.)

Its great to see the ripple effect of that course for a few writers.

I heard recently from one student who has had a few pieces published in ‘Rocks’, a Brighton based newspaper. And she will be writing regularly for them.


And also, an excellent magazine has accepted a piece of work by Chris Ellis, who has a piece up in the current issue of Tom’s Voice Magazine.

LINK HERE to Chris’s bio and a piece of his early writing in Tom’s Voice Magazine

Even better, he is being paid, $75 for 750 words. Can’t be bad! I’ll link to his work when it goes up in March alongside some astounding names.


Congrats Chris and Jo.

Monday 21 January 2008

All this debate about rules (see below), guidelines and so on seems to crystallise for this writer at least, into something approaching rigorousness. No sloppy writing. Good prose. Stuff to be proud of. Or why bother?

Still. I’d like to draw people’s attention to The Royal Society of Literature and its series of open talks and lectures. You do not have to be a member to attend, although you will be expected to contribute a fiver or so. If you are a member, you can take a friend along for nowt..


The event I mentioned in the thread below:

Friday 4 April 2008
Joint event with the Oxford Literary Festival, at Christ Church, Oxford
University: the wrong start for a writer? — Michael Holroyd, Maggie Gee
Chair: David Dabydeen

In detail: from the RSLit website:

If you want to become a writer, should you read English at university? Or can the study of literature actually prevent you from finding your own voice? Biographer Michael Holroyd, President of the Royal Society of Literature, and recently knighted for services to literature, never went to university, and claims to have received his education in Maidenhead Public Library. Maggie Gee, novelist and Chair of the Royal Society of Literature from 2004 until 2008, read English at Somerville College, Oxford, and went on to do research degrees – but came to find academic writing increasingly burdensome. They argue the case for and against university, and ask whether, with the explosion of creative writing courses in universities all over the UK, people can really be taught to write. David Dabydeen, critic, writer, novelist, poet and director of the Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick, chairs the discussion.

(very interesting. I have met several aspiring writers with highly academic backgrounds who are stymied because they can’t shuffle off the chains of learning.)

Can people be taught to write?

Indeed. ...

And this one, which I am going to and will find fascinating:

Monday 11 February 2008
Taboo topics — George Steiner
Chair: Marina Warner

again, from their website:

In the half century since his first book, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, appeared, George Steiner’s output has been so prodigious and so wide-ranging that it is a surprise to discover that there are subjects he has found himself unable to tackle. Marking the publication of My Unwritten Books, he talks about seven taboo topics he has avoided writing about: because they brought too much pain; because they presented too great an emotional or intellectual challenge; or because the intimacies or indiscretions they involved proved too threatening. The themes range from the torment of the gifted when they live among the truly great, to the experience of sex in different languages; from a love for animals greater than for human beings, to a theology of emptiness. Underlying them all is the perception that the very best a writer can produce is the tip of the iceberg; that behind every good book lies the book which remains unwritten.

Sunday 20 January 2008


It was interesting to read on Emma Darwin’s excellent blog (This Itch of Writing, linked on the right somewhere) abut yet another ‘debate’ (or stronger) on WriteWords, about guidelines, or rules, call them what you will, when it comes to learning to write well.

I was slapped down so hard when I started such a debate there last year, that I left, and my heart goes out to whoever is embroiled in it this time. I hope they survive unscathed! WriteWords is a very good place, with much of interest for writers, and some excellent expert advice.

But. One piece of expert advice I just could not get my head round was the assertion that there were no rules or guidelines to follow that would sharpen your work. (Semantics, to me. At the time both words were too emotive.). The assertion, not from Emma, was that writing ought to be a free for all (I gathered this was the meaning) and originality and good writing would bob to the top regardless. At the time, no one mentioned the need for learning at any point. All ‘guidelines’ were said to be unnecessary and a constraint.

I believed strongly that this is not right, and said so, to my cost. Of course, writing needs …no … MUST have originality if it is to get anywhere… and of course, if learner writers had to kowtow to ‘you must do this, you must do that’, then the process for many would be killed straight off. That goes without saying!

There are no ‘musts’… and I couldn’t get that across because the air was thick with agendas at the time. My own learning route had been one that was not liked by many (keeping personalities out of it) and I think this was clouding the issue.

Now, however, Emma quotes a very interesting Buddhist tenet (I paraphrase) “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.” I love that thought. But it does embrace the belief that we are all ready to be taught in our own time. That has to include that some may be ready to be taught from the start, and that some may never be ready.

All I can say is that had I not had the teaching I had and still seek from those whose writing I admire, my own writing would be perfectly functional and it would ‘work’ but that teaching lifted it out of the ‘ordinary’. It showed me what was possible. And I am still working towards that.

Of course there are guidelines!!! I spent a wonderful week in the company of Maggie Gee and Jacob Ross late last year at an Arvon course. Every day we discussed what worked and what didn’t, right across the spectrum. Process and product. Each and every one of us had one to one time in which we were offered guidelines, on a personal basis, for improving our work. And every day we had group workshops in which both writers shared their vision of what guidelines they follow. And the agreement is surely that if those are assimilated, and used by the individuals in their own ways, their work will improve.

Why do writers of all levels go on courses? To learn from writers who are more successful than they are. To sit at the feet of the successful for a short while, ready to learn.

The argument will probably be that there are no general guidelines. That every writer has to find their own.

But in that case, why are there so many ‘how to’ books on the market? Why are there writing courses at ever level, not just at the highest levels, for those who can already ‘write’?

The article in The New Writer I blogged about yesterday offers a few guidelines that might help writers maximise their chances of bobbing to the top in writing competitions. But they aren’t ‘mine’, those guidelines. I was taught them, by someone who was no doubt taught them himself. Nothing is new.

I have been invited to do a workshop at a local independent school. I am writer in residence at Gateway Academy Tilbury, for this term and some of next. I teach teach teach. Never ever saying you MUST’ do anything. But once creativity is opened up, once we have each other’s confidence, pointing out that if you consider ‘this’ or ‘that’, your prose will be sharper. If you do this that, your narrative structure will be sharper. If you do this, that, your characters might end up more engaging.

All stuff I learned myself, from a good but controversial tutor.

All ‘guidelines’ for strengthening your prose, your characters, your narrative structure. And so on. No one’s saying you have to follow them. There are plenty of places who will pick up your work without them, you may even get rich without them.

But without those guidelines/rules I certainly would not have been placed at Fish and Bridport. Without those ‘rules’ my short stories would have been rejected by Salt Publishing like the majority of submissions there are.

Maybe it’s a question of semantics, all this? Maybe the concept of ‘rules’ is disliked, and ‘guidelines’ softens it a little? Maybe there’s another word that would make it yet more comfortable?

Whatever. As in any artistic endeavour, I reckon before you break the rules/guidelines you need to learn them first and then you can break them with impunity.

EMMA'S DECEMBER ARTICLE on the folly of following rules unthinkingly


Friday 18 January 2008

'The New Writer' Article

I have an article (paid... lovely!) in the current issue of The New Writer, a subscription magazine for writers of short fiction, poets and feature writers, based in the UK.

Link HERE to the magazine's website.

Title of article:

Persistence, Hard Work, Luck and a Bowl of Fruit.

Thoughts on maximising your chances at short fiction competitions.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Book Launch in London: The Foundling Museum

The Foundling Museum; the perfect place to launch this book.

The room shown above, the gallery, will be where we hold the launch. This is a family 'do'. I have older son organising the wine, younger son desperate to get off school for the evening, husband helping with guest lists.

Why is this place perfect? For many reasons. I am drawn to the place personally, and have been ever since I was introduced to it by the friend to whose memory the book is dedicated, Jan Newton. She was a patron. We shared the often difficult experience of being adopted kids, as do many of my closest friends. And The Foundling Museum gave all of us a strong sense of validation.

I'm taking the whole place over for an evening, so guests have the place to themselves. They can wander at will round the collections, ask questions, enjoy, and be moved. This is an extraordinary place.

The Museum is a tribute to the collaboration and vision of three men, a sea-captain named Thomas Coram, a musician called George Frederic Handel, and a painter called Hogarth. It is a beautiful, outstanding place. It will be a privilege to bring friends here.

Foundling Museum Website HERE

I quote from the website:

The Foundling Museum not only showcases the Foundling Hospital art collection and the Gerald Coke Handel Collection but most importantly tells the story of the 27,000 children who passed through the Hospital between 1739 and 1954.

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Self Publishing success story

Wow. I have just read about a writer who has signed a $2,000,000 book deal after she and her husband formed a company to market her self published book.

Mind you, I guess this isn't your average self-publication. Does make you think though, that a writer who can write something like this decides deliberately to bypass the mainstream...


Eragon is another example of a self publishing success. It can be done...

Monday 14 January 2008


Kelly Spitzer, Submissions Editor for the flash fiction ezine Smokelong Quarterly, starts a series of exchanges between writers and editors


This one concentrates on the topic of feedback from editors when rejecting your work. Do writers want critique from editors, or not?


The Editors reply


Friday 11 January 2008

Mind-mapping your fiction

Have you ever tried mind mapping your ideas for fiction? It’s not how I usually approach work, but occasionally it is very useful, producing fascinating stuff. Maybe I ought to do this more often before I start.

Yesterday the next character to be looked at closely for the novel kept popping into my head and knocking. He’s been doing this for a while, and details about him are appearing very slowly. Nothing is written yet as a result. I don’t want to grab too early and miss important stuff that with time would have rounded him, made the piece far better, themes more resonant.

So last night I tried mind mapping.

Simple really… try it.

Blank sheet of paper. Character’s name in the centre. And from the name make a series of ‘rays’, to include everything you know about him so far. You’ll find some will either link or fall into categories.

Example… my character, an adult, can’t read. This fleshes out in the mind map to refusal to go into library and refusal to listen to stories. Bullying appears and I add it to the map. He can’t bear bullying as he was bullied himself. Minor characters swim up from nowhere… a bullying incident years ago…I add them in. But this guy is a natural poet in his head. The things he chooses to see and do will be said in a particular voice. He sings. He’s a miner. He learned poetry from hymns then started his own. But he has told no one, as he fears ridicule.

Within minutes I have many more connections and possibilities than I did before, things that appeared ‘randomly. But which I was able to put into some coherent order…and story is already richer for it.

Give it a go.

Thursday 10 January 2008


I and others have blathered on for ages about how ridiculous this obsession with image is in publishing today.

Now, it seems, they are even giving the greats make-overs!

Jane Austen has a book coming out… well a previously unpublished memoir, (not my cuppa) edited by a relative.

But the publishers deemed Austen’s traditional portrait painted by her sister, ‘too ugly’ for the cover, so they have given her a complete make-over, including… wait for it… make-up and hair extensions.


and AFTER:

Full story HERE courtesy of the BBC

Question: If you are still alive, will a make-over make you a better writer?

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Doing a Reading??? An exercise.

Are you doing a reading? Unsure of how you will come over?

Here's an exercise I was taught.

First, find a clean cork, wine bottle type.

Second, print out this poem: (W B Yeats)

Had I the Heaven's
Embroidered cloths,
Enrought with golden
And silver threads,
The blue, the dark and the dim cloths
Of night, and light, and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths
Under your feet.
But I, being poor
Have only my dreams;
Tread softly,
For you tread on my dreams.

Third, read it through out loud. (You'd best do this while the study door is locked!)


Fourth, insert the cork between your front teeth and hold it there. And recite the poem again, slowly, making sure you enunciate clearly every single syllable, every single consonant, especially.

Do it again, until you are certain you are actually sounding every single sound there is.

Now take the cork out, make a few silly faces to stretch the jaw muscles etc.

And recite it again.

Can you hear the difference? Magic isn't it!

(On the day, don't sit there in the venue practicing with a cork between your teeth, or you'll get locked up. But you can do the jaw stretches in the loo...!)


Is a lot A LOT of often unnecessary words!

I spent yesterday editing a section of the novel-in-progress down to make it eligible for a short fiction call.

It started at 7,750 wds or thereabouts. I had already 'tightened' to c 5,750.

The call is for work no longer than 3,000 wds.

Wow. Not possible. 7570 to under 3000?

It certainly is. The story that came through in Bridport last year was a heavily edited part of the same novel, losing at least half that section's bulk.

More is not necessarily better.

Less is often more.

The trouble is, every novel I pick up now does the same to my head..."You could have said this in a quarter of the words... or less. Why have I paid to read the extra?"

Tuesday 8 January 2008


My ezine, a special ezine.

Mimi might take a look at this:

LINK TO TOM'S VOICE MAGAZINE and laugh, because we know what Mimi's like.

This ezine was started a few years back to give those who are struggling with addiction issues (their own, or those of friends and family) a voice.

I used to take writing sessions at a tough residential rehab. Early on I lost a student to an overdose, but he left his poems... in the last few months, he had found a voice.

He was Tom. The mag is Tom's Voice...see?

The next issue has some extraordinary writers adding support. What are they saying? mainly "We're here. We understand..." by sending me fiction, non fiction, poetry. Not 'about' addiction... necessarily. Anything. Its their gift.

Take a look at the mag, and if you have something to say, say it. I welcome submissions, and love reading work from potential new contributors.

Sunday 6 January 2008


Can I send my reader (Mimi? Are you still around?) to this post by Fictionbitch?


I am often stumped for an answer when people ask why I don''t write 'happy' stories. "You are such a happy person, most of the time..." they say.

Am I?

Be that as it may, and putting aside those party masks we all put on when socialising, I never know what to say.

But the books and stories that have most affected me are not 'happy'. I am most affected by the ones I remember, think about, that make me feel something deeply when reading. Not the 'happy' twiddles I might read on holiday when I need a fizzy drink.
The music that moves me is not 'happy'. I am moved by music with depth, an ache. It's music that makes me think. Is beautiful music ever really 100% 'happy'?

So it is affirming to read Fictionbitch this morning.

And it goes back to my inability to get excited by creating 'more people like the ones next door' that do not do much other than live as they already do.

There has to be something else....

Friday 4 January 2008


Issue 3 of Tania Hershman’s ‘The Short Review’ is up, with another ten collections and anthologies featured.

I reviewed two collections: firstly, Walking the Labyrinth by Welsh writer Brian George, a beautifully produced hardback from Stonebridge Press, and secondly, Two Tall Tales and One Short Novel, a paperback from Apis Books.

A tough call. One I loved, and the other I partially loved.


Tania has also included interviews with three of the writers, Brian George, Rusty Barnes of Night Train fame, and Chrissie Gittins. I think this adds a sparking dimension to an already strong mix.

And that's not all... there is a link to lists of the short fiction collections scheduled for publication in 2008, and the list is.... huge. Who said the short story was languishing!!!

Check it out. It is a must for anyone interested in short fiction, either writers or readers.

And more reading:

I am having a great time reading two Comma Press collections for review: Phobic (modern Horror) , and Under The Dam (David Constantine).

Thursday 3 January 2008

Honest critiques are the best critiques

I was taught to critique work straight and honest. Never to say ‘I like this’ or ‘Er, this isn’t quite working but with a tiny bit of work I’m sure it would win something really big!”

And sadly, that’s what you get on so many places where writers gather.

I don’t want flannel, I want to be told how an intelligent writer/reader sees the piece. I want to know where it works for them, where it doesn’t, and I want examples, not generalisations.

THEN I can go back to the work and reappraise.

Just to prove a point: Recent comments among many on a story I'd written three years back, posted on The Workhouse, doing my ‘edit old stuff, tidy up and sub’ routine.

This comment was made about the voice:

“They all speak as though they're suffering from head injuries while navigating a second language, and the net effect is that there's a writer engaging in a kind of facile literary tourism”

Do I rush away to find a lace handkerchief and sob, vowing never to write again, or to give that person a bad review in return? (Oh yes they do... Ive seen this for myself on some very big workshops...)

FANTASTIC feedback! I almost danced round the study!

I do understand that many writers just don’t want this sort of feedback. Maybe when you are a very raw beginner, it could hurt feelings. And maybe, for those who are in this purely for ego, it might stop them writing… a dose of reality. At least that’s what I’ve had said to me many times by the ‘dress up negatives in cotton wool’ school.

It didn’t stop me.

But now I have a problem. In addition to the above, I have two critiques from writers who know about the culture and setting of the story far closer than I do. One found it poor overall. One found it good, but with some minor details wrong.

So in the end I have to do what all writers need to do with feedback. I will not rush around changing everything according to every item said, but I’ll listen to every comment with care, balance them and think, and rewrite in a few weeks time when it’s all had time to sink in.

And that voice will need work!

But also, people forget that the writer isn't the only person hopefully moving forward in this situation. The critiquer learns a huge amount...and I'm delighted if my stuff has been a good learning tool.

It's words. Not blood!

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Should Writing be Fun?

This has been worrying me. Should writing be ‘fun’?

I went to a drinks thing this evening, and met a friend who is writing a novel.

“Its fun,” he said. “If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t do it.”

That got me thinking.

Writing is not ‘fun’ for me. It is lots of things; it is challenging, drives me bloody spare sometimes, annoying, lots of similar adjectives.

But it keeps me alive, in many ways.

Is it ‘fun’ for you?


Why is it not 'fun'?

It hasn’t been ‘fun’ relying on a dwindling supply of short fiction to keep some submissions out there. Or wondering if I am so hooked on the ‘write write write sub sub sub’ ethos I have worked at for four years that I can’t get writing satisfaction from just calmly, slowly writing the longer work.

That worries me.

It has not been ‘fun’ paying out for loads of comp entries then seeing work hit a few good ones, and the lots of solid but littler ones (with the same entry fees) ignoring stuff from the same brain.

Or realising that the good solid magazines want strong, realist, postmodern work… and if what you do is not that, the places that want your stuff are limited, and that’s just how it is.

It hasn’t been ‘fun’ as such, working on the novel. It is painfully painfully slow. I miss the occasional buzz from the fast writing I used to get when writing short fiction regularly.

And it certainly is not fun working at writing raw words. It is hard. But as someone once said ‘No gain without pain’ or something.


What SURROUNDS writing is ‘fun’. I love the buzz of the places I work, I love meeting up with other writers, talking, seeing what gives. I love reading, but don’t do enough. I love teaching. Facilitating. Whatever it’s called.

It has been great ‘fun’ working with Salt Publishing on Words from a Glass Bubble, and learning about how to market yourself, your book. It is ‘fun’ sometimes, working fast, in flash sessions. It is ‘fun’ playing.

But whereas when I started out some years back, writing was 'playing' in buzzy, creative splurges,… now it is ‘what I do’, and as soon as things become ‘what you do’ they lose something, perhaps….

Narrative Structure

Over on The Workhouse, we are having some interesting discussions, and some new things to keep us on our writing toes, dragging us into The New Year!

A good discussion on Narrative Structure has to head my list, looking at which structures work best to deliver a story, and more importantly, why. It is particularly interesting to get a viewpoint from someone who is very into screen work, visual media. It makes me realise how hard every element has to work to make a seriously strong story.

Link to very good comprehensive paper on narrative structure HERE.

Then one member has proposed that we have a formal, regular reading group, rather than occasional pieces posted as the whim takes us...and we are starting off with a short story by Anton Chekhov.

Flash blasts are now going to happen every fortnight instead of every month...

members are going to post a week's worth of writing ideas every Sunday


I don't think we are going to get much sleep.