The worst thing to write?

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What swine invented synopses? I’m having the devil of a time writing a synopsis for my latest novel, Sparrows Nest. Why is it so difficult writing 1,000 words or so summarising the merits and attractions of a 100,000 word novel? Well, of course I know the answer’s obvious, but that doesn’t stop the exercise being such a pain. Still, mustn’t moan, eh? At least the novel’s finished now.

The best book ‘On Writing’ I have read

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Stephen King’s On Writing is a terrifically easy read, largely thanks to the interwoven autobiographical anecdotes. Witty, straightforward, and full of no-nonsense tips, the book debunks on the way many of the sillier elements of current perceived wisdom on creative writing.

Sunshine over dust – a poetic challenge

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We were discussing a choice of mounts for a newly acquired painting the other day with our favourite framer (Rob Jones of Bond-a-Frame, Chichester – nice chap). As usual, he came up with a perfect colour combination. For this picture, he recommended ‘Sunshine’ over ‘Dust’. That got me thinking about how an odd selection of words in juxtaposition can be serendipitously enchanting – inspiring, even.

Inspiring? Well, unfortunately, the inspiration hasn’t worked for me yet. But surely there’s a poet or a painter out there somewhere who might run with it.

Of course, there’s always doggerel:-

      Sunshine over dust

      Toenails red as rust

      Filling me with lust –

      Oh, say it I must –

      For the girl with the ample bust

Wordcount: Making It Work Coming and Going

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Dragging a reluctant writer back to work after the Christmas lay-off is not helped by fear of the Wordcount dragon. Like many, I use my daily wordcount as a yardstick (1,000 words as a minimum target) so having to spend a few days reading back my work in progress to remember where I got to and immerse myself in the story afresh leaves me feeling dissatisfied – even guilty. That was until I had a bright idea.

Re-reading is also an opportunity to edit. Occasionally this means inserting new text but usually editing equals cutting. And most writing deserves to be cut with ruthless determination. So why not give words subtracted as much weight as words added? This not only helps to reach your wordcount target but will almost inevitably improve the quality of your output.

A word of warning: don’t try this method too often or it will quickly become counter-productive. Once a month or so is about the correct dosage.

Oh, and it works on blog posts as well.

Back Your Story

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Who needs to see a character’s back story? Not the reader, usually, but it is essential that the writer knows the back stories of principal characters, at least. And they must be well written. If the writer can’t take the characters that seriously, how can the reader? Besides, there might be another useful by-product: an illustrative scene from a character’s back story can easily lead to an excellent ‘slice of life’ short story – one which is capable of standing on its own. I have found some of my best stories by this route.