Writing

Criticism should build up, not beat down

When a writer receives feedback on their work they want to feel affirmed. They want to feel all warm and fuzzy inside and be told that one day, they might just win the Booker, or the Pulitzer or even just a writing competition in their local rag. But often, this does not happen. Instead, criticism...

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Is Fiction Good for Readers and Bad for Writers?

I heard two interesting things about literature today. According to academic Keith Oatley , reading fiction is very good for people. It improves our social performance. The more we read, the better we are at interacting with other people. Reading is like a flight simulator for life. Meanwhile Rick...

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Writing as Digging

I recently read Nicola White’s blog post , ‘Stories need to be dug up, not built up’, and have been thinking about it a lot. Here’s an often-quoted passage from Stephen King’s On Writing: 'Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground… Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing...

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Skullduggery amongst the Aspidistras

I can’t get arrested at a certain Long Established Scottish Literary Publication. Even though I have failed to make it between the covers, their responses chart my development as a writer in their own way. My submissions span a decade. The first few boomeranged back to me without comment – in the...

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Get Orf My Laaaand! Or, why my genre's better than yours

The gloves are coming off. The genre authors are fighting back. Take Iain M. Banks’s recent article , which in itself is wounded but ultimately open to inter-genre dialogue. Then regard for a moment, the comments below the article. I appreciate that no-one looks kindly upon people treating their...

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Stories Need to be Dug Up, Not Built Up

When I first started to write long-form fiction, I recognised that something was missing. I knew the people I wanted to write about, the place and time, but when I got them all together, not much happened. My characters milled about, chatting, drinking coffee, making ineffectual and badly described...

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Crossing the Genre Divide

The coverage of last month’s World Book Night on the BBC has sparked a row between the corporation and some of genre fiction’s best-known names. Writers of sci-fi, crime, fantasy and horror such as Iain M Banks and Neal Asher, and children’s authors Debi Gliori and Tamora Pierce, signed a letter to...

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Digital Publishing Is Literature's Punk

I don’t really remember punk but I know punk retrospectively. At the time the best punk was happening, I was about 7, so I kind of moshed into the punk scene a bit later, when the remnants of it were still swirling about in by-pools of Indie and suchlike. I love the idea of punk, that somehow it...

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The F-Word

I’ve changed my mind about MsLexia and The Orange Prize . The fact that I cannot be published in one or win the other, purely because of gender, used to annoy me. If we look around and don’t see discrimination in our immediate vicinity, it is easy to assume there is none. Over the years that I have...

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Manifestos

I’ve been spending some time recently at The Really Free School in London, which is one of the greatest responses imaginable to the announcement of rising tuition fees: squat Guy Ritchie’s (empty) £6m Fitzrovia mansion and open its doors as a free centre of education, where people can learn...

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