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Spies, Thieves and Liars

August 20th, 2021

I was reading an interview with the French-Moroccan author Leila Slimani recently (author of Adele and Lullaby, and winner of the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize).  She said that her inspiration comes from the outside; so she always carries a notebook with her and because of this her children think she is a spy.  She goes on “I try to explain that a writer is a kind of spy, but also a thief and a liar. They have a very bad opinion of me”.

That might sound a very odd thing to say, but I think it’s true. If you’re going to make it as a writer, you’ve got to be attuned to everything that’s going on around you and people-watch constantly. Then you’ve got to surreptitiously take what you see and transmute it into material for your books and short stories – but you can only do this by giving it enough of a twist to turn it into something that’s out of the ordinary and gripping. So raise your glasses to the spies, the thieves and the liars amongst us! Read the rest of this entry »




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The Western is Dead: Long Live The Western

July 16th, 2021

I recently glanced at something my husband was watching on TV and realised it was John Wayne riding across the great plains of the American West – the type of film that used to be on all the time when I was growing up (yes, I know, I’m giving away my age there). I didn’t stop to watch it but it did get me thinking about the fate of the Western novels, once so popular too.

It might take a bit of hunting to locate the westerns section in most bookshops and online stores, but that doesn’t mean that the genre is dead. Westerns go in and out of fashion and there’s every likelihood that tales of the Wild West will find a fresh, eager market. Prior to the pandemic many holidaymakers were making the pilgrimage to see the breath-taking scenery of America’s rugged canyons, mountains and deserts. And as soon as travel opens up fully I’m sure the desire will be there again. Read the rest of this entry »




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Editing Your Novel – Stage One

December 20th, 2020

First, thanks to Keith for last week’s post. It was great to hear from someone who’s had a connection with Writers Bureau for so long and has done so well. And, I think you can read between the lines just how much pleasure he’s had from his career as a writer!

Moving on to something completely different, this week I’m going to provide the would-be novelists amongst you with a checklist that we recommend you follow before even contemplating sending off your work to an agent, publisher or self-publishing it.

Does the story make sense?

Have you made the journey from the beginning to the end in a logical way, with each stage clearly set out and leading on to the next? Is the ending believable? Is there one easily followed narrative strand all the way through the text? Is it obvious who your protagonist is and what that character is trying to achieve? Read the rest of this entry »




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Reading Around The World

July 10th, 2020

First, thanks to Esther for last week’s blog. She is, of course, absolutely right. If you want to make it as a writer  then you have to be prepared to persevere, and you can’t sit back waiting for results. You’ve got to keep sending work out – the more you get out there, the greater your chances of success.

When the ‘black lives matter’ campaign started I noticed that quite a few publishers and websites started suggesting lists of BAME authors. I had a look at some of them and felt that quite a few were little more than a token gesture. So, I’ve been thinking about some of my favourite authors – ones that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend – and here they are. There’s no one on this list that I haven’t read at least one of their books and enjoyed it. I just hope you get as much pleasure if you decide to try them. Incidentally, they’re not in any kind of order of preference.

Rohinton Mistry ‘A Fine Balance’ was recommended to me by numerous people and it really lived up to expectations. But be prepared to shed a tear! Read the rest of this entry »




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Quest Fiction

June 5th, 2020

An anonymous critic recently claimed that all stories are “quest stories”. The critic  did not enlarge on the claim and my immediate reaction was to doubt this and like most people I could think of one of two novels which don’t involve a search or quest.

On the other hand, I would have to agree that the quest is a central issue in a great many stories and novels.

There has been a tendency to think of the quest story as just a genre for children’s fiction. The classic, well-known example is “Treasure Island” by R L Stevenson. The whole story is based around the quest or search for treasure by a number of parties. In “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy is literally blown away and she can only find her way home by searching for the Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. Read the rest of this entry »




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