How To Write A Novel

You will find advice here to help you on your writing journey. Use the search bar or browse through the categories to get a taste of the kind of insights and shortcuts we use to fast track our writers. 

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Me & Coetzee

May 20, 2017

I read 'Disgrace' by JM Coetzee in the year 2001 when I was living in New York. I had written two books; flops. 'Disgrace' focused my intentions. It became apparent to me that there were heights that were attainable and that those could be reached by careful, quiet, slow work.

During the nine months of my last pregnancy I sat at my desk in Brooklyn overlooking the garden every morning and wrote. At night I read either the Bible, Chekhov, Carver or Coetzee; most likely the latter. I broke my routine on September the 11th when my husband called me downstairs and we watched the news on the television then went outside and from out brownstone stoop saw the second plane hit the Twin Towers.

My daughter was born at the end of November. I'd finished the book a couple of days before. In the spring I sent the book to agents, then it went to publishers and I sent it to John Coetzee in Australia when the book was published in 2004. He replied and it was a breathless moment to stand and...

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The Game of the Name

May 19, 2017

I'd like you to have a think about your characters' names.

We name them for verisimilitude; to buy the confidence of the reader. But we sometimes sacrifice that very same thing. Once upon a time I began to read a novel with the main characters 'Alison' and 'Phil'. I just couldn't get it up for them in a manner of speaking. 

I think it's worth considering them with as much care as a mother and father might. Our names are the repository or our parent's aspirations in some ways. Naming my children was like shopping for the life I thought they might have. I named my daughter with a play on words, using French, to suggest that she would be able to give herself all she needed in life. I was thinking in the manner of the painter Duchamp's pseudonym Rose Sélavy, perhaps. (Eros c'est la vie.) Not that that's what I called her.

One of my favourite tales from childhood is the Grimms' tale 'Rumplestiltskin.' The miller's daughter must sacrifice her first born child if she cannot...

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Travel For Writers. White Lines. (Don't do it.)

Apr 17, 2017

On Good Friday, we motored north on the A1 from the appropriately named town of 'Wooler' in Northumberland where we hailed the little white lambs. We crossed the bridge at Coldstream and entered the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland. With mother singing The Proclaimers. We had the joys of Spring upon us. 

We headed across Scotland from east to west the following day  via Stirling and Glasgow to Ardrossan to take the ferry to Arran - with mother singing The Proclaimers from Greenock down the coastal road. My daughter travels with two sets of headphones, one of which is back up. 

I advised her of the checkpoint at Brodick, the port of arrival at Arran, where those without good Scottish accents might be turned back. I, myself, had perfected a single phrase. We had had dinner the night before with a friend called 'June' who gave us the low down on all there was to do in Arran and my phrase therefore consisted of 'Helloooooo d'ye ken Joon'.   It saw us through many winding...

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