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How to get the idea for a novel

Jul 09, 2017

When I was living in New York in the late 1990's, in my early twenties, I wanted to be a writer. I was writing short stories and poems and thinking about writing a novel. I decided to learn as much as I could about the craft from writers themselves so when a great writer was in town, I was there. In those days everything was possible. I used to sit on the sidewalk downtown with my notebook and sketch in words what I saw passing me by which in New York was varied and bizarre enough to fill notebooks. A man riding a bike with an elephant trunk strapped to his face. A large black woman who has roughly whitewashed her body. These things moved me terribly.

Seamus Heaney came to read from his work and after the talk he gave I jogged up to him and asked him in my naive way - I was twenty five then - what it was all about, writing? He had kind eyes and a wry, bemused avuncular manner and he said to me 'It's all about starting and stopping and starting again.'  I went to hear Annie...

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James Baldwin Writing Advice.

Jun 20, 2017

“You write in order to change the world ... if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” James Baldwin

James Baldwin was an essayist, playwright and novelist regarded as a highly insightful, iconic writer with works like The Fire Next Time, Giovanni's Room, Another Country and Just Above My Head as well as essays like Notes of a Native Son. 

Born on August 2, 1924, in New York City, to a young single mother, Baldwin never knew the name of his biological father. In 1946, Baldwin moved to France. The shift in location freed Baldwin to write more about his personal and racial background. "Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean, I see where I came from very clearly...I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer. I must deal with both," Baldwin once told The New York Times.

As a gay black man, fatherless, who chose to leave his country, he looked beyond the binary racial politics of 1950s and 60s America,...

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Fear of Plotting

Jun 04, 2017

Almost every one of my writers upon joining the Kritikme.com Ninety Day novel course tells me that plotting is their concern. They don't have that concern for very long.

The Novelry has a no nonsense approach to plotting. Stop it, and write.

My writers will find a great deal in the course that allays their concerns more gently than this, but in a nutshell that is what you need to do. You need to stop plotting and start writing. Let me explain.

Some writers do prepare an outline and some don’t. I think more writers across all genres don't prepare a detailed plot than do. It's a received idea that thriller writers must work to a plot. Yet even someone like Stephen King avoids plotting.

"I start a book ... knowing just two things: the basic situation and that the story will create its own patterns naturally and organically if I follow it fairly...and by fairly I mean never forcing characters to do things they wouldn't do in real life...For me, the first draft is all about ...

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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 Novelry.