Reading & Writing

Coming This Year: The Writers’ Service

I did an interview the other day in which I was asked if I had any phrases or watchwords by which to live, and I suggested two; Nobody loves a good all-rounder. and, No tombstone ever read, ‘This writer always delivered on time.’ By which I mean; it takes whatever it takes, however long it […]

When Writing Becomes Teamwork

‘Nobody admires a good all-rounder.’ This was the motto of my earliest teacher/mentor Mr Scholar (really). It was advice I took to heart, by concentrating all my efforts on the subjects in which I excelled and dumping the vast majority I was lousy at. But it left me deficient in a number of skills, so […]

Ten Writing Tips That Work

If you’re coming in a few pages short in your manuscript, switch your typeface to Helvetica – it will add around 6 pages to every 100. Sometimes you can streamline and improve your story by imagining it in a different format, a comic book, a play, a piece of art even. A story is malleable; […]

Give Yourself A Word Workout

In these post-Christmas weeks, everyone’s going on about weight and healthy eating, but nobody worries about developing language and communication. We only use a fraction of the words available to us. The Oxford English Dictionary currently holds 171,476 words in regular use and 47,156 obsolete words. By comparison, the Chinese dictionary has 370,000 words. We have a regular […]

Chang-Siu And The Blade Of Grass

Following on from yesterday, here’s a story that was grouped under the banner of ‘horror stories’ when the collection should really have been labelled ‘Stories of the Fantastic’. I wrote it because I like Marguerite Yourcenar’s style of writing, and wanted to catch something of the same tone. See what you think.   Long, long […]

‘Don’t You Write Horror Stories?’

I was once at a literary gathering – this was very early on in my career – and rather nervous about being in the company of so many university Eng. Lit. graduates. Back then it was a much rarer privilege to go to university. This particular group of three with whom I was standing talked […]

How Authors Were Shaped By Their Readers

I still search for reasons why men aren’t reading fiction, and wonder if the time-consuming habit of box set bingeing has made a difference. Apart from the vast difference between enjoying prose and watching images, is watching the whole of ‘The Night Manager’ different to reading the novel in one sitting? How does anyone find […]

End Of Year Q&A

It feels like I did a million Q&As this year, but I realised I hadn’t done one for you. So today you’re the guest editor. You can ask me anything you ever wanted to ask about writers and writing, or any aspect of the arts, and I’ll try to give you some concise answers. Imagine […]

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 6

In Richard Hughes’s ‘A High Wind In Jamaica’, some British children living in the Caribbean survive a hurricane and are sent back to England, but are captured by pirates. It’s an adventure about children, but certainly not aimed at them. Because in a turnabout, it’s the pirates who have to be afraid…it’s a haunting book […]

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 5

  The project of unearthing these writers became a labour of love that made me new friends around the world, as I tracked them down and heard their stories. I discovered how Walt Disney saved banned European writers, how a bestselling Tibetan monk turned out to be a plumber from Devon and how Alfred Hitchcock […]