Reading & Writing

Writing Week 5: All Change

It’s only been a short while that we’ve been woke to questions of gender and already the complaints have started from certain male critics. The BBC’s new version of ‘War of the Worlds’ has a pregnant female lead living sinfully in Woking as the Martians arrive. And why not? Wells was always a bit thin […]

Writing Week 4: The Rulebreakers

  In uncertain times we demand more rules, not fewer The history of fiction, by which I mean all fiction – I’m not interested in separating ‘literature’ from ‘genre’ – follows the growth pattern of all the arts; rules are established, traditional forms are developed, rules are broken. But something odd happened in fiction that […]

Writing Week 3: The Discipline Of Writing

Most writers can’t work consistently enough to fulfil a publisher’s needs. If you’ve ever wondered why some writers can’t get published and others can’t work fast enough, read on. Readers often tell writers how lucky they are, as if they accidentally become JK Rowling one day. There’s a generally circulated idea that writers waft about […]

Writing Week 2: A Writers’ Round Table

Me: Writing is like sex: Everyone has a different method. Raymond Carver: Get in. Get out. Don’t linger. Me: Writers are guarded and private. ‘Sharing’ is not a word I use around them. They don’t much engage in Socratic dialogue unless you count the testing-out of anecdotes. This is because the novel is always running in […]

Writing Week 1: Beware Of Public Opinion

It was not a time to be sexually frivolous. Let’s get the blog a little bit back on track this week by looking at writers and writing. In Offenbach’s ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ the scene is set by the character of Public Opinion, and sometimes it seems as if this figure haunts all who dare to […]

That Dictionary Exploded

Two entries ago I posted a photo of my 1783 dictionary (now sadly falling to bits through over-thumbage) and you asked me to expand the page-view for a better nose-around. At least I think you did before jumping off into a heated discussion about Arabic jinns, Hodnidods & Pegotty Wing-Wings on the same comments page (I […]

Well Defined

I found this old book at the back of a cupboard. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t pick it up in 1787, which is the date inside the cover. It’s an English dictionary published by Northfleet, but like all books of the period it’s scant on publishing information inside. This is where I get all […]

Adventure With A Brain

Nobody seems to remember this most unusual author anymore. Van Greenaway was a lawyer-turned-novelist who wrote topical, political, satirical thrillers. At his best he combined popular fiction with a rare passion and erudition. This kind of thought-provoking action novel was a genre all its own that now appears to have vanished entirely. Van Greenaway started […]

A Ten-Minute Argument With PD James

  Phyllis Dorothy James was, everyone will tell you, the grande-dame of crime writing, and once issued her top ten tips for writing novels. It’s heresy to contravene the rules, but what worked for PD James was clearly not what works for every aspiring or professional author. Let’s have a look at them and see […]

Bryant & May Go Mad & Take Me With Them

And so to our most recent batch of readers’ comments on where to send Bryant & May next. (This still makes me think of my mother saying ‘I think you’ve mined out that particular seam, dear,’ after volume 5). Monuments; When the British build a monument, they first have dinner inside it, cf. Crystal Palace, […]