Reading & Writing

Where To Set Your Story

So I’m sitting in a seafront restaurant and friends explain why we’re here at this awkward location; a scene from John Le Carré’s ‘The Night Manager’ was set here. It never occurred to me to set books anywhere other than London. I remembered the opening chapters of John Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’, in […]

Clerihews And Clues

Books are often dedicated to other writers. GK Chesteron’s strange novel about anarchist terrorism, ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’, is dedicated to EC Bentley, born in 1875. The pair had met as schoolboys at St Paul’s and became fast friends. Bentley went to Oxford, but left law studies to become a journalist, in which profession he […]

The Writers’ Best Tool

In all of the self-help writing books that teach technique, plot structure and overcoming writer’s block (to readers who haven’t yet started writing!) hardly anyone addresses the one thing would-be authors need more than anything else. Take a look at the photograph and ask what you see. This was my secondhand paperback haul on Saturday […]

Ten Day Book Challenge: The Final Run

It looks nice outside. I wish I was there. While I’ve been entombed in the flat, locked away like a lighthouse keeper, summer has kicked in, late this year but welcome. London is hotter, bizarrely, but here there is silence. I live in the old town where there are no cars, so the only sounds […]

10 Day Book Challenge: Everyone’s A Critic

I set out to write the final draft of my latest novel in ten days. Now read on: Everybody’s a critic. Yesterday while I was working on the balcony, a parrot flew past and delivered a review. Thank god it missed the keyboard. I’m halfway through my self-imposed time limit on the new book and […]

10 Day Book Challenge: Day 3

So I’m up there, Piso 2, in the dark, at the laptop. It’s lower on the desk than my London screen so I hunch over. I have to lie on my back twice a day and push back my shoulders to prevent my old RSI from returning. You train for these big finishes like an […]

10 Day Book Challenge: Day 2

7:00am This is the 19th century building in which I live, a great stone dungeon that’s ice-cold even in summer (modern architects take note; if you build it properly nobody needs air conditioning). I’m clearly being tested, as today is hot and sunny, skylarks soaring about in the blue. My flat is so dark you […]

Ten Day Book Challenge: Day One

I’ve vowed to write an entire draft of a novel in ten days. Now read on; 6:00am I’m already off to whatever the opposite of a flying start is. I just checked my tickets to find I’m leaving the UK for a week, not ten days, so the word count has to rise dramatically if […]

The Ten Day Book Challenge Starts Tomorrow

This year, for the first time, I slipped behind in my writing schedule. An eye operation forced me to to leave the desk, and while I was incredibly thankful to not lose my sight, my work timetable fell apart. In one way it proved useful because I rethought the next book and changed my plans […]

Should Books Be Shorter?

A story is a journey you undertake to see what happens. The long Victorian novel was a box-set binge; episodes appeared in magazines like The Strand, and had built-in cliffhangers. Crime novels weren’t constructed around hooks; most old Penguin paperbacks didn’t even put a plot synopsis or description of any kind on their jackets. The […]