The secrets behind the practice of good writing: Good and bad is always relative
23 March 2Even villains have feelings.

This is a piece of advice I’ve recently found myself giving to members of our writing community: give your villains the best arguments and allow them to show their good sides. Try not to create villains who are stupid, ugly and irredeemably mean.

They don’t ring true. They’re caricatures.

Okay, I’ll admit that my worst enemies become ugly in my eyes because of their meanness. But if I’m honest, they’re not really ugly, nor are they stupid. They’re mean, yes, but have all kinds of admirable qualities in other people’s eyes.

This is complicated by the fact that we will probably view your villain through the eyes of your protagonist, so it’s a partisan view.

But dialogue will give us an unobstructed view of them. And if your protagonist is not entirely blinkered, she may catch a glimpse of some of your villain’s good qualities. She may not admit to them or even comment on them, but if your character simply catches sight of your villain buying a decent meal for a beggar, then naturally we will see it too.

The other side of this coin is that you shouldn’t be afraid of giving some bad qualities to your protragonists. Yes, yes, we need to identify with your protagonists in order to follow their stories. They can’t be so ghastly that we can’t bear to see what becomes of them.

But don’t be afraid of adding some robust complexities.This struck me recently during an episode of the last series of Downton Abbey. I really like Mary. I know she’s stuck up and rather a snob, but she’s strong and brave and she does care about people.

But a few weeks ago, I watched her stabbing her sister Edith in the back so badly that it shocked me. Funnily enough, it didn’t make me dislike her, though. I already knew her to be a kind and generally good-hearted person, who was compassionate above the call of duty to her maid, Anna.

She and her sister have always had a difficult relationship and have continued to snipe at each other as they’ve matured. The thing is, I knew Mary would regret what she’d done (and she did). I felt a certain compassion for her, knowing how bad she’d feel about her impulsive act of spite.

If you’ve set up her good qualities, you can afford to show where she’s not as nice. Also, I think we’re more likely to accept that someone will be mean about a specific person than we will if they’re just generally mean.

If she’s mean about a category of people, such as men, for example, we’ll need to learn what has motivated this dislike. If we accept the reason, we’re more likely to allow it to be an acceptable trait than if it’s simply provoked by prejudice.

***

Click here to sign up for our newsletter and click here for our 2016 dates.

My 2016 blogs will continue to try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing.

Please join the discussion and if you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me. I’ll share it on the blog and we can discuss it.

Each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may  be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other.  When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers.

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: Laughter is about people
2701

We don’t laugh at absurd events. In themselves, embarrassing scenes and ridiculous scenarios are simply not funny.

This struck me recently while reading a manuscript. Causing absurd events to overcome a character isn’t the way to get your readers laughing, unless …

… your character is well-drawn and precise, and we care about her. Then we’ll laugh like mad when you place her in an embarrassing situation, even though our laughter may be uncomfortable. We identify, we empathise, we cringe along with her … and all of this will make us laugh. We laugh because we recognise aspects of the characters and society, rather than simply because of the situations you place them in.

A couple of other points about laughter. Don’t face the ridiculous situation too directly. At best, it will seem caricatured. You need to be more subtle. Don’t tell us, for example: Dave was finally cornered. Mandy kissed him soundly while he looked desperate to escape.

Rather show us what’s happening. Use very precise and specific details, rather than generalised statements, so that it strikes us as acutely observed, with a basis in reality.

Mandy lifted her head and grasped Dave by the points of his shirt collar. Dave took a convulsive step backward. His eyes darted left and right, neck gulping and gobbling like the crop of a pinioned chicken.

It’s the details, and the fact that we can feel what it’s like to be Dave, which make us laugh. Oblique is always funnier than “on the nose”. Here’s another example.

It was the most uncomfortable family dinner Miriam could remember, and that was saying a lot. While she and the others rose to clear plates, Dave’s attempt to join them was stymied. Mandy rubbed his leg, each stroke edging closer to his crotch.

It would be funnier if we weren’t told what she was doing, but saw it as Miriam would, with her vision obscured by tables and cloths. If we followed Mandy’s advances through Dave’s changing expressions, we would be forced to guess (along with Miriam) what was actually happening.

Those expressions, though, would need to be absolutely accurate and painstakingly described in all their detail. It wouldn’t work if they were simply interpreted for us.

***

Click here to sign up for our newsletter and click here for our 2016 dates.

My 2016 blogs will continue to try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing.

Please join the discussion and if you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me. I’ll share it on the blog and we can discuss it.

Each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may  be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other.  When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers.

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: Less is almost always more

2001 2They left the conference and drove down to the beach. It was his idea, but she agreed without protest and suggested they take one car. Despite everything, she still trusted him, and she felt playful as they spoke of this and that, winding down to the sea.

One of our Creative Writing participants wrote this during the class. I haven’t given you the whole scene, but this is the way it began. When he’d finished reading it out, I suggested he read it again, but this time, leave out the first sentence.

It was his idea, but she agreed without protest and suggested they take one car. Despite everything, she still trusted him, and she felt playful as they spoke of this and that, winding down to the sea.

The reaction of the class was instantaneous. Of course! It’s much, much more supple and professional. And all because we lost one sentence.

It’s a bad sentence because it tells us too much. It explains, and readers hate being explained to. Don’t start by telling us where they are or why, what they’re going to do or how. We don’t want to know. We simply want to be thrown into the car with them.

Like excited children, we want to think: “Where are we going and are we nearly there?”  all the way to the beach. And actually, you don’t have to tell us, even then. If you never mention the word “beach” or “sea”, we’ll know where we are as soon as her toes bury themselves in the sand and she hears the seagulls.

***

Click here to sign up for our newsletter and click here for our 2016 dates.

My 2016 blogs will continue to try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing.

Please join the discussion and if you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me. I’ll share it on the blog and we can discuss it.

Each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may  be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other.  When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers.

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: Making the intentions work for you

Secrets image 1301Each morning that I sit down to write I think I won’t be able to do it.

I know it’s pathetic. I’ve written five books, but when I contemplate a day’s writing, I panic and wonder where it came from – that strange will o’ the wisp ability to express something.

With that comes the fear that one day it might just stop, and today might just be that day. So anything seems more appealing than staring at a blank screen. I’ve been drawn to do the most extraordinary things: like iron the table cloths which have been sitting in the linen cupboard for the past ten years. I know, can you believe it?

Last week I was talking about setting intentions and this, I suppose, is a continuation of that theme.

There is a time when writing requires contemplation for ideas to coalesce. To write you need sometimes to daydream; to allow your thoughts to roam aimlessly.

But this is dangerous territory. When does “the need to allow my thoughts to coalesce” turn into “I’m procrastinating madly by gazing at the sea and having deep thoughts”.

Keep a notebook in your hand when you’re day dreaming and thinking big thoughts. Scribble them down. It keeps the thoughts deep, rather than allowing them to drift into inconsequentials. It focuses the mind.

Try to be honest about when you’re ready to start. If you know your characters backwards, have a good idea of what’s going to happen to them and which direction you’ll take them in, and if you know exactly what will happen in your first couple of scenes, then you’re ready.

Set your writing times for the week. Don’t wait for inspiration. You’ll be ninety-four and the inspiration will finally strike … but you won’t be able to remember what it was for.

Can you realistically write from 4 to 6am every morning? Or can you squeeze three hours on Saturdays and four on Sundays? Whatever time you can manage is fine. Just ring-fence it. Don’t allow anything at all to intrude on it. Don’t ever allow yourself to think: oh hell, I didn’t finish doing my tax. I’ll use …

No, and don’t let anyone else encroach on it either. If you tell people you’ll be writing, they’ll think: Oh yay, she’s not working. I’ll surprise her by turning up for a coffee. Lie if necessary. Tell them you have this massive deadline and won’t be able to pay your rent unless you work Saturday morning.

Lying is such good practice, anyway. You can feel virtuous about it. It’s an excellent way of developing your imagination.

***

Click here to sign up for our newsletter and click here for our 2016 dates.

My 2016 blogs will continue to try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing.

Please join the discussion and if you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me. I’ll share it on the blog and we can discuss it.

Each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may  be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other.  When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers.

Good intentions for a good new year

Secrets6Jan2016Was it the gym membership this year, or the unfinished book?

I’m not being cynical. I actually do believe in setting intentions. Happy new year, by the way.

Resolutions are an important way of building discipline. We challenge ourselves to hold to our promises. They don’t need to become the albatross we’ll dangle around our necks to make us feel bad about ourselves.

When it comes to writing, make it manageable. Perhaps even more than manageable. Then, when you exceed your expectations, you’ll feel really good about yourself. Writing is largely about discipline and if you can entrench that discipline in your life, it will start to become second nature.

What you don’t want to do is make a resolution like: Write War and Peace for the modern times. Or even, write that book you’ve been meaning to. It’s too large and threatening.. Why do people do that with writing (and to themselves?) They say: this is the year I’m going to take piano lessons. They don’t say: this is the year I’m going to play at the Albert Hall.

Decide rather to develop your characters. Or, if you’re not at all sure where to start, take a writing course. Sign up for a workshop. It’ll get you writing, entrench a discipline, and the ideas will flow from there.

If you’re busy on a project, but you’re feeling stuck, set yourself the task of writing three great sentences. Don’t scoff. Even one good sentence is better than none at all, and once you’ve written three, you may find that it starts to flow. It may be slow as treacle, but if you write four good sentences, you’ll feel great about yourself.

You may not be stuck at all. You may know exactly where you’re going with your project. But I still say: set yourself a manageable target for your writing regime. Success is good for the soul.

18 SecretExcuse me, but your research is showing.

Our hero, a historian, sweeps the heroine off to a romantic village in the heart of Tuscany. There he finds a spot where they can enjoy a view of the valley beyond the village walls. He pops a Prosecco cork and proceeds to woo her.

“Can you believe it, Doris, but Santa Fiora was first mentioned in a document in 890AD. And in 1082, a castle was constructed here and the city walled.”

She leant against him, gazing up into his eyes. “Really, Christopher? I find that fascinating. Please tell me more?”

“Of course, Doris. The power of the abbey passed first to the Aldobrandeschi conti di San Fire, and later to the hegemony in Lower Tuscany of the commune of Siena, which was strong influence on Santa Fiora by the mid fourteenth century.”

“Oh kiss me, Christopher, I can’t contain myself an instant longer…”

It is a temptation. You’ve taken the trouble to look up all that information and you can’t bear to waste it. Perhaps your character is a furniture maker rather than a historian. You research all sorts of information about dovetails and awls and biscuit joints, and you want to show that you know it.

Sure, allow him to throw in a couple of incomprehensible pieces of jargon when talking to a fellow carpenter, but don’t labour the matter. If we get no more than a couple of details to confirm his trade, it will be enough.

Remember what I always say: research is like good make up. It’s aim is to make you look better, but you shouldn’t be aware of it.

***

Upcoming Courses:
  • Our new course, the Creative Boot Camp will be held on 21 and 22 November in Johannesburg. The Boot Camp is an intensive two-day creative writing workshop devoted to the essential creative writing skills of character development, story development, scenes and suspense.
  • Click here to see our 2016 courses:

Click here to read more in ‘The Secrets behind the Practice of Good Writing’ series.

My 2015 blogs will try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing. They will appear in no logical order because each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may  be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily have all the secrets at my fingertips, so I will sometimes (and probably quite randomly) ask other writers and publishers their opinions on different aspects of writing fiction and non-fiction. My golf-mad parents always said that golf kept you humble. Oh please, it’s got nothing on writing, which must surely be the most humbling occupation. When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers. If you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me on jo-anne@allaboutwritingcourses.com. I’ll share it on my blog and we can discuss it.

<strong><a href=”https://writingcourses.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/18-secret.jpg”><img src=”https://writingcourses.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/18-secret.jpg?w=300″ alt=”18 Secret” width=”300″ height=”287″ /></a>Excuse me, but your research is showing.
</strong>
Our hero, a historian, sweeps the heroine off to a romantic village in the heart of Tuscany. There he finds a spot where they can enjoy a view of the valley beyond the village walls. He pops a Prosecco cork and proceeds to woo her.
“Can you believe it, Doris, but Santa Fiora was first mentioned in a document in 890AD. And in 1082, a castle was constructed here and the city walled.”
She leant against him, gazing up into his eyes. “Really, Christopher? I find that fascinating. Please tell me more?”
“Of course, Doris. The power of the abbey passed first to the Aldobrandeschi conti di San Fire, and later to the hegemony in Lower Tuscany of the commune of Siena, which was strong influence on Santa Fiora by the mid fourteenth century.”
“Oh kiss me, Christopher, I can’t contain myself an instant longer…”
It is a temptation. You’ve taken the trouble to look up all that information and you can’t bear to waste it. Perhaps your character is a furniture maker rather than a historian. You research all sorts of information about dovetails and awls and biscuit joints, and you want to show that you know it.
Sure, allow him to throw in a couple of incomprehensible pieces of jargon when talking to a fellow carpenter, but don’t labour the matter. If we get no more than a couple of details to confirm his trade, it will be enough.
Remember <a href=”http://allaboutwritingcourses.com/2008/11/20/book-research-is-like-make-up/”>what I always say</a>: research is like good make up. It’s aim is to make you look better, but you shouldn’t be aware of it.
<p style=”text-align: center;”>***</p>
<div>
<div>Upcoming Courses:</div>
<div>
<ul>
<li>Our new course, the <a href=”http://allaboutwritingcourses.com/creative-writing-bootcamp/” target=”_blank”>Creative Boot Camp</a> will be held on 21 and 22 November in Johannesburg. The Boot Camp is an intensive two-day creative writing workshop devoted to the essential creative writing skills of character development, story development, scenes and suspense.</li>
<li>Click <a href=”http://allaboutwritingcourses.com/news/”>here</a> to see our 2016 courses:</li>
</ul>
</div>
</div>
<a href=”http://allaboutwritingcourses.com/tag/writing-secrets/” target=”_blank”>Click here to read more in ‘The Secrets behind the Practice of Good Writing’ series.</a>
<blockquote>My 2015 blogs will try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing. They will appear in no logical order because each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may  be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily have all the secrets at my fingertips, so I will sometimes (and probably quite randomly) ask other writers and publishers their opinions on different aspects of writing fiction and non-fiction. My golf-mad parents always said that golf kept you humble. Oh please, it’s got nothing on writing, which must surely be the most humbling occupation. When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers. If you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me on <a href=”mailto:jo-anne@allaboutwritingcourses.com”>jo-anne@allaboutwritingcourses.com</a>. I’ll share it on my blog and we can discuss it.</blockquote>

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 36

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 36

Being the best we can be With each book that I’ve written, I have been tormented by the desire to produce a better book than my last – and to be a better writer. It might be a lonely, sometimes heart-breaking pursuit, but it seems I’m not alone. I am currently captivated by Elena Ferrante’s … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 35

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 35

Little did he know… Little do you know but, in twelve hours from now, you’ll still be thinking deeply about this blog. “Little did he know” has something one of those caricatured constructions of fiction writing, along with the “dark and stormy night”. And yet it raised an interesting point from one of our writers … Continue

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 34

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 34

The secret to using our bodies You may have noticed that I’ve developed a bugbear around the way we use our bodies to show attitude or state of mind. New writers have a tendency to use just a few conventional ways of showing how a character is feeling: heart pounding, tears, eye-rolling. But we use … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 33

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 33

Readers may read, but writers read like writers One of our writing participants recently expressed sadness over the fact that, since she started our Creative Writing Course, she was reading differently. Reading was no longer unadulterated joy. We had ruined one of her simple pleasures. I know the feeling. When I started writing my first … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 32

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 32

The secret to not thinking too directly I read this passage in a Wally Lamb novel the other day and I just had to share it. It’s a great lesson in not telling your readers things directly. In fact, don’t even allow your characters to think things too directly. People rarely have the insight, and … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 31

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 31

Conflict doesn’t always end in a fight We all know that no story exists without conflict – just as no life exists without conflict, much as most of us hope for the happy ever after. We always tell our creative writing participants that no scene exists without some form of literary conflict. They nod sagely, … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 30

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 30

The secret to oomph We quite often exhort our mentoring programme participants to “give your character some oomph”. What it comes down to is this. Characters should have agency. They need to want things, and they need to act for themselves. An entirely passive character, who suffers and is rescued and looked after by others …Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 28

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 28

A character we can root for A manuscript we were asked to assess recently reminded Richard and me of a piece of advice from Kurt Vonnegut: give the reader at least one character to root for. That certainly doesn’t mean characters should be perfect, but if they’re all unrelievedly awful, we simply don’t care. We … Continue reading

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 27

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 27

The secret to using smell Smell is greatly underutilised as a writing tool. I’m not sure why this is. In life, smell is a potent conjurer of memory and emotion. So it should be in your writing – fiction or non-fiction. “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all … Continue reading 

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The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 26

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 26

The secret to emotion Undercook it. Enough said. Don’t simmer it for pages or pressure-cook it to a high pressure steam. I’ve noticed that new writers believe they should give us a full explanation of the anguish their characters felt, and how the tears poured down her cheeks. Please don’t. Cut back on the tears, … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 25

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 25

The infinite subtlety of detail I seem to be on a roll with details, but that’s probably fine because I think it’s the details which define a book. You can see how good a writer is by how well they use the details. This is an explication on the maxim: show, don’t tell. One of … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 24

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 24

The secret to being a detail nazi My journalism students used to laugh when I ranted on about accurate detail. They called me a detail nazi behind my back. They just couldn’t get why it was so essential that they not spell Jorissen Street as Jorrison. It’s a matter of trust, of course. We want … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 23

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 23

The Secret of places, real and imagined People often think specific detail will alienate readers, while being slightly obscure will keep them interested. The opposite is true. Just because we may never have been in a specific area of Hong Kong does not mean we will be put off by a book that commits itself … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 22

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 22

Secrets of character description I recently came across these two character descriptions by John le Carre: Barley looked at Clive, who had one of those English faces that seemed to have been embalmed while he was still a boy king, at his hard clever eyes with nothing behind them, at the ash beneath his skin. … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 21

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 21

Secrets that need never appear on the page We don’t need to follow your characters into the bathroom to brush their teeth, unless something significant happens there. Likewise, we don’t need to know every step they take to the kitchen or the fact that they reach for a drink or knock on a door. If … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 20

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 20

A secret occupation I recently read a Pat Barker novel in which the protagonist noticed that a young man he was talking to mimicked his posture and gestures far too obviously for this to be unconscious. Most of us fall naturally into a postural echo when we are in accord with someone. If they cross … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 19

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 19

The secret to which there is no real answer How do you know you’re ready to start writing ?  I was asked this recently and I thought: why ask me? The fact is that I always start writing too early. I’m always impatient to begin. My Calvinist past bears down on me and I feel … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 18

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 18

The secret that always returns I was once an examiner for a manuscript in which the protagonist heads for a bar when a man bumps into him hard on the steps leading up to the entrance. The protagonist thinks him vaguely familiar, but isn’t sure where he could have met him. Something’s going to happen … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 17

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 17

The Secret of doing and saying This week’s Secret is a small tip, but which I believe makes your writing much more elegant. Peppering your copy with “she said” and “he said” is clumsy. But on the other hand, you don’t want to confuse and irritate your reader. Where it’s clear that someone is speaking, … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 16

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 16

The Secret of the Tic’ing Clock Anything becomes a tic if you use it more than a couple of times. It’s a funny thing about writing. A reader might happily notice an action taken once, twice, even three times. But after that, it begins to irritate. It’s not that the action itself is wrong, or … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 15

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 15

The Secrets of Construction So you want to show that your protagonist is doing two things at the same time. You write something like: “Gloria gave her a thumbs down as she turned towards her typewriter”. Or perhaps: “She reached into her bag as the man behind her in the queue edged forward.” Here’s another: … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 14

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 14

The Secret Melody Writing is like music. There’s a rhythm to its language and a melody in the narrative. As you would if you were writing music, you should listen to your writing. Hear whether it needs to trickle gently over the ear or build to a bold crescendo. This occurred to me while I … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 13

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 13

The Secret to a good relationship (with your writing) A book is like a relationship. There’s always a point when you doubt your sanity and wonder why on earth you got into it. Hopefully, if the relationship is good enough, you’ll hold to your underlying faith in its worth. And hopefully, this faith will be … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 11

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 11

Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve – the secret of doing things now He was never in a hurry to get there. The route was too interesting. He would pass slowly along the walkway, stopping to watch the tourists feed the pigeons and the flower seller foist her roses on guilty businessmen who had spent too long at … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 10

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 10

A character’s secret place in the world A character’s voice will reflect not only their personality and their facility with words, but also their world view and their place in the world. Last week I was discussing voice as an important components of character development. I focused on language and grammatical aspects: do people speak …Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 9

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 9

The Secret to a character’s voice A character’s voice is one of the most important things you can develop, if you want your readers to share in their highs and lows, get to know them and care about them. This is particularly important when the story is narrated through the consciousness of that character. But … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 8

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 8

The Secret to Neutral Description The fact is, it doesn’t exist. And if you find any in your own work, expunge it. We see the world through the consciousness of your narrator. We don’t want to know what you, the author, thinks of the world of your book. We’re much more interested in what it … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 7

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 7

The Secret of Accent and Intonation This is something I was asked by one of our mentoring participants recently so it started me thinking. How do you show that a character has a marked accent? Mostly you don’t want to go writing: Zees ees ze man… It will become a tic and irritate your reader. … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 6

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 6

Reading your character – a secret from my own work Read the books your character might have read. This occurred to me while I wrote my last two blogs about character development and it’s something I learnt from experience, while trying to develop a character who was very different from me. If you’re creating a … Continue reading

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 5

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 5

The Secret of Wanting too much As far as characters are concerned, there’s no such thing. Wanting things, longing for things, gives your character energy and intensity. During our Creative Writing class recently, Richard quoted Kurt Vonnegut, who said that every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. It …Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 4

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 4

The Secret Lives of Characters The truth is, your character needs one or two of their own. We all have secrets: things we did that we’re ashamed of;  parts of ourselves which we’d rather other people didn’t know; fears that sound ridiculous when spoken aloud. This is another thing that came up in our mentoring … Continue reading

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 3

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 3

The Secret of Doing Things This is another aspect of good writing that struck me forcibly while giving feedback to our mentoring participants this month. One wrote (more or less … I’ve changed the names to disguise her work): Mom’s footsteps echoed on the wooden floor and Jane met her in the kitchen to take … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 2

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 2

The Secret Life of Verbs This is a secret I discovered through mentoring swathes of other people’s work each month. I started to see the same verbs emerge in different people’s work. Characters grabbed their suitcases, their drinks and their door handles. Others plonked down their change, their books or their bottoms into chairs and … Continue reading 

Tips, tricks and thoughts for overcoming writer’s block

Tips, tricks and thoughts for overcoming writer’s block

There was a great response to my first Secrets blog last week, which sought a solution to the universal issue of what to do when the words won’t come. I’ve since received suggestions from two other writers, which definitely add to the discussion. Scarlet Bennett is an Australian writer of commercial fiction. Her first novel, … Continue reading 

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 1

The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 1

The Secret of Staring It’s hard to do, but it does work. There are times when not a word springs to your fingertips. Your mind is a mushy blank. You can’t even think of the word for … when you write with ease and put things across well? Oh yes, eloquence. The easiest thing would … Continue reading 

The Writing Process: She yawned, groaned, rolled her eyes and sighed

The Writing Process: She yawned, groaned, rolled her eyes and sighed

Jo-Anne Richards Christa woke up and yawned. Another Monday stretched before her. She groaned at the thought of her new boss. What a pain he’d turned out to be. She sighed and rolled her eyes. Okay, you’ve been told to “show rather than tell”. And you’re doing that, right? You’re not telling us she feels … Continue reading 

The writing and publishing process: the hideous infant

The writing and publishing process: the hideous infant

-Jo-Anne Richards I love this image of a book-in-progress:  “a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around … hideously defective, hydrocephalic and noseless and flipper-armed and incontinent and retarded and dribbling cerebrospinal fluid out of its mouth as it mewls and burbles and cries out to the writer, wanting love, wanting the … Continue reading 

The writing process: Sex must have a job to do

The writing process: Sex must have a job to do

-Jo-Anne Richards How about this for a climax. Not a narrative climax, mind, but the other kind: “Surely supernovas explode that instant, somewhere, in some galaxy. The hut vanishes, and with it the sea and the sands – only Karun’s body, locked with mine, remains. We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we … Continue reading 

The writing process: Procrastination comes naturally to writers

The writing process: Procrastination comes naturally to writers

- Jo-Anne Richards I took a long time to start writing my first book. Actually, I took a long time to start each of my books, but the first was the worst. There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I’d been a journalist for years. I wrote on demand. I was like Pavlov’s … Continue reading 

The Writing and Publishing Process: I can’t read my own work without cringing

The Writing and Publishing Process: I can’t read my own work without cringing

- Jo-Anne Richards Reading my own work has always made me cringe. Oh, I like the look of my published books. I can turn them this way and that, stroke the covers and read the shout quotes. But open the first page? You’ve got to be kidding. As I think I’ve previously mentioned, I have … Continue reading 

The Writing Process: Does journalism help you write creatively?

The Writing Process: Does journalism help you write creatively?

“You want to be a what? Don’t be silly. Do something sensible… A writer indeed.” My mother was not a fan of knowledge for its own sake. She believed in studying towards something with a name. And preferably a name that began with an L or a D, as in: “my son the ‘L’, my … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Life is such a distraction

The Writing Process: Life is such a distraction

Happy new writing year to all of you. You might have noticed that I unilaterally decided to take a blog holiday through December, while I desperately tried to finish a PhD. Since my university term had finished, I had fantasies of sweeping it away in a series of insane 13-hour days. Ha! When your students … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Description needn’t be the orphan child of writing

The Writing Process: Description needn’t be the orphan child of writing

-Jo-Anne Richards Description has a bad reputation in writing circles. I was reminded of this recently while offering advice on a manuscript-in-progress, which flaunted its description in a particularly wanton way. People often assume that Elmore Leonard was referring to description when he wrote that he tried to “leave out the parts readers skip”. And … Continue reading »

The Media Online - So you want to be a writer?

The Writing Process: Creativity through nakedness and strong drink

The Writing Process: Creativity through nakedness and strong drink

- Jo-Anne Richards I don’t write naked. I’m only telling you this because apparently it’s the thing to do. Well, it’s the thing to do according to Benjamin Franklin, who thought the creative self could be shocked into action through “air baths”. I am with Ernest Hemingway, though, who woke incredibly early. Although he managed … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: The scary act of creation

The Writing Process: The scary act of creation

-Jo-Anne Richards I have always been a little afraid of my own writing. Every day I sit down to it, I fear I won’t be capable. Weird isn’t it? Without being too melodramatic about it, I believe writing is my life’s work, so why should it make me fearful? One of our Allaboutwriting students sent … Continue reading »

The writing and publishing process: Every end leads to another beginning – eventually

The writing and publishing process: Every end leads to another beginning – eventually

-Jo-Anne Richards Okay, okay, so  I do have the vaguest fragment of half a microscopic idea for another book. In my last blog, I was bemoaning the fact that people keep asking me if I’m writing. And yes, it is still true that I’m not quite ready to let go of my last book and …Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: “So, are you writing? When can we expect the next?”

The Publishing Process: “So, are you writing? When can we expect the next?”

People keep asking if I’ve started my next book yet. Aaargh. Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m truly grateful they’re interested enough to ask. If no-one bothered, I swear I’d slit my wrists. One or two even say they’re waiting with bated breath, for which I’m even more thankful. (We writers live for such rewards.) But … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: Every book tells a story – and every writer tells a story about a book

The Publishing Process: Every book tells a story – and every writer tells a story about a book

Every book must have its own story – not the one within it, but the one you tell about it. In the years I spend writing a book, I have no more than the vaguest idea of what I am trying to explore, in terms of its general theme. I know that, for example, I’m … Continue reading »

Writing and Publishing: We’re all trying to do the same thing, really

Writing and Publishing: We’re all trying to do the same thing, really

-Jo-Anne Richards “Writers want to make patterns out of an inexplicable world,” is how debut crime novelist Michele Rowe describes what we do. Michele and Christa Kuljian, both of whom have strong links with Allaboutwriting, were guests at our recent monthly workshop at Love Books  and Michele’s comment struck a chord.   That’s how I’ve always … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: The day I became a prize

The Publishing Process: The day I became a prize

-Jo-Anne Richards A couple of weeks ago, I was a prize. Not my book – me. As Jazzy McKenzie, my fellow prize, quipped: “What’s the second prize? A trip to Europe?” It’s what you’ve all been waiting for, right? Half an hour with each of us. Jassy and I were guest writers at the first … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: Talking about Peace

The Publishing Process: Talking about Peace

-Jo-Anne Richards Once upon a time, Fred and I were looking for somewhere we could retreat to over the odd weekend. Being writers, we didn’t have the money to look in the trendy “weekend towns”. Besides the financial constraints, we wanted a real working rural town. Something authentic. We were looking for peace, which was exactly … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: Taking my new book home

The Publishing Process: Taking my new book home

-Jo-Anne Richards My mother was of the opinion that Port Elizabeth was constantly discriminated against. Here was a city with all that anyone could desire (and, my father would add for good measure, the best coastline he had ever encountered) and the world would simply pass it by. Should a singer/band/show/play/event of any kind tour … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: What if you’re not a digital native?

The Publishing Process: What if you’re not a digital native?

I am apparently known as a digital immigrant because I didn’t slide down the birth canal with a cell phone clenched in my infant fist. This sad little fact does affect me as a writer. It’s not so much the technical aspects that put me at a disadvantage. I’m not a digital alien. I’m happy … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Our influences tell us who we are

The Writing Process: Our influences tell us who we are

-Jo-Anne Richards “It’s better to write about things you feel than about things you know about.” LP Hartley wrote that some time in the first half of the twentieth century and, having rediscovered him recently, I thought I’d share him with you. I first read The Go-Between in a setting and time as far removed from … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: Celebrating African story-telling

The Publishing Process: Celebrating African story-telling

It’s Short Story Day Africa  on Friday the 21st and, to celebrate the event, fellow writer Rachel Zadok has asked writers from around the continent  to answer 21 questions about themselves and their work, that she says “followers want to know about writers in Africa.”  Here are mine. Viva Short Story Day, viva The Interview Do …Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: Everything changes – but what would Virginia Woolf say?

The Publishing Process: Everything changes – but what would Virginia Woolf say?

-Jo-Anne Richards When a friend and I did the obligatory backpacking thing through Europe, we made a habit of finding gathering spots for English speakers in every new city we reached. We weren’t desperate for the sound of English. We needed to swop books. And I want to tell you, we suffered for it in … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: On readers and reading

The Publishing Process: On readers and reading

-Jo-Anne Richards Should you censor what your children read? I firmly believe that you shouldn’t, but I ask because it was raised by a member of the audience when I was a panelist a couple of weeks ago. I suppose it was bound to come up because Sarah Lotz was discussing her recent book deal, with … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: What writers really talk about

The Publishing Process: What writers really talk about

-Jo-Anne Richards What do writers talk about among themselves at book fair openings? Well, naturally (as everyone knows), they discuss how they’ll do away with themselves when the money runs out. This is a recurring and time-honoured conversation. It involves animated comparison of various inspired methods, inventive styles to suit original personalities, generous offers of … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process – If there’s a secret, no-one’s told me

The Publishing Process – If there’s a secret, no-one’s told me

-Jo-Anne Richards Once you’re out there with a new book, what people most want to ask you is: “What’s the secret?” I don’t blame them. I remember that feeling of being desperate to have a book noticed. I feel enormous empathy. But five books on, I still don’t know what the secret is. Being published … Continue reading »

The Publishing Process: From post-launch blues to reprint

The Publishing Process: From post-launch blues to reprint

-Jo-Anne Richards My partner Fred de Vries launched three books last year. Yes, I know, he’s an over-achiever. But when he was done launching in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Rotterdam, he came back and said he was … not elated, not proud … depressed. I laughed. Not at him; it was a laugh of recognition. … Continue reading »

The publishing process: Frailties in Cape Town

The publishing process: Frailties in Cape Town

-Jo-Anne Richards There’s nothing quite like a double bill launch for making a person aware of their character flaws. I spent last week in Cape Town launching The Imagined Child alongside my fellow Pan Macmillan writer Steven Boykey Sidley and his book, Stepping Out, at two of my very favourite books stores, The Book Lounge, … Continue reading »

Book launch fever – How could I compete with whips?

Book launch fever – How could I compete with whips?

-Jo-Anne Richards I’ve learnt something from the past week of book events: it’s hard to compete with whips and phone sex lines over brunch. As you can gather, I’m still in the thick of launch fever, rushing from the Time of the Writer in Durban a week ago to launching The Imagined Child in Cape … Continue reading »

Looking into the mirror

Looking into the mirror

- Jo-Anne Richards When Kabelo Duncan Kgatea was a child, his sister saved up and bought a mirrored dressing table. They were poor, and his sister was a domestic worker. “I used to look into that mirror and say: ‘Boy, you’re going to be a great boy. You’re going to be a writer.’ “No-one believed … Continue reading »

Launches are best enjoyed in retrospect

Launches are best enjoyed in retrospect

- Jo-Anne Richards I have this recurring nightmare. I dress up for my book launch, go to Hyde Park and stand expectantly next to the snacks and wine … and no-one turns up. Not a soul. Just me and the barman, who avoids my eyes and gazes out into the great echoing hall. My launch … Continue reading »

Life (and launch) goes on

Life (and launch) goes on

- Jo-Anne Richards This week I buried my mother. Next week, life must carry on and my new book, The Imagined Child will launch. I felt very strange this week – writing a eulogy for the funeral, dealing with all the practical things that must be done, while at the same time invitations were going … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: My mom and me

The Writing Process: My mom and me

-Jo-Anne Richards At the age of four, I discovered that love can be spurned, and that the greatest sacrifice can be futile. My mother, who believed we should experience the beauty of words as early as possible, sometimes forgot that books could be emotionally, as well as intellectually hard. But I’m glad she did. When … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Choosing the cover

The Writing Process: Choosing the cover

-Jo-Anne Richards We all judge books by their covers. We pick books off the shelf because a particular cover appeals to us. We make instant judgments on the kind of book it is, its genre, even its worth as a work of art. We are attuned to recognise the types of cover used on the … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: It never gets easier

The Writing Process: It never gets easier

- Jo-Anne Richards No matter how many times you’ve gone through the publishing process, it never becomes less fraught. You send in your manuscript … and then you wait. And wait. One day, you open your inbox and find an email. It would be nice if they put it in the subject line, wouldn’t it? Something obvious like: WE … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Hold off on sending it out there

The Writing Process: Hold off on sending it out there

-Jo-Anne Richards Never show your manuscript to anyone who matters too early. I always try to impress this upon our writing students: once it’s been rejected, you’re not going to be unrejected, no matter how many times you rework it. Then I usually do exactly what I caution against. I go over a manuscript once, … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Getting back to the beginning

The Writing Process: Getting back to the beginning

-Jo-Anne Richards I rewrote the beginning of The Imagined Child about three more times than I edited the whole book (which was a lot). I wanted the book to build up more gradually than, say, a thriller would. I wanted the start to develop a strong sense of my characters and their world. What I … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Trick yourself into being ruthless

The Writing Process: Trick yourself into being ruthless

-Jo-Anne Richards Image courtesy Vitó I don’t think I’m naturally ruthless. I find it hard to be tough on others, and still harder on myself. My tendency is to tell myself: “You don’t feel like exercise this afternoon? Well, there, there, you deserve a bit of a rest.” We have the kind of house in … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: Blinded by the melody

The Writing Process: Blinded by the melody

- Jo-Anne Richards  Perhaps it’s got to do with the intense vulnerability of writing. It’s so much a part of you that it’s hard to see it as a separate being. You love it with a fierce, protective passion that makes you want to defend it against all detractors. Then there’s the fact that you’ve probably read … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: We need more words for ‘edit’

The Writing Process: We need more words for ‘edit’

- Jo-Anne Richards The trouble with English is that it doesn’t have enough words for “edit”. Okay, there’s “rewrite” and “rework”, but between them, they don’t quite cover the levels of editing a manuscript might need. It’s remarkably imprecise to say: “This manuscript needs a rewrite.” And even more so to say that it needs … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: trusting your readers

- Jo-Anne Richards If you’re going to trust someone with your work, then trust them. That’s what I always say. And then I fail to do it. I pride myself on being a professional. Really I do. And I know perfectly well that my first (and even second) draft is fearful drivel. In fact I … Continue reading »

This year, let all our writing (and other) hopes come to fruition

This year, let all our writing (and other) hopes come to fruition

- Jo-Anne Richards I’m not sure I believe in new year resolutions. I’m more likely to have new year wishes. Like, please let my new book be exceptional. Let people like it and get what I was trying to do. Perhaps more importantly, let it make a difference to the people who read it. These … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: so much for the first rewrite

- Jo-Anne Richards For some weeks now, I’ve been talking about the process of writing my first draft. I can’t think of another thing I can possibly say about it, although if something does pop up, I reserve the right to return to it. It’s not an exact science, anyway. When you’re talking about a writing problem, … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: madness begins

- Jo-Anne Richards There is a certain point in a book when madness takes over. That’s my favourite time – when you suddenly know why you stupidly decided to be a writer at all. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m the kind of writer who almost always starts writing a book too soon. I tentatively write a beginning  then … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: sex isn’t always sexy

- Jo-Anne Richards There is a sex scene in my latest book. But let me hasten to add that it’s not the kind of sex that will cause the book to open naturally at that point. That wasn’t my intention. Sex is one of those fraught subjects. I was recently told – whether it’s true or not … Continue reading »

A novelist’s guide to newspapers

- Jo-Anne Richards If all news eventually goes digital, what will novelists do? It’s a thought that just occurred to me, so I’m dedicating this blog to good, old-fashioned newsprint and ink. Digital news media are constantly under discussion, but I’m not sure anyone has acknowledged what a loss this will be for people like me. I … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: the colour of happiness

- Jo-Anne Richards I used to believe that everyone could see the colour of numbers, just as they could surely see that Monday was red and Tuesday a pale yellow. It was something I simply understood. Later I discovered that it has a name – synesthesia – and not everyone experiences it. I sometimes wonder … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: the Devil’s in the Detail

- Jo-Anne Richards At a party once, I heard a lawyer sounding forth on a descriptive passage from a  piece of fiction being discussed. He referred to it flippantly as the “cutlery”, rather than the “whole house”, and as having no real importance to the work in its entirety. Obviously he’s not a writer. To … Continue reading »

Creating your character: tics and mannerisms

- Jo-Anne Richards I bet that most people you know will have a few tics and mannerisms – the kind of things you associate with who they are. They bite their nails, twist their hair, say “No biggie” or “whatchamacallit”. When you sit down to create a character, they will more then likely also have … Continue reading »

The subtlety of writing

- Jo-Anne Richards The other day I was chatting to a writer friend, who said he tried to avoid using too much “inner life” in his novels. He restricts the thought processes of his characters because “it feels like cheating”. He says it seems too much like explanation to him. I know what he means. … Continue reading »

Choosing a point of view for your story

- Jo-Anne Richards My latest book began its life as a first person creature. It’s the point of view that came most naturally to me when I began my writing career. My first two books were written in the “I”. By the time I got to the third book, I was tired of people assuming … Continue reading »

Writing is about inspiration … and pure craft

- Jo-Anne Richards The more I write, the more convinced I become that a great deal of writing is about the craft. Non-writers seem to assume that writers spend their days in a haze of beautiful, creative thoughts flowing uninterrupted from an inspired mind. It always tends to make me grumpy and irritable. I was … Continue reading »

Truth being stranger than fiction

- Jo-Anne Richards The major events that unfold in my latest book did not happen. But I hope that I have researched well enough to say that they could (and perhaps have, somewhere). For the past couple of weeks, I seem to have been exploring a theme – research, observation and real life in my … Continue reading »

Using detail – from your protagonist’s perspective

- Jo-Anne Richards I have always enjoyed trying to give readers a strong sense of time and place in my novels – down to the smells and sensations. The Imagined Child is set in a small Free State town and Johannesburg and it’s important to me, beyond the story and the characters I’m presenting, that … Continue reading »

Truth in fiction

- Jo-Anne Richards Everything I write in my novels is “true”. I’m enough of a journalist for that to be important to me. There may not be an exact person who has done the exact things my protagonist did at the time and place she did. But there are people out there who are doing, … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: building complex characters

- Jo-Anne Richards Building a complex character is a delicate process. She needs to be likeable enough for people to care what happens to her, yet flawed enough to make her human. I’m not saying it’s impossible to write a truly unlikeable character – it’s been done. But that’s not what I wanted to do … Continue reading »

The Writing Process: planning, plot and character

- Jo-Anne Richards I’ve been talking quite a lot about planning – what I should have planned, what I could have planned better, and the consequences of all that. It started me thinking about what planning needed to be done, and why. Surely, as someone said to me recently, you think up your characters, set … Continue reading »

The writing process: the first draft

- Jo-Anne Richards The fact that I recently discussed this with a couple of very accomplished writers, who agreed with me, makes me only slightly less self-conscious about sharing it with you. The first draft of The Imagined Child is simply ghastly. It makes me cringe. It bears absolutely no resemblance to my finished book. … Continue reading »

The writing process: thinking and dreaming

- Jo-Anne Richards I began writing my book too soon. I knew it was probably a mistake, and yet I did it anyway. But then, I knew I would because I do it every time. When we teach writing classes, we impress upon would-be writers that allowing yourself time to think and dream your story … Continue reading »

The writing process: ideas

- Jo-Anne Richards Looking back, I see that I’ve been writing fairly general posts about my book process so far. I suppose I was feeling my way – I did tell you I find this incredibly hard. But I’ve finally reached the point of realising that I can’t go on circling the specifics forever. Let’s … Continue reading »

How to choose your book title

- Jo-Anne Richards If you’ve been following these blogs, I suppose it may have struck you that I’m still referring to The Book, without giving it a name. Yes, I am in my last stages of editing and I am still worrying over the title. Titles are important. No-one knows that better than me. My … Continue reading »