28 October, 2011

A Guardian Masterclass

Some friends of mine have presented me with a supplement that came with The Guardian last weekend: How to Write Fiction - A Guardian Masterclass. It is wonderful. I haven't read it all yet, but the articles - written by various professional writers - are giving me all the inspiration I need in these last few days before NaNoWriMo begins.

I was particularly pleased to read that Zoe Heller, author of the highly-acclaimed Notes on a Scandal, wasn't an overnight hit. That's not the sadist in me, it's just encouraging that she has found such success after being told that "With a lot of work this could be a quite interesting book - but only quite." Ouch.

I also really enjoyed the article by Jill Dawson about just getting on with writing - very apt for National Novel Writing Month!

"I can, of course, see the temptation of not beginning. Chiefly, not beginning sustains the belief that you are gifted, that the novel - when you one day get round to writing it - will surpass all others [...] Not beginning protects you from the disappointment - no, the shame - of reading what you have written and finding it rubbish. It also prevents you from an equally disturbing possibility: discovering that you can write."

This week I have been finishing a short story for the Ruth Rendell competition. It was a 1000 word limit which I found quite awkward - too long for flash fiction, but very short for a full story. I almost had the guts to try a second-person narrative. But not quite. I had written-off this story after a few drafts but when I read it again on Monday I decided to give it another shot and have ended up with one of my favourite bits of writing. Don't you just love that?

The view from my desk.
I love writing altogether this week. This week - sitting in a patch of sunlight at my desk, looking out at the hills, finishing a piece of work I am pleased with and scribbling notes in my novel-planning book - I love being a writer. It's odd because the Ruth Rendell competition is one that I am so very unlikely to win even if my story is the best thing I've ever written (big number of entries, was won by a professional writer last time and there's only one prize I think!) and I have received two rejections for my children's novel within the last three days, but all of that seems sort of alright at the moment. It's a nice way to feel at the start of a new novel. I'm excited.

What is it that makes you glad to be a writer or to do your day-job?

I'll  see you all in NaNovember and I'll leave you with another article quote, this time from Andrew Miller, about spending all our time creating fictional characters to answer the big questions of life:

"An odd use of time! An odd use of life. But there's a courage to it. Even, perhaps, a type of beauty."


  1. Glad you're feeling so positive and looking forward to the next piece. I so empathise with the Jill Dawson quote ~ always find the thinking about it preferable to getting my finger(s) out! Also agree that 1000 words is an awkward length for a story: you either just get into it or need another 60 to finish. Ceve

  2. Being positive is most of the battle as it helps you focus. For me, I just like telling stories and now I have made the time to write, I do. Not as often as I should, but I do.

  3. There's a great piece of writing in today's Review section by Jeanette Winterson about why a writer writes.

  4. It brightens my day to read your post and see someone who is totally in the zone with what they're doing. Good for you - and long may it continue.
    That 'Guardian Masterclass' sounds great and I like the clips you've posted.
    I got my Writing Magazine yesterday and what do you know, after me working out how to break down the chapters for my NaNoWriMo attempt - there is a write-up on chapters, 'The building blocks for your book'
    What makes me glad to be a writer? I like to think I've had a reasonably interesting and fulfilling life so it feels good to put some of my memories and hard earned knowledge to use in my writing.
    I've started pages for my new 'novel' on my blog and I was wondering if you were doing the same Chloe?

  5. Thanks Tom. I am not planning to post my work online. I don't like to post work in progress, or work that I am planning to submit to agents or publications at some point in the future. I'm just a bit paranoid about editors not accepting work because it's already been published online - probably just paranoia!

    I'm finding chapters hard. In an adventure book it's easy - the majority of chapters end on a cliff-hanger or a new revelation. A book that is more about the human character is harder to break down. Luckliy my book has three distinct threads so I can at least split it into distinct packages.

  6. What a great view! But I'm worried that you don't get a view of your bins from there...

  7. I've been trying to get over that drawback for over a year, Martyn... thanks for dragging it up again.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.