read, write, ramble

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Alchemy (or: Turning ideas into stories)

I was going to write a short post on where I get my ideas from – despite the fact that no one has ever asked me that (or, perhaps, to spite the fact that no one has ever asked me that). But then I realised that ideas on their own aren’t particularly interesting or useful: it’s what we do with them that matters.

The joy of gender (part two)

In the first part of The Joy Of Gender I discussed some general principles I’ve adopted when determining the gender of characters in my stories. In this follow-up I offer some specific examples along with, hopefully, an overview of how my approach has matured over the recent years

The joy of gender (part one)

I’ve been meaning to do a post on how I approach gender in my writing for a while now, especially since I made efforts to tackle the subject (albeit indirectly) in a recently completed story (and, for those of you playing along in the future, that story is There Is A Light That Never Goes Out). I originally drafted this post in the wake of International Women’s Day, but sat on it for a while because it ended up being a bit of a monster. I’ve now decided to publish it in two parts, of which this is the first. Clearly.

My new web project: ‘beta’

Over the Easter weekend I set up a new website with the goal of making it easier to get early feedback on my writing. It’s called ‘beta’ and you can access it right here:

Using Evernote to organise your writing

In my recent blog post about my new writing workflow, I touched briefly on the role that Evernote plays, and more or less left it at that. For those of you who want to know more, here’s some further detail about how I’ve gone about trying to make Evernote both useful and manageable.

Writing log

Back at the end of June I made the decision to formally start logging my word counts. Because I know you’ll all be deeply fascinated by this, here’s a post about how I do it.

Writing tips via China Mieville

I have to confess I’d never heard of China Mieville until a few weeks ago, which was when his name popped up on a schedule of upcoming events at my place of work. It’s not everyday I get the chance to sit down and listen to another writer talk shop, so naturally I jumped at the chance. For everyone who missed out, here’s a summary of some of the most interesting points that came up in the discussion.

Let The Story Speak

In which I present a sequel of sorts to my last post in the interests of talking about writing, rather than planning…

Developing the Story App

In which I explain flawlessly how the principles of software development can easily be applied to the process of developing a story…

The not-Easter and not-ready-yet story

At the end of last year, buoyed by the warm reception for short story Graves (and also encouraged by the fact that I’d actually managed to finish writing a damn story) I pledged to write an Easter story. I figured that giving myself four months’ notice would be enough of a heads-up and that even I would be able to churn something out by April.

baby_bunnies[1].jpgYeah, I was wrong about that.

I did start the story. I planned it. I wrote about half of it. And then I stalled. Along the way I had a few changes of voice, came up with some better ideas than I’d originally had, but something wasn’t quite gelling. As the end of April loomed it became abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to finish the story, at least not in any satisfactory manner. Also, with my parents due to fly over for a long awaited visit over Easter I knew I wouldn’t get much of a chance to sit down and write for much of April (in fact, as it turned out, my parents were stranded with us for the entirety of April due to a pesky volcano that wouldn’t stop spewing).

So it’s been a week now since my parents flew back to England and while that wasn’t exactly a cause for great celebration I was looking forward to getting stuck into some writing again. Of course, instead of doing that I’ve been doing other things such as drinking wine and watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Part of the reason for this procrastination is that I wasn’t quite satisfied with how the story was turning out, but at the same time I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it once I put my writer’s hat back on. In truth I still don’t know, but today I rewrote the first paragraph in a bid to kickstart the writing process again. I often find myself agonising over first lines, and first paragraphs – they’re the crucial hooks, the precious few words you have to draw the reader in, to set up your stall and to get the mood just right. I might still have it wrong, but you tell me – does the following make you want more?

Katarina walked down the road to Brendan’s house. She carried the box carefully in front of her, holding it with both hands to make sure she didn’t drop it. It was already starting to get heavy, but she didn’t mind. She loved being out at this time of year, she loved the air; it was warm and bitter and full of mischief. Also it would be getting dark soon. The change was always good: the change from light to dark, from warm to cold, from alive to dead.


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