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How to write a novel: edit as you go along, or not?

I once visited a wonderful friend who was a successful writer.

At the time, I was struggling to complete my first novel.

When she suggested we go for brunch at her local cafe to read the New York Times and the Washington Post, I was delighted.  As I waited to go out, I glanced at her writing desk, filled with admiration for her hard work and achievement.

On the desk was a book about writing technique.  Intrigued that she, a well-known author, should need such advice, I leafed through it.  A sentence leapt out at me.

You can see the results of all this in my Berlin thriller Blood Summit

“Don’t keep writing and re-writing the same chapter or the opening to your book,” the guide said.  “Doing that risks preventing you from completing the task.  You must keep moving forward.”

At that point my friend was ready and we went out for a terrific brunch in Alexandria.

But I never forgot that sentence.  I have found it invaluable in helping me to complete many novels.

“Wait!” I hear you cry.  “Surely I shouldn’t write (more…)

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How to write gripping fiction: scenes, sequels and cliff-hangers

An experienced commissioning editor told me recently that one of two main reasons she rejected manuscripts was “no story”.  The other was “overwritten” – I’ll write about that another day.

How can you make sure your fiction has a strong story, that people will want to read?

To put it another way, how can you make sure your fiction has bite?

I recommend a simple technique, developed by an American writer, Dwight V Swain, using two elements called scenes and sequels.  Each is divided into two sub-elements.

‘How the hell do I apply these techniques to my writing?’

Swain said that to have a cracking good story you should start with a scene in which someone is trying to achieve a goal.  The sub-elements are:

(i) goalthe character is trying to achieve something;

(ii) conflictsomething prevents the character achieving that goal;

(iii) disasterthe quest to achieve the goal ends in catastrophe. (more…)

P.G. Wodehouse Reference Guide for Political Commentary

via P.G. Wodehouse Reference Guide for Political Commentary

P.G. Wodehouse reading list: the Jeeves and Wooster stories

An excellent guide to reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories of P G Wodehouse. I should point out that, as noted in my post “How to read P G Wodehouse: a new prescription, which reviews “Ring for Jeeves”, although Bertie Wooster does not appear in the book, his doppelgänger, Bill Rowcester, does. There is of course no city called Rowcester but there is a city called Worcester – pronounced Wooster.

Plumtopia

world-of-jeevesThis piece follows my reading suggestions for new Wodehouse readers with a reading list for the Jeeves and Wooster stories.

Jeeves and Wooster Reading List

*The World of Jeeves is currently available in print for around £8, and includes the short stories contained in Inimitable Jeeves, Carry On, Jeeves, and Very Good Jeeves

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Reading Wodehouse: a plea for help

I need help.

I need help from Wodehouse experts, or Kenner as we call them here in Austria.

For years, I have been relishing my father’s Folio Society collection of Jeeves and Wooster stories.  I have so far read 14 of them, as reported in my blogs Aunts aren’t gentlemen – 10 quotations, Jeeves and the feudal spirit: 20 delicious quotations, and Right ho, Jeeves – 14 fruity quotations (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

When I started reading Wodehouse, as reported in my blog How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide, I received invaluable practical advice from top Wodehouse specialist Plumtopia.  I recommend her.

I have now reached the final boxed set of my father’s collection, which I find comprises six volumes set at Blandings Castle: Summer Lightning (1929); Heavy Weather (1933); Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939); Full Moon (1947); Pigs Have Wings (1952); and Service with a Smile (1961).

The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Summer Lightning”

My problems are: (more…)

How to stay sane: never take yourself too seriously

The lights go down.

Heavy metal chords ring out.

It is clear that Deep Purple have lost none of their ability to rock.

I’ve seen the loudest band of all time (Guinness Book of Records) twice: in Kyiv in 2011 and in Vienna in 2017.  I was fortunate enough to share a beer with Roger Glover and other band members after both shows. (more…)

East West Street: genocide? Or crimes against humanity?

I recently read East West Street by British law professor and international human rights expert Philippe Sands.

If you have any interest in the cataclysm which overtook eastern and central Europe between 1933 and 1945, I recommend East West Street.  It explains the development of the concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” against the background of the Second World War and the appalling crimes which took place in the run up to, and during, that conflict.

It also considers the relevance of what happened in 1933-45 today.

My copy of ‘East West Street’.  The endorsements ring true

Sands humanises and illustrates his account by focusing on four individuals.  Hersch Lauterpacht was a professor of International Law who developed the concept of crimes against humanity.  Rafael Lemkin was a prosecutor and lawyer who developed the concept of Genocide.  Hans Frank was Hitler’s lawyer and later governor-general of German-occupied Poland from 1940-45.  Leon Buchholz was Sands’s grandfather, who died in Paris in 1997 (‘He took Lemberg to the grave, along with a scarf given to him by his mother in January 1939. It was a parting gift from Vienna, my mother told me as we bade him adieu.’) (more…)

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