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I sit down at my desk in Vienna to continue writing my current novel, code-named The Boyfriend. Outside, birds sing in the trees; all is well in the world.
When I start to write, do I reach for my computer? Or for my pen and paper?
Many authors write first drafts direct on their computers, or always write on paper, without thinking too much about which works best. Here are a few things you might want think about.
In 1986 my then-employer acquired its first computer. I was thrilled by the idea that I could move words around on a screen, and only print them out when I was happy with them. It seemed to make the creative process less daunting. I started to write my first novel, Biotime, on that computer the same year – after work, of course.
In this pic I am writing the first draft of a blog direct on an iPad in Austria
In 1987 I bought my first home computer, an Amstrad PCW. Later I bought PCs; then Macs. But over the years, I stopped writing fiction on the screen. I write all my short stories and novels in long-hand.
How do I do that? And why?
How: I like to use a ring-bound A4 pad, (more…)
You are an author. You are about to sit down and begin to write a story.
How do you get started? What will it be about? Where do you get your ideas from?
As the author of eight novels and eight short stories*, I work hard to find ideas. Here are my four sources of inspiration, and one non-source:
(i) my best source of inspiration is random ideas which pop into my head – when I am reading, walking down the street, in the shower, whatever. These ideas have one thing in common. I write them down. Everyone has great ideas, all the time. What makes a difference is keeping a note of them. Maybe you are a genius and can remember good ideas indefinitely. I can’t. As soon as my mind wanders off – as it will – I forget my good idea. Action point for writers: make a note when an idea strikes you and ensure you can find that note later. Keep a notebook or web page where you store your ideas;
Some things are obviously inspirational. This deserted children’s bumper car ride near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is crying out for a story
(ii) my second big source of ideas is external inputs. If you read the piece about my hotel stories at the link above, (more…)
Every writer wants to write better.
Some of my most popular blogs set out tips on how to do this. That is why I have a “Writing about writing” category (see top left), including such gems as:
- #howtowrite: Where to write
- Two great sources of writing inspiration
- 2 sets of brilliant tips on “how to write”
- How to work better: 10 rules? Or not?
- How I write;
- #howtowrite: ViennaWritingInspiration; and
- The 4 elements of the perfect article: Nut-grafs and Cosmic Kickers
The last piece, with the Cosmic Kickers, is my most-read blog this year.
To find out more about these two, see The Russians: Vladivostok
I mention this because this week’s blog consists of three literary quotations of very different styles. One is by W Somerset Maugham, (more…)
At my reading this week from my Berlin thriller Blood Summit, someone asked when I found time to write.
I wrote a blog on “Where I write” recently.
A blog on finding time to write is a fine idea – I have added it to my list.
Because, it’s a bummer. Finding time to write is hard: lots of other things I dearly want to do, dear friends, dear family, dear visitors, and a job which I dearly want to do brilliantly.
Sometimes things don’t work out.
Writing at the Wolfgangsee in Austria
Like, this week, I have been away from home all day Friday and Saturday and a bit busy and haven’t got around to writing my planned blog.
So. The rather awesome J K Rowling wrote swathes of the “Harry Potter” series in cafes in Edinburgh.
Can other writers do this?
With iPad at the Wolfgangsee.
When I am writing major pieces – such as a novel – I write in longhand, in an A4 pad. While typing straight onto a keyboard is in theory quicker, I find sitting staring at a screen for long periods makes my brain melt. Making quick amendments to what you have already written is also clumsier, and slower, on a computer.
By contrast, on my A4 paper pad I am constantly making amendments, (more…)
You are a brilliant writer.
But not everyone realises it yet.
What to do?
One of the great truths of writing is that however brilliant you may be, getting someone to read and appreciate your work requires contact with other human beings. I don’t mean publishers and agents, important as they are; but writers; editors; critics; and other, often annoying, people who give you advice on how to improve, polish and market your fiction.
George Orwell: another inspirational author (see below)
Here are two sources of such contacts.
First, I recently had the good fortune to hear the writer Paul McVeigh reading from his debut novel The Good Son in Izmir (the link goes to a goodreads site with rave reviews). He was inspiring and entertaining, and mentioned his blog, which gets a staggering 40,000+ hits a month. (more…)
I had the good fortune recently to attend two events at which the famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk was present.
Orhan Pamuk with British film director Grant Gee (Photo: Robert Pimm)
The second was an event to mark the closing of the rather terrific !f Istanbul Film Festival.