Robert Pimm

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#howtowrite: paper or computer?

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…)

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#howtowrite: Where to write

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…)

Two great sources of writing inspiration

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.

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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…)

2 sets of brilliant tips on “how to write”

I wrote a blog a while back called “how to write“.  It was one of my most popular blogs.

Here are two lists of tips from famous authors about “how to write”.

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The first list, by George Orwell, is good for style:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

The excellent writer Owen Matthews brought to my attention a second list, by Henry Miller. It is good for (more…)

The 4 elements of the perfect article: Nut-grafs & Cosmic Kickers (part 2 of 2)

An experienced writer stares at a blank page, sweating.  How to get started?  If only there were a simple guide somewhere to writing articles for the Internet, newspapers or magazines!

So you want to write the perfect article? Welcome. I’ll tell you how.

The essential starting point is to have a clear central message.  What are you trying to say?  What’s your point? Clarity on this makes everything which follows much easier.

My companion piece “7 tips for writing the perfect article” illustrates with examples how to decide on your message and ensure what you are writing is relevant.

Once you are clear on what you want to say, it’s time to get started.  “The best way to start work is to start work”.  Structure is everything.

Many journalists use a simple template.  There are lots of ways of doing this; but the following, based on advice from a US journalist friend, has worked well for me in numerous feature articles during my time as a freelance journalist.  A worked example is at the end of this blog.

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Robert Pimm writing in an Istanbul cafe. Follow him on Twitter: @robertpimm

Your article should consist of the following elements. I’ve set them out in the order in which they will appear (more…)

7 tips for writing the perfect article (part 1 of 2)

So you want to write a non-fiction piece for publication as a blog, newspaper article or in other media. Let’s call it “an article”. Where to start? Here.

1.  What is your message? A clear message is the most important – and difficult – element of writing an article.  If you don’t know what your message is or why you’re communicating it this way, stop right now.  The good news? Once you’ve decided your key message, the article is already half-written. Check out this piece, where the message is “if you’re going ski-ing a ski-guide may help you have more fun“. That message must be newsworthy and interesting – are you or the editor confident people will want to read it?

2.  How to decide on your message. So what is “newsworthy and interesting”? Two possibilities:

i)  a news peg. Something has happened out in the world. People want to know about it. You’re going to tell them. It could be an anniversary, a local or national event, or a personal angle on something people know about. My piece about Berlin traffic-light men, for example, reports on how images designed for East Berlin began to spread into West Berlin in 2005.

ii)  a news line. Maybe you have something to say which is newsworthy. Invented something new? Got an announcement to make? Published your new book? Developed a miracle diet? If it’s of wide interest, (more…)

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