Thanks everyone for a brilliant Reddit AMA

I did a Reddit AMA over this weekend, and it was a brilliant experience. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it’s sort of like getting interviewed by hundreds of people all at once. The positivity and curiosity I received were quite overwhelming.

Some of the more suspect questions included ‘what appendage would you lose?’; ‘are you single?’ and ‘what’s that thing in the corner?’ – but others asked about the research required to write River of Ink, about how they can balance writing with the exigencies of daily life, and the best ways to construct plots and characters.

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Our attention spans aren’t getting shorter, and that’s bad news for the short story

There’ve been a lot of pixels spilled lately about how the Internet and technology are shortening our attention spans. So shouldn’t this be good news for short story writers?

It seems you can’t throw a stone these days without hitting an article bemoaning the decreasing attention spans of the reading public. Due to the pernicious effects of the Internet, commentators say, young people today (and just about everyone else) can hardly focus on a page long enough to get through the inciting incident of a novel, and start yawning about 100 characters into a 140-character tweet.

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Short story writing tips from writers who know what they’re talking about

Want advice on how to write short stories? Here it is from the experts

At a recent Word Factory salon event in London, panellists including renowned short story writer Clive Sinclair and Times Literary Supplement editor Peter Stothard discussed how to write short stories, and also gave their key pieces of editing advice to a crowd of budding writers. The advice ranged from the practical to the thematic.

So what were our panellists’ key tips for editing short stories or novels? Continue reading “Short story writing tips from writers who know what they’re talking about”

Embedded in text: A night at The Word Factory

Does the short story have roots in oral storytelling? Should literature be a communal event? And could your short stories benefit from losing their more “readerly” bits? These were the questions thrown around at a night of wine, laughter and short fiction.

I recently dropped into a session at the brilliant Word Factory salon in London, where every month leading short story writers come to read from their collections and engage in debate on the short story form.

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The creepiest (and best) creative writing exercise for character-development

Writers are constantly asking: “how can I write believable, compelling characters?”, “how can I write realistic characters?”, “how can I write characters with depth?”
The answer is, it takes practice: and here’s one way to do that.

Characters are strange things. As writers, we like to think we’re in full control of our characters, that we decide who they are and what they do in a given situation. We like to think that we’re masters of their destiny. But this is a writing exercise that’ll make you think a little differently about the imaginary people we use to populate our stories, that’ll help you get to grips with their particular traits and foibles, and could just freak you out a little along the way.

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Tim Leach – a new book and a new blog


The creative writing degree at the University of Warwick ends its third year with a dissertation-style 12,000 word creative piece. To help us out, the University brought back an old MA student, Tim Leach, to offer critique and advice. He’s a great guy, sincere and full of passion. He was also the one to turn me on to Atlantis Books.

I was excited to find out he’s got a book coming out in Spring 2013: Croesus – The Last King of Lydia. It was picked up by Ravi Mirchandani over at Atlantic Books, who called it ‘an exhilaratingly confident first novel’. It sounds pretty ossm.

Inspired by the writings of Herodotus, this book is a fictionalised retelling of the story of Croesus, the half historic, half mythic king whose rise and incredible fall from power shook the ancient world.

Yeah, I’m on board already. He’s started blogging about his burgeoning career – meetings with agents, a sample of the query letter that landed him an agent, and why the Paris Review is like crack. His blog is very much worth a read for aspiring writers and history buffs alike, and I’m looking forward to reading his book when it comes out.

David Morley Writing Podcasts

A former tutor of mine, the poet David Morley, ran a great series of podcasts on the art of writing, writing challenges. Titles include ‘Murder you Darlings’, ‘Conflict and Crisis’, and ‘Dreaming a Fictional Continuum’. David works with his gypsy heritage to write poetry with one foot in English, one in Romany. He’s a great guy, a good poet, and continuously maintains a strange sort of hermetic childlike joy that is frankly infectious and inspiring. He also spits truths the way he sees ’em. Go check it out.