Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bookner again

I'm always intrigued when I see something get an overly emotional reaction. The way the self-consciously literary react to Tolkien and Rowling's popular success for example. A lot of teddies have been thrown out of prams over that by people old enough to behave better.

Something similar seems to be happening around Bookner. I've had email asking me ask why I'm 'supporting' this unfeasible and dangerous idea and asking me to look at their self-styled 'anti-bookner' sites.

I'm not supporting the idea, I just said I thought it was interesting and linked to it. Make up your own mind. But I think it has to be either unfeasible or dangerous, surely it can't be both?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New words

Bored with using the same old words? Here are some new ones. Why not invent your own new word and use it? Who knows, it might even make it into a real dictionary one day.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


You wouldn't think the back end of a bus would be particularly conducive to creativity, but Message in a Bottle got written in one apparently. Don't go and start poking around that Songfacts site though, unless you've got a spare lifetime. Message in a bottle... blog posting... interesting juxtaposition of ideas there.

Lazy poets site

Is it too much trouble to write someone a poem, or even type it? The Poetry Library has the answer. Drag, drop and send poetry. Well, ok, there is a bit of typing involved in sending it to someone, but much less than typing out the whole poem. And yes, I know you can just email someone a poem any time you like but when did you last do that? I thought so.

Friday, September 23, 2005


My main protagonists name is Ryan. It seems that some teachers would consider that a child with that name could be 'hard work'! If you're about to name your hero Bobbi-Jo, Jayne, Liam, Charlie or Jordan perhaps you should check out this news item.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Retail therapy

A blank page
For most people, it seems, retail therapy means going out and buying clothes. The last thing I bought for the sheer fun of it was... (should I admit this in public..?) a set of 10 exercise books.

They're on my bookshelf by the window, I can see them from here, looking invitingly plain and blank...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Who are these characters and what do they want?

I suspect creating a character is usually more of an organic process than a construction project. It's possible to 'build' a character from standard parts - as in the less sophisticated type of role playing game - and then put them in a setting and see what they do. But I suspect most strong fictional characters grow out of an idea of what the character wants, what their problem is, and the rest - their job, physical description, personal attributes etc - come after that. The want or problem being what makes them interesting enough to hold the reader's interest until it gets resolved.

Which would be why it's so much easier to start writing a story than it is to end it - it's easier to identify wants and problems (fictional or real!) than to resolve them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New Writing - Daisy by Jane Coomer

Daisy was sitting on the floor pretending not to notice what was going on around her. In reality she wasn’t missing a thing. She knew she would never be top of the class, but she knew also that she was more intelligent than people gave her credit for. Doing well at school meant putting some effort in though and that really would have been too much of an effort.

She watched while the others were setting up a game and pretended she didn’t know the rules so that someone would read them out to her. After all, there was no point in doing something yourself when someone else could do it for you, she thought.

Daisy was a girl who was used to getting her own way with just about everything. She loved Barbie and knew that one day she would be a princess, or else a vet. With her long, Nordic blonde hair, huge brown eyes and captivating smile, she could do whatever she wanted and if someone dared to tell her off, she could just look at them and smile. Her misdemeanours would get forgotten. This always seemed to work with her mum especially. Daisy knew exactly how to work her mum.

Apart from princesses, Daisy’s other love was food. Not boring things like fruit and vegetables. No. Biscuits, chocolate, crisps and especially ice cream. These had to be eaten in huge quantities and in a totally unprincess-like manner, with as much as possible left on her hands and around her mouth when she had finished. And it didn’t matter how messy she got. She knew she could just smile and open her eyes wide and no-one would ever tell her off.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Writing - Michael

Jo sat drinking her coffee, listening to Michael as he described his walk and his attempts to capture the way the light had sparkled on the sea. As always, his attempt had been sabotaged, this time by a child chasing a dog across the sand and breaking his concentration. Jo smiled inwardly – it was always the same, always his work failed on account of other people, never ever him…

The only time he was punctual was with the promise (bribe?) of coffee – afternoon tea – supper, it didn’t matter which. These pleasurable interludes formed the backbone of Michael’s day, and punctuated his work.

He did try and he did have talent, but somehow the great future predicted for him, the peak of British water colourists, always eluded him. His style seemed just out of fashion: the smaller seaside galleries loved him; the “establishment” ignored him.

It hurt. Over the years the hurt showed more, in the receding hair, the tight lines around the mouth. Disillusionment was setting in. Ten more years and it would mean he could no longer lift a paintbrush, no longer look with far seeing eyes at a blank page and see the magical mix of colour and light that denoted success.

By then the coffee or afternoon tea would have given way to stronger substances, the lunchtime drink that would last into the afternoon, destroying will power and the last of his ability to get to work on time – ignoring Woody Allen’s words that 90% of success is turning up. His working day was starting later, having more interruptions and ending on the slightest pretext.

He was still a good looking man though despite the hurt, or maybe because of it. It added character to his face – and it was a face that Jo loved.

New Writing - Paul by Alison Williams

Paul is a black haired rather sharp-featured man of medium height and slim build. He appears to be around 30 years of age. He can look quite severe but his face loses its severity when he smiles. His characteristic expression is a slight frown. He has sensitive hands and fingers.

While he actively seeks to spend much of his time alone, he also feels the need for a role in the community. In general, he prefers one to one interaction to being part of a larger group. In a group he tends to avoid eye contact, often preferring to remain in the background of conversations. He thinks carefully before he speaks, and speaks less frequently than most people. He often takes up closed but balanced positions, for example, while sitting he may lean forward in his chair, rest his elbows on his knees, and clasp his hands.

In a situation where choices have to be made without clear information he tends to err on the side of caution. He takes life seriously but does have a sense of humour, which only occasionally shows itself. He is concerned for others, sensitive of their feelings, and respects other points of view, even if he thinks they’re wrong. He is not easily provoked, and does not enjoy arguments, but will defend his beliefs vigorously if challenged. He has a strong sense of responsibility, is patient and his outlook for the long term is hopeful. He tends to fall easily into the role of counsellor with people of all ages.

While generally truthful he may hold back information if unsure of its accuracy, or of the effect it might have on others. He has some very dark memories from certain episodes in his past life, but rarely discusses them with his present day companions.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Entirely out of character

Because it's the start of term, and we're going to be more than usually busy at work, we won't be meeting for three weeks rather than the usual two. Which means we've got a lot of time to complete our next exercise - a 500 word violent quarrel.

Uncharacteristically I've actually done the exercise already, rather than leaving it until the deadline looms. It was fun! Which is odd, because at the start I'd have said it was one of the exercises I was least looking forward too. Which confirms my suspicion that it's good to be made to attempt types of writing that would not normally appeal, to be pushed out of your comfort zone and made to do something uncharacteristic.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Help! Fiction police! Character assassination!

We introduced each other to our characters today. They were a varied bunch, a child; a woman of 'a certain age'; a couple of thirty something men and one slightly older man. They were also presented in a variety of ways, a career history; a third person narrative; a physical description and interview; a view of one character through the eyes of another and a psychological profile!

I'd like to post some of them, but need to seek permission first.

Who got assassinated? My character got compared to a real person and I don't see the likeness. Well, maybe I do - superficially - now I look at my character sketch again. It helps in that I now know which of his characteristics I need to bring out more to make sure things I know about him come over to other people.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


What business have I got starting a writing group? You may well ask. As an attempt at a justification for this rash act I thought I'd list some of the places I've had things published - where there is some kind of online link. (There doesn't seem much point listing 100% print on paper places here.)

Haiku, tanka and haibun have appeared on a fairly regular basis in Blithe Spirit and Presence. The same three forms also appeared in a special edition ofMuse Apprentice Guild. Haibun in Contemporary Haibun Online and in Zimmerzine. Tanka in Tanka Splendor 2000, 2002 and 2003. Haiku with translations in Tempslibres and haiku in Haiku Spirit.

Poetry in Fire and Borderlines (in both cases in issues not (yet) available online.)

Prose - Poetic - the odd article in Blithe Spirit. (The one on alchemy was particularly odd.) An article forthcoming in Yellow Moon later this year and HaikuOz even allowed me to pontificate on haiku 'rules' (even though we all know there are no such things!)
Prose - Academic - A co-authored article first published in Aslib Proceedings.

The main qualification though, is sheer stubborn obsession with the subject!

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Writing Man

While I enjoy the occasional random dip into the blogosphere, there aren't many I follow with any regularity. One of my favourites has as today's entry a glimpse into the mind of a writer at work. Or not, as the case may be. Go and read it, you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Raving mad - or just creative?

There's a fine line between the two, so it says in this article anyway. If you ask me what's going on here is that boring, rational, scientific types are just miffed. And, of course, they're out to get us. Before you know it they'll be suggesting it'd be a good idea to detain those caught writing poetry or fiction, just in case they go on to something worse.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fishy characters

mosaic fishThese look like fish, swimming, to me. I wonder how few words you need to give the illusion of a person, living?

I suspect the important thing is getting the balance right between what you provide and the space you leave for the reader to fill in for themselves.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Changing heads

The best place for a good clear view of your self is probably not from inside your own head. I think the same thing applies to protagonists. While I know what's going on in my main character's head well enough, I don't know his appearance, his habits, or the impression he makes on other people as well as I might. I'm beginning to think that to get to know him better I'm going to have to get out of his head and write about him from another point of view. If only as an exercise.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

No villains please

I'm trying to arrange the next Cabbage Soup meeting. Even with a small group it isn't always easy finding a time that suits everyone. One person offered to send his character along to the next meeting by himself.

Now there's a creepy thought.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Queens Peace Fountain

I think I'm actually looking forward to writing 500 words of a violent quarrel. This can't be good, can it?

At least today's photo is peaceful.

Photos on this blog are taken with one of these remarkable little things. I think it's the digital camera equivalent of a haiku.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


After what I was saying about making an effort to get your book seen by a publisher it was interesting to find a new website called Bookner. It's aim is to bring writers together with agents and publishers. Sounds like a good idea. I'll keep an eye on it and see if it takes off.

Friday, September 02, 2005

First premises

I like this 'fill in the blanks' guide to writing a premise for a film - it works just as well for books. (Thanks Nelson in Toronto!)

It's helpful in making you concentrate on the main points and, maybe more importantly, the main selling points! Now I'm not being mercenary here, after all, once you've written a book you've got to sell it to a publisher before anyone else is going to get the chance to see it. Even if it goes against the grain, its only fair to posterity to make that effort.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Writing exercises

Our next few exercises are:
  • a character study (300 words)
  • an argument (500 words of dialogue)
  • a description of a house (200 words)
  • a descriptive piece with no adjectives (300 words)
Since I've thought about writing a book I'm finding this sort of exercise a bit easier to get started on. I can think of 'my' character and what he's like, the sort of arguments he might have, what kind of house he might live in (I might have a problem there!) and how I could describe something in his world without the use of adjectives. It puts the different exercises into a context, which I find helps.