Category Archives: Writing

Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental

At the start of each of the Novel-in-a-Day books there is a disclaimer, not dissimilar to the one you see boilerplate to the credits at the end of (nearly) every movie you see: “All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

I’ve been having a minor disagreement (all done very politely and respectfully, I might add!) with someone on the internet for a little while now about the value of first hand research in writing. The other person was advocating piggybacking on research done by other writers and, this being the internet, sensible points were made by several people on both side of the viewpoint. But a recent revival of the discussion got me thinking about that disclaimer. And when it comes down to it, I’m a little ashamed to have used it. After all, can there be any worse insult to someone’s writing to say that their characters and events bear no resemblance at all to reality? Or if it does, it must be a coincidence? Continue reading

The Colour Of Magic

There was a  management fad a while ago that I’m sure is still alive and well in some corner of Corporateville to provide new recruits to grad schemes with fashion advice. No doubt this was designed to curb the wave of bright young things coming into the office in un-ironed shirts or the kind of body-con dresses that can play havoc with the blood pressure of the senior partners. The good consultants went beyond the condescending (“Wear a suit. No, not one from Topshop”) and started to provide advice on what colours best matched your skin tone… although I distinctly remember seeing pretty much everyone from one intake rush out and by purple shirts and ties after one session so I guess even fashion consultants get lazy? Continue reading

What is a genre?

The first decision I have to make when starting the preparations for a Novel In A Day event(A) is about what kind of story I want to tell: The original NiaD (2011’s The Dark) was a cross between a horror and a detective novel; The one after that (2012’s Lunar520) was a science fiction thriller; Last year’s effort (2013’s Made Man) was a mafia tale set in 1962 Las Vegas(B). I’m a big believer that the story comes first and everything else follows from that, but I’m equally conscious that there is a moral obligation on me to make sure each successive NiaD does something different; another gangster tale is (sadly) not an option(C).

Which got me thinking: Do I know what different genres there are out there? Do I even know what a genre is?  Continue reading

Lessons on writing from Rocky

Before you go and get all “seriously?” on me, I’d like to share a few facts about the film and it’s writer.

Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning three (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing). Sylvester Stallone was nominated for two of those ten: Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, making him only the third actor to ever receive those nominations for the same film (the first two being Orson Wells and Charlie Chaplin). Rocky has been recognised by the Writers Guild of America as one of their top 100 movies ever, and has featured in several of the AFI’s top 100 lists.

As for Sly himself, the press in 1976 compared Stallone to the likes of Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. In Rocky and Rambo, Sly helped create and develop(1) two of the very first modern movie franchises. Rocky itself spawned 5 sequels (6 if you count the spin-off “Creed” currently in pre-production) at a time when franchises were often built around bad guys instead of heroes(2).

The movie remains one of the most quotable and best loved films ever made. A key reason for this success is Sylvester Stallone’s deep understanding of characterisation.  Continue reading

Predictions for 2064

I was flipping through an issue of Waitrose Kitchen yesterday that Mrs Pigfender had left by the chair I use to drink tea. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a strategic deployment as there were no dog-eared pages, sticky notes or handwritten messages next to pictures of expensive gadgetry(A). Anyway, the magazine had an article pooling the thoughts of various chefs and food journalists on their vision of what cooking and eating would be like fifty years from now. It was, as you might expect, a load of tosh. Fun, but tosh. The article was filled with fanciful notions that would be more at home in an issue of CrazyAbsurd SciFi Tales Monthly. We’re talking 3D printers that use powdered cartridges to paint food on your plate, and fingerprint scanners which can diagnose your state of health to recommend the most appropriate recipe for your nutritional needs.

But it was a fun enough game, so I got thinking about applying the same idea to my own field: the fine arts of reading and writing. In an attempt to avoid the fanciful and downright improssible(B), I have taken a quasi-scientific approach. ‘Scientific’, because I’ve tried to keep the 2064 vision as a sensible extrapolation of current technology and trends, and ‘quasi’ because, let’s face it, it’s a statistical analysis of anecdotal evidence taken from a sample size of one. Continue reading

10 gifts for writers – Christmas 2013

It’s nearing Christmas and in the Pigfender house that makes it a time for celebration. And what better way to celebrate than by buying stuff for the writer in your life… especially if the writer in your life is you! Like last year’s list, the aim is to include items that would be of interest to a writer, but which are perhaps a little less “direct”. I hope it inspires you to share a little love this holiday season.

In keeping with’s No Shenanigans ethos(A), I have (somewhat refreshingly for this kind of article) provided all ten items on a single page rather than make you click through a dozen pages and twice as many adverts just to find out what the number one gift is(B).

The basic selection criteria for the gifts has been that they must meet or enrich one of the basic needs of someone who enjoys writing. And, yes, from my discussions with others who enjoy the craft, procrastination is most definitely a basic need. Continue reading