Category Archives: Writing

How to write a novel in a day

A few days ago I wrote a novel in a day. A whole novel, in a single day.

I say “I”, but it’s only fair to point out that I had some help. Twenty-five of us got together and – over the course of twenty-four hours – produced “Made Man”, a 55,000 word tale of mafia life in 1960s Las Vegas.

You can read more about the Novel in a Day (NIAD) premise elsewhere on the site, but for anyone coming here new the basic concept was this: Someone would come up with the overarching story in advance, and break it up into individual chapters. On the day of the event, those chapter briefs would be emailed out to the participants who had the 24 hours to write their section and return it for inclusion in the final piece. An hour or so later, electronic copies of the book (PDF, ePub and mobi) were posted online for everyone to read. Other than their own brief, the participants had no idea what happened in the wider story, or where their chapter fell in the book… until they read the finished piece, of course. Continue reading

Does physical comedy work on the written page?

Remember when I wrote a little while ago about how Tom Cruise helped me rethink the approach I was taking with one of my chapters? Well, I find myself needing to do it again.

I was typing away, getting the words onto the page like a good little author, occasionally chuckling to myself (a good sign while I’m writing, a terrible sign anywhere else in life) and generally taking care of business. I had a pot of coffee next to me and my writing hat on my head. I was on a roll.

When I later came back to re-read the section I realised I’d been thinking in moving pictures again. Don’t get me wrong, this is normally a good thing. Good writing should conjure up visual images. Take the following excerpt from the NIAD2012 book, Lunar520 (this except takes place in zero-gravity on a space station):

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Happily Ever After

Earlier in the week I visited the library (as I am occasionally wont to do). I grabbed two Lee Childs and a Vince Flynn off the shelves and was heading to the checkout area when my gaze happened to drift across the cover of a DVD that stopped me in my tracks.

I was shocked and confused. I stood there frozen like a bad street performer with my mouth open and a look of bewilderment across my face while my brain tried to process the information. I looked down at the books in my hand and re-read the titles to make sure my eyes were still working, and then looked back at the DVD on the shelf.

“Walt Disney,” it said. “Cinderella 2.”

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Causes and cures for writer’s block.

A few days ago I was working on Chapter 19 of the WIP. I had brainstormed the chapter in my normal mind map fashion and then converted that to linear notes (basically bullet points). I sat down to start the first draft of the prose when it all slowed to a crawl. I just wasn’t feeling it.

First off let me get one thing straight: I do not believe in writer’s block. Read any interview with a journalist-turned-novelist and they will tell you the same thing: If writing is your career, then not writing is not an option. It’s the equivalent of [insert person with any job here] saying they can’t do [that job] because they aren’t feeling it. You just bought yourself a train ticket to Unemploymentville, calling at all stations via YourWifeIsLeavingYou and KraftDinnersForOne.

What I do believe in, though, is that sometimes the writing is harder than it usually is. When that happens, the worst thing I can do is try to push on through. The better solution is to pause for 10 minutes, make a pot of coffee, and spend a cup (or maybe two) worth of time figuring out why it’s harder going. I love writing. If putting the words down changes from feeling like strolling on a beach in swimshorts and flip flops to wading knee deep in snow up a steep Canadian mountain (in swimshorts and flipflops) then it’s going to feel like that for the reader too. In other words, I trust my instincts and spend a little time working out what’s wrong so I can fix it before I walk any further.

So what are the common causes? Continue reading

Writing cover lines for magazines

So I was out shopping with Mrs Pigfender at the weekend, and as is the norm we eventually found ourselves in the magazine section of a bookshop browsing the titles for interesting things to read. Magazines are great: They’re like the internet in that they are full of little articles and snippets of information to help fill those little pockets of time (whether because that’s all you have, or because of attention span issues). Plus, they’re better than the internet because (if you’ve chosen wisely) everything is on a topic you like and it’s all been put together by, you know, professionals.

But, unlike the internet, you have to pay for them – well, unless you just read them in the store of course. This cash element has finely tuned the art of the magazine cover into peacocking of the highest order, as each one competes with its brethren for your attention and your hard-earned change. This has led to the kind of sloppy cover lines that have become one of my biggest pet hates in journalism. Three things in particular bother me: Continue reading

How to write a bestselling romance novel

I stumbled across an old post I made on the interweb which made me chuckle and fits the tone of this site, so I thought I’d reproduce it here. So here it is: The Pigfender guide to writing a bestselling romance novel which will be loved by women everywhere and turned into a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Probably starring Ryan Gosling. Continue reading

An author’s contract with his readers

Last week I went to the library and got out a couple of classics: ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell and ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck. Both are small books of about 100 pages, easily read in a few hours, and both are books I probably should have read at school. So when I saw them showcased together in my local library on one of those revolving display stands normally used to sell postcards I thought ‘why not’.

Animal Farm was exactly what I expected it to be. Not what you’d call spectacular writing, but a very interesting idea, ably executed. Basically, it fulfilled the promise of the premise nicely.

Next came Of Mice And Men. Steinbeck won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Novel Prize for Literature, so I was expecting something a bit special. It wasn’t. In fact, I came away from the book feeling pretty cheated. I felt that the author had somehow been in breach of the implied contract between a writer and his readers.

This got me thinking. Do writers really have an implied contract with their readers? And if so, what are the terms?

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