I have moved the whole blog to a new address. Please join me over there as no new posts are being added here and I have removed key info from this old version ...


When you get there, PLEASE rejoin as a "follower" - changing addresses means I lose my 230 lovely friends!

NB also - all comments are intact on the new version.

Friday 13 February 2009


THE TIP: Creating Dramatic Tension
As I'm sure you'll agree, it's important to give your readers subtle clues to suggest there's something really exciting about to happen, but keep them hanging on as long as possible. But not so long that they get really hacked off with you. Don't give them the answer too soon, in other words. Or too late.

This is why for about a week now I've been telling you (OK, telling is not so subtle, I agree) to expect a story of hilarious ineptitude, the funniest day of my life as an author - and then not giving it to you. See what I mean? It just guarantees you'll hang around a bit longer. And you are only slightly hacked off with me but not too much so. If I keep you waiting too long, on the other hand, you may just disappear and go and read something much more exciting, like the contender for last year's Diagram Prize (a prize for the weirdest book title) the possibly life-saving How to Avoid Huge Ships. Fact-fetishists amongst you might like to know that previous winners have included Greek Rural Postmen and their Cancellation Numbers and the seminal People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It. One previous winner, the Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, contained a whole an education within the title, or at least to me. However, the very first winner of the prize was probably unbeatable: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.

Don't worry: I haven't forgotten about the story. I'm just keeping you hanging on - creating dramatic tension. Call it a demonstration in the cause of your education. I am sure it will improve your writing.

THE ODD THING: my 50th "follower" on this blog is a dog. And, weirdly, the dog can write as well as follow blogs. It's truly a blog-dog. I am not sure I am qualified to advise a dog on how to get published, though I have often been tempted to tell a human writer that he/she is barking up the wrong tree.

Here is my dog, by the way, to say a virtual hello to the blog dog. Apologies for the wine in the background - it's just in case I have guests round. Although this rarely happens, I feel it's best to be prepared.

THE QUESTION: it has occurred to me, following rash suggestions by a couple of people, that it might (or might not) be a good idea, or at least a not entirely stupid one, for me to offer online tuition for a few writers who a) want to get published and b) are good enough to be promising and c) are the sort of writer I feel I could help. So, a completely personalised "writing towards publication" course, tailored to the specific needs of the writer and covering whatever areas of weakness I find. (And believe me: I will be looking. I wasn't an English teacher for nothing.) I would only take a very few pupils, and they would have to fulfil certain criteria, but it could work. I'd cover a whole range of things, from writing style, voice and specific techniques, to pitching your material to agent/publisher, and each selection of topics would be made in consultation with the victim - sorry, no, I mean client - depending on what stage the writer was at.

I would also take groups - for example a writing group could sign up for group feedback and exercises.

So, my question is simple: what do you lovely people think? (I should add that it won't be cheap, as a great deal of chocolate will have to be consumed by me while I spend some months preparing perfect materials. And I don't function well on cheap chocolate.)

Oh, and if you say it's a good idea, don't worry: I won't then assume you want to sign up, honestly! I will be rubbish at the hard-sell. I just want to know in general what you think.

NB: I'm not tutoring the dog, but I'm very happy to continue reading his blog. Though I confess I do feel rather silly doing so. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think the dog may have some help from a human as he is rather competent and I just think those claws would get in the way of effective typing.

The next post will be the story of incompetence. Probably. I have actually written it, honestly - just haven't seen fit to click the relevant button. Oh, the power!

Must dash - got to see a blog about a dog.