It struck me, as I was tossing from side to side struggling to sleep after eating an ill-advised spicy burrito, that my favourite authors have a lot to answer for in the way I’ve developed my writing style. Feverishly confused about why I wasn’t sleeping, I startled to rattle off single sentences that summarised exactly what I felt I’d got from reading the works of those marvellous writers. Not the specific points of English you could learn in style guides, but the special inspiration that only a successful demonstration can drive home. And, lo, here’s the result of that sleep-deprived thought process: Continue reading
Hugh Howey‘s Wool has been knocking around for a few years, as shorter novels and in omnibus form. It’s as accomplished and affecting a story as any on my post-apocalyptic novels list. As a self-published novel it’s a marvel of independent success from a highly respectable author. Both are stories worth telling, so for this novel I’m not just going to talk about how good the book is – I also want to talk about what the book represents for the self-published author. Continue reading
“How do you do write so many books?” I’m often asked, over the tip of a wine glass at a high-grade business event. Or “How do you write so fast?” Whatever my answer, the response is usually “Oh I wish I could write a book,” without much care for what I actually say. So my usual response is “I don’t know. It just happens.” But that’s actually a carefully engineered lie to avoid an extensive explanation that people at high-grade business events don’t really want to hear. In fact, I do know how to write a book. It’s a delicate and complicated process that I make look easy. Because I did the hard work a long, long time ago. Continue reading
When I first started reading the works of Kurt Vonnegut, his style was a revelation to me. His novels tackle complex ideas, but the prose is simple and clear, the stories often very short. For example, Slaughterhouse-5 is a stark contrast to the complexity of Catch-22, despite similar themes, but is just as effective (hence both are included in my recommended reading list). One thing stood out for me more than anything in the way Vonnegut wrote, a very simple dialogue technique. The response: “Um.” Continue reading
The following is a novel extract from Wixon’s Day (available now from Amazon). It is a standalone chapter, written from the perspective of the main character, the boat pilot Marquos. He gives a detailed account of the world he has experienced. The chapter comes as an Appendix in the book, which can be read at any time before, after or during the story to provide background information (and some geographical bearing for Estalia, his world). All the physical locations and features he speaks of relate to the UK and its surrounding area, though the people of Estalia know nothing of the UK’s history, and have never effectively mapped it.
You can read it here in advance of the novel, to get an understanding of the world Wixon’s Day is set in and some of the trials that Marquos has already faced. Continue reading
I originally published these tips for my copywriting blog, but they’re as relevant to creative writing as they are to any other. George Orwell, famed for his essays and bleak political fiction, spent a great deal of time musing over language use and the influence it had on the general decay of society. He despaired that contemporary English was becoming ‘ugly and inaccurate’, particularly focusing on political rhetoric that he deemed vague and inaccurate. He wrote an excellent essay, Politics and the English Language, condemning overly wordy prose, with 6 language rules that are sure to improve anyone’s English: Continue reading
This is a recreated book review that I wrote a while back. When I finished reading this book, I wrote in the front of it that This is the most rewarding book you will ever read. and left it on a bookshelf in Fiji, dreaming that someone would go through the effort of reading the whole thing based only on my comment. I doubt anyone’s picked it up since then – Fiji is a strange and frightening place. I stand by what I wrote, though, because Middlemarch will give you more than a story. It’ll give you a better appreciation for humanity.
I used to be quite sceptical of offering writing advice, as everyone has their own style, but over the years I’ve come to recognise some basic technical rules that can help make any writing more effective. And to my mind, the quickest path to success is to aim for simple writing. Though this may be subjective in creative writing, it’s seldom wrong to make your message clear and direct. It is a mistake to think simple writing is basic or amateurish: to be universally understood is an art form. The following is the first few steps you should take to keeping your writing simple: