One of the major battles Jack Kerouac had to fight when publishing On The Road was his lack of divisions. His editors won; the book as originally published had divisions – I wouldn’t exactly call them chapters. And with good reason. Divisions, usually chapters, are an expected part of a book – a useful device for … More Essential writing skills: what I learned from Jack Kerouac about chapters
Have you ever tried writing dialogue without all the ‘he said’, ‘she said’ nonsense? It’s an effective technique, though it’s easy to say ‘do this’. Harder to master. Hemingway set the gold standard – half-page strings of dialogue, often without any directions at all as to the speaker– and it was usually clear as to who … More Essential writing skills: he said, she said – without adjectives
Long-time readers of this blog know that I am something of a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien. A lot of a fan, actually. And the more I look at what he wrote, the more impressed I get. Take his settings. More often than not, and especially in The Lord Of The Rings, he’s telling … More Essential writing skills: using weather to create a mood
H. R. Geiger passed away this year, aged 74. Probably best known as designer of the icky thing that exploded out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien (1980). When it comes to spooky haunted house stories – which is what that movie really was – Geiger’s Alien has to take first price for scare factor. … More Tell me – have all the best sci-fi ideas been used?
It’s almost a cliche these days to say that modern fantasy writers all stand in J R R Tolkien’s shadow. Or George R R Martin’s. But it’s true. Obviously, having two middle names beginning with R is a pre-requisite for greatness in the genre. And it was Tolkien who really defined the field for so many author … More Essential writing skills: it’s OK to write square mountain ranges
I was out on the Wellington waterfront the other day with my camera and spotted the light falling just so across this quote from New Zealand’s best known short-story writer, Katherine Mansfield. She’s one of several authors commemorated in the Wellington Writers’ Walk. My DSLR’s not new-tech, and CCD’s being what they are, I wasn’t sure … More A glistening quote from the Wellington Writers’ Walk
Writers never finish learning how to write. ‘We are all apprentices’, Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘in a craft where no-one ever becomes a master.’ Too true. It is an endless learning curve. Steep at first – as novice writers realise how much they have to learn, take their first unsteady steps into that world. Later … More The greatest writing challenge of all
A recent US court ruling that 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before December 1923 are in public domain – hence free for all to use – raises questions about whether we’re about to be inundated with a flood of new Holmes adventures. It’s subject to possible appeal, I suppose. But it’s a tricky issue. Here … More Sherlock’s public domain – but will writing new stories be elementary?
It occurred to me the other day that one of my favourite authors – J R R Tolkien – has probably had more written about him than he actually wrote himself. Certainly that’s true if you consider the books Tolkien published in his lifetime. There were, after all, only two Middle Earth books plus a … More Inspiring culture – the meta-literature of Tolkien
The other day a novelist complained that J K Rowling was making it harder for other authors, and why didn’t she just stop? By her own admission, this critic had never read a word of ‘Harry Potter’. To me it came across as a ‘she’s had her turn, now it’s mine’ kind of argument. It’s … More Don’t complain about J K Rowling. Follow her lead instead.