How to grab your readers with a killer opening line

Call me Ishmael, but I figure the oldest and dumbest cliche in the how-to-write industry has to be the one about opening lines. Of course, that’s because opening lines work. They drag the reader, kicking and screaming, into the words. And it’s true for all writing, not just novels. Journalists have to master the technique from … More How to grab your readers with a killer opening line

Essential writing skills: we all need to write Tolkien’s appendices

One of the ways J R R Tolkien broke new ground with The Lord of the Rings was through his massive back-story, partly published at the end of The Return of the King in the form of appendices. That story was better there than interspersed through the text – ‘information dumping’ is the biggest turn-off to … More Essential writing skills: we all need to write Tolkien’s appendices

Creating your own literary ‘ear worm’ – like Tolkien and Rowling

Ever had a song stuck in your head – usually, the catchy riff or chorus the composer deliberately engineered for the purpose? They’re called ear-worms. It’s apparently been discovered that the way to kill them – for a third of us anyway – is to listen to Thomas Arne’s eighteenth century ditty God Save The … More Creating your own literary ‘ear worm’ – like Tolkien and Rowling

If you think of Jackson’s ‘Hobbit’ as a fan-fic video game it makes more sense

I finally caught up with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Part two of the trilogy – and don’t we know it. The film ended – splat – in the middle of what was structurally the build-up to the dramatic finale. It also confirmed what I pretty much understood from watching the first instalment, The … More If you think of Jackson’s ‘Hobbit’ as a fan-fic video game it makes more sense

Why I don’t fan-boy (much) over The Hobbit or Trek

The other week Peter Jackson met fans in Wellington for a sneak part-preview of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Even Smaug was there – well, the pet lizard, Hermes, they used for mo-cap sequences, anyway. I am a huge enthusiast for Tolkien and Jackson. But I didn’t don my magic elven cloak (the one … More Why I don’t fan-boy (much) over The Hobbit or Trek

Write it now: should all writers start with epic poetry?

J R R Tolkien – one of my favourite authors of all time – once explained that all great fantasy needed to begin with epic poetry. Large parts of his mythos began as epic poems; and in this he was influenced by Beowulf, which he knew well – he later published his own translation from … More Write it now: should all writers start with epic poetry?

Understanding the ‘Tolkien effect’ – and making it work for you

One of the plus sides of a contest like National November Writing Month is the enforced deadline. Writers have to finish to time – which is the nature of writing, once you have a publisher and contract deadlines. Mostly. The greatest challenge when writing anything is knowing when it’s over – knowing when to stop … More Understanding the ‘Tolkien effect’ – and making it work for you