Fail Better

Recently I came across an intriguing quote about the nature of artistic process by William Bailey, a notable visual artist. Apparently he said: ‘I believe that every painter is in a state of continual failure.’ At first I was puzzled, particularly that Bailey himself is a great success. But the more I contemplated Bailey’s words the more I realised he has a point - failure must be intrinsic to any attempt at making art. Isn’t it all about trial and error, groping in the dark, and then putting … [Read more...]

Writing Fiction in and out of the University: A Guest Post by Josephine Wilson

I have met quite a few writers who, like me, have written novels, plays or collections of poetry within the framework of a PhD.  The motivation for writing within the University is sometimes a scholarship, which offers financial support for research and writing. Given how hard it is to make money as a writer, or a sessional academic (my other money-spinning job), the lure of three years of full-time writing and a weekly income is hard to resist. For writers who have continued down this path, … [Read more...]

The philosophy of fiction editing: A guest post by Sabita Naheswaran

Fiddling with fiction can be so very, very tricky, structural editing in particular. Henry James referred to editing as ‘the butchers’ trade’: we dissect, we cut, we rearrange the parts. Ten years as an editor and I still worry that my criticism, although necessary, might be altering the soul of a piece. And structural editing is an inherently personal act. Who the hell am I to say that the story arc is forced, or that the antagonist’s motivation seems tenuous? Yes, I’m an editor. But what if my … [Read more...]

Reading beyond our comfort zone

I’ve noticed a curious anxiety among some writers who teach writing about coming across as supposedly elitist when they discuss reading with their students. While these writers themselves are often ambitious readers and may complain to their peers about how little their students read, in the same breath they often say it doesn’t matter what the students read as long as they read, and it is not their role to pass judgement on their choices. Such an attitude might be beneficial for certain … [Read more...]

eBook: an innovation or a nostalgic gesture? A guest post by Julian Novitz

In a 1999 interview with the New York Times, Annie Proulx was quoted as saying: ’The internet is good for bulletin boards on esoteric subjects, reference works, lists and news – timely utilitarian information, efficiently pulled through the wires… Nobody is going to sit down and read a novel on a twitchy little screen. Ever.’ We’ve come a long way since then, but the sentiment expressed in Proulx’s statement is clearly still relatable for large numbers of readers and writers, who remain … [Read more...]

My Top 13 Writing Resources

We live in the time of Writing Resource Cornucopia. There are myriad aides for writers out there – books, magazines, courses and websites offering writing advice and exercises;  sometimes even recipes for creating the next bestseller. I have my reservations about how useful it is to have such a great choice. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of available information, and to grow confused in the face of often contradictory advice. Worse, the impression such plenty creates is … [Read more...]

‘Loosening up’ your creative nonfiction writing: Guest Post from Nicola Redhouse

For the past few years I’ve been writing a work of creative nonfiction that brings together memoir and research. It tells the story of a period of time in which I was blindsided by overwhelming postnatal anxiety and felt uncertain about the value of a decade of self-inquiry that I had undergone through psychoanalysis. This experience sent me on a quest to explore what current-day scientific investigations are showing us about Freud’s theories of the human mind. My father is a psychoanalytic … [Read more...]

The Pre-writing Stage

It’s been three years since I’ve worked on a book-long manuscript of my own. Lately my itch to write a new book has intensified. By nature I am not a short form writer, even though I’ve published many short fiction and creative nonfiction works. But there is something leisurely and expansive about the long form that I prefer. I find such writing more conducive to deep thinking. When I work at this length, I am less likely to cut corners while exploring life’s complexities. Plus, I have more … [Read more...]

Tips for successful blogging from the leading blogger Karen Andrews

If you’re thinking about blogging, let me say this up front: DO IT. I’ve been writing online since 2003, but mid-way through 2006 a friend sent me a link to this website she called a ‘blog’. It was Dooce.com, where Heather Armstrong documented her post-partum mental health struggles. As I was also going through a traumatic time following my second pregnancy and birth, my friend thought reading someone else’s experiences would help me process my own. Indeed, it did. I was also inspired, and in … [Read more...]

How to seduce a reader

My favorite writers are not so much writers as seducers, shamans, tricksters. Their works affect me on a gut level. Reading their books feels like being hypnotised or making love. I cannot explain my excitement about Marguerite Duras, for example, in intellectual terms, cannot say I love her work for her characters or plots or even themes, though these do matter. But many other writers craft characters, plots and themes well, and yet, while I enjoy their works, I am not obsessed with them like I … [Read more...]