How Do Writers… Write A Book?

| How Do Writers... A Series of Practical Writing Guides

Imagine the scene: It’s a house party, the kitchen surfaces are covered in scraped plates, lipstick marked glasses, and bottles of wine, some still wrapped in the fancy tissue paper from the deli by the station. Beyoncé is blaring from the sound system in the lounge. Our plucky Writer only came in for a top up, but has been cornered by the feared predator: BOOK BORE.

BOOK BORE knows they’ve caught a Writer. It has them between the beers and the pimento stuffed olives. There’s no escape. They’re going to tell the Writer their BRILLIANT IDEA for a book. For hours.

 

The BRILLIANT IDEA is something that happened to BOOK BORE that no one else would care about. Like that time Marks and Spencer ran out of tights, or the thinly veiled story of BOOK BORE’s career in accounting. And then they ask the Writer to sign a legal document protecting the BOOK BORE’S BRILLIANT IDEA, because it’s so good they’re convinced everyone will steal it.

Scary huh? The saying goes we all have a book in us, but for many it should stay there. How do you know if your book idea is worth writing? A good indicator is not spending decades just boring poor, unsuspecting victims about it. Writing a book takes more than an idea. You need time, characters, a genre, a tone, a setting, tension, dialogue, a narrative arc, a structure, and a story…

When you first put pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, it can seem daunting. Which is why I’m writing this series to tackle the aspects of writing people often struggle with. My first person present tense memoir of my time in the fashion industry, Confessions of a Fashionista (Ebury), was an Amazon Fashion Chart number one bestseller, and the first of my crime fiction series, Follow Me (Avon), will be published this December. I will draw on the mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, and hopefully give you some great tools, tips and tricks.

Some will be common issues: like how to start, how to write dialogue, how to find time to write, and how to write a synopsis. But I also plan to tackle some of the challenges writers’ face that aren’t so frequently discussed: like how to make money from writing, how not to get jealous of others’ success, and how to look after your body (it’s the main tool we use to write, but too often we take it for granted).

But in the meantime, let’s get back to basics. How do writers write a book? There’s no magic formula. We just do it. Don’t be the BOOK BORE, be the Writer. It’s time to start.

What do you think? How do writers write a book? What kinds of topics would you like to read about with regards to writing? Let me know in the comments below.

And check back for the next instalment: How Do Writers… Come Up With Ideas?

My crime thriller Follow Me is out December 2015.

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Wharf column: Are We Living Too Fast?

| Journalism

You can’t make it through the day without someone commenting on how fast this year’s gone. No one mention the C-word.

Snowflake scattered chocolate has started to appear in the shops. The full onslaught of gift guides and food feasts will soon follow. People are jittery….

To read the rest of the column, please click here.

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Fuck This Journal: Betterness through Bitterness, by Dale Shaw

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

51705w9lZfL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Fuck This Journal is an inspired and hilarious swipe at all those think positive books that claim to encourage your creativity. If you see ‘meaningful’ saccharine quotes overlaid on photos of sunsets and roll your eyes: this is the book for you. If you’ve ever read a ‘creatively stimulating’ tome, or sat through a lesson engaged in an arty exercise: this book is for you.

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At a time when colouring books are marketed at adults, this is a refreshingly droll look at instigating your ‘cre-hate-tivity’. Full of comic drawings and amusingly pointless exercises, such as: ‘Let’s adopt a trick from Ernest Hemingway. He said “when I seek inspiration I write the word ‘inspiration’ over and over again” Hey! Why not give it a try in the space below?’ This is a book that’s sure to raise a laugh and a half.

Managing to introduce a narrative into the collection of witty and dour illustrations and Unknownexercises, Shaw’s bitter alter ego reveals a story of: divorce from Carol, near bankruptcy, and thwarted dreams. I have certainly met this hard done by, chip on the shoulder type in pubs and creative writing classes before, which adds a deliciously satirical layer to the book. Fuck This Journal is a genuinely unique comic work. Buy this as a gift for yourself and all the creatives in your life. That’s Christmas sorted.

Fuck This Journal by Dale Shaw: Fucking buy this 5/5

 

 

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Wharf Column: What Your Bedtime Routine Says About You

| Journalism

GL501648Every night before bed I do the same things, in the same order. Remove make up, moisturise face, brush hair, put pyjamas on, brush teeth, apply hand cream and lip balm, and climb into bed. And every night, around about the brushing my hair stage, my husband calls for me to hurry up. This is because, to him, getting ready for bed is a simple one step process – remove day clothes. This is not a gender issue….

 

To read the full column please follow this link: http://www.wharf.co.uk/lifestyle/what-bedtime-routines-say-who-10066760 

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival Top Picks 2015

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

ed festEdinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. With 47,497 performances last year and more this August spread across this beautiful city it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to see. I can’t say I’ve seen everything (surely no one can?), but here are my suggestions of great shows to catch before the 31st:


Anna Morris: It’s Got To Be Perfect


Comedy

Anna Morris brings her YouTube viral sensation, the acerbic comic creation Georgina the Bride to this triumph of a show. With her increasingly heightened demands and expectations of her perfect day, this Bridezilla’s hilarious show has got to be perfect for hen dos, stag dos, those who are engaged, married, or anyone who has ever been to a wedding. Not to be missed.

★★★★★

The Voodoo Rooms, August 8 – 17, 19 – 30, 3.55pm FREE


An Audience With Jimmy Saville


Theatre

jim

Alastair McGowan delivers an incredible performance as Jimmy Saville, with not only an eerie mimic of the known TV personality, but a spot on portrayal of the emotions within this monster of a man. The subject matter is understandably uncomfortable at times, as well as frightfully enlightening – did you know Saville had been questioned as a possible suspect during the police hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper? A great, if unsettling, must see play.

★★★★

This performance is suitable for those who are 16+.
Assembly George Square Theatre, August 11 – 22, 7.55pm £16.00


Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel


Comedy

austentatious-2015

Confession time: I’ve seen Austentatious four times. And each time the quick-witted troupe deliver a side-splittingly funny performance, based on an audience suggested Jane Austen style title. Worth going back again and again, these guys never disappoint.

★★★★★
Underbelly George Square, August 6-17, 19-31, 1.15pm £12.50

 


Marny Godden: Flap ’em On The Gate


Comedy

marny

With her host of surreal characters Marny Godden’s Flap ’em On The Gate is an uproariously bonkers show that had me crying with laughter. A true clowning talent, Godden is one of those gifted performers who can make you laugh just by raising an eyebrow. If you like The Mighty Boosh you’ll love this.

★★★★
Underbelly Cowgate, August 6-7, 19-30, 5.20pm £10.00

 


4×4 Ephemeral Architectures


Dance, physical theatre and circus

jugglers

One of the joys of coming to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is seeing something you wouldn’t normally see. In an unexpected genre blend this show provides jugglers and ballet dancers performing together on stage. With instances of humour, and obvious athletic talent and skill, this show also provided a truly elegant moment of beauty that almost drove this cynical city dweller to tears. Almost. Worth a look.

★★★★
Assembly George Square Theatre, August 5-11, 13-17, 19-24, 26-30, 5.30pm £16.00


Ed Fest Fast Tips


ed1What to wear:

Layers and comfortable shoes. Edinburgh’s a hilly city, and you can end up walking a lot between shows. Much like the weather, the venues vary in temperature: some are hot, some are cold, some are wet! Dress accordingly.

How to navigate:

Download the free Edinburgh Festival Fringe App from Kotikan Ltd, which lists all the shows taking place. It allows you to search by shows, location, nearby shows, reviews etc, as well as book tickets and show venues on a map. A little lifesaver.

What to eat:

Deep friend Mars bars. You won’t regret it. Besides you’ll burn off all the calories climbing those Edinburgh hills.

mars

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On Winning the Young Stationers’ Prize 2015

| Uncategorized

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 16.46.15Last night I was delighted and honoured to be awarded the Young Stationers’ Prize 2015, for accomplishment and promise in writing. And then I got very drunk. Watching my third Berocca dissolve in water today has given me time to reflect on this unexpected joyous moment. Bear with me: I’ll try not to be too much of a twat.

I was surprised and chuffed when Kerry Hudson nominated me for this year’s prize, and grateful to Daisy Buchanan, Diana Beaumont, Hannah Knowles and Shelley Harris for their touching supporting statements and letters of recommendation. I would never have made it this far without them, but not simply because of their lovely endorsements.

Writers have a reputation for being loners, and it’s true I spend a lot of time with just my Mac, but inspiration and creativity don’t come from barren soil. My life is rich with the work and vision of journalists, columnists, authors, editors, filmmakers, directors, playwrights, actors, teachers, mentors, friends, and family. I admire the resonant columns of those like The Evening Standard’s Rosamund Urwin, who was awarded joint runner up of the Young Stationers’ Award. I’m inspired by the innovative work of people like BookMachine’s co-founder, and joint runner up, Laura Summers. I seek to emulate the philanthropic dedication of good souls like Ian Buckley of Prima Software, who was highly commended by the judges. And I’m enlightened by the erudite writing of journalists like Henry Foy, the Financial Times Central Europe Correspondent, who was shortlisted for the prize. Our world is full of stimulus. And as David Aaronovitch from The Times noted in his after dinner speech, technological advances, like Twitter, have opened us up afresh to a broader spectrum of information, knowledge, and interest.

To even be on the same shortlist as the accomplished, driven and brilliant professionals listed above was a thrill. Taking in the Stationers’ Hall, which was completed in 1673, I had to acknowledge the work of all those who have come before. Founded to protect, regulate and promote manuscript writers and illuminators tradesmen in 1403, I was walking in the footsteps of those who sought to make things better. I’m very fortunate to win this prize, but I cannot claim the credit: I’m merely constructed from all those who’ve enriched my life and come before me. This one’s for you guys.

Trophy

Thank you to Paddy Belton, the Master, and all at The Worshipful Company of Stationers for a fantastic evening and a truly treasured prize.

 

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Positive at Park Theatre, by Shaun Kitchener

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

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Positive tells the story of Benji, a gay Londoner looking to revive his love, sex and social lives one year after testing HIV+. But if Benji’s mantra – If Britney can get through 2007, then I can get through today – doesn’t give you the heads up let me make it clear: this is not a moral depress-fest, but a hilarious nuanced comedy of modern manners. As the writer Kitchener states in the programme introduction: ‘nobody dies’. At one point I laughed so hard my theatre companion had to restrain me from keeling over into Marcio Andrey Santarosa’s clever dual reference giant round pill and plus sign stage, upon which the action is delivered. From the ground up this is a polished, satisfying story: Kitchener expertly teasing at first hilarity and then real emotional depth and punch from his subject matter.pTimothy George’s ‘Benji’ and Sally George’s overbearing mother ‘Margo’ (yes, they are mother and son in real life) give stunning performances, managing to move from an amusing confrontation to genuine tenderness in a devastating second. Yet again I found myself being steadied by my friend, as I attempted and failed to fight back tears. And it is here in the meat of the play that Kitchener’s work really comes into it’s own: this is not a story about HIV, but about life and how we choose to live it. About love and how we choose to give it. Director Harry Burton must be congratulated for bringing the best from his cast, never allowing laughs or sentimentality to get in the way of the real power of the piece.

A special mention for Claire Greenaway’s Health Physician Jennifer, who was the perfect picture of professionalism, concern and genuine care I recognise from my own consultants and carers I see as part of my chronic health condition. Yet again Kitchener’s script shuns the saccharine or obvious, and instead delivers a slice of reality in what is a tightly structured and deftly delivered play. I positively suggest you go and see it.

Positive is on at Park Theatre until the 1st August 2015.

 

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The Thirty List, by Eva Woods

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

517UM8BXNULI love lists. I make lists for everything from shopping lists, to lists of things I want to do in the coming year. They help me remember, clarify and stay focused. Forget the iPhone Generation, when I think of the ‘listicles’ that appear on Buzzfeed I know we’re the List Generation. Which is what is so initially appealing about The Thirty List: a romantic comedy that tells the story of Rachel, newly separated from her husband, who draws up a list of all the things she’d meant to do before turning thirty and sets about ticking them off. We all have that list. The one with the big things on it, our hopes and dreams, but how many of us actually tackle them? Rachel jumps in wholeheartedly, and as they say, hilarity ensues.

Woods deftly weaves the tender pathos of Rachel’s broken marriage and impending divorce, with deep belly laugh inducing jokes at the perils of house hunting in London, trying to find a job, trying to make a living, and the day to day troubles that concern most of us. Structuring the story around Rachel’s list, the reader is soon invested in not only the completing of the tasks but also the reconstruction of Rachel’s life. Forced to move in with a grumpy man named Patrick and his four year old son Alex, Rachel corrals her new landlord into writing his own list and this is where the fun really starts. I snorted with laughter at moments in this book, and kept shouting out bits to my companions: ‘Listen to this bit! So funny!’

But Woods is more than a writer of great jokes, the pace and depth of this warm hearted tale built to a real moment of crisis I did not see coming, and one which moved me to tears. There is love and heartbreak and hope in this book: a perfect summer read. Put reading it at the top of your to-do list.

The Thirty List, by Eva Woods: top of my list 5/5

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Dirty Special Thing, Platform Theatre

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

UnknownIn the wake of the recent election results I watched many publically express their concerns about our changing society, and pledged, among other things, to support the arts. With IdeasTap closing in a few weeks, and funding and grants being slashed, there is a fear our cultural landscape is being irrevocably changed. It’s being white washed, narrowed, minimised. The voices we’ll hear, the books we’ll read, the faces we’ll see, will be restricted to those who can financially support them selves through training, developing their craft, and getting their first break. Which is why we must back projects like Generation Arts, who work through theatre making with marginalised members of society. They provide access, support, and help getting into employment for young people who haven’t had the opportunity to achieve academic qualifications. Guys, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and cough up a tenner for the ticket. (Added bonus: there’s a student bar at the Platform Theatre and it’s cheap!)

But there is another reason to watch this project end show: it’s bloody good. I sat down expecting worthy, and what I got was real. It took a few seconds for my brain to adjust to those that were on stage. There’s no way to say this but bluntly, most of the theatre I see is white. White actors everywhere. Dirty Special Thing’s cast is diverse, and you know what it looked like? It looked like London. It looked like every day reality. Our capital city and Helder Fernandes’ cheeky young taxi driver training for the knowledge provided the Greek chorus and structure of this play. With charm and wit, he led us through at first what seemed like disparate stories of Londoners, marking out on the floor the routes we take, the transport we use, but they became entwined: we are all part of the same story. A perfect visual execution of the idea of community. A twist on the phrase: we’re all in this together.

Moneer Elmasseek’s erudite Big Issue seller was an oracle providing sharp insights into humanity, as it mostly rushed past. The stories that unfolded were touchingly real, routed in a reality that is often missing in plays that try to address society’s ills. Tammi Blake St Louis’ exasperated nurse, finding time in the 15 minutes she’s allotted with each home care patient to tenderly moisturise the dry face of one. A beautiful moment of compassion in the monotonous grind of life. The numerable cast make light work of the stage, delivering intriguing vignettes full of humour, struggle, pain and triumph. This may be a good cause, but Dirty Special Thing was a great show.

Dirty Special Thing is on until Saturday 6th June, get tickets here: http://www.generationarts.org.uk/dirty-special-thing-2/

 

 

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