Writer’s Shed

The Seven Rules of Rejection

Writing, like life, has a nasty habit of turning around to bite you in the bum when you least expect it. So it has been while I was gently pondering what to write in this column. Rather to my surprise, I found that I had never written about that constant companion of a writer’s life, […]

The Seven Ages of Authorhood

  1 Even as a mewling and puking infant, he shows signs that one day he will be an author. There is something about how he grips his copy of The Cuddly Cloth Kitten in his little hand, the way he looks out of his cot, observing the world around him with oddly knowing eyes. […]

There’s no snob quite like a book snob

The book fair crowd was streaming past me on their way to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. That evening, in another part of the city, I would be performing a musical show about writing and the life of an author as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. I had thought, in my innocence, that readers and […]

Writing v. Living: a conversation with myself

The great American novelist Jonathan Franzen is a man who takes his role as a writer seriously. He was snooty about the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. He abhors the internet. He disapproves of the use of ‘then’ as a conjunction after a comma. I like him. On most matters, he takes the uncompromising, purist line […]

An ill-fated journey into the world of TV writers (contains sex and violence)

The BBC bigwig was shouting at me. Every time I started to speak in the debate, he came barrelling in, objecting and refuting. The audience of writers gathered in the lecture hall seemed, rather to my surprise, to be on his side. After repeated interruptions, I said with mild exasperation that I was very glad […]

On being a careerist or a purist

It was the usual highly-charged last day at a creative writing course. Some students wanted to ask one of the tutors a few last-minute questions (Have I got it? Can I send you my stuff to read? Could you mention my name to an agent?). Others were triumphant – or a touch muted – about […]

On discovering whether you are really, truly an author

My latest Endpaper column for The Author magazine poses the big question. Inner authorliness: have you got it? * In the manner of the 1950s Persil ads which asked ‘What is a mum?’, the poet Robert Hull raised an important issue in these pages last year. What, he asked, is an author? It is a […]

On the seven great questions of an author’s life.

When a recent contributor to The Author described himself as ‘something of a writing guru’, I was aware of a lurch of jealousy within me. What a wonderful life it would be to live as a guru for would-be authors, spending one’s days dispensing gnomic thoughts about irony, structure and narrative voice with a serene, goofy smile. […]