From cats to editors – a top 10 of authors’ little helpers

The page before you is blank. When you try to write a sentence, it is like dragging your feet through a quagmire. With every slurpy step, the idea that you are a writer seems more absurd. Story? Hah! Who is going to read this stuff anyway? An hour ticks by. You write a sentence. You […]

The rise and rise of the celebrity bully

There was once a man called Jimmy Savile. He was powerful and did bad things. Although some people suspected as much, he was allowed to continue being powerful and doing bad things for two main reasons: he was a bully, and he was popular with the public. Those  were the bad old days. Nothing like […]

My 10 Writer’s Resolutions for 2015

On a home-alone New Year’s Eve, I find myself sternly noting resolutions to myself  for the creative year ahead (the personal resolutions can wait). Of course, they may not work for everyone…   Enjoy yourself at work. Even when it is deadly serious, writing should have a bit of skittishness and fun to it.   […]

Top Nine Writer’s Rules #7: Fear

It will catch any serious writer in the end: that familiar dread of the blank or page or screen as it stares back at you, daring you to give it  some words which, the blank page just knows, will be disappointing, or surprisingly weak, or in some way inferior to everything you have written before. […]

Remembering Paul Sidey

Some time in the early 1990s, the writer Willie Donaldson devoted his weekly column in the Independent to an account of how the editor who had commissioned him to write his memoirs was so desperate to get the book delivered that he had committed him to an addiction clinic run by mad Christians: ‘Paul Sidey […]

Top Nine Writer’s Rules #6: Confidence

It is an undeniable (and frankly rather unattractive) aspect of a writer’s character that it needs to be finely balanced between  arrogance and insecurity. Confidence is needed to write in the first place; a degree of self-doubt is necessary for what is written not to be preeningly complacent and indulgent. From Anthony Trollope to Caitlin […]

Top Nine Writer’s Rules: #5 Block

Look at the first of these two rules, and you’ll see that nothing divides authorly opinion like writer’s block. Most of these insights are either self-pitying or briskly unsympathetic  –  successful writers seem to believe in tough love when dispensing advice – but there is one piece of caring practical advice. Surprisingly, that comes from […]

Top Nine Writer’s Rules #4: Research

Here’s a funny thing. Writers like to play down research. ‘Just live your life and use that as your material,’ seems to be the message. Even, ‘And don’t have too exciting a life while you’re at it.’ Here is a snapshot of the collective wisdom of writers considering this topic, with the number 10 rule […]


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