Hi folks My apologies as it’s been too long since I last posted. I have a good excuse though as I’ve been saving up a ton of good news about former class members’ recent writing achievements: Firstly, congratulations to Mary Fitzpatrick, who has added to her growing list of accolades with a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award: http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/writing/scottish-book-trust-training-awards/new-writers-awards/2018/mary-fitzpatrick […]

Hi folks September already and soon the nights will be drawing in. I’m sure you’ll all be looking for productive ways to spend the dark evenings and, with that in mind, the Centre for Lifelong Learning has now released its programme for 2017/18 and my courses are available for booking. Details can be found on […]

Hi folks I’m extremely chuffed to announce that the winner of the Scottish Book Trust’s prestigious Next Chapter Award 2017 is Julie Rea, who some of you will know from last term’s Creative Writing for Beginners course. She’s also a veteran of the Centre for Lifelong Learning’s Blaze online courses. I had a chat with Julie last week […]

. . . So, naturally, you should be doing more writing. A couple of weeks ago we had good fun in the beginners’ classes spooking each other by writing some ghost stories for Halloween. Some students were surprised at the darkness of their imaginations and others definitely looked unsettled at what they were hearing (I […]

Catriona on the Feeding the Flame online course has brought this to my attention: Scot Lit Fest, an online virtual book festival running from 24 – 26 June, featuring authors such as Michel Faber and A.L. Kennedy (work by both is discussed in Creative Writing for Writers and other courses), and Zoe Strachan, my own erstwhile tutor […]

The creative writing centre at Moniack Mhor has announced the Emerging Writer Award, open to new unpublished writers developing a full-length piece of work. I can think of a number of you who would be very suitable so read the guidelines and apply by 15 February. If you don’t enter, you can’t win: The Bridge Awards     […]

Very sad news about David Bowie, who’s work is as important to me as it is to seemingly everyone else on the planet. I’ve little to add, except to say that as with most great rock writers, for me anyway, it’s always particular lines and phrases from songs that make the deepest impression, and they’ve been popping into […]

Newsflash: Scottish Book Trust has launched a new book, Journeys, which features short works from the esteemed likes of Andrew O’Hagan, Jenni Fagan and Lucy Ribchester. Much more importantly it also showcases outstanding pieces from current student Margaret McVey and past student Rona Fitzgerald. Congratulations to both writers and everyone else involved! The book is free, available all […]

Midway through the term and one word keeps cropping up in class discussions: Procrastination. The advice is simple: stop it, stop it now. If you can’t, read this on the subject: http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html It’s from a blog called Wait But Why, written and illustrated with useful diagrams by someone called Tim Urban. Unfortunately it may not immediately […]

I’ve just completed the first week of classes and have been reminding everyone of the necessity of daily writing practice. If doing it for it’s own sake isn’t incentive enough, then maybe the lure of winning fifty quid should provide an adequate bottom-kick. Very helpfully, Kimberley from Tuesday night’s Creative Writing for Writers has sent me links […]

Good luck to everyone starting the new term this week!

In last night’s Consolidating Your Skills class the discussion touched on the use of dream sequences in stories and I was saying that over the years I’ve come to distrust their use. They’re an easy way for an author to indicate the state of mind of a character, and because of that they’re used too […]

At Tuesday night’s Creative Writing for Writers class we were discussing revision and editing, and the mindset required to get things just right. With that in mind, listen to this writer talking about the book that changed him: Jonathon Coe’s What a Carve Up! One passage in particular stands out: ‘If you’re lucky enough to […]

I know it’s nearly February, but what the hell – Happy New Year folks! To kick off, here’s a short story competition (courtesy of Ivor from the Tuesday night class) http://www.scottishartsclub.co.uk/short-story-2015.html And to inspire your efforts here’s some words of wisdom from the world’s favourite Slovenian Marxist philosopher and cultural critic. Simple advice, delivered in […]

I covered ‘story elements’ in Creative Writing for Writers this week and Ivor from the class has been in touch with this from the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook  . . . Among characterisation, dialogue, structure, point of view and all the rest, apparently I forgot to mention the time traveling snake, so I’ll be sure […]

I love it when famous authors agree with me about things 😉 For example, what Mr Warner says about similes in this excellent interview is exactly what I’ve been saying for years: you just have to be careful with them. There’s also great advice about planning novels and the truthfulness of stuff that’s made up. Enjoy. […]

Today is the end of another academic year and so it’s a fond farewell to all those who have reached the end of Consolidating Your Skills,  the end of the sequence of courses. If you’ve done them all that’s 56 sessions and 19 assignments over two years, i.e. a lot of hard work. Well done – think of all you’ve achieved […]

Cliches: we all use them but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t crass, lazy and dumb – especially when used in writing. Good writers avoid them, or at least excise them before publication. One writer even went to war on them (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_Against_Clich%C3%A9).    Anyway, I’ve been thinking about them lately because Ivor in the Saturday […]

Good to know Creative Writing for Writers is setting the literary agenda: no sooner do we discuss Middlemarch in class than a handy article about it turns up in the Guardian. Despite repeating Virginia Woolf’s asinine yet oft-quoted remark about the book, it’s a useful account of a novel described by some as the greatest written in English:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/10/100-best-novels-middlemarch-george-eliot […]

Manna in the Friday advanced class wants you all to know about this – it’s definitely not a bad prize for a mere 600 words:    https://www.celebrate-scotland.co.uk/information/writingcompetition/ Incidentally, a number of students have been finding their way into print by sending articles to this magazine, so well done to everyone who has managed it so […]

Now that the advanced class focus groups have started, this kind of criticism – the sharp, nasty kind – is not required thank you very much. Fun to read, though perhaps not so nice if you’re on the receiving end . . .       http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/14/hatchet-job-award-payback-critics   Still, criticism can have a useful function: here Clive […]

For those of you who are contemplating the mid-term assignment for the advanced course (particularly the 2 x 1000 words option), or for those who’ve just completed the beginners’ course and need something to keep them going, try this for inspiration: http://www.nationalgalleries.org/education/competitions-3740/inspired-get-writing-creative-writing-competition-20132014 The competition rules on the web page will tell you what’s required and there’s […]

I can’t find any pronouncement the great man made about the writing process itself, but here’s the link to the Radio Four programme about the Gettysburg Address that I mentioned in last Friday’s advanced class. The passages about Lincoln’s drafting of the speech are particularly interesting and just go to show that even literature created by the greatest […]

When we think of ‘writing’ the emphasis often falls on fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Occasionally we think of scripts, but very rarely lyrics. And yet lyrics are possibly the most influential and inspirational of all forms of literature, because they’re kind of in the air and we can absorb them without really thinking about it. You’ve […]

 . . . but now I’m back.’ There’s a bag of Tangfastics waiting for anyone who can guess the source of that quote. (Clue: it’s right in front of your face.) Of course, some present at last week’s Using Your Senses classes may never wish to endure a Tangfastic again. They’re definitely a love or […]

The submission deadline for the 32nd edition of this annual collection, a venerable fixture on the Scottish writing scene, is a month today: 30 September. It’s open to all types of writing and is usually edited by a well-known name in Scottish writing. It’s well worth entering, so if you have something that’s been lying around […]

A reminder that the second part of The Sins of Literature is available to hear on the Radio 4 website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0383hsr  This edition is concerned with how writers go about their business, the benefits of solitude and so forth. Will Self has been the stand-out of the series for me so far and his advice this […]

Sounds like a good rule for life, and particularly for writing. It’s also the title of the first part of a new Radio 4 series, ‘The Sins of Literature’. If you haven’t heard it already click on the link below – you still have a day or two before they take it off the site. […]

If you’ve attended the Creative Writing for Writers class on editing – the summer group took it this morning – you’ll remember this guy from the Charlie Brooker clip I like to show in that session (see my post of 22 February to replay the clip). He’s the one who says the secret of writing […]

Hmmm, it really depends on your personal taste. In any case, I know plenty of you are interested in writing non-fiction so here’s a link to a competition being run by Glasgow University, looking for short ‘narrative non-fiction’ pieces. They define that term – and exactly what they’re looking for – here: http://www.gla.ac.uk/research/competition/ Thanks to […]

Here’s another two you can enter! Deadlines – 28 and 31 July respectively.  http://www.bloodyscotland.com/competition/terms-and-conditions/?utm_source=Registration+of+interest&utm_campaign=1c5c8a0f11-The_Second_Newsletter6_12_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_edd4b951d3-1c5c8a0f11-44020881   http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/reading/treasures/tell-us-about-your-treasure      

Scottish Book Trust has announced that it is now taking applications for the New Writers Awards, basically a bursary of £2,000 plus a week in a writers’ retreat, some mentoring and other useful things. It’s open to anyone over 18 and there are 10 winners. As a recipient of a New Writers Bursary myself – back […]

 . . . but when you consider the Kindle sales this author has been achieving, the numbers stack up to a very decent pile of cash. Apparently Amazon award its self-publishing e-book authors a 35% or 70% royalty, depending on cover price, and this guy has been getting sales of 300 to 3,000 e-books a […]

Keep Writing ended last Thursday and Consolidating Your Skills on Friday. Hopefully I’ll see most of the Keep Writing students again in October for Creative Writing for Writers (don’t let things slide in the meantime guys), but it was a fond farewell to those who have taken the full sequence of courses over the last […]

But I don’t go on my holidays until September. In the meantime, the current courses have a session to go and I’ll be teaching three six-week courses from late June through to August – see my updated ‘creative writing courses’ page for details. Previous students are always welcome back, but if you’d rather go abroad […]

In Keep Writing last week I mentioned the concept of ‘found poetry’, a loose term covering various methods of creating poetry using pre-existing texts.    If you want to know more, the best place to start is the wikipedia entry on it – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Found_poetry – this explains the background and explores an unexpected connection between found […]

Last week’s Consolidating Your Skills session covered an aspect of writing that’s become pretty much integral to the working lives of professional authors – reading to an audience. But there’s no reason why those in print should get to hog the limelight as there are plenty of opportunities for unpublished writers too. Listed below are […]

Over the first two weeks of the Consolidating Your Skills course there’s been reference to the way cinema tells stories and what prose writers can pick up from that. This article discusses how stories work in terms of film, but just about all of it can apply to prose fiction. It’s a long read – […]

Students who started the Keep Writing course last week will now be on their sixth day of drumming up two daily pages of raw material. Me too. We’ll find out tomorrow how we’re all getting on, but in the meantime I’d like to post a reminder of why we’re doing this. The aim of the […]

. . . allegedly. The sun is shining yet it’s still only five degrees. But never mind the weather: the only certainty is the start of spring term next week. I’ll be starting early with an event at Aye Write on Saturday morning (booked out), but the fun at Strathclyde Uni begins this coming Tuesday, 16th April. I’m […]

Some opportunities that should be of interest . . .  GutterDeadline: 30th AprilGutter now invites submissions of up to 3,000 words of fiction (short stories, novel extracts) or 120 lines of poetry. Preference will be given to provocative work that challenges, re-imagines or undermines the individual or collective status quo. We are also interested in […]

Every March I ask students on the advanced courses to bring in poems of their choice to read out in class. The resulting sessions are a bit like Dead Poets’ Society, except no one does anything embarrassing like stand on their desk or invite Robin Williams. Instead they’re a good way to be reminded that even […]

‘The trick is to get a sentence down, because once you have one sentence down you know you can write another.’ Straightforward advice from one of Britain’s most popular and prolific authors, and good words to round off the advanced course this year. She has plenty of other useful things to say in the interview […]

Term is drawing inexorably towards its conclusion, the sun is setting on the current classes, and soon you will be left with only the fond memories of your classmates and the blinking cursor on your computer screen for company. That is, until next term starts in mid-April. If you’re short of ideas in the meantime, […]

We had readings of this lyric/poem/short story in both the Saturday and Thursday classes over the last week – the link below will take you to the recorded version. In his great book about the Beatles, Revolution in the Head, the music critic Ian MacDonald called the song ‘imperishable popular art of its time’, which sounds about […]

As if Julian Barnes talking about sex scenes wasn’t serendipitous enough, the Costa prize-winning Scottish novelist A.L. Kennedy was also on the radio this week, discussing her writing and her editorial process. Members of the advanced classes may remember I quoted her on the latter subject in the session on editing a few weeks back, […]

Funnily enough, the day after the subject of sex scenes was discussed in last Tuesday’s advanced class this article appeared in the Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/mar/06/good-sex-literature-julian-barnes The article was a trailer for a radio talk Booker prize-winning novelist Julian Barnes delivered the following Monday (Peter from Friday’s class also spotted him publicising this in the current […]

This guy’s great, even when he says things like ‘I’m against story’ – at least it makes you stop to consider what ‘story’ is. He also says ‘finish what you start’, which is the best advice you could ever hear. If you haven’t listened to his podcast, listed here on 28 January, do try to […]

The programme for this year’s Aye Write festival at the Mitchell has just been published – lots on, including writing workshops on various topics (yours truly is taking the beginners class on 13 April – all welcome if you’d like a refresher session!). http://www.ayewrite.com/programme/Pages/default.aspx The programme also features an event showcasing the creative writing masters […]

Follow this link for more from the episode of Screenwipe shown in this week’s advanced class on editing. Also useful for those in beginners who have just done scriptwriting. The episode is split into ten minute chunks – at the lower right of the screen below press the playlist button and scroll along to clips […]