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Read yourself as a stranger

Remember your reading voice, how you sound when you read your own work aloud (assuming that you read aloud as a test of your tone, meter and rhythm)? Well, that is your comfort zone, the place where you create and revise with a degree of tension, agony and exhilaration. You know when you are there. You can feel it, a certain quickening of the pulse and shallowness of breaths that keeps you at your desk. And it is a place where you forget time so that if you check a clock you are surprised by how fast the last hour passed by.

Now do the opposite of that comfortable rigour (not rigor mortis). Read yourself as a stranger. You do not know any of the above. Negate it as a deliberate act. This means you put the poem or prose into a strange font (goodbye Times New Roman and the tyranny of comfort thereof), take your name off it (welcome nameless selves) and read it as if someone else wrote it. The act of reading numerous personas as a stranger opens a critical space in you which allows you to be ruthless with the piece of life before your eyes in ways that provenance of authorship prevents you from doing by making you protective of the work.

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Do a THAT return

Back in the mists of time, when I was working on my very first novel, I received my…

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An Unwriting Exercise

In his essay ‘Cosmopolibackofbeyondism’, Robert Crawford describes the page as a field, and verse the plough that turns…

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Improve your writing through cutting back

If you don’t know how to begin to improve your writing through cutting back, you might like to…

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The importance of rewriting

For many writers, the pleasure of writing comes in rewriting. It is not everyone’s favourite aspect of writing,…

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Find the shape of your story

Pick up one of the books you really like – it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction….

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Shaping the flow of writing

This is very odd, but when it comes to non-fiction I like drawing little pictures of the inner…

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Exploring different third person points of view

Write part of a story in the form of a scene from a play, beginning with a description…

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How to radically rewrite

Word processing has been a gift to writers. No more typing out pages and pages of manuscript, no…

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Reconsider, rewrite

Take a piece of writing. It might be a poem or short story. It might be a play…

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Drafting and editing poetry

Write poetry by hand. Go on, try it, even if you always write directly on the computer. I…

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Mark’s top 3 tips – Critical, forensic and persistent

Watch exclusive this exclusive video from author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark…

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