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Live your subject

Non-fiction writers live their books before they write them. From biography to travel to books about music, art or sheep, for the non-fiction writer the success of the book depends on the research period, which is undertaken as life, rather than work.

So, you cannot possibly write a good book about Bob Dylan unless you have lived, imaginatively or actually, stories analogous to those his songs tell. You would have to be so soaked in his music that it had either accompanied and/or partially directed significant periods of your life. You would know his life story better than you know your own.

For the writer of non-fiction, therefore, writing is actually walking, or interviewing, or listening, or obsessively pursuing a band, or climbing glaciers. The other bit, the making of the book, is just typing really.

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Taking a character for a walk

Begin by inventing ten or twelve separate characters, all different from each other. For each one, choose five…

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Poetic truth

Once, when I was reading a Selima Hill collection, I noticed that she’d used an epigraph by the…

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The Gap Between

I’d like you to do something very simple. Sit back, close your eyes, and try to remember an…

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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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Subjective third person narrative

When I was a child, like most young readers I wanted to identify with the characters in books….

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Magic in the Mundane

A comic is a string of sequential panels that are both literary and visual in their storytelling. Striking the balance between what is said with words and shown with pictures is essential to creating an immersive reading experience. Write a short script for a one-page comic. A practical starting point is to think about a small event that happened to you, for example…

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Strongest Foot Forward

Making a comic involves a host of skills. Remember that when we make comics, we are combining words and images to be read simultaneously. So broadly speaking we need to do at least two things; to write and to draw.

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Rupture the mundane

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but having the perfect thing to write about isn’t actually enough;…

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What is a scene?

Novelists are always told to show, not tell. They are also told to ‘write in scenes’ which means…

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Developing a scene

If you are already writing a memoir, look through the work you have done to date and see…

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Bringing Dramatic Action Into A Scene

The purpose of this exercise is to help us bring dramatic action to our scenes. Firstly we should…

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