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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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Live your subject

Non-fiction writers live their books before they write them. From biography to travel to books about music, art…

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Write towards the discomfort

A very simple act of reversal: conventionally we might begin a writing exercise with a prompt given to…

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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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Veiling the Narrative

Stories are one of the ways we have to make sense of the world.  I’m interested not just…

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Read As If Your Life Depended On It

In What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics the great American poet Adrienne Rich says “You…

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How to plan a chapter

There’s a joke that goes something like this: Q: ‘How do you eat a whale?’ A: ‘One bite…

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Five tips about planning your novel (and a word of warning)

1. It will help you get started A lot of people cling to the romantic idea of a…

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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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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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