Saturday, 6 May 2017

Latest article in Writing Magazine

My latest 'Beginners' article in May's issue of Writing Magazine is called 'Avoid the Unlikely'.

This title came about because years ago, when I was writing lots of short fiction for women's magazines (during the period known by my wife as the frock years), I used a lovely literary agency, sadly now defunct, run by two agents, Cari and Lesley, who had the most charming way with rejections.

The words they used mostly were 'not very likely', meaning it lacked that certain something, whether depth, colour realism... in fact anything rendering it unlikely to be accepted for publication. And then explained why, which was a lot more helpful than sending a blank rejection slip.

I took this seriously, and carried it into writing my later novels. It made me slightly anal about checking detail, place, geography or anything likely to make a reader throw the book aside in disgust, but that was no bad thing. (A nod of thanks there to Google Earth, Street view, Wikipedia and a host of other sources that help with my research. It takes time to do but it's worth it in the end, even if I do get dragged off-topic endlessly when I spot something totally not to do with what I'm writing. But that's part of the fun). 

In addition, however, the story itself has to make sense in the structure, not simply the detail.

While it's okay when setting your stories against real-world backdrops to bend reality slightly , writing something that is simply not possible or plausible is another matter altogether.

As I learned very quickly, there are some very knowledgeable readers out there, and if I write something that simply doesn't wash, they are likely to write and tell me. Thankfully, that hasn't happened in a long time, if only because I try to avoid the unlikely.

So thank you, Cari and Lesley, for helping turn the unlikely into the likely.

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