Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I was so inspired after attending the Festival of Writing that today I spent my train ride to London writing a to-do list. It’s the sort of thing people often do in the morning, although I expect my one was a little different.

This is what it contains:-

Create more conflict in the office.

Introduce more chaos.

Research mind control drugs such as Rohypnol and LSD.

Murder someone.

Torture Detective Sergeant Glamis.

Let’s hope no one was looking over my shoulder.


I did something today that will change me for ever. I went to my first ever literary seminar. It was at the Bloomsbury Publishing offices in London and it was amazing. I’m not kidding you when I tell you that there were real authors there, people who have actually written books that the public have read and love and keep in their bookcases. And there I was in the same room as them, I was completely dumbstruck.

I arrived hot and flustered from the Tube in time for wine and nibbles and stood like a wallflower, glass in hand, while the other delegates mingled and chatted around me. I must admit I felt just a little out-of-place. Then we were shepherded into the to the grand old salon which is a beautiful room complete with an enormous book-case which runs the entire length of one wall and which is crammed with Bloomsbury first editions. There we listened to a talk by three established and experienced crime writers.

It was chaired by the very talented Claire McGowan whose debut novel The Fall I couldn’t put down and Anne Zouroudi and James Runcie whose books I can‘t wait to pick up.  They gave us tips about plotting, characters and research but more importantly they gave us an insight into their modus operandi as crime writers. I loved every minute of it.

Everyone was friendly too. I said hi to Claire and it’s probably good news that at the time I didn’t know that James Runcie has made a film about J.G Ballard otherwise I might have got a bit scary and stalkery and on top of all that I met lots of other very nice people.

I feel different somehow. I feel like I have come of age as a writer.

Thrower, turner, fettler, dipper.
Pugman, jollyer, sponger, jigger.
Mouldrunner, cod placer, saggar maker’s bottom knocker.

The weather forecast said rain, rain and then more rain, it meant we needed to find something to entertain the kids. Somebody had told us about the Gladstone Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent so we decided to go there. We hoped it would fill a couple of  hours. We ended up staying all day.

The museum is the last untouched example of a North Staffordshire potbank – the small earthenware and china works which dominated the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent for more than two centuries. The six towns – Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton – grew up close to the outcrops of tarry coal that provided the fuel for the bottle ovens which loomed over their rooftops and choked them with ash and soot. Life in the shadow of the potbanks was hard, as was the work within them. Entire families would toil for long hours in dangerous conditions driving the many complex processes that were required to make the wares.

While we were there my kids threw pots and painted vases and roses but the thing that struck me was the poetry. Thrower, turner, fettler, dipper; the names of jobs in the potbank have an earthy resonance, displaying a grim humour in the face of hardship. My favourite; saggar maker’s bottom knocker is the name of the boy who bashed out lumps of coarse local clay inside an iron hoop to form the base of the saggar, a large clay vessel used to contain the ware when it was fired. It was the saggar maker himself who paid the bottom knocker a weekly wage of a pound a week out of his own pay which could be as much as six pounds but the bottom knocker had little hope of earning more for the only route to promotion was through a dead man’s shoes.

Not that he had long to wait, up until as late as 1900 the average age of an adult at death was 46. Thick choking smog, flint and clay dust, lead poisoning and extreme heat from the ovens all took their toll on the workers but life started to improve in the late nineteenth century as various pieces of legislation were brought in to protect the workers. Finally in 1952, the Clean Air Act  forced the smoky bottle ovens to close and changed the landscape around Stoke-on-Trent forever.

The one at the back is a one legged dancer

And if you are wondering why she is called a one legged dancer it is because when small girls worked the large wheel to keep the potter’s wheel turning they would have to stand up high on one leg to reach the top.

I’ve watched fondly as my lead characters have blossomed and grown into beautifully rounded people. I’ve laughed at their jokes, admired their bravery but all the time something has been gnawing away at me. Deep down I know that sooner or later they are going to want to do it.

That’s right. Sometime soon they are going to want to have sex with each other.

Personally I find this terrifying. Not the sex of course but the fact that it’s me who’s going to have to arrange it. This problem has been keeping me awake at nights, not just the thought of writing the scene but also the fact that people I know are going to read it. People like my mother-in-law and my next door neighbour.

I know that for some writers this comes as easily to them as falling off a bike. Erotic Fiction authors seem to be able to do it without so much as a blink. However I have noticed one thing; most Erotic Fiction writers are women whereas six out of eight of last year’s nominees for the Bad Sex Awards awards, a competition held by the Literary Review in the UK, were men. Is this more than a coincidence I wonder?

Maybe I’ll just let them have a little privacy and come back to see how they are getting along on in the morning.

I was just killing time on the internet, searching for images for a book cover when I saw her.  She’d been lurking in my peripheral vision for the last couple of years but then all of a sudden she was right there, standing right before me.  She’s a bit taller than I imagined and so much more striking than I would have ever guessed.  The question is: now that I have seen her will she ever be the same?

I’m a novice writer you see, so when I started to write my main character I sought help from a wide range of teach-yourself-to-write books.  You know the type, they said things like:

Why not write a potted biography of each character?  – Do what? That’s all very well and good if you’ve got the time but I’m writing a book you know, when am I supposed to do fancy things like that?

Well, they said, how about interviewing them? You never know they might give you some really witty answers. It’ll be a fun learning experience for both of you.  –  Yeah right! Who do you think I am? Piers Morgan? I’m too busy trying to get my character to walk across the kitchen and open the fridge without them, me and my readers dying of boredom on the on the way.

Anyway I ignored all that advice and I just carried on writing instead, which I suppose was a good thing because up until now my character has grown up nicely.  The thing is though, I only had a vague idea of what she looked like, but I do now and its causing me all sorts of worries, things like: Is the life I plotted out for her going to fit her image? Does her name fit her face? In some ways I wish I’d never seen her.