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On writing

Greek island inspiration for your first novel

Have you always believed you had a novel in you but never found the courage to put it to the test? How about a week of expert tutoring in the inspirational setting of beautiful Skyros to get you going? THE FIRST NOVEL (17 – 24 July 2016) could be just the kick-start you’re looking for. It combines practical advice on…
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Take a leaf out of Poppy’s book

As novelists we try to create a credible illusion of reality: things happen because things happen, a causal chain of events along an imaginary timeline. And after many years of arranging narrative plot we begin to believe that’s the way things really do happen. That effort leads to success, that good habits lead to better…
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What does the new novelist really, really want?

So you signed up  … or almost did … to the latest Faber Academy six-month ‘Writing a Novel’ course? Or joined me in Spain for the Literary Consultancy’s Literary Adventure? Or emerged triumphant from one of the summer Five Day Short Story courses? Well done – even for that moment of serious consideration. Out of…
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Is ‘scribomania’ a certifiable addiction?

When people want to know why I write, I look at them blankly. It feels like they’re asking me, ‘Why breathe?’ or ‘Why eat?’ And all I can say in reply is that it seems as necessary and sometimes as problematic as either of these life-sustaining activities. For, while it is true that it doesn’t usually…
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To blog or not to blog?

A question to Ask Shelley from Peter, who wants to know whether ‘writing a blog can be considered a good playground for developing a writing style/voice?’ There are three issues to consider here: What is a blog? Do writers need the frivolity of a playground? Is ‘writing style/voice’ a product of nature or nurture? A…
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That vital opening line

This piece is not only about openings, it IS the opening shot in the Faber Academy’s SUMMER 2014 BLOG TOUR, which kicks off on the lively DOT SCRIBBLES site. Here it is for the homebodies: How far can an enticing opening line go towards selling your novel? In the innocent days when writers were advised to…
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Why do we keep writing – and what happens to all those words, words, words?

‘Why do we do it?’ a new writer wants to know. ‘Honestly, Shelley, here I am pouring out words, words, words – attending courses, being mentored, slaving away every moment I can in my quest to shape those words into fiction. What for? What’s my compulsion all about?’ I nod sagely, playing for time. But…
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Recipe for a creative workshop experience

So you’ve signed up for a writing course – or taken the plunge and embarked on a mentoring arrangement? Now you are wondering what the best possible outcome can be? A brilliant novel, obviously. We all want that. And in my work as a tutor/mentor, I have isolated SEVEN VITAL FACTORS that will inspire a…
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Down with New Year Resolutions for writers

Yes, dear writers everywhere, it’s the time of year when preachiness rules – when we’re told we should resolve to eat/drink less, to exercise more, be kinder and nobler, and to aspire to greater things. And, of course, to finish that novel – or at least get it off to a determined start. There are…
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Flamenco and the art of fiction

I lead a double life. There’s my desk-bound and word-dominated existence in grey London on the one hand. On the other, there is my alter ego: a tempestuous flamenco dancer with flashing eyes, nimble feet, and sinuous fingers. Yes, I regularly transport myself off on imaginary jaunts to hot Andalucía (actually, Chalk Farm), where I…
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Seven pillars of enchantment

A downside of all my manuscript appraisal and creative writing tutoring is that I’ve developed X-ray eyes. Hard as I try, I simply cannot ignore the inner workings of a piece of fiction. It can be a curse – like a kind of visual Tourette’s, irresistibly impacting on my suspension of disbelief. Instead of being…
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It was a great Summer Fiction Booster at the Faber Academy

All fired up and ready to write, write, write – members of the lively group who attended last summer’s Fiction Booster are forging ahead to make this the most creative, productive summer ever.  And for those who couldn’t make this course, watch this space for another chance to have Shelley’s intensive tuition for five full days at the Faber Academy’s home…
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