Ciaran Carson and Davy Graham

Ciaran Carson, the Belfast poet, died earlier this week. I knew him a little bit, and admired him immensely. The one time I went to dinner at his house, he was editing The Yellow Nib, a literary magazine. As we ate, we talked about music. He was a professional – could pick up a penny whistle […]

Writing and Shit – part 13 – Exactly how not to begin your short story

Most of the examples I have given so far have been quite straightforward, unsubtle. The idea of the runaway bride, although something you might be happy to gossip about, may be the kind of on-the-surface, twisty story that you would never allow yourself to write. But I think that the idea of Story-Time, and of […]

Writing and Shit – part 12 – The Epic Flipchart of Will It? Won’t it?

I’d like to move on from my two definitions of a story, but do keep your marked up story-start because we’ll be going back to it. I have tried very hard to find another way to talk about this next bit that avoids the phrase ‘Story-Time’. It has associations – not bad associations – of […]

Patience, and some useful quotations about it and other subjects (for writers and readers)

For a long while, Patience was going to have an epigraph – on the first page of the novel; before ‘1979’ and ‘Please be patient with me’. But I cut it. It was this Franz Kafka aphorism: There are two cardinal human sins from which all others derive: impatience and indolence. Because of impatience they […]

Writing and Shit – part 11 – Make it wronger

I am now going to give you a second definition of a story that, I hope, will from now on, forever after, make it easier for you to write stories that don’t just start but that go on through exciting, intensifying middles and reach satisfying, unpredictable ends. The second definition doesn’t undermine or contradict the […]