The keys to successful life writing

There has been a huge growth in life writing and memoirs over the past decade. Suddenly it’s not just the famous who are worth reading about. People who have done amazing things or suffered horrific life experiences have written their stories (sometimes with help) and published them. Readership has also grown. Why do readers love life writing? We love stories. Many people love fiction more than “real life”, but still, a story is a story. We love to feel we are not alone, and we like to read … [Read more...]

Life writing – scary or liberating?

Recently I’ve been teaching a workshop on life writing, so I thought I would share the main points here – both for participants and anyone else who is interested. When we talk about life writing, it can encompass autobiographical, biographical, oral history and memoir, but it means you are drawing on real life. This might be memories, diaries, photographs, interviews – but the key to life writing is, I think, its emotional depth. This is what makes it scary. Especially if you are writing … [Read more...]

5 tips for using your own life in fiction

There are a number of “rules” that writers are told, and one of the most common is “Write what you know”. To counter this, we are also told “Make things up – use your imagination”. Along with those is “Anything can be researched” and “There’s nothing that will help your novel more than actually visiting the place where it’s set”. I’m sure there are many science fiction and fantasy writers who are totally on the side of “make it up”, and there are as many others who insist you only write what you … [Read more...]

Up close and personal: first person POV

This is the first in a short series on the different kinds of POV in writing, how they work and how you can use them to best effect. In simple terms, first person POV uses I, and the story is seen entirely through one character’s eyes, ears and emotions. So I might have a story about Jane, George and Phillip but I tell the story through George’s POV only, using I, and cannot go into Jane or Phillip’s heads. E.g. I tipped my wine onto the white tablecloth. I was right. The red stain … [Read more...]

Why is Point of View important?

For a long time, writers commonly used a point of view that we now most often call omniscient (also called eye of god or camera). It was the POV that saw everything, often in great detail, and rather than dwell on one character, took us into every major character in the story. There was a lot of setting, a lot of authorial intrusion (the author explaining stuff to the reader in various ways) and even times where the reader was directly addressed. More and more now, stories are told in … [Read more...]