Monday, January 25, 2010


Time to launch my own blog at last and what better than the basic question -
How did I get into writing? Now there’s a long story. I was quite good at essay writing at school but, strangely, when the English teacher set subjects that allowed fictional imagination, he tended to pour scorn on the results. That wasn’t very encouraging.

An aged aunt gave me an even more aged one-finger typewriter with the characters revolving on a little drum and I used it to tap out a science fiction story. It was highly derivative and was inevitably rejected by the one British science fiction magazine then in existence. I think I tore it up.

At college, I wrote a few autobiographical short stories (this was the Angry Young man era) but, again, a few rejections and they were tucked in a drawer to disappear in one of countless changes of accommodation in subsequent years.

Of course, there was writing for student publications at college, for a monthly institutional newspaper in my first job, for press releases and newsletters in publicity jobs, for theatre and film magazines, for careers booklets and videos. But this was all non-fiction much of it interview based. All the while I had a feeling I was no good at writing dialogue and so did not attempt it.

Until I hit a period of slack freelance employment and tried my hand at a humorous science fiction novel a la Douglas Adams. It didn’t work out but got far enough to persuade me I was within striking distance.

Two house moves and another country later, with house-sale proceeds in the bank, I tried my hand at a film script, a Western believe it or not. It was awful. The characters cardboard, their speeches long and turgid. But the next one, for some unknown reason, suddenly the characters were communicating in short, snappy, colourful, humorous dialogue.

I still don’t know what worked the change and it didn’t breed immediate success but it meant that when I tackled the next novel the characterisation and dialogue worked fine, I could handle the description and narrative from years of observation and writing for non-fiction, and the research in many and diverse fields of commerce, industry and commumications gave me masses of material that transposed quite easily across the centuries to Ancient Athens. So experience does have its benefits for a writer.

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