Simple ways to generate story ideas

Inspiration, I have discovered, benefits from structure. Good ideas do appear from “nowhere,” but they can also be eased into existence by pre-existing frameworks. Earlier this month I completed a course on fiction writing with Oxford University online. It taught me a really useful lesson about story building. I learnt how to shape a story…

Local flavour in writing

English is an international language of national and regional variety. How a person uses English depends on their background. I’m fascinated by how other local languages affect English use. These languages may make their presence known through word order, vocabulary choice, and turns of phrase. I think it’s particularly interesting to read the English of…

I recommend Oxford’s fiction writing course

Earlier this month I completed a 10-week course on fiction writing with Oxford University’s adult education department. (That’s why this blog has been so quiet recently.) I enjoy studying writing so over the years I’ve taken various courses. In my opinion the Oxford University course is probably the best available online course for learning fiction…

Tips to avoid excluding readers

Yesterday I blogged about tailoring content to meet the needs of specific readership groups. Today I’m blogging about writing for all readership groups. When we write for all readerships our focus changes. We can’t say “what is relevant to my reader’s identity?” We have to say “what might exclude some readers?” This blog post is adapted…

Writing for readership niches

The following is adapted from material I have written for environmentalists. I hope it’s useful to writers on other subjects.  When everything we write supports the message we want to communicate, we have the chance to produce well structured writing. Content that serves no purpose is difficult to place into a coherent, flowing and logical…

Is your writing too defensive?

All writers have bad habits. One of mine used to be addressing invisible critics. I couldn’t write about my ideas without imagining objections to them. This affected how I structured my work. Compare the two essay outlines below. Both are arguments for the convenience of large supermarkets built outside English towns. This is controversial in…

10 ways writing reveals careless companies

How a company uses writing reveals a lot about its workplace culture. Here are some red flags to look out for. If your company is guilty of all 10 sins, it’s a very careless company indeed. Spelling and grammar mistakes on expensive display material. One company I know spent a fortune on large posters for…

Being left out is uncomfortable!

The Sunday newspapers used to be a big thing in my family. Every week my Dad would go to the newsagent’s to buy a tabloid and a broadsheet. Both came as weighty packages of many sections, often wrapped in plastic to keep them together. Dad liked the sports pages, business and news. I enjoyed lifestyle,…

How the Web changed writing

I remember when we all said social media would bring the world together. Troll factories, bullying mobs, and fake news put an end to that idealism! The Web has certainly changed western life since those days. Shops are closing. We don’t need to buy music. We can even start our own writing businesses, using freelance…

Can good writing be taught?

Can good writing be taught? I think so. Two ingredients go into a piece of writing: idea generation and technical ability. Everyone can benefit from tuition in thinking and in written expression. Generating ideas I’m sure there’s no limit to the range of tuition that  improves a writer’s ability to generate ideas. At the moment…

When a non-fiction writer lacks resources

“Cut your coat to suit your cloth” is an English saying. It means make your plans according to your resources. Don’t spend more than you earn. Become an experienced mountaineer before you try Everest. Cutting your coat to suit your cloth is a sensible strategy. We make progress by building on what we already have….

Why word repetition is ok really

As a teenage writer I learnt that it’s good to avoid repeating the same words too often. It became my number one rule. Compare these two examples. The park is my favourite place. Of all the places in London it’s the place I like to visit the most. When friends say they want to go someplace,…