Discussions: The Best 20 Books From The Last Two Decades?

Fourth Estate, 2010.

Fourth Estate, 2010.

Vintage, 2004

Vintage, 2004

This week, the Independent published a list of the best novels from the past two decades. A panel of literary experts have put together the list which helped mark the 20th Anniversary of the Bath Literature Festival.

The list was topped by Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel which has ‘transformed the literary landscape’ according to artistic director, Viv Groskop.

I have to admit, I’ve only read one of the books listed below and that is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (which I very much enjoyed.) There are a few that are on my TBR pile though. Do you agree with this list?


Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

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Only One Book?

rp_Jornal-300x18011.jpgToday’s discussion – Are you able to only pick one?

We will read many things in our lifetime, get engrossed in many stories, care about a variety of characters as if they were real people – friends we’ve known, loved or lost and we will visit lands and countries without even leaving our homes.

Books have that magical ability to completely transport us to somewhere else. Novels give us a glimpse into another world.

Of course, if you ask anyone who is into reading, they will probably be able to list many books that they have enjoyed or not liked and will give you many reasons for their decisions.

There are also so many lists Continue reading

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E-Readers Vs Bookshops

rp_Jornal-300x1801.jpgWill e-readers spell the end for bookshops?

With the invention of the e-reader and companies like Amazon, Kobo and the iTunes stores giving us instant access to books, it’s making it easier to get books without even having to leave our homes.

Bookshops and Libraries have struggled as a result – the latter suffering closures due to budget restraints and Borders was certainly an example of a high street store losing the pricing war with the online retailers.

We have seen many well-known stores disappear from the high street in recent years. Places like Woolworths, HMV and Blockbusters have all struggled and failed to stay ahead of the game when it comes to keeping up with online rivals like Love Film and Netflix. Even supermarkets are posing a big threat not only to them but to bookshops.

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Only Six?

How many of these have you read?

rp_Jornal-300x18011.jpgThere are many  surveys about how many books you should have read. Everyone’s list will be different. The BBC (probably based on an average thing,) have claimed that you would have only read six of these hundred books listed. I spotted about fourteen that I’ve read (that’s if you count The Harry Potter series as a whole.) There are a few I’d like to read ( I turn my head in shame at some of the titles that are on this part of the list,) and then some others that I have no interest in at all and will probably never read – War and Peace for example. That’s not my cup of tea. How about you? Which ones have you read? Are there any you feel should be on this list but aren’t?


Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Persuasion – Jane Austen

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis Continue reading

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Stick With What You Know?

As a new author, should you stick to what you know? 

rp_Jornal-300x1801.jpgSo you want to write a book? You have an idea, so now what? I have read so many fantastic books through my life so far. I have read romance, mystery, crime and historical novels and the one thing they have in common is that the author makes the act of writing a book look so easy… of course, it isn’t. It can be rewarding and fun but can be frustrating; sometimes banging your head against a brick wall seems more productive than trying to complete the word count you’re trying to write. 

Writing what you know may in many ways make it easier, right? Does it though? Yes, I think in some ways it can. Having previous knowledge of something adds depth to a plot or character.

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Which Classics?

rp_Jornal-300x1801.jpgWhich Classic Novel Should You Read?

There are many novels that are considered classics. When I began to list the ‘great novels,’ it amazed me to see how many of them I’d not read. Despite reading many things about it, I’ve not read A Catcher in the Rye. I own a copy but have never got past that. It just sits on my shelf hoping that one day I will get around to reading it.

Lord of The Rings is another example. I read The Fellowship of The Ring but then gave up in the middle of The Two Towers and never got to The Return of The King. I decided to watch the movies instead.

There are many other great novels Continue reading

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A Novel Ending?

DiscussionsWhich Novel Has The Best Ending?

The beginning of any book is important. That first sentence is used to draw your reader into your story, but it’s usually the ending of the book that stays with me. The great ones have you thinking about them long after you’ve read that last page and put the book down.

The Hunger Games is one example. A surprising ending (especially with the changes in power. I don’t want to give too much away,) and as a consequence, one that I am still thinking about and I finished that in the middle of last year.

I adored the ending to PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. I was sad that Gerry was gone but optimistic that Holly was going to be OK.

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Right Casting?

DiscussionsDoes it ever live up to expectation? 

When I write, I cast my characters. I find it helps to develop the person in my head. I also like to have a clear vision when I am reading a book. Imagination is great as it allows for so many possibilities. I try to read the book before I see any kind of adaptation, otherwise, I can’t visualise the characters correctly – as was one of my problems when I tried to read Twilight. 

I watched the trailer for the upcoming release, Continue reading

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At Which Point Can You Call Yourself A Writer?

When Can You Call Yourself A Writer?

When Can You Call Yourself A Writer?

When Can You Call Yourself A Writer? 

I have been trying to write a novel for a while but I would still class myself a beginner. It’s a big step to go from an idea for a novel or a short story to getting it down on paper. Getting it out to a publisher is an even bigger step. 

When people ask me what I do, the voice in my head wants to scream out loud, ‘you’re a writer.’ However, I find myself trying to hide the fact that I am a writer and so I will omit it from any job description Continue reading

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Setting Writing Goals?

Are setting goals important or a distraction? 

Many writers approach their writing in many different ways. Some plan whilst others wing it. Others set goals when others wait to see what happens.

Setting goals is important for me. I lack focus when I don’t have something to work toward, like a deadline. I don’t have the discipline to not set goals.

I find them important.

That’s not to say I am not always good at keeping my deadlines  Continue reading

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Do You Keep a Diary or a Journal?

JournalDiaries or Journals have always been a popular thing to keep.

I have kept a diary on and off since I before I was a teenager. If something is bothering me, I tend to want to write it down. This is common practise amongst many – whether it’s to work through an issue or simply to keep a memory of your life at the time of writing. Some write for themselves and others write on a blog for public viewing. My blog tends to be about general thoughts and opinions Continue reading

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Opening Lines



The Top Ten Opening Lines… 

I recently found an article from The Guardian from April 2012, about the best opening lines in fiction. The first sentence of a book sells it. It can be the difference between someone buying your book and putting it back on the shelf, or deciding to carry on and finish. 

There are many first lines I like, one of my favourites is the line from Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of the most famous ones for sure. Below is the list of the ten from The Guardian. Do you agree? Are there any that aren’t in there that should be? 


James Joyce: Ulysses (1922)

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” This is the classic third-person opening to the 20th-century novel that has shaped modern fiction, pro and anti, for almost a hundred years. As a sentence, it is possibly outdone by the strange and lyrical beginning of Joyce’s final and even more experimental novel, Finnegans Wake: “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”

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Which Fictional Character Would You Be?

Which fictional character would you be?

Which fictional character would you be?

There are many fictional characters but which one would you want to be? 

Being a big reader I meet so many amazing characters. At the end of The Fault in Our Stars, I had fallen in love with Hazel and Augustus. I want to have a drink with Bridget Jones and I want to go to Hogwarts with Harry Potter – no, on second thoughts, I want to be Hermione Granger for a day. 

That’s what I love about being a writer. I get to create characters that come alive in my head (it’s like being able to have imaginary friends in adulthood,) even though Carrie, the main character in my current work in progress, won’t shut up. 

It has me thinking… Continue reading

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Your Ideal Christmas Guests

christmas_cake_cakes_birthdayWe’re less than a week away before all of the festive celebrations begin and we’ll be opening presents, seeing family and friends or nestling down in front of the TV or snuggling with a book. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to Christmas so much this year. It has got me thinking about (aside from family and friends,) who I would want to have over for Christmas dinner? Ideal dinner guests is one of the questions I like to ask the most as the answers are always so varied.

Mine would be: Tom Hiddleson (as Loki. It would make it interesting.) John Lennon, Queen Elizabeth 1, JK Rowling and Benedict Cumberbatch (as Sherlock.)

Who would you have over for a Christmas Dinner Party?

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Character Vs. Plot

discussionsWhich one is more important? 

It’s one of the decisions you have to make when sitting down to write a novel. Some books are character driven whereas others are moved along by the strong plot. When you read something like Lord of The Flies for example, it’s ultimately the actions of the characters that drive the plot. I am still trying to figure out which one should come first but saying that, my main character is strong-minded so if I had to choose at the moment, I would say character is more important. 

Which one do you think is more important when writing a novel? Which one do you tend to focus on more? 

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Edit as You Go

speechbubble-225x300It is becoming clearer to me that, the more of my book I write, the more I am finding that I am the type of writer that needs to get the draft finished before I go back and edit a word. Stopping and reading what I’ve written as I go is only serving to slow me down and it is, a lot.

Each writer handles editing slightly differently and I am always interested to know how each does so because no two answers are the same.

How do you approach editing? Do you wait for a draft? Do you edit as you go?

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Top Five

novelkicksdiscussionsI’ve been trying to complete the GoodReads challenge for a couple of years now (I set a low goal and then reset it too high.) It has got me thinking though, about all the books I have read in my life, so far. There have been dozens, from The Mallory Towers series and The Sweet Valley High books that I used to read religiously when I was at school to now where I have read varied genres. 

I have enjoyed many books (and there haven’t been many where I’ve not managed to get to the end,) and my top five will change on a regular basis. However, when I think about my top five at this moment, they are, in no particular order… 

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Routine or Inspiration?

speechbubble-225x300The more I write, the more it’s becoming obvious to me that I am the kind of writer that needs routine. If I don’t write every day, a week or sometimes a month will pass and my word count will be sat at zero.

There are days when the words pour onto the page and others where even getting to a hundred words is like taking a walk through treacle but it’s still a hundred words more than I had before I started. However, is it a waste of my time to write for the sake of getting words down on paper? Continue reading

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Different Endings?

speechbubbleMany of us have been at the end of a book willing it to end a certain way. Sometimes, it does and then other times, a twist will send it in another direction and we won’t see the ending coming.

Some endings are brilliantly done and others disappoint. I either shut the book happy with how it finished or thinking, ‘I wouldn’t have ended it that way.’

Harry Potter, for me, ended the way I hoped in some ways but I wasn’t ever keen on the ‘many years later,’ chapter. I can understand why JK Rowling decided on that course  but I maybe wouldn’t have gone that far into the future. I loved the end to The Hunger Games trilogy and thought it ended where it should have (although it would have been great to see Peeta completely returned to his old self.)

Which book have you read where you got to the end and thought, I would have ended it differently? Why?

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Third or First Person?

speechbubbleIt’s a decision every writer has to make. Third person or first person? I am going from one to the other at the moment, trying to decide which one fits best and, to be honest, which one I find the easiest to write and I’m at a bit of a loss.

 I find the first person good for getting into the head of my character but is third person better for an inexperienced writer? I’ll write one way for a while and then switch, not being able to decide which one is better for me and which one suits my story. 

Which one do you find the easiest? Do you favour one over the other? 


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Would You Use A Pseudonym?

speechbubblePseudonym’s are used by many authors when publishing work. JK Rowling caused a media storm when she became Robert Galbraith. Was it a publicity stunt or was she simply giving her writing a chance for a fair review?
Ruth Rendell has also been known as Barbara Vine, Charlotte Bronte was Currer Bell and Nicci French is actually the husband and wife team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.
I can see the benefit of pseudonym’s especially if, like Rowan Coleman and Sophie Kinsella, you’re writing in more than one genre.
Have you used a pseudonym? What made you choose to use one? Would you ever consider using one in the future? If so why? If not, why?

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Casting Characters.

speechbubbleDespite the fact that I am at the beginning stages of my novel, I do have an idea of what my characters should look like. I do like to have a visual idea of my characters physical attributes and therefore, I cast them. 

For example, my main character, Carrie, looks a little like Ginnifer Goodwin when she was in Something Borrowed. My male lead is the lovely Tom Hiddleston (not with the Loki haircut though.) Carrie’s ex boyfriend is currently Patrick Dempsey (not that the character is as nice as Dr. Shepherd.) 

I find casting them helps me. Do you cast your characters? Do you find it helps? Do you not cast them and why? 

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Which one?

books-clipartThere are many books that could be put into my top ten (far too many for me to pick just ten.) It depends on my mood. However, not many have stuck with me. I can remember what song I was listening to the most when I read The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. Bridget Jones Diary because, at the time I read it, it struck a chord and I will always have a place for the Malory Towers books as my sister used to read them to me.

Is there one I’d wish I’d written?  I’m pretty sure, somewhere along the line I wished I’d come up with Harry Potter because of the intricate connections between the books. The Help had such strong, female characters. Bridget is such a loveable heroine. I’d like to be able to produce something that have the elements I liked about these books.

Is there one book that you wish you’d written?

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Self Publish or Publisher?

speechbubbleI’m in the middle of writing my first novel. Although I know I shouldn’t get caught up in the publishing side before even finishing the book, it’s hard not to think about it a little.

With the creation and rise of e-books, it’s made publishing and marketing your own novel more accessible.

When the time does come, I’m not sure how I will approach it. Self publishing means that I am not putting myself through possible rejection from publishers and agents. Having said that however, any book benefits from an editor’s eye.

Which one have or would you choose and why? Have you already self published? If so, what are the good and bad points? Do you think a more traditional route is the better option?

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Would You Like To Write A Book?

writeanythingFrom the time I was a small child, I’ve loved creative writing but it wasn’t until I was about eighteen that I thought about writing a whole novel – that the idea that writing one wasn’t just something other people did. So many people claim that they could write a novel but a surprisingly small number actually do. It’s not as easy as it looks when you get down to writing one. 

Since then, there have been so many technological developments. The creation of ebooks has meant that it’s easier to self publish rather than going down the traditional route of finding an agent and then a publisher but both hold their good points and their difficulties. For me, it’s been very easy to get wrapped up in worrying about that stage when I’m still in the middle of writing the novel. 

Are you’re interested in writing a book or do you have one finished? What would you write about? Fiction or nonfiction? How might you get started? Would you rather self-publish or get a book deal with an established publisher? What’s the difference, to you? Is there a downside to self-publishing? 

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Adapting book into film?

3655917-book-pages-film-stripWhen I read, I really tend to get into the story. I imagine what the characters look like, the environment they live in – my brain tries to fill in as much detail as possible. I think that’s why, when I see an adaptation of some of the books which are my favourites, I can be disappointed. The Lovely Bones was an example. I cried my eyes out (on my break whilst at work. It wasn’t my best look,) but the film just wasn’t how I pictured it and plus, some stuff was changed. 

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic was another. I liked the film adaptation but it just wasn’t as magical as the book was when I read it. 

However, Bridget Jones’ Diary is one of my favourite film adaptations along with Harry Potter. 

Which film/book adaptation did you like? Dislike? Is there an adaptation you wished they’d not done or one you hope someone does adapt into a film? 

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Which Book Made You?…

books-clipartI have always been a big reader and would quite happily swop TV for a book. Waterstones have recently asked ‘Which Book Made You?’ 

It got me thinking, Did they mean my favourite? The one that I can’t stop thinking about years after I’ve finished reading? There were a few possible answers for me.

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Who’s Coming To Dinner?

dinnerplatecartoonIt’s a question I ask all of the authors I interview as I am always intrigued by the answer. Everyone’s choices are so varied and different. I have often wondered who I would invite over if I could have a dinner party and invite anyone. 

It changes all the time but I think, at the moment, I would love to invite, John Lennon (I am a Beatles fan and the man fascinates me,) Queen Elizabeth I (the woman was amazing,) JK Rowling (so we could talk about Harry Potter and writing,) and my husband (as he always make me laugh – plus, he’s not a bad cook.) 

Who would you have over to dinner? 

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Music and Books


Music and books are two of my favourite things. Music tends to be on in the background and it’s amazing how much of a help it’s been when I’ve been trying to write. Music can inspire as much as books can. I think my favourite album to write to at the moment is + by Ed Sheeran. How about you? Which songs, artists, albums or types of music do you listen to whilst writing or reading? 

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Why Do You Write?

writer-word-typewriterMany people proclaim at some point that they would like to write a book. A surprising few will then go on to actually write a novel.

Being a writer is not easy. Writing  a novel takes hard work, perseverance and patience.

So…why do you write? What reasons do you have for wanting to become a writer/author?

How do you write? In silence or do you prefer noise? Do you prefer longhand or typing?

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Three books and a desert island…



If I were to be stranded on a desert island (and I couldn’t request a boat to get back to mainland again) I would wants books with me so I could sit in the sun. 

I ask this question a lot as the varied answers interest me. 

I’ve been thinking about the three books I would want to choose. Would I want books I love but have read before or would I risk taking three that I’ve not read but always wanted to? 

Which three books would you want with you on a desert island? 

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Which fictional character is your favourite?

fictional charactersOne of the things I love most about reading is the characters that you get to meet. If you are anything like me, there are many that you wish you could meet in real life.

As a writer, one of the most exciting things is creating the character and getting to know them. Eventually, you hear their voice in your head and they become your friends.

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What’s your favourite book?

book-pileI have loved reading since I was a child. The first book I can remember reading were the Winnie The Pooh stories and the love of books has just continued to grow into adulthood. 

I do go through periods where I don’t read much (but not very often) and would much rather have my head in a book than channel hop on the TV. 

I don’t think I could say which book has been my favourite. There are many that have had an impact on me or remind me of a particular point in my life – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood reminds me of my last year at school (as that’s when I read it,) and Ralph’s Party by Lisa Jewell will remind me of the time I was in the first few months of the relationship with the man who’s now my husband. 

What’s your favourite book? Is there one that has remained with you and jolts the memory? 

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Do you have to read to be a writer?

leather-book-previewI have been an avid reader much longer than I have wanted to write. From the time I was little, books were a way to use my imagination and to extend my understanding of the world. Plus they were a good way to escape into another world for a while.

When I was a teenager, I read anything from the Sweet Valley High books, to Anne Fine to Judy Blume. I could be found with my head in a book much more than watching TV (which is strange considering I now watch TV for a living.) 

I couldn’t imagine trying to write without reading as many books as I do. Many writers I have spoken to say that reading is an important pastime for anyone who is looking to write a novel. 

Do you agree? Do you have to be a big reader to be a writer? 

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To plan or not to plan?

PlotI’ve been trying to write my first book for a while now. I submitted a few chapters of it to the RNA New Writers scheme last August and the feedback told me that I should know my characters and to go back to the beginning and research them (even if certain details don’t end up in the book.) It also didn’t help that through panic, I rushed the writing process… a lot.  Continue reading

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Do you have to blog to be a writer?

blogBlogging has become very popular over the past few years. I have a blog (although I don’t update it as much as I should do.) I take part in A Round Of Words in 80 days and it’s used primarily to check in with that. Some people find plenty to say whereas I struggle. I’m certainly not a natural when it comes to knowing what to blog about.

Many writers, along with their website, have blogs as well as Twitter and Facebook pages. Blogging is a good way of keeping people informed and for me, as a new writer, I find it’s a good way to continiously practise my writing skills too.

Do you need to have a blog to be a writer? I personally don’t think you do. It’s more of a social tool than a required one where the writing is concerned.

What do you think? Do you need to be into blogging to be a writer?

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Film Vs Book.

Can movie adaptations really do a book justice?

Summit Entertainment, Mr.Mudd, Entertainment One.

Summit Entertainment, Mr.Mudd, Entertainment One.

I am a fan of both film and novel. However, i am always a little sceptical when I see films that have been adapted from novels especially if it’s a novel I have read and loved.

Many films have been adapted from novels, The Silver Linings Playbook and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower are just two examples from last year.


I love reading but I find that if I see a movie before reading the book then I find it difficult to read the book on which the film is based (The Time Travellers Wife.) I also find that if I read the book and then see the film, if it’s not been adapted well,  I sit there the entire time comparing the film to the book.

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Trisha Ashley’s advice for new writers…

I often hear people say they’re going to write a novel…eventually, when they retire, or the children have left home (do they ever, these days?) and they have the right computer, or pen, or the wind is coming from the south west…Trisha Ashley

I’ve never really understood this, because if you’re a writer, you write.  You burn to write. It’s part of who you are. And its fun, too – in fact, Stephen King says writing is the most fun you can have on your own and he’s quite right.

Perhaps it’s a fear of failure or success, but you won’t experience either unless you actually get the words down on the page, so why not start today?  If your writing U-bend needs unblocking first, you should read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and all will soon be flowing freely.  And  I’m going to quote Stephen King again (you should read his book, On Writing) when he says that you should write your first draft with the study door closed, i.e., just for yourself, then the second draft with the door opened, rewriting it with an eye to your readers.   That’s great advice – write with a red-hot pen, let the words rush out onto the page, then hone and polish till it sparkles.

For those going the traditional route and submitting to agents or publishers, a little market research in the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook beforehand can work wonders, so that you’re submitting to an agent or editor who actually handles/publishes the genre of fiction you write.

Of course, to do this you actually need to know what kind of novel you’ve written and make this clear in your synopsis, because if you don’t know, then the agent/publisher certainly won’t.

And once it’s gone, don’t wait for the novel to come back, but crack on with the next one straight away.

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Matt Dunn talks about creating characters.

If there’s one question a novelist (well, me, at least) always gets asked (apart from “where do you get your ideas from?”, to which I always reply “there’s a great website – IdeasForNovels dot com”), it’s “is the central character based on you?”. Matt_reading_EX-BI’m never offended – after all, I don’t write books about serial killers – but though I don’t always like to admit it, the answer is quite often a resounding “yes”.

And I sometimes apply a similar approach to the supporting characters too. There’s a saying that goes something like: “when you write a novel, half your friends will be annoyed because they think they’re in it, and the other half will be even more annoyed because they’re not.” Most authors will probably smile wryly at this, but there’s a reason why, at the front of very novel, you’ll read a disclaimer that says something like ‘any similarity between characters and persons alive or dead is purely coincidental’, and that reason is, well,  because any, ahem, similarity isn’t always, you know, purely coincidental. Well, at least in my books!

Of course, while most of us writers – me included – wouldn’t stoop so low as to completely and accurately reproduce our friends and family in the books we write, it’s probably fair to say that many of us do occasionally ‘borrow’ or exaggerate facets of people we know’s personalities, or pinch things they’ve said, or even the way they speak, in order to give life to characters on the page.

Certainly, the supporting characters in my first two books – Best Man and The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook – were based loosely on friends of mine. At the time – and it was early on in my writing career – it just seemed easier to imagine someone I knew, then just write that down. And it seemed to work.

I now know most novelists take a much more formal approach – spending ages writing full character CVs, or even question-and-answer profiles so they know exactly what a character’s like. This works well – I’ve done it myself recently. But strangely enough, I’ve found my best received characters have all had a dose of reality about them.

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