Tag Archives: writing


READING LIKE A WRITER by Francine Prose is a gem of a book for those of us trying to hone the craft of writing. Ms. Prose’s advice can basically be boiled down to five points:


  1. Be able to look at a sentence and decide what to cut.
  2. Read your work aloud, listening closely for cadence and rhythm. It’s best to have a group of friends for this activity.
  3. When you read literature, you should be able to trace patterns and make connections. This is the backbone of literary criticism.
  4. Close reading means reading one word at a time WITHOUT skimming. You should develop this habit.
  5. As you slow down to read word by word, ask yourself what sort of information is EACH WORD conveying.


ReadingLikeAWriterThe book is organized into nine chapters, starting with close reading, and going through words, sentences, and paragraphs to narration, character and dialogue, and finishing with details and gesture.


Ms. Prose has wonderful examples from the work of great writers. She uses the party scene from James Joyce’s THE DEAD as an example of “how to orchestrate the voices of the guests into a chorus from which the principal players step forwards, in turn, to take their solos.” She uses the opening sentence of Katherine Mansfield’s THE DAUGHTERS OF THE LATE COLONEL to show how the construction of that opening sentence contributes to the overall tone and theme of the story. She uses the “daring deployment of the incorrect word” in the first sentence of Joyce’s THE DEAD to show how it momentarily puts us in Lily’s point of view.


Yes, Ms. Prose uses lots of examples. Yes, some of them are very long. But as someone who wallows in wonderful writing, I sympathized with how hard it was for her to let go of that marvelous prose. And this was the way that great writers of the past, like Chekhov or Austen learned to write themselves. After all, they didn’t have the opportunity to study for an MFA in creative writing!

For anyone who wants to improve their writing, I highly recommend this book. Five stars.

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Monday Tips: How to Avoid Burnout

Those of you who do yoga, or play the piano, or do a sport know that you have to be patient. Some days are better than others. And it is vitally important to know when to back off, otherwise you could injure yourself.

So it is with book publishing. You have to force yourself to do less than you want to because otherwise you are going to burn out.

Every day, I force myself to carve out two hours in the morning so that I can devote them to my writing. I could easily spend that time marketing my novel. I could easily spend time marketing my novel 24/7.

But I have a husband to think of. And friends. And various other commitments in my life. It is frustrating to come home at 6pm, feeling that you haven’t done much with your day. Naturally, evenings are when I get most of my work done. For example, here I am on a Sunday evening typing this sentence. At two minutes to nine.

But I’m going to quit soon. Not later than 10 pm. So that I can get a good night’s sleep. Don’t forget to do the same for yourself.

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Monday Tips: Do your writing BEFORE you do your marketing

Here is a tip on how to organize your time:  Do your writing before you do your marketing.


I know that’s not what people usually tell you to do. Most people think that you should do the stuff you have to do first, before you get onto the stuff you really want to do.


But I’ve put the writing first, because if I don’t do any writing…I tend to go insane. (Just kidding).


My point is that you should do what you’re passionate about first, before you get on with the stuff you have to do, so that you don’t get resentful.


As always, put the timer on for 1 or 2 or 3 hours, and stop when it beeps. Get up, stretch, do yoga, grab a snack. Then sit down and get on with the marketing, or whatever it is that you really have to do that day.


Having spent some time doing something you really care about, you will find that you’re ready to focus.

Do you have any organizational tips you’d like to share? Feel free to drop a comment in the box below.


Have a great week!



This piece first appeared in the August newsletter. If you would like to read more such tips, or hear about how my progress on THWARTED QUEEN is going, please sign up for the newsletter by clicking on the appropriate link to the right.


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Historical Novel Blogs

When I rummaged around the internet recently, looking for interesting blogs, I came upon three.

History and Women is a quirky blog full of odd tidbits about women’s history with wonderful photographs used as illustration.  It is run by Mirella Patzer, Nan Hawthorne and Greta Marlow.  I do not know Greta Marlow, but Mirella Patzer and Nan Hawthorne are regular contributors to discussion on the Historical Novel Society’s listserv.

Historical Romance UK is full of news about new historical novels, including one that features Margaret Dashwood, the youngest sister in Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. The only problem with this blog is that you have to do a lot of scrolling, as the “excerpts” are really extremely long…. I mean thousands of words long.  Good for a cold winter night when you have nothing better to do and there is only rubbish to watch on the telly.


Reading the Past offers pithy book reviews (one paragraph long) of various historical novels that are on Sarah Johnson’s bookshelf. To judge from the quantity of her reviews, Sarah is a voracious reader, and her website is a treat for those of us who like to find not-so-well-known gems of historical novels.

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