On the rare occasions when anyone asks me about my writing, this is what they ask:
Will you read my novel?
Probably best not to. I’ve lost friends through reading their novels. Instead how about uploading your writing and getting feedback from potentially millions of readers by joining Wattpad? Margaret Atwood has written passionate about this global sharing site – you can read her article here. Alternatively if you have a bit of cash to spare, you can send your manuscript to The Literary Consultancy, or a similar service, and get a proper report from a more balanced and tactful person than me.
Can you give my novel to your agent?
No, but if you’ve written a good novel you’ll find an agent eventually yourself. Keep the faith. Publishers and agents need writers. Don’t get hung up on getting an agent though, concentrate on making your book as brilliant as it can be – then you’ll have agents fighting over it.
How can I become a writer?
Have an idea, think what makes this idea a story rather than a theory or an anecdote, then chose who will be your central character and start writing. Don’t stop until you finish the story of this person. Make sure the person and what is happening in their mind stays central to your story, but most importantly finish it. If I could sprinkle any magic writing dust over my students it would be to give them the power to finish everything they start. That matters more than anything.
Is it worth doing an MA in Creative Writing?
Yes, definitely. Not because you’ll be taught how to write (not possible), but because you’ll get time to devote to your writing, you’ll meet others who are as passionate about becoming a writer as you, and because by leaping onto a course you’ll have made a commitment to yourself as a writer.
Did you like the film of My Summer of Love?
Yes, very much. I thought it a beautiful film and I was lucky that a talented film maker liked the book and made it into a film. Still being the author of a book that being adapted into a movie is disturbing. You’re the birth mother and your baby has been adopted and taken far away by wealthier flashier parents – who wonder who the hell you are and why you’re hanging around.
Why do you write radio and film alongside novels?
I have lots of ideas that don’t quite feel like novel ideas. Some are visual or sound-based ideas, that I think will be better expressed in wordless ways I’ve loved films almost as long as I’ve loved books and can’t understand why any storyteller wouldn’t want to explore the dominant way we tell tales in the twenty first century.
What form do you prefer?
Novels. They’re the hardest but to try and get the interiority of a character, their thoughts and secret self is the best buzz – if you can get it right. You really feel like a magician. Everything is down to you. However in recent years I’ve enjoyed audio drama more and more, and am excited by the move towards serialised podcast dramas and have more ideas in the pipeline here.
What would you have been if you’d not been a writer?
When young I was secretly attracted to being an actress and I studied drama at university, but I was scared and nervous about going on stage. Only later when I went to work for the Royal Shakespeare Company did I realise that’s all part of it. All the best actors get nervous. Perhaps there’s still time…
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