Last of the Summer Manuscripts

August is not a great time to ‘aggressively promote a brand’—to use one of the corny buzz phrases that parasites into the vulnerable mind of any go-getting freelancer. People are keener on taking vacations than having their novels cut up and surgically stitched back together for the prospective discerning, if brutal, attention of agents and publishers. Nonetheless, it is an undertaking (or, more loftily, vocation) to which I am currently committed.

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Metaphysics & Gossip

Aside from utopias and related genres, the metaphysics of stories is my most enduring monomania—one I can precisely trace to a single influence. During my formative journey through such topics as ontology, aesthetics and philosophical anthropology, the British writer Raymond Tallis was key. And in his incisive early essay ‘Notes Towards a Manifesto for a Novel of the Future’, collected in The Raymond Tallis Reader, he begins with a statement to which I often return, ‘In my more honest moments, I am inclined to admit that I find only two things in the world truly fascinating: metaphysics and gossip.’ It’s an arresting dichotomy that demands unpacking.

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Writing Tips: Character and Place

Attempts to address setting too frequently focus on description, but if we read a piece on characterisation that stopped at how to evoke X’s roman nose or Y’s greying hair, we might suspect something is missing. Settings and characters make similar demands on the writer, and it is true that a good setting can function structurally much like a character. When you start a novel, short story or play you have to ask how many characters you include (from zero up), their relationships, histories, story-arcs and temperaments. Likewise, will there be one setting or many? That choice can significantly alter the mood of your book. And if more than one, what is the relationship between the different places? What has occurred there in the past? What is the mood of this meadow or that street? What will change there during the course of the narrative?

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Tales from the Greenhills Review & Other Updates

Just posted my Amazon review for Terry Melia's Tales from the Greenhills, a book that deserves to be widely read. As well as adding it to my own list of available edited work. Currently working on new, exciting editing and preparing to release leaflets for the Rowan Tree website. Exciting days. 

Introductions


Many ideas have coalesced to form my new editing website, RowanTreeEditing. Samuel R. Delany once proposed that ‘it is almost impossible to write a novel any better than the best novel you’ve read in the three-to-six months before you began your own. Thus, you must read excellent novels regularly.’ Delany’s Architectures of Possibility is a book about writing, but it is not a catalogue of clichéd injunctions—show, don’t tell; write what you know—but a prompting to explore and expand literature’s limits. Therefore, between exercises and interviews, he only demands that we read. I hope to accomplish something similar. I will encourage my clients to be bolder, know the histories of their genres, read and then write with greater ambition.

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