Jack Maggs: A problem of expectations

The problem with Jack Maggs (Kindle) isn’t really a problem with the novel – it’s the expectations it’s sold with. The description suggests it’s a “variation on Great Expectations, in which Dickens’s tale is told from the viewpoint of Australian convict Abel Magwitch which isn’t really what I got. What I expected was a close relation. What I got was more like a third cousin twice removed. There are similarities; Maggs is a convict, transported for life, and has made good in Australia. He’s given a young man, Henry Phipps, a good education and a home to live in (which Maggs …

12 into 13: headspinning review

I hope that, when I look back over my writing career, I recognise 2012 as an important year. I think quite a bit has changed in the way I approach writing, and it’s starting, in small ways, to pay off. If you’d asked me, I’d have always said I wanted to write – but anyone can say that they want to write a book. In fact, I’ve got four half-novels and a dozen quarter-short stories on my hard drive, but very little actual finished work. During 2012, though, I have finished three short stories, self-published, on kindle, one previously written, and …

How to get started on a story

At work this week, following a busy summer that’s left me feeling like I didn’t really have a holiday at all, we’ve been looking at their creative writing. Their task is to build towards a short story using a poem as a springboard for ideas. Towards the end of the week, we came across an interesting stumbling block that made me think a bit more about stories in particular, and what they are intending to write. We were writing the opening of a story using techniques gathered from other writers, having looked at examples and what we liked in an …

The Semi-Colon

I was reading James Scott Bell’s Writing Fiction for All You’re Worth: Strategies and Techniques for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level on my holiday (excellent – the only sunny week of the summer and we were in Kent!) and came across these comments: “Do not use semi-colons. They are tranvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” – Kurt Vonnegut “For non-fiction, essays and scholarly writing, the semi-colon does serve a purpose; I’ve used them myself. In such writing you’re often stringing lots of thoughts together for a larger purpose and the semi-colon allows …