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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

How to Write: Tips from Margie Orford

The new Wordsetc cover - 'Crime' issue, featuring Margie Orford #tow10Like ClockworkBlood RoseDaddy's GirlMargie OrfordMargie Orford is best-known as a crime writer – her Clare Hart series, listed here, has gone ’round the world like a rocket – but she has a rather distinguished career writing other types of books, too, which began long before she was crowned SA’s “krimi queen” (cf. the brand-spanking-new Wordsetc – cover shown here). In this regard, we recommend Fabulously 40 and Beyond (with Karin Schimke), Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism: Stories from the Developing World (with Stefan Raubenheimer) and Fifteen Men (with the inmates of the Groot Drakenstein prison).

Here are Orford’s tips:

  1. It is not possible to set out to write a hit. Readers are smart: they can tell a con at fifty paces.
  2. So, feel with your body, write with your heart, edit with your head.
  3. Write about what you know, but if you don’t know something then go find it out.
  4. It takes a very long time to become an overnight success, so work harder than you ever thought possible.
  5. Then work some more.
  6. Don’t give up.
  7. Don’t complain.
  8. Just do it again.
  9. And then again.
  10. And if its not working? that thing about killing your darlings is true: if a chapter doesn’t fit, then cut it out, step over the blood and move on.
  • PS
    • What Margaret Atwood says about pencils is true. If you write when you fly don’t take a pen. They leak.
    • What Elmore Leonard said about cutting out the boring bits that readers skip is good advice. That includes adjectives. And adverbs. Zap the lot.
    • And Stephen King was right: if your characters are speaking then use ‘said.’ He said, she said, he said, she said. If your characters have to ‘grumble’ or ‘moan’ or effervesce’ you have failed. (see 10, then 5 – 9)

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How to Write: Tips from Andrew Brown

Inspired by the Guardian’s recent article bringing together “how to write” tips from prominent authors, ReadSA and BOOK SA introduce a similar series a bit closer to home. Watch out for top tips from stars in the SA Lit firmament!

Andrew BrownColdsleep LullabyStreet BluesRefugeAndrew Brown is the author of Coldsleep Lullaby, which won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, and Street Blues, which was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. His most recent novel is Refuge.

Andrew Brown’s tips:

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1. Write where you know: characters and plot have to play out on a believable stage. In some novels that stage is a bland generic canvas that contributes little to the reader’s experience. But a well-constructed setting can anchor a story and provide the reader with a sense of place; it can also make the writing itself easier, as characters can move around the stage with greater confidence. Set your writing in a place you know – if you don’t know it, go there.

2. Write who you know: You can only write about what you know, and when it comes to characterisation, you only know yourself. You may have to draw deep to find the emotional source for some characters, but no matter how troubling that may be, ultimately you have the comfort of knowing that neither your hero nor your dark and bloody protagonist are in fact you.

3. Don’t get cute: Sometimes a twist in a plot can be too clever for its own good. A good editor will eradicate it (mine did, thank goodness) and spare you the embarrassment, but it’s better not to end up there in the first place.

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