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On Writing

In Defence of Ignorance

Academics, writers, and the space between them

I don’t regret going to university. Given the almost unbearably limited and provincial background I came from – and the fact that I was, let’s face it, never going to be a lumberjack – university was a necessary escape. My life would have been very different had I never boarded that train one morning early…
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The Mysterious Cave

Ten entries from my notebooks on writing

Here I am in the town where I was born, looking down into a mysterious cave. Those who have read my novel Volcano Street may detect some resonance here. The picture is, or could be, a metaphor. Life presents us with a mysterious cave; we might ignore it, but still the cave is there. This…
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Stories Thick and Thin

Thoughts on fictional “density,” and a credo

A story which fails to satisfy is said to be “thin.” This implies that there is a thickness or density of fictional effect – a sense of gravitas – that we find desirable as readers and need to achieve as writers. But how? And of what does this density consist? One answer would be that…
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The Glint of Light on Broken Glass

Thirty truths about the art of writing

David says: “I have a notebook called, pretentiously no doubt, my ‘Commonplace Book.’ I took the title from E. M. Forster, the first writer – so far as I recall – whose book-length biography I read (the one by P. N. Furbank). Forster’s Commonplace Book was published, long after his death, by an American university…
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Genius Begins

Mr Samuel Richardson and Miss Pamela Andrews

“Reading Pamela’s letters, readers came to feel that they were Pamela; Richardson had obliterated reality and substituted the Pamela-world in its stead. It is for this reason – and not, I would argue, for some putative development of ‘realism’ – that Richardson is most to be valued as a major imaginative genius. The defining characteristic…
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Hindsight’s 20/20

Twenty books I love and why I love them

David comments: “These pieces on favourite books were written for a now-defunct website in the late 1990s. They have been lightly edited here and there, but for the most part are reproduced without alteration. I am struck by the fact that I’d stand by all these choices. All are wonderful books, each an enduring classic…
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What Lucy Didn’t Know

Classics, trash, and the magic of genre

Originally entitled “Literary Genres,” this article by David Rain was written for a textbook called The Handbook of Creative Writing, edited by Steven Earnshaw, and published by Edinburgh University Press in 2007, where it appears on pp. 54-64 in a fully referenced version, with a bibliography.   There’s an anecdote about a board meeting at…
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The Seven Writing Myths

Seeing through the false beliefs that stop you writing

This is a (slightly rewritten) version of a paper delivered by David Rain at the Great Writing International Creative Writing Conference, Imperial College, London, on Saturday 29 June 2013.   The prolific English novelist, playwright and essayist J. B. Priestley published an excellent book about his literary career called Margin Released: A Writer’s Reminiscences and…
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The Hundred-Book Challenge

What does your reading say about you?

When students tell me they want to be writers, I ask them three questions. The first is: “Why?” The answers are usually vague. Seldom, indeed never in my experience, does anyone talk about being rich and famous. The commonest response is: “I just enjoy writing.” This is better, but not as promising as it sounds….
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Thirteen Ways of Looking at E-Books

Will e-books really take over the world?

Every so often, somebody asks me for my “opinion” on e-books. I’m not sure why I’m expected to have one – and, if I did, what difference it would make. The assumption, I suppose, is that I’m a writer, and that writers are being rocked by this revolution in the industry. In truth, I’m not…
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