Skip to Content

Comment from the book world in October 2020

October 2020

Writing biography

28 October 2020

‘You write a biography from the vantage point of where you are: your gender, your race, your class. It's not a love affair or a marriage: it's a job. You're not writing autobiography; you're writing about some other person, usually a dead person. You can only access them in as far as you have materials and witnesses to allow you to access them. You are at the mercy of what you can find and read and hear and see. You become as intimate as you can with the life and work of this person... But there is always going to be a gap...

At the beginning, you don't know what you're looking for. The shape comes at you as you get deeper into the archive, and a strange force field starts to grow, as you concentrate intensely for years on end on one person... Stuff oddly comes at you in ways you don't expect.'

Hermione Lee, author of many books including biographies of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Penelope Fitzgerald and now Tom Stoppard, her only living subject, in the New Statesman.


Writing scripts

19 October 2020

‘Get on top of the computer program Final Draft. It's expensive and buggy, but it's the industry standard and for a first-time screenwriter like me there is something magical about the way it makes everything look like a Hollywood movie script. The other thing I have learnt is, the better the scene the less of it there is on the page. It's what your characters aren't saying that's important. Subtext is all.'

Daisy Goodwin, scriptwriter for Victoria, the TV series, and author of several novels, including My Last Duchess and The Fortune Hunter, and of 8 anthologies of poetry.


'If you aren't growing as a writer, you are dead'

12 October 2020

‘Dear Aspiring Writer, you are not ready. Stop. Put that finished story away and start another one. In a month, go back and look at the first story. RE-EDIT it. Then send it to a person you respect in the field who will be hard on you. Pray for many many, many red marks. Fix them. Then put it away for two weeks. Work on something else. Finally, edit one last time. Now you are ready to sub your first work.

Criticism is hard to take at first. Trust me, I've been there. But learn to think of crit marks as a knife. Each one is designed to cut away the bad and leave a scar. Scars prove you've lived, learned and walked away a winner. Any writer who tells you they don't need edits is lying. I don't care if they have 100 books out. Edits make you grow and if you aren't growing as a writer, you are dead.'

Inez Kelley, author of Sweet as Sin, Turn It Up, Taming the Alpha and 11 other books.