Writing Tip-offs from Fine Authors

writer tip-off fine authors

Consider this an early Christmas prezzie: a collection of some of my favorite writing tip-offs from some fine authors.
Every once in a while, you could say during a writer’s block or a dry spell, I try to discover what worked for other writers. How they moved forward. What is it that made them persevere. It inspires and encourages me and it fuels me with energy for the day ahead.
Sometimes we just need a moment’s lift.

Graham Greene’s writing tip on getting started

‘In periods when I can’t write, I keep a notepad beside my bed. When I wake up in the night after having a dream, I note it down at once. I’ve discovered dreams are like serials and the instalments sometimes carry on for weeks and in the end form a whole.’ (Graham Greene)

writing tip-offs fine authors

Agatha Christie on working on the plot:

‘The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.’ (Agatha Christie)

Jane Austen on the power of written word

‘I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told, is to express on paper what one would say to the same person by word of mouth.’ (Jane Austen)

William Faulkner on how to keep on going

‘Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing. Being ‘a writer’ means being stagnant. The act of writing shows movement, activity, life. When you stop moving, you’re dead. It’s never too soon to start writing, as soon as you learn to read.’ (William Faulkner)

Haruki Murakami on moving forward and routine

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m.
I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.

Chuck Palahniuk on how to write when you don’t feel like it

‘When you don’t want to write, set an egg timer for one hour (or half hour) and sit down to write until the timer rings. If you still hate writing, you’re free in an hour. But usually, by the time that alarm rings, you’ll be so involved in your work, enjoying it so much, you’ll keep going. Instead of an egg timer, you can put a load of clothes in the washer or dryer and use them to time your work.’ (Chuck Palahniuk)

writing tip-offs fine authors

P. D. James on reading while writing:

Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.‘ (P.D. James)

Phillip Pullman on writer’s block:

‘a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?’ (Phillip Pullman)

Ernest Hemingway on avoiding writer’s block:

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there.
You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.’

Jodi Picoult on the writer’s block:

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Kathy Reichs on having multiple layers to a story:

‘an ‘A’ story that might involve a particular plot/incident, and a ‘B’ story involving ongoing things about characters, along with perhaps a ‘C’ story and other strands for plots and characters.’ (Kathy Reichs)

Alfred Hitchcock on what to expect from a novel:

‘Drama is life with the dull parts left out.’ (Alfred Hitchcock)

writing tip-offs fine authors

Write with your ending in mind, says Edgar Allan Poe:

‘Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.’ (Edgar Allan Poe)

Paulo Coelho on being a confident author

‘You cannot sell your next book by underrating your book that was just published. Be proud of what you have.’ (Paul Coehlo)

Zadie Smith on technology:

‘ Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.’ (Zadie Smith)

Neil Gaiman on finishing that book:

‘ Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it. ‘ (Neil Gaiman)

And perhaps my favorite one:

Agatha Christie on perseverance:

‘I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.’ (Agatha Christie)

writing

Barbara Kingsolver on motherhood and being a writer

I became a novelist and mother on the same day. Those two important lives have always been one for me. I’ve always had to do both at the same time. So my writing hours were always constrained by the logistics of having my children in someone else’s care. When they were little, that was difficult. I cherished every hour at my desk as a kind of prize.
For me, writing time has always been precious, something I wait for and am eager for and make the best use of. That’s probably why I get up so early and have writing time in the quiet dawn hours, when no one needs me.
My children have taught me everything about life and about the kind of person I want to be in the world. They anchor me to the future in a concrete way. Being a mother has made me a better writer. It’s also true to say that being a writer has made me a better mother.

I always remind myself: write with your heart, write what matters to you.

I hope these writing tip-offs from some really fine authors gave you that tiny boost. What are your best tips on writing and keeping it going?

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13 Books to Read at Halloween

13 books to read on Halloween

13 unique reads for thriller fans and the enthusiasts of the macabre or sombre comedy. If you like to sleep with your lights on, pick one book from my 13 for Halloween list.

1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield

This book will give you the story of a mysterious writer with her own dark, ghastly past that will make your skin crawl. You will want to throw the book across the room to get rid of it, yet you won’t be able to, caught under its spell.
Blood-curling. Creepy. Disturbing.
Published in 2006.

2. Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

Hallowe'en Party Agatha Christie

A Halloween classic that will make your hair stand on end, plus you get Ariadne Oliver to torment Hercule Poirot. When a children’s party goes wrong, only looking into the past will help solve it. Ghoulish. Eerie. Witty.
First published 1969.

3. Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

Cross-Bones-Kathy Reichs

One of my favorites by this author, it takes you to excavations conducted on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. It has corpses, tombs, tight spaces, and forensic anthropology. This the Temperance Brennan #8 book, but can be read as a stand alone.
Frightening. Bone-chilling. Magical.
Published in 2005.

4. Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for by Patricia Furstenberg

Silent Heroes - Patricia Furstenberg
Silent Heroes – Patricia Furstenberg

Sometimes violence, death, and gore are part of modern day history and we choose to ignore them, while making up our own versions, safer ones, of what Halloween looks like. A brutal read what life and humanity mean to the soldiers, the dogs and the civilians caught in the War in Afghanistan.
Petrifying. Real. Deadly.
Published in 2019.

5. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

Perfume by Patrick Suskind

A timeless, international sensation and a classic, this is a petrifying and unnerving read. A hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
Omnius. Wicked. Haunting.
First published 1985.

6. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

The Pa;e Horse Agatha Christie

Death, witches, a spooky inn and Ariadne Oliver sleuthing. Published in 1961, The Guardian wrote: “the black magic theme is handled in a masterly and sinister fashion.”
Witchful. Superstitious. Spook-takular.
First published 1961

7. Dracula by Bram Stocker

Dracula Bram Stocker

Written as a series of diary entries, it has vampires, spooky locations and everyone will mention it, at some stage. And, no, it is not based on Vlad Tepes Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, ruler of Wallachia, Romania.
Supernatural. Bloody. Fang-tastic.
First published 1897

8. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Frankenstein Marry Shelley

Not many know, but the latent reasons behind Mary Shelley’s narration of Frankenstein is the death of her first child, Willy, whom she had thoughts to restore to life. A Gothic thriller and a passionate romance, Shelley wrote this book when she was 18 years old.
Black. Pagan. Eerie.
First published 1823.

9. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

phantom f  the opera

What would Halloween be without a ghost? Both a Gothic horror novel and a romance story, it will capture you and fill you with a terror that the musical could never emulate.
Moonlit. Chilling. Unearthly.
First published 1909.

10. The Complete Tales And Poems Of Edgar Allan Poe

The Complete Tales Poems Edgar Allan Poe

Pick this collection of ghastly stories for words that will stick to your skin like a cobweb. A classic, must-read from the pioneer of short stories.
Unearthly. Fear-inspiring. Strange.
First published in 1902.

11. It by Stephen King

It Stephen King 13 books for Halloween

A 1138 page horror novel by a haunting author and a book that has been refereed to in mass media more than we care to count to out loud. Read it quietly and with a friend near you or a clown will show up at your door. NOT for people suffering from coulrophobia.
Frightening. Nightmarish. Nasty.
First published in 1968.

12. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Master and Margarita Mikail Bulgakov

A dark and funny comic tale for lovers of satire and spine chilling reads. A book written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin’s regime and censored by Stalin; first censored edition out 1966, full manuscript published in 1967 in Paris, after the author’s death.
Dark. Spine-chilling. Mischievous.
First published 1967

13. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

First published in 1886, this Gothic novella can still hold the modern reader’s attention. For the book lovers of split personalities and classic horror.
Supernatural. Gothic. Occult.
First published 1886.

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The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, a Magical Theatre Experience and Why #KeepTheSecret via @PatFurstenberg

The Mousetrap, by Agatha Christie, at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre

There is something magical about attending a theatre production. It is a thrilling experience being immersed in a story evolving right before your very eyes, on the stage. Forget special effects; welcome instead the sound of feet on a wooden board and the masterful use of primary tools: voice, facial expressions, body language.

The actors on a stage have large gestures and welcoming body motions. They reel you in, welcome you into their stage life – their open life. Come, see, live – their hands say. Tune in, listen closely – their voices whisper. Have you taken it all in? Are you sure you caught each detail? Their eyes beckon us.

A theatre experience presents us with raw life, but through a looking glass: every detail shows, every detail counts. Theatre is life in its distilled form, pure and flavorful. Come with us, share this experience we offer so willingly. Forget your troubled life; maybe even find an answer you didn’t know you were looking for, on our stage.

The Mousetrap - Agatha Christie, first edition, published by Samuel French in 1954
The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, First Edition, published by Samuel French in 1954

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

is a chiseled locked-room mystery: a group of strangers gathered in a country house cut off by the snowstorm discover that one of them is a murderer.

Death IS present in the play, coming from a desire for revenge, but not overpowering. The search for justice, the desire to solve the murder is the force that moves the play forward – even if the murderer proves to be sympathetic through life circumstances and mitigating reasons.

What is real and what is not? Find out by yourself, it is theatre and the work of Agatha Christie, after all.

A word of advice: patrons attending the St Martin’s production are asked to tip their cab driver on arrival – a bad tip usually means that the cabby will shout the murderer’s name and speed off.

In theatre there are no second chances, second takes or cuts – and for this I truly admire its actors.

In the South African Pieter Toerien Productions of The Mousetrap:

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, South African Theatre Production  @PieterToerien @Monte_Theatre
The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, South African Theatre Production @PieterToerien @Monte_Theatre

I loved the passionate interpretation of Melissa Haiden as Mollie Ralston, the frank way in which Mark Sykes performed the role of Giles Ralston, the epic rendition of Matthew Lotter as Christopher Wren, the stellar appearance of Michele Maxwell in Mrs. Boyle, the virtuoso performance of Malcolm Terrey as Major Metcalf, the mature interpretation of Shannyn Fourie in Miss Casewell, the colorful performance of West End Star Mark Wynter as Mr Paravicini as well as the meticulous character Aiden Scott instilled in Detective Sergeant Trotter.

The South African production of The Mousetrap is directed by JONATHAN TAFLER who played the role of Mr Paravicini in the St Martin’s production of The Mousetrap on the West End.

Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre
24 January – 3 March
Performances: Wed – Fri at 20h00, Sat at 16h00 and 20h00, Sun at 15h00
Tickets: R100, R150, R200, R240
Computicket or Theatre Box Office 011 511 1818

Interesting facts about The Mousetrap:

The Mousetrap is the longest-running play in the history of London’s West End. In 2019 the production headed into its 68th year at the St. Martin’s Theatre. Since 6 October 1952 the play has reached well over 27,000 performances.

The Mousetrap was initially performed as a radio play in 1952 and was broadcast by the BBC with the title Three Blind Mice. The radio play had been commissioned in 1947 by Queen Mary, who was a Christie fan. There is no tape of that broadcast known to exist. The forty-five minute play was based on a short story on which Christie had been working. Due to the extremely warm welcome by the audience, Christie elaborated the script. Its first performance was on October 6, 1952, when The Mousetrap became a stage play.

There is still an original cast member in each production: recording of a radio broadcast the play opens with. The voice belongs to English actor Deryck Guyler who, thus, has ‘appeared’ in every UK showing of The Mousetrap to date…

Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sims starred in the original production.

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie - Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sims starred in the original production

Most of its sound cues – wind, bells, slamming doors – are created live backstage.

The Mousetrap has never been adapted in any other format.

Christie signed over the royalties from the play to her grandson, Mathew Prichard, at its opening in 1952.

Agatha Christie made her last public appearance at The Mousetrap in 1974, age 84.

Each performance ends with one actor from the company addressing the audience: “Now you have seen The Mousetrap you are our partners in crime, and we ask you to preserve the tradition by keeping the secret of whodunit locked in your heart“. Have you watched it? If so, we are “partners in crime”.

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