Kate’s advice to writers

While I was writing Labyrinth, I was thinking hard about how I was writing Labyrinth. These pages – 52 in all, one for each week of the year – are the result.

I wrote them in collaboration with my husband, Greg Mosse, who is a teacher as well as a writer. We work together teaching creative writing at West Dean College in Sussex (click the link and look for creative writing for more information).

Lots of these Advice to writers pages are in the form of little stories, because we tried to reflect my experience as well as give tips and highlight traps.

Writing is a marathon: even short pieces seem to expand to fill every moment of your available time. Writing is a tunnel: while you are in it, you can’t look left and right or you will lose your story. Writing is a desert: an empty page, an empty screen …

But some things are easy.

If you want a short battle – go for guns. If you want a long battle with twists and turns, go for swords – it isn’t over in a flash.

If you want excitement and intrigue about who knows what and when, take away their mobile phones; make them speak different mutually incomprehensible languages.

If you want to add colour, twist your point of view. Here is an example of a description of a fox that transmutes into something quite different and strange, by changing just one letter:

The Fox

The fox crept out of the shadow of the wood. It sniffed and stalked down the steep hillside, alert for danger. It made its way towards the farm buildings, sliding unnoticed around the barn, picking its way across the cattle trap.

Once in the farmyard, the fox took a slow and silent path towards the hen run. A rustle of feathers carried on the still air, then silence.

The fox slid beneath the fence. The moonlight illuminated a few scattered seeds, creamy-white on the dark ground. Then it dithered at the foot of the three steps that led to the run, before confidently, carefully climbing in.

The Fog

The fog crept out of the shadow of the wood. It sniffed and stalked down the steep hillside, alert for danger. It made its way towards the farm buildings, sliding unnoticed around the barn, picking its way across the cattle trap.

Once in the farmyard, the fog took a slow and silent path towards the hen run. A rustle of feathers carried on the still air, then silence.

The fog slid beneath the fence. The moonlight illuminated a few scattered seeds, creamy-white on the dark ground. Then it dithered at the foot of the three steps that led to the run, before confidently, carefully climbing in.
The fog thing is a metaphor. Like when writing that a character in your story ‘dived into the crowd’ – they probably didn’t – except in very particular circumstances – really dive. It’s a metaphor. You might have said that your character ‘plunged into the crowd like a diver into the water’, but you didn’t use the word ‘like’. You contracted the comparison and you said ‘dived into the crowd’ …

I hope you enjoy these pages. If you would like to find out more about our creative writing courses, contact West Dean College.

I hope you prosper in your Labyrinth.