Transcription of BWT podcast episode 31 (Mar 2011) – hints & tips

The thirty-first episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 28th March 2011 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website) so I hope you find this information useful. In the first thirty episodes (see for details), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, erotica, ‘writing rules’, historical & the classics, name & characters, Christmas, opportunities, songwriting, reading, auto/biographies, computer tips (parts 1&2), competitions & submissions, romance, hints & tips (parts 1&2), short stories and scriptwriting. This episode had more hints & tips.

Hints & tips

  • Crime writer Mark Billingham (who I met at the Oundle Lit Fest) says: “My advice is to write the kind of book that you’d like to read. Don’t hold on to what you’ve written for too long; get it out there. Don’t fiddle with it too much. James Lee Burke said a book is finished when ‘nothing rattles’. As soon as it’s rattle-free, leave it alone.” Another quote I loved was “Hendricks is a character I’m very fond of and if I came up with a vehicle for him, I would happily climb on board.”
  • Margaret Atwood has ten tips for writers’ block: 1. Go for a walk, do the laundry or some ironing, hammer some nails, go swimming, play a sport – anything that requires some focus and involves repetitious physical activities. At the very least: take a bath or shower; 2. Read the book you’ve been putting off; 3. Write in some other form – even a letter or journal entry. Or a grocery list. Keep those words flowering out through your fingers; 4. Formulate your problem, then go to sleep. The answer may be there in the morning; 5. Eat some chocolate, not too much; must be dark (60% cocoa or more), shade-grown, organic; 6. If fiction, change the tense (past/present or vice versa); 7. Change the person (first, second, third); 8. Change the sex; 9. Think of your book-in-progress as a maze. You’ve hit a wall. Go back to where you made the wrong turn. Start anew from there; 10. Don’t get angry with yourself. Give yourself an encouraging present. If none of this works, put the book in a drawer. You may come back to it later. Start something else.
  • produces a yearly Date-a-base Book and the 2011 edition “lists over 1,900 historic anniversaries that will occur during 2011, giving you plenty of time to write about them” they say.
  • Gail Sher (author of ‘One continuous mistake’) said that there are ‘four noble truths of writing’: 1. Writers write, 2. Writing is a process, 3. You don’t know what you are writing until the end of the process, and 4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write. In other words, just put pen to paper and see what happens. Final drafts are usually very different from first drafts so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound perfect or anywhere near perfect – it rarely does first time round.
  • has lists of novel beginnings and some are fantastic. Whilst you won’t be able to steal them, they may show you what works (or perhaps doesn’t work). An article on Suite 101 may also help. is a top 100 is the 100 Best First Lines of Novels as chosen by the editors of American Book Review. My favourite is no. 49 (Iain M Banks).
  • A writer’s block tip I’ve heard is that if you’re struggling, leave the last sentence you’re at half-done and that’ll inspire you to carry on when you return to it. I found this out during our first workshop when we picked sentence starts as mine was a complete one; I really struggled continuing it but got there.
  • Another tip I’ve heard is to listen to dialogue in a film, fictional TV programme or play. Does it sound realistic? You wouldn’t leave in all the ‘ums’ and ‘erms’ or real dialogue but what works and what doesn’t? It’s often quite common for people to interrupt each other (which would be written with ‘…’ at the end of that last word) and this speeds the dialogue up even further. Without going overboard, give great consideration on how the age of the person would speak; a teenage is very different to a pensioner…in theory anyway, although having your pensioner say “hey dude” could be fun.
  • Another recommendation is to pick a random line of a book, magazine or newspaper and see if any words inspire a title or theme. Or for a more ongoing basis, whenever you buy a newspaper (ideal as they have bigger headings), cut up each word of each heading, put it in any kind of container (I have a white ceramic topless head) and whenever you want inspiration, just dip into the container and pull out a word. At Northampton Literature Group monthly writing night, we have a 4 minute write-a-thon using the same word and it’s amazing how different our stories are. We’ve also started to do a round robin one-sentence-per-person following on from the previous person’s until you get your own piece of paper back, with hopefully a completed mini-story, and it’s great fun (good thinking Alan).
  • Don’t overuse clichés. You can use them (George Lucas said “don’t avoid them – they’re clichés because they work”) but if you can find your own way of saying something and it sounds better, then go for it.
  • To write a good story, you should know the answers to why, when, where, who, what and how. There are a few websites that can help you with this. explains that it is a ‘concept originated from Rudyard Kipling – The Elephant’s Child’ and is shows as follows:
Place Where is it done?
Why is it done there?
Where else might it be done?
Where should it be done?
Person Who does it?
Why does that person do it?
Who else might do it?
Who should do it?
Sequence When is it done?
Why is it done then?
When might it be done?
When should it be done?
Means How is it done?
Why is it done that way?
How else might it be done?
How should it be done?


Here I provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Take a short story you’ve written and change the male character to a female one (or vice versa) and see how the story develops; and/or
  • Now change the tense; i.e. from present to past or vice versa (assuming you’ve not written it in future tense which has been done but is quite wearing!).

The podcast concluded with Quotes, News & Feedback, On This Day in History and a haiku called ‘Summer’. I picked a haiku because it’s very short, typically being three lines; 5 syllables, 7 syllables then another 5 syllables and so therefore quick to do. Eve Harvey (Radio Litopia’s former femme extraordinaire and now involved with and I were chatting on Facebook about quantity vs quality and this is definitely quantity over quality, as it took me about a minute to write it but she liked it so I’ve not changed it and if you’ve never heard a, or heard of, haiku before, then it’s an example. There’s a great explanation of haiku at

  • The clocks go forward / summertime begins today / car boots, dog walks, sun.

That’s it. Thanks for visiting – a list of the other transcripts and summaries can be found at

We'd love you to leave a comment, thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.