Confused by too many writing tips? You will be.

Frances Brody lives in Leeds where she was born and grew up. She is the author of five Kate Shackleton mysteries. Frances has also written many stories and plays for BBC radio, scripts for television and four novels (as Frances McNeil). Her stage plays have been toured by several theatre companies and produced at Manchester Library Theatre, the Gate and Nottingham Playhouse, and Jehad was nominated for a Time Out Award.

On a radio panel a good while ago, an author was asked if he had any tips for a would-be writer. He said, “Burn down your house.”

Anyone lucky enough to have somewhere to live will know exactly what he meant. Within quick succession these past two weeks, the boiler packed up, the fridge stopped working and the telephone answering machine refused to take messages. (And I’m not including the serious things that bump you over, like illness and death).

Life and death continually interfere with writing. Here is a handy quiz to test your ability to deal with some of the difficulties every writer faces.


You are short of money. Do you,

a)      marry the bank manager

b)      offer to adopt your brother’s dog if he will pay in advance for a year’s supply of pet food

c)      look round to see whether you have anything at all worth selling (not the brother’s dog)


You have a proper job, a family, a commute and one (or even two) friends. Do you,

a)      draw up a timetable, noting every half hour you can snatch for writing

b)      call in sick

c)      run away


You are deep in the dumps. Do you,

a)      find a high bridge, stand in the middle and sing the 59th Street Bridge song

b)      sit on a roof and hope to slide off

c)      read Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer, find a flower and write a word picture in precise detail


For some inexplicable reason, that fool of an editor/producer/director/agent does not appreciate the genius of your work. Do you,

a)      write, 100 times, Don’t let the buggers get you down

b)      teach your brother’s dog a very clever trick

c)      start again


No one understands how much energy it takes to sit still and write. You are done in. Do you,

a)      lie in bed for two days, reading Jane Austen

b)      walk in the park and smell the roses/coffee, depending on your park

c)      remember that there is a position in yoga called savasana and take to it for a week

For the correct answers to these and other questions, come to Leeds Waterstones on Saturday, 5 October where (from 11am to 1pm) I will be signing copies of the latest Kate Shackleton 1920s Mystery, Murder on a Summer’s Day; or to Harrogate Waterstones 12 October, 11-1; York Waterstones 19 October, Noon-3; Huddersfield Kingsgate Centre Waterstones 2 November, 11-1.  (Wakefield Waterstones to be re-arranged when they have moved house). For a taster from the book,

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Murder on a Summer's DayAnd the only book on writing you will ever need is Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer.

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