Between December and May this year, my spare time has been spent working furiously on a book. The Big Questions in Science: the quest to solve the great unknowns is a popular science coffee-table book looking at, well, exactly what it says. You can read more about it in this feature we wrote for The Observer.
The book is a joint effort between myself and two friends and fellow science writers, Hayley Birch and Colin Stuart, and it’s now available to buy in hardback to decorate your fine shelves, prop up your wonky tables and, of course, entertain and enlighten you with our fine prose.
The book came about after the three of us pitched similar ideas through our agent and our publisher, Carlton Books, were interested enough to take a punt. The subject matter is inherently fascinating, giving an excuse to delve deep into questions we ourselves would like to know the answers to. And given how I spend much of my day job editing or in meetings, it was GREAT to exercise my writing muscles, particularly at a decent length and for such interesting topics.
Looking back, it’s been one heck of an experience and I’ve certainly learned a lot about the process of book publishing, my writing and myself. Here are a few of my lessons learned: Continue reading ‘Big questions from a first book’
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Tags: Book writing, publishing
As part of my work on a new long-form publication, I’ve been doing a lot of long-form reading. I’ve been scribbling notes about various articles here and there and figured I might as well start collating them centrally on this blog. So here’s note number one.
I very much enjoyed this piece by James Palmer in Aeon last week. It is pretty long and not exactly narrative based, but more of a long, very interesting essay, taking us on a journey through history, culture, ethics and pharmacology. He has a few anecdotes scattered around from interviewees but on the whole this is Palmer’s thesis (and indeed, it is a little like a dissertation) and an excellent explainer of what is and where it is today.
The difference between a traditional feature, an essay, and a ‘narrative-based’ story (the latter of which is maybe what we think of most as long-form) is an interesting question I’ve been pondering. For me, this feature succeeds because of its breadth; it is in-depth, it has been researched thoroughly and the author clearly has a structure for his thesis. Sure, it’s lacking that ‘story’ spine that might keep people from wandering after the first 1000w or so, but the subject matter and writing is interesting enough, I think, to make it worth your while.
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Tags: #longreads #longform
Every year for the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize (now in its third year) we run a series of blog posts with our partners at the Guardian, offering advice on science writing from those of us lucky enough to be doing it as a day job.
This year I’ve had the pleasure of running the series, picking the writers, the format, the questions and editing their answers. In the first year we went for our personal tips, last year we asked for our favourite pieces of writing. This year I went for a straight Q&A format: several of the most commonly asked (at least to me) questions we get asked by those looking to break into the field – and exactly those on the minds of anyone looking to enter the competition.
It’s been a real privilege to work with the words of such wonderful professionals, and such an inspiration to hear their thoughts. There are already several highlights for me, but I’ll save them to pick out when the series is over and the whole bunch are there to read. In the meantime, back to the editing…
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Tags: Science writing, writing
What did I learn from this year’s The Story conference (can we technically call it a conference? Event? Fun gathering of creative nerds?)? As ever, lots but, as ever, I mostly took away inspiration.
This year I tried to spend less time tweeting/taking notes and more time just listening. As such, I’ve taken the lazy route: here’s a Storify of some of the #story2013 tweets as my ‘notes’. No doubt there will also be the usual podcasts and blog coverage (check The Story website over the next few days/weeks). There’s also a good collection of all tweets, Instagrams etc. put together by Eventifier.
My highlights in brief though: Continue reading ‘#story2013’
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Tags: The Story
For the third year running, The Story gathered an eclectic bunch of creatives from all corners to tell their stories and talk about storytelling.
It’s interesting to see how the event has evolved over the years. When it first began the result was unexpected – most who’d come for a bunch of presentations about the ‘process of narrative’ were instead treated to more of a stories round a campfire affair. I loved it, but I know some people were after something a bit more explanatory and, for better or worse, this is what the event seems to be leaning towards.
The 2012 event still had the variety; music, games, photography, art, design, programming, magazines, journalism and anarchism. Yet there are more one on one ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’ style interviews now than at that inaugural event, with the majority of talks discussing a project (often a pet one) and how they went about it.
Not that that is a bad thing – we’re all keen to learn. But I felt the best talks were the ones that, even if about a particular piece of work, encompassed something of the speakers personal, rather than professional, experiences and how it changed them. Maybe it’s my own need for that kind of personal detail to connect with the story.
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Tags: The Story