Author Archives: Nuala Ní Chonchúir


Writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir is guest blogging at the Irish Writers’ Centre Blog for the month of June. Today we host her final post.

My last blog post for the IWC today – aw! So I am back to where I began: with novels. Thanks for reading and commenting over the past month; it has been a pleasure. To round off my stint here I am giving away a copy of the brand new Stinging Fly magazine. Leave a comment to win! I will post to anywhere in the world.

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Writing a novel is like making a jigsaw with blank pieces – not only do you have to fit all the shapes together, you have to paint the picture too. That is hard and it can feel very confusing and frustrating early on in the work. And the sorriest bit of the whole game is that each time you start, it is like starting over. No two novels come together in the same way.

So, as a budding novelist, what can you learn from those who have gone before you? Maybe the most helpful thing I can say is that there is no one way to write a novel. There is no right way. Just start writing, continue with it and push through to the end. You will learn more by finishing one novel than by starting ten. Whatever way you do it, as long as you end up with a novel at the end, you’ve done it ‘right’.

It takes me about a year to write a novel. It might take you three months (like Kevin Barry) or it might take you ten years (like Arundhati Roy). How long it takes depends on lots of things: family and work commitments; time issues; your personal pace as a writer. I would definitely write books quicker if I had less children and therefore more time, but things are how they are and, truly, I wouldn’t want them any other way. )Though it will be nice when they are all at school and I have five blissful mornings to call my own. Only three years to wait…)

Some writers lay plans for a long time before they even begin to write their book: they think about their characters and their plot, they gather lots of notes and do research. Some write the end first and then compose the rest of the novel to work towards the ending. Others – like myself – have only the vaguest notions of who their characters are or what is going to happen to them when they begin the novel, and they write to tell themselves the story of these characters. I never know how a novel or story will proceed before I write it. I rarely know until I am near the end how it is all going to turn out. I can write scenes out of sequence and then slot the whole together, though I become more linear at points. It suits me to write that way but it may not suit you. Try things out and you will hit on the best way for yourself.

In a sense it surprises me that I wade in so blindly at the start, but perhaps if I didn’t, I wouldn’t write at all. I am super organised in so many areas of my life but when it comes to writing fiction, I free fall. It is a great feeling because when it is going well the act of writing is the best sort of relaxation for me.

To expand the jigsaw analogy I started with, most novels are made up of lots of different pieces that fit together well. You have gathered many of these pieces – ideas, phrases, fragments, observations, passions, interests – over the years and you will gather more of them as your novel progresses. Our brains are tuned in to disparate things as we write and so is our subconscious. It is important that you keep a notebook and that you jot down anything that occurs to you, whether it seems relevant to your novel-in-progress (NIP) or not. If you bring these snippets to your desk, you might be surprised where they can be woven into the narrative, or how they are relevant. Our antennae is out and probing for stuff that will fit, whether we realise it or not.

Novels are not sounded on the one note and it is best if they aren’t. If your novel is sad, you don’t want it to be sad on every page or you will wear the reader out, so make sure when you are fitting together the pieces – paragraphs, chapters – that you mix it up a bit. Lighten the tone after a dark scene; pick up the pace when things slow down; mix dialogue with narrative blocks; vary the conversation (repeated chats about the same topic are dull); get your characters moving – change the location from time to time. Think of it this way: your novel needs to be a little bit bipolar. There should be ups and downs, positives and negatives. These will create an energy within the story that helps move it along while keeping the reader interested.

Learn to love editing. You must, must, must be your own best editor. On re-reading your glorious NIP, if the prose seems a bit pedestrian or flat, liven it up with the senses. Readers love the sensuality involved in scenes where characters smell, touch and taste things – including one another. Don’t be afraid to show your characters enjoying food, or sex, or both.

I began with jigsaws, so I’ll end on them too: when the pieces of your NIP start to fall into place, there is nothing like the self-satisfied glow you get. Hell, you might even find yourself being nice to people. Good humour and literary novel writing rarely share the same space. (Or maybe that’s just me?) Suddenly, you understand what the book is about and why you have bothered to write it. Enjoy the glow, you won’t feel it again until the next novel is neatly slotted together and ready to be abandoned for the next one after that, and so on. Good luck!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin and lives in Galway. She has published three collections of short fiction, including Nude (Salt, 2009) which was shortlisted for the 2010 Edge Hill Short Story Prize; three poetry collections – one in an anthology, one a pamphlet – and one novel, You (New Island, 2010). Nuala’s third full poetry collection The Juno Charm is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011.

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Filed under Beginning the Novel, Fiction, Irish Writers, Irish Writers Centre, IWC, literature, new writing, novels, writing


Writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir is guest blogging at the Irish Writers’ Centre Blog for the month of June to coincide with the short story course she will teach at the Centre on the 25th and 26th of June. Tune in here every Wednesday to see what she has to say.

Short story writer supreme, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne

Short fiction this week, ahead of the course I teach at the Irish Writers’ Centre this week-end. All welcome!

I think the first thing any budding short story writer must do is read good short stories. Read your contemporaries – Claire Keegan, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Yiyun Li, David Means, Wells Tower, Anne Enright. Read the greats – Chekhov, Alice Munro, Frank O’Connor, Raymond Carver. Read anthologies and journals that love and respect the short story form – The Stinging Fly, The New Yorker, Southword, The Moth. Seek out publications from those publishers who support and publish short stories: Salt, Comma Press, Faber, Cape, Granta. It is only by reading the masters and mistresses of the form that we learn what good short fiction is all about. So, read widely and, while you are reading, write and write and write.

The short story is a personal form in the same way that poetry is – it deals, often, with the individual passions of the writer. Figure out what you love to read and think about, what excites you and interests you. Chances are those are also the things that you will love to write about. For me, those things include visual art and artists, sex and relationships, and the breakdown of love. Throw in a baby, Paris or Dublin, and a river and I could write all day. Make a list of the objects, scenery, type of people – and their dynamics – and the places that interest you the most. Some of these combined will make good fodder for stories or, at least, good jumping-off points.

What will make your short story succeed? Well, resist the urge to write about the mundane. Ordinary things happening to ordinary people rarely make interesting reading. Something must happen in your short story; not something huge or life-changing, just something that’s maybe out of the ordinary for that particular character. So, bear in mind that although the short story is an urgent, concise form it cannot be about nothing in particular. Usually, the story is about a small number of characters and something happens to one or all of them; that event brings about a shift in circumstances or outlook.

Put a notice over your desk: ‘What happened next? Or what happened before?’. This will keep you focussed on the crux of your story – the tension. If you are floundering, read this notice aloud to yourself and write down your answers.

Don’t shy away from creating scenes – readers love to hear dialogue, particularly difficult conversations. Let us hear and see your characters speaking and reacting to each other. It is probably best not to provide oodles of background information. Set the scene briefly, then cut to the action. As Jim Dickey said, ‘If the story is about a bear, bring on the damn bear.’ There isn’t room in the short story for piles of personal history, long descriptive passages or lots of characters. Keep it all to the point. Raymond Carver aptly advised: ‘Get in, get out, don’t linger, go on.’

There is an immediacy to the short story that is unique to the form: it should open quickly, have a relevant mid-section and move at a good pace to the end. As I’ve said, there isn’t room for lots of characters, reams of back story and endless wads of descriptive prose. You want to intrigue your reader, not bore her. The details of the story need to be drip-fed in digestible and interesting lumps. Do what Charles Reade recommended and ‘make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait.’

Stories possess an intensity that is just not possible in the vast space of the novel. They often contain a delicious surprise – they are beautifully unpredictable when done well. Lovers of the short story hope to be moved in some way by what happens in stories – they want the hairs on their neck to stand on end with the unknowable yet perfect beauty of the story they are reading. Readers of literary short fiction do not mind discomfort and they enjoy characters who are mavericks – be daring in what you write, don’t censor yourself.

Short story writing is fairly instinctive, mostly you don’t need to plot and plan meticulously. To paraphrase Haruki Murakami, if you plan everything in a short story it will never find its own way. So you mustn’t worry if you start to write and don’t know where things are going. Just write your way into it – tell the story to yourself – and see what your characters get up to. What you are aiming for is some sort of tension – remember, something must happen! You want to seduce the reader; to have her believe in the small world you have created.

Be specific in your writing always. The more concrete detail you have in your work, the more real the story will seem to the reader. Unique and specific detail in stories makes them more vivid and interesting. Name things: give proper names to settings and characters as much as possible. Good naming anchors the reader to the story.

All writers love language and words – as a writer you delight in unusual word pairings and odd sentences. Don’t be afraid of your own language: the vernacular of your childhood or your home-place is full of authentic turns of phrase: use them. Mine your parents’ – or other older people’s – store of words for interesting sayings.

Each part of a short story must fit with the rest: so the tone fits with the language which also fits with what happens to the characters. This creates a unity within the story that is like the unity within a poem: everything works together to create a pleasing whole. Read some poetry to see how words and intent and content can meld together perfectly.

Readers pick up books to be entertained, to learn and/or for escapism; they want to feel along with your characters. Your story should resonate emotionally with the reader and will ideally have the power to smack her with its truthfulness. Flannery O’Connor said that stories should be ‘short but deep’, so the something that happens in the story will ideally illuminate the human condition in some way. Just because short stories are short doesn’t mean that they can’t be profound or make a deep impact – you can say a lot in a handful of pages.

The short story writer loves concision and brevity; she is willing and able to trim her sentences and paragraphs, to get the best out of them. We all overwrite to start with – this is normal. You just have to learn to edit well.

As a writer, I empathise and agree with John Banville’s feeling of separateness with life, which he often mentions in interviews. It’s what makes a writer in the end, I feel: a sort of aloofness, a feeling of not being wholly in the world. The writer is an observer on the sidelines: she is unobtrusively nosey and notes everything; she gathers up all the bits that other people miss and throws them into the mix of her stories. Joseph O’Connor noted that ‘a writer is always quietly looking and thinking. Not willing inspiration but just being open to the world. This quiet looking and thinking is the imagination. It’s letting in ideas. It’s trying, I suppose, to make some sense of things.’

Most writers procrastinate but you can feed your inner writer with good things. Stephen King says that ‘writing is at its best – always, always, always – when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer’. If you are struggling to find inspiration, or if you are trying to force a story out of yourself, move away from your desk. Take yourself out for a walk, or to the theatre, or a gig, or an art gallery. Freshen your mind with a good short story by your favourite writer. Hopefully, when you return to the page, you will have something new to offer yourself and your writing will be ‘inspired play’.

Writing is an apprenticeship; it takes lots of practice – years and years worth. But hard work and tenacity pay off, so stick with it and you will improve your art. Good luck!

Recommended reading:

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King (New English Library, 2001)

Self Editing For Fiction Writers – Browne & King (Harper, 2004)

Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story – Vanessa Gebbie (ed.) (Salt, Nov 2009)

The Portable Creative Writing Workshop – Pat Boran (New Island, 2005)

Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular – Rust Hills (Mariner Books, 2000)

Making Shapely Fiction – Jerome Stern (WW Norton, 1991)

This article was first published at under the title ‘Tips on How to Get Started as a Short Story Writer’

Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin and lives in Galway. She has published three collections of short fiction, including Nude (Salt, 2009) which was shortlisted for the 2010 Edge Hill Short Story Prize; three poetry collections – one in an anthology, one a pamphlet – and one novel, You (New Island, 2010). Nuala’s third full poetry collection The Juno Charm is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011.

Blog: Website:


Filed under courses, creative writing course, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, Irish Writers, Irish Writers Centre, IWC, literature, short fiction, Short Story


Writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir is guest blogging at the Irish Writers’ Centre Blog for the month of June to coincide with the short story course she will teach at the Centre on the 25th and 26th of June. Tune in here every Wednesday to see what she has to say.

A couple of weeks ago I did a photo shoot for a women’s magazine. Before you start thinking I am all glamorous, let me tell you it took place in my dining room (where I write) and not in some exotic location. It also involved much giggling between the photographer and myself as we arranged stacks of books to include in the shots and tried to dream up poses that might look quirky and/or interesting. I held up a pile of my own books and smiled; I acted as a human book end; I tried hard to look cheekily wary of the teetering pile of books we had constructed in case it fell on my head – I think it was supposed to indicate the precarious nature of the book business. Whatever it was, it was enormous fun because the photographer was a very nice guy. The one drawback was it ate into my writing time: those precious ten hours a week that I can afford to put my youngest in a crèche, and sit and write. But, what I remind myself is that it is all part of the job.

The promotional end of things is not always fun for writers. We are often, by nature, solitary beings, preferring our own company – and that of our fictional friends – to that of real people. We are OK with being on our own, tapping out imagined lives on our computers. But once the book is written and published, there is a whole slew of other stuff that we have to take part in and that can be daunting. These include readings, appearances, signings, book tours, interviews and, sometimes, amusing photo shoots.

Some writers might never leave their desks for all I know but, generally, whether we like it or not, we have to get out there and get behind our books. The wonderful thing is that we can help the promotion of our books with the internet. So, at least for some of it, we can stay at home. Marion Maneker said, here, “The success of a book is dependent upon the ceaseless hard work and self-promotion of the author. More than any other aspect of the book business, this is what constantly surprises outsiders: It’s all on the author. Sure, the publisher can add some luster and oomph, but without a strong author promoting a strong idea/story/concept, a book will just sit there, inert.”

Now, you do not want an inert book or career, so what can you do to promote yourself and your writing? Here are some tips:

  • Realise that self promotion is necessary. Publishers do not have the time or money to promote new authors. It is a way for you to show your enthusiasm for your own work.
  • If you are not internet savvy, take a course.
  • Create a free website on a site such as Your website is your calling card to the world. Keep it serious and professional. Include samples of your work; a bio note; list publication in magazines and online; list shortlists you’ve been on/competitions won; include a good author photo.
  • Create a free blog: on or A blog can be less serious than your website – on it you can discuss what is important to you as a writer; track the progress of your writing; your publication highs and lows etc. You can interview other writers; review books; post your work etc.
  • Join Facebook: it’s a great place to meet other writers; you can join writers’ groups on Facebook; keep up to date with publishing news; calls for submissions etc. If you keep a blog, you can add links to your blog posts, thus gaining more readers. Ask writers you admire to be your friend.
  • Join Twitter: for all of the above re. Facebook.
  • Wikipedia: get someone to create an entry under your name.
  • YouTube: video readings you do and post them on YouTube. Do a reading especially for this purpose in your own home.
  • Join writers’ forums like and
  • Attend festivals, readings and workshops. Get to know your peers. Support each other.
  • Make friends. Lose any ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude. Socialise with other writers and help where you can. What goes around comes around.
  • Have a business card with your contact details on it. Most importantly name, address, email address, blog/website address (There are very fine free business cards available on
  • Don’t be lazy about submitting your work to magazines/journals – hard copy and online. The more your name is ‘out there’, the more your name will be recognised. The more you publish, the more you will be published. Agents read magazines and journals. Ditto managers of literary festivals. You may get offers of representation/readings through publication; it pays to get your work out there.
  • Present your work professionally. Format your work correctly. (I recommend reading The First Five Pages – Noah Lukeman; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Browne and King)
  • Be your own best self-editor.
  • Enter literary competitions. A win can boost your confidence and spur you on; you will meet other writers if you are shortlisted or win. The judges will be professional writers who may put other work your way.
  • Exploit the local: offer to read at your town library.
  • Offer to read/speak at the local secondary school – Transition Year teachers often like to hear from writers.
  • Believe in yourself and your work.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don’t go overboard!

And if you have a book to sell:

  • Let the publisher know you are very willing to take part in promotional work.
  • Get to know your local booksellers – ask them to stock your book and/or give you a reading/signing instore.
  • Make posters/postcards/bookmarks for your book (
  • Send press releases with a photo of you and the book jacket to the local press. Talk a little about yourself (include anything interesting/odd); talk a lot about the book.
  • Have a virtual tour of literary blogs where you are interviewed by other bloggers specifically about the book you have just published.
  • Make a book trailer for your book: you reading an excerpt; shots of some of the places it is set; a voiceover of a good review; background music etc. You can put this on your blog and on YouTube.

Try to enjoy it all. Eventually you will be safely back at your desk, immersed in the invented worlds where you probably feel most at home.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin and lives in Galway. She has published three collections of short fiction, including Nude (Salt, 2009) which was shortlisted for the 2010 Edge Hill Short Story Prize; three poetry collections – one in an anthology, one a pamphlet – and one novel, You (New Island, 2010). Nuala’s third full poetry collection The Juno Charm is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011.

Blog: Website:


Filed under literature, Self-promotion for writers, writing

Writer Interview: Órfhlaith Foyle

Writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir is guest blogging at the Irish Writers’ Centre Blog for the month of June to coincide with the short story course she will teach at the Centre on the 25th and 26th of June. Tune in here every Wednesday to see what she has to say.

Órfhlaith Foyle

Today I interview fiction writer and poet Órfhlaith Foyle. Órfhlaith was born in Africa to Irish parents and lives in Galway. Her first novel Belios was published in 2005 by Lilliput Press to critical acclaim. Patrick McGrath called it ‘a dark, rough, funny novel about a dying genius’. A collection of Órfhlaith’s poetry and short stories, Revenge, was published in September 2005 by Arlen House. Recently her short story ‘Somewhere in Minnesota’ was in the Faber anthology New Irish Short Stories edited by Joseph O’Connor. That story will be the title story of her forthcoming short fiction collection, due from Arlen House in September. She is currently working on her second novel.

Welcome to the IWC blog, Órfhlaith. Can you tell me what was it that first got you into writing and when did you start writing?

My family had a bit of a nomadic life. We lived between Africa, Ireland and Australia, primarily Africa and reading was just a natural thing for me to do as soon as I could do it. Television was never encouraged as a past time. My mother had a collection of books. She loved reading and still does. My father was more into non-fiction.

Reading meant I could escape into another person’s world. You don’t just read words, you imagine as well. I began to imagine little stories in my head. Usually they were just extensions or variations of some story I had read but, after a while, I began to make up my own stories.

I think I was about eleven or twelve when I got serious about stories – mainly reading them; not so much writing them. That happened later in my teens when I began to realise that I had to write things down.

Which writers have influenced you the most?

My mother’s collection of books contained Shakespeare and Dickens and a huge volume of American Plays.  My father had also bought us the twelve book collection of American Classics for children. I loved the American plays – the dialogue and how the words just drove the story. Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller. I loved Macbeth far more than Romeo and Juliet. I loved Oliver Twist.

I didn’t read much Irish writing and right up to now, the writers who have influenced me the most are Katherine Mansfield, Anna Akhmatova, Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner, Emily Bronte – all dark and rather lonely, I suppose.

What kind of things do you write?

I write about things that frighten me. Most of my characters I would hate to have a coffee with but I also know deep down I’d want to find out their story – because something made them that way – not just what lies in their nature – but something else as well.

My first novel Belios is about a man who cannot love but craves it, and I find this is in all of my work. All my characters have that fear and longing for love and to belong to someone or somewhere.

What are you working on now?

Well, I am finishing up a collection of short stories called Somewhere in Minnesota and Other Stories. It is to be published by Arlen House this September. I am also still writing my second novel.

I am a slow writer, in so far as I have to feel and think a lot before I write. After Belios I had that clichéd idea that I now was going to write a marvellous post-modern ‘grown-up’ novel. It never happened. I have countless of useless drafts to support that fact.

Describe your writing day.

I usually prefer mornings. I write for about 3 to 4 hours. Sometimes I can work at night but not really.

How does poetry differ from the writing of fiction for you?

Poetry is the closest I will ever come to composing music.  I don’t rhyme much but I like words that move. Poetry condenses that movement so you have to reach right down into what you are feeling or seeing. You have to get that flow.

With fiction the borders go further. I always go by a ‘voice’. Whether it is a first or third person voice, it has to have a rhythm. I need to know what the main character is deep down afraid of. I need to know how his/her demons drive them. I need to understand how they dream they might be saved. The voice is the thing.

What advice can you offer the beginning writer?

Well, first of all, I am just beginning myself.

Just READ.

I was at a writers’ workshop once and the celebrated writer was telling us how he was going to write his next novel. Then he mentioned that he never read books. I lost a lot of respect for him after that. I don’t care what you say…if you don’t read books, then your words are missing something. If you don’t read other writers then your own work narrows down. I know writers write from their own experiences as well as how they react to the world – then all of it is coloured by imagination and that comes from reading in the first place. So, if your writing experience does not include reading anybody else’s – what kind of world can you write about?

Thanks so much, Órfhlaith, for dropping by today. Next week for my blog post I plan to talk about the writer and self-promotion. Do tune in!

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Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin and lives in Galway. She has published three collections of short fiction, including Nude (Salt, 2009) which was shortlisted for the 2010 Edge Hill Short Story Prize; three poetry collections – one in an anthology, one a pamphlet – and one novel, You (New Island, 2010). Nuala’s third full poetry collection The Juno Charm is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011.

Blog: Website:


Filed under Fiction, Irish Writers, literature, new writing, poetry, Reading, Short Story, writing


Writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir is guest blogging at the Irish Writers’ Centre Blog for the month of June to coincide with the short story course she will teach at the Centre on the 25th and 26th of June. Tune in here every Wednesday to see what she has to say.

I was thinking lately about the novels I write, about themes and concerns that re-occur in them. What do they have in common, I wondered? I have one novel published, You (New Island, 2010), one novel-in-progess (my NIP) and a couple of failed attempts, which will live forever in that limbo where dead novels go. And here is what I realised as I pondered my obsessions as a novelist: all of the novels I have tried to complete have been about mad mothers. Well, maybe not so much mad mothers as unsuccessful mothers – women who are not very good at being mothers. And these mothers drink – they drink in public and they drink in secret. My own Ma doesn’t drink and I’m a half-bottle-of-wine-on-Friday-night kind of Mammy myself, so I’m not altogether sure where the obsession with drinking mothers comes from. And obviously that is not all that my books are about – they usually deal with the breakdown of love (separation/betrayal), and there are generally children involved.

Setting is also very important to me in my fiction. I am hugely affected by my environment – as are most people, I presume – and I like my setting to get under the skin of my characters and to be as important as the people it serves. You was set in my home place in County Dublin – I grew up across the Liffey from the Strawberry Beds. The river and the valley it runs through are crucial to that novel in terms of atmosphere and in terms of plot.

My NIP is set between Dublin and the Scottish Highlands. I worked in the Highlands for almost a year when I was younger and it has been a thrill to revisit it for the purposes of the novel. So far my visits have been imaginary and virtual; I have also been (excruciatingly) re-reading my diaries from that time. But in July I am going back there, to soak up a bit of the Scotland that I remember and to taste it anew. I feel like I couldn’t do the Scottish Highlands justice without a quick trip to make sure I am getting it right in my NIP. What better excuse for a few days away?

When I teach Creative Writing, I always urge the participants to be mindful of their fiction’s setting, both the place and the time. Characters, and their actions, have to be located in a physical reality, not in some grey nowhere. In our giddy rush to get the story down, we should never forget the importance of the setting and the atmosphere created by it. The setting, when well evoked, is like the glue that holds all the pieces together. The writer Nigel Watts has a better analogy for setting in fiction. He says: ‘The setting is like the flour in a cake: perhaps less compelling than the nuts and dried fruit, but if you forget to include flour in the recipe, you’ll have no cake.’

I like my reader to feel rooted in the story and by naming places and describing them with care, and by being succinct with detail, I think that is achievable. To that end, I keep a mini notebook on me at all times and I endlessly jot down what I observe around me. A lot of my writing ideas come to me on the edge of sleep, so I have made myself stick to the notepad beside the bed rule. It helps, particularly in the long haul of the novel, which is constantly on your mind, asking questions of you.

Jottings that have made it into my NIP include rain-flattened daffodils; the sight of hundreds of jellyfish on an otherwise empty beach; and a dead crow that hung from a wire between my two neighbour’s houses. It is funny how things present themselves just when you need them. My main character was going through a tough time and I wanted to conjure a foreboding atmosphere while showing that she was becoming slightly unhinged. I went for a walk with my baby daughter to get some clarity on the scene and I spotted the dead crow, lurid and menacing as it swung by one leg from the wire. It was the perfect detail to carry me through the scene.

So, if you want to write believable fiction, here are a few tips: be nosey and sensitive to the world around you; always write down your observations/thoughts/ideas as they occur to you; be specific: name things; use your senses when you write – readers love the sensuality of touch, tastes, smells etc.; gift yourself time to write; stick with it and be patient; read lots of good books; and, whatever you do, don’t forget to add the flour.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin and lives in Galway. She has published three collections of short fiction, including Nude (Salt, 2009) which was shortlisted for the 2010 Edge Hill Short Story Prize; three poetry collections – one in an anthology, one a pamphlet – and one novel, You (New Island, 2010). Nuala’s third full poetry collection The Juno Charm is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011.

Blog: Website:


Filed under courses, creative writing course, Fiction, IWC, literature, new writing, setting in fiction, Short Story, writing