Tales of the cities

I suppose I knew three US cities in ten days would be tiring, and just for good measure, there was the tiny matter of squeezing in the Fanning gay wedding. I’m back home feeling like a poolside inflatable with a slow but steady leak. This whole blog piece will sound boasty, but so little ever […]

The art of doing two things at once

In which I admit I’m not able to do two things at once. Something’s got to give. And I’m afraid that has to be the stand-up.

Starry starry night

My husband-to-be assured me we could get hitched with minimal fuss. In a registry office. With no guests. Neither of us will write special vows. I voiced  doubt.

Getting choppy with standup

Mr Fanning picked up my set and put on his ‘let me show you how it’s done‘ face. He started to read and within seconds I was shouting out. He was adding words here and there. Doing the thing my comedy teacher warned against.

Have I created too many characters?

The struggle for me lies in showing the same economy of story I’ve learned to show with words. I could wrap this baby in 1000 words and move onto the final scenes that drag me across the finishing line. But that means culling the bit part actors.

Happy cancer-versary to me

Exactly one year ago, a well-spoken doctor snapped rubber gloves, handed me a tissue and explained how she’d been without power since early morning. It’s a nightmare making porridge when you’ve only a camping stove and a billycan, apparently. She also said I had cancer. Determined to give this bombshell time to process, I focussed […]

Why I don’t write every day

‘Experts’ tell anybody who calls themselves an author they must ‘write something every day’. It need not be their finest work. The words might be something to delete the next day. They might not relate to any work in progress. But we must write. Every day. I want to say I follow this rule. I don’t. Some […]

Writing tips: Timeless time

Trends come and go. What’s in today is gone tomorrow. These are not so much writing tips as lessons I learned … the hard way. In the traditional publishing world, life moves slowly. Two years often pass between when you type ‘The End’ and when you get to see your book for sale. Even if […]

My top six books of 2018

I’ve read many books this year. And I toyed with picking my top five just before the tree went up, but my pedantic partner pointed out two weeks remained of the year. I could easily read a book or two more.And he was right. I did. One absolutely dire (it’s topping best seller lists even now), the other a zinger and featured below.

That was the year that was

Around about this time last year, I decided to scratch a personal itch – and that does indeed sound like something best discussed with a doctor. 2018 was to be different. It would be my year of saying yes. I reckoned without my Valentine’s Day discovery. Chances are, I’m not the first to find something untoward […]

A new addiction

My emotions veered from sheer frustration through to the joy of nailing a performance – when the audience laughed (and at one point applauded a joke), I was stunned. I’ve asked those who came to support me and they confirmed what I already knew – I started out ropey, but found my feet and didn’t disgrace myself.

Cop a feel for Christmas

If you haven’t done your monthly inspection, start now. Don’t kid yourself that testicular cancer only hits younger men. There’s another statistical spike around the age of 50.

My latest excuse for not writing

One of the first things I learned when I started to write remains the most effective. When done with a draft, put it away. Lay down your words to rest for at least a month. Two if you can. Three is better.

Learning to write again – the world of standup comedy

It took years to reach a point where I believe my writing reflects ‘my voice’. There is a rhythm, and the words flow in a certain way. An attitude lives on the page. It wasn’t always so. I’ve made all the rookie mistakes … joined peer groups and reacted to each and every suggestion (writing […]

The hardest thing about writing

I write. It’s my paying day job, the way I fill the downtime hours and I’ve upped the pressure by telling myself I have it in me to be funny. On a stage. In front of strangers. Writing isn’t tough. Making it any good is more like work, but again, not beyond reach. What has […]

Cock gags and knuckling down to standup

I sat and listened to a standup comic tell jokes about his penis and wondered who hurt him. It was a night of new comedy, and I was there to be supportive. The hope at these shows is for gold to glisten … but this was as far away from funny as I’ve been in […]

High anxiety

It’s been ‘one of those weeks’ – but it’s over now, and what have I decided?

The language of stand-up

Mo Fanning looks at the language used when writing stand-up comedy and how this differes from creating a novel or short story.

So you think you’re funny?

If there’s anything guaranteed to set my teeth on edge, it’s people who yap on about stepping outside their comfort zone. Or anybody who declares themselves midway through a year of saying yes. And yet just yesterday, I experienced toilet-sitting fear as ‘yes’ landed me in the most uncomfortable place going. Was it when I bounded […]

Chemo brain and writing

I’m supposed to be editing. Or as I like to call it deleting six months hard work to write a totally different story. Call it chemo-brain or call it the fact I realised just a tiny bit too late I’d written the wrong story, but ‘The Toast of Brighton’ is going down to the wire […]

The Tortoise and the Vole

I’m saying short story, but it’s a poem. It’s political and generally reflects my frustration at the state of the UK. But I hope you enjoy it anyway.

This is the bit where I start to feel better, right?

Mo Fanning – over-sharing cancer bore – talks about the treatment stage of testicular cancer – the chemotherapy and scans stage – and the unexpected steroid boost.

Writing light comedy from a dark place

Everyone says that the best comedy comes from the darkest of places. And that gives me hope for ‘The Toast of Brighton’ – shameless plug alert: this is my upcoming novel – as the past few weeks have felt pitch black. And yet, I believe the words, chapters and story match the hopes I always […]

Suspicion – or why nobody wanted to say the c-word

Testicular cancer is not an automatic death sentence. Unless you ignore that lumpy, harder than the other one or slightly-swollen ball, in which case it is.

A life-changing event

Were I to list all the places where cancer might change my life, it’s unlikely I’d include Warrington. It’s even less likely I’d plan for this revolution  to occur in a charmless Premier Inn. It was Valentines Day, and by agreement, I was miles away from my significant other. I’d left a Waitrose fish pie […]

Fifty-denial – why I’m not down with da kidz

I don’t sound right using words like totes I headed this piece as being  ‘down with da kidz’ with a knowing nod to irony. I’m about as far removed from being down with anyone under the age of 40 as it’s possible to get. On the rare days I stiffen my sinews and spend a […]

Coming out – On being forced from the closet

Coming out stories vary. For every parental ‘yes, we thought as much’ shrug, there exist a dozen painful ‘not under my roof’ tales of woe. In my case, it wasn’t so much a closet door that was wrenched open, as the dodgy drawer in my divan bed base. Over a two-year period, I’d currated a […]

The Director’s Cut

Mo Fanning talks about why he decided to rewrite and revamp his 2008 best-selling book ‘The Armchair Bride’ for an anniversary reissue.

The power of the flashback

You know how it goes. You’re watching a TV show, and all-of-a-sudden the scene changes. Flashback to five years earlier. If there’s one thing to be said for binge watching in the Netflix age, it’s that I’ve thought again about how I tell a story. I’ve always known that a strict chronological timeline turns off […]

A time …

Thoughts from Mo Fanning on the festive period, a greeting by any other name!

Project management for authors

There’s that Douglas Adams project management quote about loving deadlines. Especially the noise they make as they whoosh by. With less than two weeks to go before my Christmas short story book was due for release, I decided I wanted to cram in an extra story. You can imagine how this went down with my […]

Writing tips: Hatches, matches and dispatches

As Australians vote to allow same-sex marriage, I got to pondering how, when writing, I often base stories around major life events. The Armchair Bride brings former enemies together. Having it all sees the bride flee a dream wedding. My next book will see Evie find new ways to cope when every familiar situation ‘dies’. […]

Where to hunt a literary agent

There are many ways to track down a literary agent. This article shares some tips on how to power your search.

Submitting to an agent – what not to say

If you’ve reached the point where you think you’d like to find an agent or publisher for your writing, there’s plenty of advice online. My own book – Please find attached – is rammed to the rafters with tips on how to attract attention, write a query letter, synopsis, bio and generally convince the gatekeeper […]

Rejected by a literary agent? You’re in good company

Rejection can be crushing. There’s little joy when you receive an email that wishes you well but declares that your labour of love is ‘just not for me’. If you find yourself rejected, take comfort that you are not alone. I’ve pulled together a list of well-known writers who struggled to find a home for […]

Writing great dialogue: Word of mouth storytelling

Inexperienced writers tend to rely on dialogue to deliver the story. It’s an absolute no-no. Victoria Wood satirised this best in her mock soap ‘Acorn Antiques’: “Apparently, being spiteful and having lots of extra-marital affairs could bring back my jaundice, so I’m going to be really nice from now on.” The fancy word for this […]

Avoiding the laundry list

‘Laundry lists’ refer to writing where the author has tried to ram in as much detail as possible. Often because someone told them they needed to add ‘more description or setting’. You see it most when a new character wanders onto the page: ‘Ellie is tall, tanned, slim and very very blonde with big blue […]

Marketing notes from my editor

Ready to look at marketing your finished book. Maybe I can help? Last time round, I talked about how editorial feedback made me think again about something as basic as the character names and elements of setting. How the current market expects certain things. She went further and gave me helpful tips to help pitch […]

Notes from my editor

Monday was one of those nail-biting days. An email arrived with the first thoughts from my editor. She’s quite a big deal name in commercial fiction, so I’d been ready for a mauling. I expected her to brand my efforts as a mismatched jumble of bad ideas and inept delivery. Thankfully the broadside was gentle, […]

An unprecedented level of calls

‘You’re getting very dark again. You need to see a doctor.’ That’s how the other half censored me as I launched into yet another tirade about how Theresa May had basically prostituted herself to the DUP to avoid having to move house just when she’d got on top of her geraniums. And so I tried […]

An unexpected gift

The tree is up, the cupboards groan with food, but Josie can’t bring herself to feel it. The thought of Christmas fills her with dread. Everyone at work was full of cheer. And she joined in. She wore a reindeer jumper and helped out at the bake sale. But behind the fixed smile lay sadness. […]

Pale, stale and male … and invisible

I give more than a single shit about climate change, and hang my head in shame as other middle-aged white men dictate Britain’s place in Europe and encourage Americans to worship the buck over the book. And yet, I feel invisible.

The pure hell of writing a synopsis

Nobody likes writing a synopsis. How about if I told you it could actually help you create a better book?

When leopards change their spots

What happens when you decide to change the personality of a supporting character midway through writing?

Putting the rom into com

When is the right time to reveal that your comedy has a romantic twist? When is it too soon and how do you avoid the cliches?

It’s all about me – writing in the first person

How practical is it to write a novel in the first person. How do you avoid ‘head hopping’?

Passive Aggressive Master Class

Uncovering mild passive-aggression is easy. Simply jump a queue, stand on the wrong side of an escalator, or try to pay for anything with a twenty-quid note.

Writing Tip #2 – Five red flags for writers

Some words should be an automatic red flag to a writer. The second you find yourself typing, writing or otherwise using them, a voice inside ought to scream stop. Here are five that I watch out for. Search your works in progress and eliminate at will.

Exchanging gifts

I’ve sometimes been asked what became of Lisa Doyle, the main character from The Armchair Bride. So for a change, here’s a short story for Christmas to bring you up to date on her life these days. Two years on from the end of that book, Lisa’s home with Brian for a family Christmas and about to encounter a ghost from the past!

Writing Tip #1 – Pump up the volume

All too often the temptation when writing is there to have a character do something other than simply ‘say’ their words. It’s a topic to which I’ll return later, but there is certainly some scope to use a few more descriptive words (such as whisper, mutter or whine) now and then. Just don’t go overboard. […]

Back in the old town

Time heals, and just recently, I felt able to return to Amsterdam for my 50th birthday. Three years, they say, is how long you should always leave between visits to places that mean so much.

Book blurb

After many edits and the joy of a focus group, the blurb seems to be ready … Caitlin Allen knows that marrying her childhood sweetheart is nothing more than a form of distraction. It’s a fairytale wedding, but when the music stops she’ll turn and run. Bored of her life, Cait dumps a nine-to-five routine […]

Ten bad things about me

The ten things that I do wrong. Ten things guaranteed to make you move seats on a bus and cut down on visits.

Getting off the writer’s block

The biggest cause of writer’s block for me is not knowing the characters well enough. I can have the storyline planned to the finest detail, but if I don’t know the people well enough, it won’t work.

No news is good news – Information overload

Yesterday was Blue Monday. Officially the most miserable day of the year. I was supposed to feel weary and weighed down with worry. How do I know this? Because that’s what I read online. In the news.

Merry Christmas

How has your Christmas been? Brighton has been battered by storms. Much wind, much rain and Mr Fanning has gradually given up all hope of ever weatherproofing the foyer of the flat we now (un)affectionately refer to as the money pit.

Getting old

I’ve had someone offer me their seat on a bus and got over it. I’ve been cornered by an old person and spoken to like an equal – “Not like in our day, eh?”. It took much red wine and sugar therapy, but I got over that too. What I’m struggling with is this week’s discovery of a white eyebrow hair. An inch long one.

The joys of a new job

The thing you miss most when you start a new job though is a licence to moan. As a writer this is your thing. In your old job you got to huddle round the kettle and whine about how Debbie from Accounts spends half her day on Facebook.

Shameless plug for my short story compilation

There are few things that excite me less than raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. These are not a few of my favourite things. Short story compilations are another thing.

Is it enough to see Sarah Miles in Lidl?

The Fannings have reached a bit of a crossroads again. After so long in Amsterdam, it’s proving harder to find the right place to settle back in the UK.

Brighton Baby – British writer Mo Fanning on moving city

So what’s going on with the weather then? Don’t judge the writer for this weak opening gambit. I’ve spent almost eight years on the wrong side of the channel and now I’m back in Britain, my aim is to fit back in. To that end, I gather weather talk is essential. For those who don’t know, the Fannings upped their […]

Back from a break

Working from early morning to late at night to launch a major project left my head in need of a few glasses of wine and my fingers loathe to venture near any keyboards.

Writer’s Block

Writers’ block. Everyone I know who writes – or tries to write – hits it some time. You sit down ready to spew a whole load of graceful prose at the page and nothing comes. Or worse, something comes but what you write is pure and unadulterated rubbish.

September 1 2010 – from the3six5

My contribution to a project featuring short pieces of writing from 365 days, as told by 365 different people over 2010.

Was Christmas awful?

Enforced family gatherings, gift exchange and a general spirit of goodwill can get to even the most sane. It’s not that you don’t like or even love these people, it’s just that you’ve made a conscious choice not to live with them.

The snow in Amsterdam

I’ve hit a strange crossroads. Part of me wants to write something new, but the stuff I’m churning out feels like a series of detached scenes. The narrative drive isn’t there. I have a notion where I want to take it, but I’m still getting to know the characters.

A short break in France

What a close-to-perfect week the Fanning clan had in a remote French farmhouse, miles from the nearest shops with no Internet, no phones and no English language TV – we watched the French version of Wheel of Fortune twice and didn’t quite get why a small white dog was part of the proceedings.

It’s grim up north

This month, Manchester fails to charm, silly season gets too silly, I have an old fart moan about students and the book comes slowly together.

My world is full of dead birds

Sorry for the dreadfully irregular updates, but it’s been a dark and miserable time, which I hope I’m coming out of.

Get thee to a gym

So this month, I joined a new gym.

Life in Amsterdam

June is the month to prepare for family visits – Mr. Fanning’s sister and my own mother are book-ending the summer months.

A RIPE Meeting diary

Every now and then, my job takes me away from home for a week at a time.

Resolving for change

January is the time when the Fanning family makes their resolutions.

Oberhausen – it has it ALL

Oberhausen is twinned with Middlesbrough. And before venturing there, that was the sum total of my knowledge.

An agent came a-calling

Guilty as charged. Months have flown by with no diary update. I am truly sorry. I never meant to be such a lazy sod, it just happened.

Take a seat Mo Fanning

It finally happened to me this month. The moment I’d been dreading – and I should be honest and say I didn’t deal with it particularly well.

RIPE for Tallinn

Sorry for the lack of diary entries, been in a bit of a creative slump and didn’t have the spark to write much, busy dealing with the rejection letters from agents who you suspect haven’t even read your work – particular Kudos to the agency who shall remain nameless who said that thrillers were not really her genre – in response to ‘Help’ and the other one who had their very junior assistant reply on their behalf that stories about serial killers were not really her thing – well I’m with her on that.

Berlin baby

There’s a reason why Berlin hotels offer attractive room rates in January and February. Nobody wants to go. It’s cold. Colder than anywhere you’ve ever been. Think about how cold that is, then make it colder.

January is a month for loss

January is always the month to sit back and look shocked as your waistline joins forces with your wallet to reap revenge for the indignities you’ve made both suffer in the name of ‘having a good time’. Despite all my very good intentions and to the best of my knowledge, having had a pretty lousy Christmas, my bank balance is indeed shrinking in direct proportion to my increasing girth.

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