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Alex Preston

Alex’s Writing Tips:

  1. Show don’t tell; sometimes, don’t show at all. Respect your reader’s intelligence and curiosity. Leave them guessing.
  2. If you need to use an adverb, you’ve got the wrong verb.
  3. Dialogue in books is a strange simulacrum of real-world speech. Use dialogue to give us clues about your characters, not to convey plot information.
  4. Flat characters needn’t necessarily be boring ones. It makes them all the more surprising when they act out of character. See James Wood on ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.’
  5. Know how your novel ends and write in that general direction. Don’t plan more than this or your characters will be hamstrung.

Five Recommended Books:

  1. HHhH by Laurent Binet
  2. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
  3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  4. The Things We Used to Say by Natalia Ginzburg
  5. 2017 by Olga Slavnikova

Alex at Word Factory:




alexpreston250Alex Preston is a novelist and journalist. His first book, This Bleeding City, won the Spear’s and Edinburgh Festival best first book awards. His second, The Revelations, was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. His third, In Love and War, was published to critical acclaim in July 2014 and selected for BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime. His short stories have been longlisted for the Sunday Times/EFG Award and shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize and appeared in the 2013 Best British Short Story anthology. Alex appears regularly on BBC Radio and television. He writes for GQ, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country Magazine as well as for the Observer’s New Review. He studied English under Tom Paulin at Hertford College, Oxford, and holds a PhD on Violence in the Modern Novel from UCL. He teaches Creative Writing at the University of Kent and regular Guardian Masterclasses.
Visit Alex online at alexhmpreston.com, or follow him on Twitter @ahmpreston.