A Certain Confusion

Thoughts of a writer of sorts

Month: March, 2012

I’ve had worse days

Screenshot of my Guardian piece

My working titles were'Poets should sing of science' or 'Experiments in science writing'

So, today saw my first piece of writing to be published in the national media. The first under my own name, that is. On a few previous occasions, I have ghostwritten pieces that have gone in the Guardian, the Telegraph and the BBC website (I guess it would be bad form to say who I wrote for – one was a genuine household name, though). But this is my first byline in a fully-fledged organ of the mainstream media. Very exciting.

The same piece was also published on the Wellcome Trust blog, but that is more of an everyday occurrence.

I’ve said this elsewhere: having been asked to write about great science writing, I started with a piece of 1950s avant-garde French poetry. Pretentious, moi? If you are interested to know how I came to choose this piece as my starting point for a post about science writing, I wrote about it here last week. But seeing as the number of followers I have on Twitter has increased by about 15% since this morning, I thought I’d post another link to it….

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The soul of wit

String

How long is a piece of blog?

A Guardian editorial towards the start of the year praised brevity. It ended: “We have run out of words before we have run out of space.”

A boon of a blog is, of course, that the space never runs out. This is, of course, a mixed blessing. And in an age that now seems determined to fetishise the ‘long read‘ form, perhaps as a way to kick against the perceived lack of attention span and news ‘bites’ of modern (online) culture, the art of writing short might be getting short shrift – except on Twitter, thanks to its 140-character limit.

I’m never going to be pithy – I am too fond of prolix digressions – but I admire the writer who stops when they have run out of words for the topic at hand, rather than for any constraints of space afforded them by commission or convention. Read the rest of this entry »

Science writing I like

Image of writing

Writing sample created using a mechanical substitute for the arms, 1919 (Wellcome Images)

The title of this post is not a Yoda-like pronouncement of a generally warm feeling towards writing that deals with scientific subject material. Rather, it is the brief given to me recently as we prepare to launch the second year of the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize in association with the Guardian and Observer newspapers. I am one of several science writers and journalists who have been asked to write about a piece of good science writing and explain what makes it good.

I have to admit, it was a bit of a struggle to produce my answer. Read the rest of this entry »