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A week of reading

From the title of this post you can probably guess just how much (or little) actual writing I managed to do this week. Now, I am one of life’s great procrastinators – why do something today when there are an endless stream of tomorrows; right? But, the main reason I haven’t written anything this week is that I opened a book to read. Just a little something to accompany my morning coffee ritual. However, some books are just too damned good to put down and in my opinion Stray Souls by Kate Griffin aka Catherine Webb is one of them.

It has everything I try to put into my own writing – it is contemporary, based in a real place although it has a strong magical element, witty and in places laugh out loud funny. Every sentence is considered, loaded with humour. It is a fine piece of writing and one I would be chuffed to bits if I could manage anything half as good.

It did get me thinking though; is it always a good thing to read material closely related to your own writing?

On the one hand, you can learn from it. see what is possible. Gain heart from the knowledge that others are interested enough in your specific genre and subgenre to write about it themselves. On the other hand, it can point up all your own inadequacies as a writer (when it is this good) which is fairly depressing. Personally and on balance, I think it was a good experience, because it is only by reading writing that is better than you can do yourself and striving to be at least as good, that you can improve.

So ‘kudos’ to you Ms Griffin and back to the keyboard for me…



What do you like in a novel?

For some people it is the genre. A book just has to be crime/ romance/ fantasy or whatever before they get interested enough to read the blurb on the back cover. For others it is the storyline – it either has to be complex/ simple/ linear/ multiple strand or whatever before they reach for the wallet. For my friend I had this conversation with it has to have deep rich descriptions – well, each to their own I say.

For me, well, frankly its the language that matters most. A book just has to have those phrasings, often in metaphor, that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It can be pretty much any genre, it just has to have a plot (although I’ve read some really good writing that pretty much doesn’t) any plot will do, but without the clever turn of phrase it doesn’t really do it for me.

I know this is unfashionable at the moment, and the emphasis seems to be on short simple sentences. I don’t care. Last week, full of intent to write loads, I foolishly picked up a book by Ian McEwan – Enduring love. Its sort of about a person who is being stalked by someone with de Clerambault’s syndrome – maybe. Anyway, the writing is sublime and it ate up my week; ah well…

So, what does it for you. What is a ‘must have’ for your ideal novel?

Sidetracked (again)

As any of my former students can tell you, I’m easily sidetracked. A well-aimed interesting question can send me rambling away on the B roads of knowledge for half an hour or more. In short, I lack focus. Flitting to whatever shiny new idea catches my eye next. Not for me the school of head down and task in hand…

So, this week no writing has happened. Why? Because I bought a book at a car boot and started to read it – ooh interesting. read a bit more, ahh – this is in a similar style and genre to my own, therefore I have to read it to the end in the name of research don’t I? (you wouldn’t believe what I can justify in the name of research).

Well, before you know it the week is done – writing nil books read one. The book in question; The Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Curse the spider god for drawing me into his web. Ah well, there is always next week 🙂

How to books

I thought a good place to start would be to do some reading around how to write a good novel.  My previous experiences with writing anything of length tell me that you can’t just sit down and rattle off 100,000 words or so (yes, I found out that is the average length of a novel these days) from start to finish.

I’ve read half a dozen books or so this week and they are fairly consistent with their advice – more to follow on individual themes as I proceed.

In my humble opinion there is one stand out book though that is brilliantly written, clear, methodical and just all round, well brilliant!  That is “The story book” by David Baboulene – a must read if you’re thinking of writing a novel, screenplay, or anything else.

Also worth a mention is “Writing the paranormal novel” by Steven Harper, which I really liked and is especially useful if your book (like mine) will contain a paranormal element.

The next issue I’m going to address before getting stuck in to the writing, is what to write with.  For work of this length a standard word processor is really a non starter.  I find any work over 15,000 words too unwieldy in  this form.

I’ve come across a software package called ‘scrivener’ which looks promising, so I’m going to look at that next.  If you’re already a user of this on the PC (rather than Mac), I would be grateful for your thoughts.

BTW, the other books I read are:

How to be a writer – Stewart Ferris

Your writing coach – Jurgen Wolff

How to write and sell short stories – Della Galton

How to write a novel – John Braine

and I’m part way through How to write damn good fiction by James N Frey.

Let me know if you would like an opinion on any of these….

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