Friday, 29 October 2010
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
by Matt Lynn
Jane Austen has been getting some flak in the press, although I guess she can survive it. An academic has been studying her letters, noted how confused they are, and how different they are from her books, and concluded that her editor must have done a lot of re-writes on her books.
That story got lots of play in newspapers, and on the web. For some reason, people like the notion that authors don’t really write their own stuff, and there is some team of the people in the publishing house who actually put the book together
But anyway, whoever came up with this piece of research obviously knows very little about how writers actually work. There is a big difference between the writing we do for a living, which on the whole we take very seriously, edit and polish and worry about, and the writing we do like everyone else, which is dashed off without much thought.
Now obviously I don’t have much in common with Austen. I’m better at tank battles, for starters. Plus I’m still alive. But my e-mails, letters, Xmas cards, and indeed blog entries might well lead you to conclude that I couldn’t possibly have written my books either.
But, of course I did. And so, of course, did Jane Austen.
Friday, 22 October 2010
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Saturday, 16 October 2010
Friday, 15 October 2010
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Most of it is exploration stories, and its useful for the atmosphere, and survival techniques. But not much has been written about Arctic warfare. Eventually, I stumbled across a book called ‘We Die Alone’, which was written in the early 1950s by David Howarth. It tells the story of Jan Baalstrud, a fairly ordinary Norwegian guy during the Second World War. He signs up with the British Army, and is sent on a commando mission into the far north of Norway. It goes terribly wrong from the start, the rest of his unit is killed, and he has to trek a massive distance chased by Nazis to escape.
The brilliance of the book is in its descriptions of Arctic warfare, and the endurance and fortitude of its hero. And it reminds you of what an extraordinary conflict WWII was, and how many ordinary people were caught up in extraordinary events.
The scene where Jan saws off his toes with a bread knife and a bottle of brandy to prevent them getting frostbite is memorable.
It’s now been reissued, with a forward by Andy McNab – and highly recommended.
"Road Closed is the second crime novel by Leigh Russell, featuring Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel. We were first introduced to Steel in the gritty and totally addictive debut novel, Cut Short, and once again Russell is in top form with this new crime thriller...
Like all good crime and thriller writers, Russell gives us just enough morsels of information in each page-turning chapter to whet our appetites for the bigger banquet at the end of the book. Road Closed is a gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end with its refreshingly compelling and original narrative. The rapidly building fan base of Russell and Steel will be on the edge of their seats waiting for the next installment, tentatively titled Dead End..."
Friday, 8 October 2010
By Richard Jay Parker
The rabid beast has been loose again. You know the animal – the one who takes large bites out of mornings, afternoons and evenings when you’re at the keyboard.
It’s been my unwanted guest since I was a teenager. Every time I move home I can’t leave it behind.
It’s lying in the corner at the moment looking sated. It should – it’s just eaten most of my morning. I never see it feed. One moment I’m looking at the clock in daylight and anticipating how much work I’m going to get done. The next moment a huge chunk of the day has been gobbled up and the cursor hasn’t made it anywhere near the page number I wanted it to.
I’m looking at it now and it’s just scratching itself. When I look away to my screen though…
It seems to get extra hungry during rewriting. Polishing paragraphs is like ringing one of Pavlov’s bells. It ran off with a whole week once but its ribs were still rattling on Monday.
Currently its menu comprises of:
Catching Up With Emails
Funnily enough, when I want it to feed, the beast is nowhere to be seen. When I have a glut of time and I’m waiting for the phone to ring about the project I’ve been working on it immediately loses its appetite and scavenges elsewhere.
But it really chows down, really gets its snout in the trough when I’m writing.
Doesn’t matter how its furtive feeding disgusts me, however. I hope I never slay it.
More info about Richard and his work at:
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
One of the questions writers get asked is how much they say they have over their covers. To which the simple answer is: About as much say as we do over the weather.
My experience is that publishers send you the cover, and then whilst theoretically you could throw a tantrum and say you didn’t like it, that probably wouldn’t be a very welcome response.
Fortunately, I’ve never been in a position where I haven’t like a cover. I’ve just received the jacket for ‘Shadow Force’ and I think it’s fantastic: exciting, direct, in keeping with the previous two books in the series, but different enough to mark out its own space. (Then again, when a book is about mercenaries and pirates, it’s quite hard not to come up with a decent jacket).
And, of course, authors shouldn’t assume they know what is the best cover for their book. The editor and the illustrator will have their own take on it, and how it fits into the market, who it is going to appeal to, and how it will stand out from the rest of the books on the market.
That said, it would be awful to see a cover you really didn’t like on your book. After all, it is the most obvious statement about your work.
Friday, 1 October 2010
The other story - and the one I prefer - is that Cain dreaded the arrival of the postman and knew that if he rang twice he would have a weighty parcel ie his manuscript returned from another publisher.
The novel, of course, has nothing to do with a postman so I like the idea that this non sequitur of a title came from the writer’s frustration at trying to get his work published.
It’s a harsh reality for writers – that something you spend months working on and losing sleep over can be dismissed with a standard letter or a phone call. In fact, nowadays, it can be dismissed even quicker. Emails are a great way of speeding up the communication process but can sometimes seem even more impersonal.
But the waiting and then the casual cold shoulder is something every writer has to come to terms with. Purgatory by the phone is something every writer, however successful, has to experience.
Is the phone still working? Has it been left off the hook?
But it’s good to get things into perspective by considering how many writers out there are going through the same torment. And some of that work is probably jostling for position on the same desk as yours.
I used to submit scripts to TV and got very frustrated with the rate of turnaround. Then I worked as a script editor and got a revealing perspective on just how much time there is in a day to read. The volume of submissions was staggering and although I always tried to give personal feedback to everyone who submitted, it was sometimes impossible.
Agents are very busy people and reading new manuscripts only accounts for a very small percentage of their time. Most of them need a 36 hour day to service the clients they already have and sometimes only have an hour or two in the week to catch up on reading. Here’s an interesting article from the Andrew Lownie Agency about the average week for an agent. I recommend reading some of the other articles on the site re submissions as well.
As promised, here’s the interesting link for writers seeking agents that explains how to compose a cogent query letter. Always remember to read the specific guidelines of each agency though. Best of luck and hope these provide an insight while you're waiting for the postman.