Friday, 27 July 2012

More on Writer's Angst

Writing for publication is, I always say, one of the most angst-prone things you can do. I bet even the richest and most-read novelist of the day, JK Rowling, has her worries about the forthcoming release of  The Casual Vacancy in September. Here is a handy cut-out-and-keep list of many of the ways Writer's Angst can get you:

  • The writers I admire are so brilliant, is there any point my trying to write at all? I'll never be as good as they are.
  • Isn't it hugely hubristic to believe that anyone will want to spend time reading something that is effectively no more than the contents of my mind? Who do I think I am?
  • Eek! It's going to be complete at 30,000 words. Way too short.
  • The plot's rambling out of control! 150,000 words already. I'll never reach the end!
  • No! I've come across another book written two years ago on a very similar theme. Everyone will think I stole the idea.
  • Supposing it's rubbish and no one wants to tell me?
  • Gah! A writer I respect was very critical about the bit he read. I'm doing it all wrong. Sob.
  • It must be rubbish because I've got all these form rejections from agents. They know what readers want, surely. Proper writers get agents and a publishing deal.
  • Supposing when I put it for sale on Amazon no one buys it?
And later:
  • My first book is a success, hurrah - has actually sold well, readers have said they enjoyed it, I've made good money - but I'll never be able to repeat my success because...
  • I used up all my ideas in the first book. Now I am but an empty husk, who will never create an interesting character or story line ever again.
  • This book is a struggle. I don't remember the last one being as hard to write. Probably because this one is No Good.
  • I've forgotten how to write! Every sentence is convoluted and awkward. Woe!
  • Other people write loads more words per day than I do. Why am I so slow?
  • By the time I get this one finished, the people who loved my first book will have forgotten my name.
  • Okay, so Book Two is out and doing rather well - some readers even prefer it to Book One - but I'll definitely never be able to do it a third time...
MORAL: Do not fret.

Everything will be all right. Do not be self-critical - in an imperfect world, you do not need to be perfect. No one else is. Lighten up. Keep writing, one word at a time. You can do it.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The appeal of the bad boy

Fiction is different from life, and nowhere is it more important to remember this than with bad boy love interests. A health warning: readers, don't try this at home.

Typical bad boy behaviour, fictional and in real life:

1. Relentless promiscuity, until he meets our heroine, falls deeply in love and changes his ways, becoming forever monogamous. Hmm. Remember that proverb concerning leopards and spots? Much more likely you'll turn out to be just one of the crowd.

2. Dangerous driving, particularly of large motorbikes. Don't get too fond of him;  doctors refer to motorcyclists as organ donors.

3. Drug use and/or excessive drinking, possibly smoking. This will spoil his gorgeous looks and his health, given time.

4. An explosive temper with a tendency to beat up people he is in conflict with. You'll be visiting him in prison if he makes a habit of physical assault. Plus, cauliflower ears and chipped teeth are not attractive.

So why do we writers keep on writing about these guys? I'm doing it myself in the WIP. I think it's because they are more fun to write/read about than the sort of man one would actually want to get involved with; kind, sensible, non-violent, steady, willing to do his share of the chores.

I'm yawning already...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Go indie, young writer!

Recently I read Jamie McGuire's indie hit, Beautiful Disaster. The novel has its flaws, but a huge number of readers on both sides of the Atlantic find its account of a tempestuous romance compelling, and have made it into a best seller.

It's now been signed up by Atria books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for immediate release as an ebook with print books to follow.

Hugh Howey is the successful self-published author whose novel Wool is to be made into a film with the director Ridley Scott. He said on Kindleboards, on a thread about indies being picked up by traditional publishers:

"You wanna know what's interesting? I started threads about this possibility on another writing forum and was laughed at, mocked, and bullied right out of there. [Lexi: hmm, no prizes for guessing which forum that was.] One thread was about the possibility that agents would begin scouring the bestselling indies for clients. I was ridiculed. I suggested that self-pubbing was always the best way to begin one's career, no matter the quality of the work. My argument was that flawed works were better off published at all rather than in slush piles; mid-list quality work was better off with a lifetime trickle rather than a few months spine-out in crumbling bookstores; and stellar work is better off in the author's possession when it makes it big with readers. There's no work of any quality that is better served on the traditional route, not with the disparity in rights and royalties."

Anyone still in denial about this?

Monday, 2 July 2012

When to let the reader do the work...

I believe in fiction the particular is more interesting than the general. His London flat? His Mayfair flat or his Willesden flat will tell the reader more for the same number of words. So Nick Cavanagh in Replica drives an Audi TT Coupé 1.8, while in Remix Jeff Pike smokes Marlboros, and a celebration takes place at the Dorchester. To my amusement, one reviewer remarked on this, and speculated that I was making up the meagre income from writing with product placement fees.

But there are exceptions to this rule. Jane Austen seldom describes the physical features of her characters. But she is such a good writer that I am sure all her readers have a clear image of them in their minds. I am certain for instance that in Emma, Emma is a brunette and Harriet a blonde, though we are never told.  All we know about Elizabeth Bennett's appearance is that she is not bad-looking and has fine eyes - and this we are told by Mr Darcy. I think it wise to resist the impulse to convey every detail the author sees so plainly in his imagination to the novel's readers. Keep description brief and vivid. Leave a little room between the lines for their imagination to work, and the book will be partly theirs and stay with them forever.

There is a passage in Replica where Nick opens the front door on to a snowy street clad only in his boxers. I asked my daughter, who is nearer the character's age group than I, what his boxers should look like. (After online research, I favoured black Calvin Kleins.) She said, don't describe them, then every woman reading it will imagine him wearing her favourite type of boxers. She was right.