Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Getting stuck - and unstuck

I've been stuck with the sequel to Heart of Bone; largely because I haven't had the time to sit down and persist until I know what I'm doing. I like everything I've written, but all is not well. You know what they say about eggs and bacon? The hen's involved, the pig's committed. I've got to chapter six, and my heroine Caz is the hen when she should be the pig. Something has to change.

I always hope the solution to this sort of problem will come in a flash to me while I shop at Waitrose, or bike home, or queue in the Post Office, but actually it seldom does. I think it was Kingsley Amis who said, you need to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

There are many ways one can, in Holly Lisle's words, mug the Muse.
  • Keep saying, What would happen if... until you strike gold
  • Do some research into your characters' interests, or where they live
  • Write a short story or a poem as a creative break
  • Read a good novel
  • Look for loose ends that you can turn into something new
  • Re-assess what's at stake for each character
  • Write a letter from each character to yourself

I've just done this with one character, Jasper Egan. He turns out to be rather rude.

Hi Lexi,

You don’t know much about me, do you? Any more than Caz does. I find that quite amusing – after all, I wouldn’t exist but for you.

Let’s see what you do know about me. My name, of course – though I happen to know, you really wanted to call me J***** D***** after that writer you’ve got some grudge against, but you haven’t quite got the bottle to pinch his whole name, have you? And you’ve got some idea of what I look like. Tall and not bad-looking, I think sums it up. And late thirties, which you refer to as being an older man. From Caz’s point of view, this, hardly from yours. Plus I’m a rich and successful artist, whose art isn’t quite as repellent as you find most modern art...

I'm going to stop him right there. He gets more offensive, and it's a spoiler.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas!

Wishing a
Happy Christmas
to all my blog readers - and may all of us who are unpublished writers find our very own agent and publisher in 2010.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Ereaders - so what do you think?

I'm waiting for the next generation of ereaders, the ones that will be better designed and cost less than £100. (I'm not cheapskate, just...not rich.) I'm also waiting for publishers to acknowledge that ebooks should be way cheaper than conventional books, as they cost so much less to produce, and nothing to store or transport.

At under £100, I'd have bought one for my daughter's Christmas present; she's an avid reader but hasn't got her own home or car yet, and books are terribly heavy to move about. She runs out of books to read, and the ability to instantly download a novel when you want it is just what she needs.

Like many people, she's not keen on ereaders. She likes proper paper books. But I'm sure a good ereader would convert her, and I'm equally sure that they will take a big share of the market, given time. And this opens up opportunities for indie authors. Right now, Eric Christopherson with his exciting thriller, Crack-Up, is taking advantage of the new technology to offer his book direct to the public on Amazon at a bargain price, is selling significant numbers, and making a decent profit per download.

If he can do it, others can, and will.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

IZE versus upstart ISE

One of my favourite Muriel Spark novels is A Far Cry from Kensington, with a backdrop of London publishing in the 1950s. (It also tells you all you need to know about losing weight: the heroine realizes she is grossly fat, starts eating the same as before, but half, until she reaches a normal size). There is a blackmailer in the book, who is identified by his unusual spelling of 'organizer'. He spells it 'organiser'.

Not so long ago in England, all words incorporating the Greek suffix ize, were spelled with a z; so realize, civilize, ostracize. Other words like surprise, advise and surmise, having no connection with the Greek suffix, were not spelled with a z.

I stick to the traditional spelling, which also has the advantage of lessening the gap between us and Americans (damn that Webster). But so prevalent has the ise variant become, that I am often told off for 'using American spelling'.

The Oxford University Press and I are as one on this. Can I persuade anyone to join us?