October 31, 2009

The Big Write

Tomorrow the Big Write starts. 50,000 words in 30 days. See www.nanowrimo.org I have a kind of title and a main plot idea. Here's a very short synopsis:

Ann's partner walks out and her job disappears in yet another government restructuring. So she leaves New Zealand for a tour of relatives and art galleries in Europe and the United States, thanks to a legacy from a childless uncle. To say that travel broadens the mind falls a long way short of describing her experiences.

I've used this idea in a short story that has been read only by my partner and my writing group.

I'll hardly have got going when I'm off to Melbourne for six days to see a friend and my son, without a laptop. (I don't have one.) Might do some plot planning. Or write by hand in my journal. Might get some additional inspiration, you never know.

I finished Wolf Hall. It's well worth the effort — it's a brick of a book, with over 500 pages. The way Hilary Mantel wrote it continued to fascinate me and the story got even better. By inventing (I assume) some minor characters, she makes the story really come alive. It's a more nuanced and more sympathetic portrayal of Cromwell than the one in the television show The Tudors. Henry's bad leg, that was in one episode I saw, features in the later part of the book.

October 27, 2009

How long is long enough?

Today I signed up at www.nanowrimo.org for the write-a-book -in-a-month event. Starting on 1 November the aim is a 50,000 word novel by midnight on 30 Nov. That's 1600+ words a day for the consistent. Don't edit, is the advice, this is a first draft, edit later. That's new for me.

Everyone who achieves the word count in the time set wins. No fee, but a donation requested if you make anything as a result of doing it. No prizes. Last year over two hundred thousand people worldwide started and sixty thousand plus finished. Crazy, why would anyone do this? I don't know about anyone else, but my reasons are to do with just making me write and keep going. I have an idea, arising from a short story. I plan to ignore the short story and just use the idea, though a few bits might end up similar.

I'm away in Melbourne for six of the thirty days of November, so that could be a challenge.

Change of topic — I'm half way through Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, the book that has recently been announced as the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize. It's excellent. Even though I kind of know the plot — Henry VIII and all that, focussed around Thomas Cromwell — it's rivetting. From a writer's point of view it is very interesting, not to mention clever, the way she writes in the third person almost entirely from Thomas Cromwell's point of view. 'He' most often refers to Thomas, including his thoughts, but it's not the usual kind of 'voice of god' writing. I am fascinated by how she does this.

October 17, 2009


The four most recent books I have read:
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
The Anthropologist, Nicholson Baker
Falling For Science, Bernard Beckett
Street With No Name, Kapka Kassabova

A classic, a contemporary novel about poetry, popular science, a memoir/travel story (kind of). I am pleased to have read them all, one way and another.

Then there are the new yorker and the london review of books, both of which I get via my letterbox and both of which I read cover to cover. I'm not sure why I so like both of these. The very good writing will have something to do with it. They are both kind of liberal in their own way. Their writers are thinkers. Maybe I'm just a magazine snob.

I also read the internet rather a lot: web sites; help sites for various other sites I am learning to use, like mobileread; other peoples' blogs and so on and on. Learning to use the internet can take up hours in a day. I can kid myself that I'm seeing it as a potential marketing tool for my writing, but really, it's just so damned interesting.

October 10, 2009

More marketing

Write a press release, is the advice - I'm reading the Smashwords Marketing Guide, which is free from their site. I would if I could think of something to write it about, given that Take It Easy first came out last year. Publishing as an ebook, hardly seems enough. So, pass on that one for now.

Encourage your fans to write online reviews. This is the stuff that makes me cringe, so I probably won't do it. First cringe point - I don't want 'fans,' I want friends and readers.

Participate in online forums. This is the one I am working on. (Will continue to buy my paper books from Unity Books in Wellington, a great independent bookstore. ) might even open an Amazon account, as suggested, so I can post about my book there. (Did you know that it's complicated and expensive for a self-publisher to get on Amazon?) Smashwords, however, does publish its eversion of my book in the format for Kindle, so who knows if that will be a way in to that market. I have joined mobileread.com but am yet to figure out how to take an active part in it. Am I particularly obtuse about learning to use these websites? I do wonder, even though I manage computer and internet use competently enough in general facebook often defeats me and these participation websites tend to get me in a muddle with them.

Coupons is another technique that is encouraged (buy one, get your second one for half price, 20% off until the end of the month, etc). I'll leave that for now.

Write a blog. Ah! Got that!

October 4, 2009

How Fiction Works

This is the title of a book By James Wood, critic, academic, writer for The New Yorker etc etc. It’s the best book about reading and writing I’ve read for a long time. He talks about “free, indirect style” which allows for the voice of the author, not always obviously, to be there alongside the characters.
A long quote from How Fiction Works

"The novelist is always working with at least three languages. There is the author’s own language, style, perceptual equipment, and so on; there is the character’s presumed language, style, perceptual equipment, and so on; and there is what we would call language of the world—the language that fiction inherits before it gets to turn it into novelistic style, the language of daily speech, of newspapers, of offices, of advertising, of the blogosphere and text messaging. In this sense, the novelist is a triple writer, and the contemporary writer now feels especially the pressure of this tripleness, thanks to the omnivorous presence of the third horse of this troika, the language of the world, which has invaded our subjectivity, our intimacy, the intimacy that James thought should be the proper quarry of the novel, and which he called (in a troika of his own) “the palpable present-intimate."

The writer Paul Freidinger from http://longpinelimited.blogspot.com/2009/04/writer-paul-freidinger-on-james-wood.html April 15 2009 comments in regard to the Wood book:

"I’m suggesting a reader examine whether a writer can resurrect our daily language and give a character an authentic voice, or whether he becomes a victim of the superficial, to the degree of being unable to make us care enough about that character to complete his story. The rest of Wood’s book takes one deeper into the formation of a novel and what is essential to its success. He offers equally sound advice as he takes the reader through the essential elements of the novel. Give it a chance, read the book. It might make you a better reader. It might even cause you to reconsider your own writing."

James Wood credits Flaubert with changing the way western novels are written, so I re-read Madame Bovary What a pain I found Emma to be. However, giving attention to Wood's ideas, I was more aware of the presence of an authorial view. (Does this matter? I don't know, but I find it interesting.) One example, from page 341 of my edition, translated into English by Gerard Hopkins, "Where had she learned the arts of a power to corrupt which was so profound, yet so well disguised, that it appeared to be somehow disembodied?"

How Fiction Works is a short, dense book, written, quaintly, in numbered paragraphs and is in the Wellington Public Library. (Dewey number: 809.3 WOO)

In my next post, I'll be back to talking about marketing.

October 1, 2009

Fronting up to marketing online

I’m working my way through the Smashwords marketing book. Sheesh! Put my book in a signature for my emails, it says. A good idea and I am resistant to doing it. Is that in part because most of my emails are within New Zealand where ebook readers are limited to iphone/ipod touch? Or because I don’t like the idea of advertising to my friends? Both. Compromise - make an alternate signature with book details in it and (remember to) use it as seems fitting. Now learn how to do active links.

Click here for my profile page on Smashwords:

Click here for Take It Easy on Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/4048
You can buy an ebook version from this page. You can buy a printed version from http://www.womensbookshop.co.nz

Okay, done that. I had to go to Blogger help, and it did help.