Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Sarah Dunant is my inspiration

Last week I experienced an epiphany about a novel I have in draft. Sarah Dunant was leading a workshop on voice. The discussion centred on her choice of 1st or 3rd person and present or past tense. I realised I need to test out a change of POV and a change in tense to solve a problem I had identified.

During the workshop we wrote from postcards - some of the pictures were hilarious. A testing task, of course most of us write from the POV with which we were most comfortable.  She then asked us to rewrite using the POV we had not used. The results were fascinating.

Sarah Dunant is my inspiration because of the way she uses superb research to tell the story of forgotten aspects of history, specifically 15th Century Italy. She has a point to make and makes it craftily. If history was like this when I was at school I would have chosen a different career path.

Her website  belongs to the 21st Century and includes videos, podcasts and a blog. I thoroughly recommend you explore it (and buy the books!)

Monday, 15 November 2010

If writing is about communication why are you in your garret?

I am less convinced that 21st Century writer can model themselves on 19th century or even 20th century writing process. The image of the author tucked up in their garret, burning candles until the early morning as they sweat over a longhand script feels as outmoded as the image of monks at their desks illuminating manuscripts. In 2010 we have digital cameras, laptops and the Internet, online discussion forums and ebook readers.

Every writer has their own habits for success. My point is the garret-habit is so alienating a writer may become disconnected from the real world of writing and publishing. Finding time to connect and learn from other writers and publishers, to keep up with the trends, to get out and talk about your writing, to write blogs, tweet about your work - all of this is important. The professional writer is someone who can write well, understands modern publishing and is prepared to be the (modern) salesperson for their work, before, during and after publication.

New technology is not the most important aspect to writing and publishing. However, few publishers, let along writers, would have forecast the exponential rise of ebook use in the last twelve months.

I suspect by the time some writers finish the novel they are working on (longhand or on the laptop) they will look out of the window of their garret to find the world is a very different place and their handiwork no longer suitable.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Short Story published in Sister:A Sporadic Literary Magazine

I think we need a new verb to replace "to publish". The Internet and associated technology means anyone can publish in the dictionary definition of "bring to the attention of, announce". "Publish" also means to prepare and issue material for public distribution or sale. Some definitions specify that publish is about printed works. So I am publishing in this blog and I also publish printed materials for public consumption.

However, there is a completely different feeling, for which I haven't found the verb, when your work is published by someone else. There's something so satisfying about endorsement by others, regardless of whether the public reads what you've produced or whether you make any money from it.

If you have a verb for this type of "publish" then please let me know.


My short story, "Dark Diamonds" is in the November 2010 edition of Sister; A sporadic Literary Magazine.  The story came out of an exercise in writing like Joseph Conrad after reading "Heart of Darkness". I'm finding the exercises "write like..." to be stretching and at times uncomfortable. I would not usually write like Conrad though I am thrilled the short story is published.