This isn’t the first time that the Libertà Hive has pondered the advice to writers to “murder your darlings.”
Indeed, Joanna got seriously confessional about doing exactly that a few months ago. Actually, in her case, it wasn’t so much wilful murder as a contract killing. Editors can be ruthless.
WHO WANTS YOU TO MURDER YOUR DARLINGS?
Well, Stephen King does a pretty good job of it in his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” He was following William Faulkner. But even Faulkner wasn’t the originator.
It turns out to be Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch — that’s the Victorian Arthur Double-Barrelled who was NOT the author of Sherlock Holmes. He did write novels, lots of ’em, signing himself “Q”. But I’ve never read one. (Hmm. Maybe this year?)
But he was also a serious critic and anthologist. And from 1912 to his death in 1944 he was the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. I’ve always thought that he pretty much invented Lit Crit, in fact. Continue reading →
Light and shade help to create atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be deep gloom or blinding sunlight, just a degree of contrast.
To see what I’m getting at, have a look at the 3 pictures in the slider below, showing roughly the same view of a snowy landscape, but in different kinds of light. I reckon the changes of light and shade move the viewer from misery (or at least gloom), through hope, to something much more positive.
At Sophie’s prompting, I’ve recently been reading a new (to me) crime writer, Barbara Cleverly (a writer who only just missed the cut for 12 days of Christmas). Cleverly’s first 4 books are set in India in the 1920s, after the horrors of the First World War (which haunts many of her characters) but while the British Empire still rules.
What stayed with me, apart from her genius for plotting, was the atmosphere she created for her pre-independence India — an underlying feeling of unease, even menace.
Cleverly’s British Raj is like a thin and very fragile glass lid on a huge cauldron of broth. Readers can see through the lid to the liquid below. Not quite boiling yet, but with the occasional large bubble forcing its way through the shimmering and (apparently) serene surface. As readers, we sense that it wouldn’t take very much to crack through that flimsy lid from below. Continue reading →
Writing for a reader is how I finished my very first book. That probably sounds strange, after my heartfelt blog about writing for one’s own inner reader. But the truth is that, although I’d been writing all my life, the very first book I finished was written for a particular reader.
For some time now, people have been asking me to write about what copy editors do and why they’re important. This is a companion piece to last year’s little trot through the origins and history of publishers’ editing: “What Editors Do”.
Why now? I have just actually been reviewing the copy editor’s changes on the text of my new book. So the mind is focused on what I did and what it felt like.
I should point out that, like my blog on editors, this is highly personal. Though I have also drawn on conversations with copy editors and a great talk, some years ago at an RNA Chapter, by jay Dixon, a trained copy editor. Continue reading →
Readers don’t talk much about discoverability or even reviews, I find. Writers, of course, worry about them all the time.
I’m both. But I read more books than I write.
Heck, I read more words than I write and I’ve been motoring at 3,000 words a day for a while now. That’s gross, you understand. In every sense of the word, probably, though I’d prefer you to interpret it as the opposite of net.
Reviews and Recommendations
As a reader, I like recommendations. Not reviews so much. Well not big ticket reviews in the Grown Up media, anyway. I slightly mistrust them. There’s always the feeling that the reviewer is writing with one eye on the book and the other on his own credibility with fellow critics. Continue reading →
The very first piece of advice that I remember anyone giving me about writing was, “Avoid cliché.” I was ten. I had to look up “cliché”. So now I have a question.
A cliché is a word or phrase so worn out by overuse that it has deteriorated until it is meaningless. It may once have been striking. Today it is white noise.
The gentle reader ignores it. The ungentle critic berates the writer for laziness and lack of originality.
Dickens got away with “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done,” because he thought of it first. After that it became popular, then heard widely, then untouchable by any writer with pretensions to respectability.
A few years ago, in company with a Very Distinguished Author Friend, I ran a session at
the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference on The Romantic Scene.
It was a delight.
We had a ball.
Our participants were enthusiastic, completely engaged. They enjoyed it and talked about it for ages afterwards. Yet it had been one of the most thought-provoking tasks I’ve ever tackled.
How often is hero allure part of what compels us to pick up a book?
Last week we asked people to vote on which qualities would hook them into the hero’s story. We were thinking of just that first engagement: what we learn from the blurb, the first few pages or Amazon’s sample.
Across A Crowded Room
With more and more novels to choose from every year, it’s becoming a major issue. I suppose it’s the literary equivalent of eyes meeting at a party. Something in you jumps to attention and says, “Oo yes, this one.” Continue reading →