I like Salt a lot. Not on my food (except chips) but the readable kind. Those splendid books published by Salt. I have no connections to this fine independent publishing house. This is not a toady blog, in which I try to ingratiate myself to them in the hope they would be interested in my work. No. I really do like their books and they are the place to go for short stories. The very excellent Tania Hershmann's collection of stories and flash fiction, The White Road, which featured last week on Radio 4 is an example. They also have produced an excellent book on the craft of writing short stories which I have blogged about before entitled, Short Circuit. It's a hugely informative collection of essays by major prize winning authors of this genre and anyone writing in it would be wise to own a copy. In fact, I recommend buying a Salt book this very minute! Last year they ran their Just One Book to keep them in business. It worked. Hurrah! But this year they are back with Just One More Book. I hope they survive. Hop over to the Salt Website and check out their books.
Usually I write a blog and then think of a title that's pertinent. Today, I'm wondering if the title I've just typed might just be enough.
Nope? No such luck.
It isn't about spelling, allthow speling iz impourtent.
It's about giving a reader a smooth ride. When I was learning to drive my instructor said that during my test, the way to pass was to give the examiner a smooth ride round the course. He/she should feel safe in my hands.
I also want to read without having to apply the brakes suddenly in order to work out the meaning of a sentence. Clumsy, ostentatious vocabulary is rather like having a big stone hit the windscreen, ambiguity is like sliding over a patch of ice.
Sometimes my progress through a story is impeded by beautiful, imaginative language. I have to stop, go back, read again and maybe again, but isn't it great to stop and admire a wonderful view. And isn't the journey enriched by the pause rather than impoverished?
No, not me. Sigh. But my friend, Ellen Renner, who wrote the wonderful Castle of Shadows that I have mentioned before. She is in Exeter Waterstones (Roman Gate, next to Boots) at 1pm on Saturday 17th April. Do hop along if you can. Or if you haven't got a bad foot, you could walk, skip, run even, although Exeter is a bit crowded on Saturdays.
Castle of Shadows is a great adventure story for 8-100 year kids. I loved it.
Long time no blog. Shameful, I know and rather feeble.
However, I have got lots done. Very pleased with students' anthology and I hope everyone is proud of their efforts.
I've spent a lot of time this term grumbling about layout and when to indent and not to indent. Also, it is a pain that the default setting for most word processing comes with a double space on return, because fiction isn't set out like that. But it isn't impossible to change! Find a kind young thing to change it for you if necessary.
Having advised that a forensic eye is necessary for submissions, I've discovered a missing word in something I've submitted which renders the third sentence gobbledegook. Ah well. Might be all right. Is it worse than the major factual error in my last shortlisted story? Gulp. I didn't just say that, really I didn't...
It's in the envelope. I have it here in front of me. My novel submission. So just the 'good luck, me' mantra at the post office tomorrow and I shall have a few days off from thinking about it.
Talking of getting things in the post, the closing date for Exeter Writers short story competition is at the end of this month. If you click on the link to their website on the left, then you will find mention of the competition on the front page.
Don't laugh. I'm still at it. I was strongly advised by my illustrious author friend that now is the time to take the time and be meticulous about every aspect of my novel submission because if it does get picked up, I won't have the luxury of time again.
That's a very encouraging thing for me to hear. True, my pride and joy might get thrown on the slush pile but it's nice to have the support of someone in the field. In fact, I have the support of two successful (that means money earning) authors!
How can I not do my very best? Everything has to be picked over. Why that comma? Have I indented everything correctly? Is the paper in the printer straight? Why does he/she say that? What's the point of describing her shoes/bathroom cabinet/coffin? Will the reader want to turn the page? Then the next page...
Trust me, I'm not prevaricating! The champagne is in the fridge. That's just for posting it. I'm a strong believer in rewarding effort.
I'm still tweaking the novel ready of submission. I know I said I'd finished but I lied. Not that I knew that then.
Changing something at the beginning of a novel is a risky business. The consequences may not become apparent until fifty thousand words later. Thank goodness for software like Scrivener (mac only, link on the left) that allows you to click between chapters and a corkboard with every chapter's synopsis laid out on cards. Saves a lot of fiddling with post-its and scrolling through yards of text.
What's also pleasing is that the company that developed Scrivener is based just down the road in Truro.
I did a very stupid thing the other day. I asked a very kind and supportive friend to look at a letter I had written. It hadn't been a easy letter to write and I was so pleased to have got through a first draft that I thought I'd ask my friend if I was on the right track before I went any further.
That sounds reasonable doesn't it? Yes?
Always do your very best before showing anybody anything. It doesn't matter what it is. First drafts should be just that and for you alone. I should have put my letter aside and looked at it again the next day with new eyes. It is amazing how blindness on one day can be 20/20 vision the next.
How many times have I been in the situation when presented with a piece of work, have inwardly groaned and thought, why have they been so sloppy? Or, I can't begin to correct this, it needs rewriting altogether.
The recipient of my letter may well have just binned it.
Well, my lovely friend had redrafted my letter for me and even more mortifying...had picked my up on points of presentation. Presentation! And I'm the one that never stops banging on about presentation. Ah me. I am suitably chastened.
I posted off two stories this morning with the usual 'good luck, me' mantra that I do, very much in the same way that Rafa Nadal has to fiddle with his socks, or is it his shoes before he goes on court? What? You mean I can't put myself and Rafa in the same sentence? Pah! Of course, I can. Because I'm the one doing the writing, see. So I can do anything.
Sometimes, putting two disparate things in close proximity can be really dynamic and spark off a whole sequence of events. It could be humorous or disastrous, the beginnings of a love affair, a feud or even a war.
Perhaps I should call my new novel, Rafa Nadal and the Invisible Woman.
Bloody hell! I've sent out a load of party invitations and I haven't done any tidying or got any games to play.
But anyone who calls is very welcome. Hellooo!
First things first, let's raise a glass to the birthday girl, the wonderful Nicola Morgan whose blog, Help I need a Publisher (link below left) I regularly read because of its excellent wiseness about all writery things.
Ignore the cobwebs in the corners here. I can do sentences, but I'm rather slow.
Today was housework day here. Tidy up, make the font a bit bigger, write something apposite or possibly humorous... And what happened?
I have writer's block. More specifically, I have writer's toilet block. No, not one of things you put under the rim. My toilet is blocked. Consequently, I have spent most of the afternoon in my sturdy rubber gloves endeavouring to get the bloody thing unblocked. Oddly, having defrosted the hose-pipe and cleared the smelly stuff under the manhole cover, the flush is still slow. Why is this?? It has to be weather related. Yes, I know. Obvious probably.
What? You think this is all a case of displacement activity? You think I'd rather be doing that than writing?
Noooooo! I'm perfectly happy writing, no block at all!
But it's amazing the number of times I read a piece of work that is ambiguous in its meaning. Perhaps I should have just said, no blog today because my toilet's blocked. But that would have been really crap, wouldn't it?
My first achievement for 2010 is to be longlisted for the Harry Bowling novel prize. Hurrah and... oh poo.
The first time I was shortlisted in a competition I was absolutely ecstatic. Now I'm disappointed and have to remind myself I'm pleased to have been placed at all.
I warned a prospective student that in my improvers' class I get more forensic with my critiques. I could have a New Years resolution that I do the same to myself, never let anything through that I think will just 'do'. Perhaps this year I might actually win something. Who knows?