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Friday, 27 November 2009

Amazon's Kindle for Christmas - Fuel for thought

From Oct 7th newspaper, "We’ve heard whispers for months, but this morning Amazon snapped its fingers and made the Kindle available in the UK, as well as 99 other countries around the world."
At the moment you have to place your order through and have the device shipped to Britain (complete with a US power adapter).
Amazon says “in the future, we plan to introduce a UK-centric Kindle experience, enabling you to purchase Kindle and Kindle books in sterling from our UK site.”
The cost at the moment is £217, as an import, but I have spoken to two people who have asked for it for Christmas. Admittedly, they are both academics, who will use its vast library of classics for reference whilst teaching. But both said they would be downloading novels too, and regretted that there was a limited choice.

Recently delighted by my cover for my debut novel, I wonder what this will mean for the cover artists and layout designers who work so hard to make our books attractive and tactile on the shelves with full colour, gold-foiling, embossing, cut-outs and so forth.

An even more important question then, will be how will our books be judged if not by the cover? Does it mean that there will be less of a concentration on big names, and more opportunity for the discerning reader to choose a book from a carefully worded blurb, i.e words, rather than from an image?
It could mean that those books that cross genres will be freed from the necessity of being pigeonholed to a single readership, by a cover that attracts only one sort of reader.

I'd be interested to know how important the cover and packaging are to writers, and whether there are any writers out there who own or ar planning on getting a kindle.

Kindle - ignite, light; set fire to, touch off; fuel, stoke, feed the flames; make the fire, rub two sticks together (Roget's Thesaurus)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Trusting the Reader

I've just been having a conversation with people in my creative writing class about trusting the reader. Admittedly this was in a session about poetry, but I think it is true of all writing. As a writer I am too often guilty of trying to force the reader's view by over-informing them. It is as if we want to force the reader into a corner so that they have no option but to view the imaginary world in the same way as we do when we are writing it. To make sure they have 'our picture' we over-describe every detail, leaving the reader with nothing to do except read a detailed report of the events.

But the best books are those that leave most of it to the reader's imagination, so that the two of us - the writer and the reader, are both carrying equal responsibility for imagining the book. This makes for a vivid experience for the reader, who then truly owns the book. For a writer, this means being sparing with the detail and precise in our use of language, and avoiding telling too much.

I much admired Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which was a harrowing book, but the nightmare vision was achieved by allowing our own memories and fears to inhabit the blank spaces in his beautifully open prose.

For a writer of historical fiction this is a particular temptation - there is so much lovely detail in the research I could add, but I have to restrain myself, and continually ask the question: Is this the detail that will conjure the scene for the reader, or is it just more icing on an already over-laden cake?

(that's one metaphor that will definitely have to go!)

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Catalogue of Forbidden Books

In 1763 the Government of Hapsburg, Vienna, published a Catalogue of Forbidden Books. Twelve years later this catalogue had to be included amongst its own contents because the people were using it as a guide to stimulating reading.

Word processing and Wordsworth

I'm sure many of us writers will have wondered how on earth any writer from the pre-computer age actually managed to edit work without the benefits of cut & paste, spell-check, grammar check etc. Now mired in the umpteenth draft of the second book, and moving around whole chapters from here to there, I am appreciating just how useful my computer is.

A few months ago I visited the Wordsworth Museum near my home and saw the multiple versions of poems written by William, but painstakingly copied in their various drafts by his dutiful younger sister Dorothy. Perhaps this was laziness on William's part, or more likely a common practice in earlier centuries, that the men wrote, and women or wives carefully copied it out every time their spouse wanted to make a change to the text. A labour of love, if ever there was one. It is also fun to speculate and wonder how many women slipped in a few of their own alterations?
Dorothy Wordsworth

I still write out some things by hand, but not much. Mostly I type direct onto the screen and only print out at the end of the first draft, then again when I'm at approximately the 2nd, 3rd  drafts - though I have to say the process of deciding - "I've reached the third draft now, better print it out and re-read it" - is a bit arbitrary. Mostly I've been tinkering about since the first so-called draft, and after that the whole revising and editing process is ongoing. But agents/publishers and other people are always more likely to be impressed if you say you are working on the third draft than if you say you are still working on the first! All I can say is, thank goodness the machine does the hard work of crossing out and re-ordering, and I am not reliant on a long-suffering relation to do it for me.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Lady's Slipper now available to pre-order on Amazon

I was thrilled to find that The Lady's Slipper is now available to pre-order on Amazon. It is also, bizarrely, available to pre-order in Japan on the japanese Amazon! Neither of them have a cover pic though, and the cover design is great as you can see. You can find a bit more info on my website