The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
Sometime back in the 2000's 'literary' became a dirty word.
My first book was published in 2004. My work was hailed as 'the opposite of chick lit' but that was a double-edged sword ...
I didn't see myself as conforming to any genre. I had never considered genre at all. My first novel was a dark comedy, written in quite a light-hearted tone of voice entirely and purposely unsuited to the subject matter of a man trying to die with dignity. My second was, if you like, 'historical fiction', set in Belfast during The Troubles of 1979-1981. The third was another black comedy, concerning a hapless Englishman 'living the good life', a pharmaceuticals salesman selling anti-depressants to the African continent and enjoying sex with strangers. The fourth was a quainter comedy, an old man determined to claw his way back into the bosom of the family who do not want him.
It's 2010. I'd produced four novels, one every one and a half years.
I went to see my agent. 'How...
At more than halfway through writing this novel, I pulled into the writer's layby to check tone of voice as I was worried that in the darker parts I'd let the humourous voice slip. (As you all know, there comes a gloomy writing day usually followed by a brighter one.)
I took a reading break to spoon feed myself some literary Haagen-Dazs courtesy of 'A Man Called Ove'. The irascible but loveable contrary main character offers a comic touch that's as pleasing as raspberry ripple.
I went back and checked my work through. I went back to the first chapter. By coarsening the main character, being certain about her flaw, I was able to maintain the tone of voice better throughout, so I needed to tweak the beginning to make it more 'declaratory'.
So tone of voice and character go hand in hand. This guy/girl's bad, but it's ok, you and me can see it.
Getting tone of voice right and keeping it as the North star throughout your writing, occasionally stopping when the night is...
Humbling, yet humble. A combination that made Philip Roth great.
His books were like knives we couldn’t put down despite them cutting our hands.
This is an article I wrote for The Independent in 2008 when asked to choose my book of a lifetime, which was 'Everyman' by Mr Roth.
Philip Roth retired from writing in 2012, appending a Post-It note to his computer which read simply 'The struggle with writing is done.'
Philip Roth has left us, but he has left us with an inspiring body of work and the humble reminder that every novel is new. Every time you write it, you learn how to write all lover again.
'You begin every book as an amateur. ... Gradually, by writing sentence after sentence, the book, as it were, reveals itself to you. ... Each and every sentence is a revelation.' (Philip Roth 2006).
Encouragement for writers in the middle of a book.
I am now some 34,000 words into the writing of my fable which I think will conclude at about...
There is one reason I write.
There is a reason I write and will always write until they take the pencil away from me. The mystery.
The mystery of what’s going to happen on the page.
The mystery of what’s happening off the page.
Things occur to you differently. You see like a child, you're suddenly shocked at things you didn't see a certain way before and you're seeing them differently because of your emotional attachment to the theme of your book which was not the one you chose. You had an idea and a theme and you began to write, but then something mysterious happened. A wolf whistle in the dark. You were called away from your plodder's work to see behind a wall. You went. That's the main thing, you went.
I never expected the book I am writing to take the turn it has taken. I am now at 25,000 words and have had to regroup and revise the first part to take the beautiful blow of a change of theme and reassess where I've been and where I'm going with the...
'Why haven't you done anything with the book you wrote last year?' My son asked me.
'Because it's not important. I needed to write it but the world doesn't need it.'
'I would read it.'
'You can't because it's not published. I'm not publishing it.'
This is the nub of the matter for a writer; importance. I know it's hard to confess it. But it's true.
It's only a sense of its 'importance' that will drive you all the way to the end to publishing that book.
I have wrestled with myself to pinpoint the importance of the book I am writing. At first I began wanting it to be adorable, then I knew it had to also be important but I was only half sure why. After all, why should my time on this earth, my experience, my opinions lead me to any discoveries or convictions or ideas of any importance to others?
I had a premise and a plan for the book, and was armed with materials and ideas thanks to the studies of the Classic course which would stand a chance of the work being...
Get on the list!
Get the Sunday paper for writers to your inbox.