'There was a man who... ' This person has a flaw, a failing, either moral (a tendency that will bring them and others misery) or cosmic (a hole in his or her fortune). They can't see it. Well, I can't see mine, but Robbie Burns was right to bemoan the fact that we cannot see ourselves as others see us. It would save us a lot of grief. But a tale is the closest we ever come, like Narcissus, to gazing at our own reflection.
The action of the book sets the flaw straight or shows it in dreadful relief.
At the denouement the protagonist takes one of two paths - he sees it and corrects it or stands corrected, or - and perhaps wonderfully, embraces it. This latter is a very rare outcome (The Godfather is much quoted as one of these, and I do rather like the idea of playing with the usual form.)
So your hook must posit - a person with flaw, and the outcome is this flaw being corrected. That my...
"Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”
“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.
Franz Kafka: “A Little Fable”
Coelho wrote his 45,00 word 'The Alchemist' in two weeks, as it was 'written in his soul.' It is 'a fable about following your dream.'
As those taking the Classic course know, what you write can come true.
In the very first chapters of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' JR Rowling declares that Harry Potter will become famous worldwide.
In a way, a book is a spell.
So long as you know what it's about, what its promise is, in one sentence, you can deliver it...
So you have to know when to stop planning. If you plan too far you lose the will to write and the magic that happens in the writing and the walls of fear start to go up and get higher and higher until even doing the ironing looks good.
Enjoy your background reading until the point it gets quite obscure and you're in danger of being didactic. Cross the knowledge threshold and you're a preacher not a writer. So stay back in the realm of slightly unsatisfied curiosity and don't cross over into the vanity of the realm of being a know-it-all. Writers don't know it all, that's why they write books.
All I know is that when Ithe chocolate stash is gone, it's time to pull back the cuffs and step into the other world of writing where anything can happen. Be careful not to become a would-be writer with years passing away in multi-coloured spreadsheets. The water's bracing and not as cold as you think and when you're in...
I have thought, when dedicating my novels, as I do at the outset, that they might just as well be devoted to those names not just with love, but also with the words 'I wrote this in spite of you.'
Is that a rotten thing to say? Or is it the truth that as you grow older the hoary old hands of love clutch at you, hang round your neck, and the babes in arms are six foot and still you carry them? Man, beast or child, love is a lot of carrying. And writers would like to be light.
We write to disappear. Bit by bit, over time, or sometimes headlong.
How I long to throw myself off a cliffside into a silent sea.
Vertigo. What a way to verti-go.
'Vertigo is a medical condition where a person feels as if they or the objects around them are moving when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement.This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking. It is typically...
Oh, writers of fairy tales, and fantasy you may well be the Light Brigade! It falls upon your shoulders to consider nation-building that is not nation-building. And here’s is your leader, the Gandalf to a new alliance of dwarves, elves and writers: Jack Zipes.
His latest work is ‘Fairy Tales & Fables from Weimar Days, Collected Utopian Tales, edited and translated by Jack Zipes.’
The era told in this collection of tales is chosen with prescient purpose, an era close to the precipice.
Mr Zipes, Jack, is the gentle giant of fairytale literary theory and it has been his life’s work to head straight to the punchline and explain why fairy tales work the way they do and why we are what we read.
Jack Zipes is Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota and he has given us fifteen classic books most latterly ‘Literature and Literary Theory: Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion’ (2011) ‘The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The...
You've got to love William Blake.
'A Woman clothed with the sun, & the moon under her feet, and / upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and behold a great red dragon also.'
Blake has taken this from Revelations 12 but I love the way he cuts and splices the phrases and uses them as the springboard for his art which is so often fantastical and revelatory.
I want to something to you about MAGIC. I know for some of you, you're as wary of this as if it's maths. That somehow bad breath and costumes are involved.
When it comes to 'magic', there's a broad church, but what I mean by it in the Classic Course, applies also to those of you on the Ninety Day Novel; transformation.
All great books serve up transformation on a silver plate, nice and succulent. He was a bit of a dullard, now he's pure evil. She was a drip, now she's working for NASA. Transformation is what a novel is all about. It's the moment in which the hero's flaw is seized in the cosmic spinning wheel,...
Time to press play. (Turn the volume up.)
When on occasion, my writers they struggle to find words, I advise them to try writing less. That seems to work.
This week, working with one of my writers we laughed about using this motto - 'I'm just writing a little book' - rather than the heady rhetoric of empire-building to encourage yourself to the daily writing. When you work in a way that is small, humble and cosy, proceeding with patient affection from one paragraph to the next, it is like building a fire from kindling and breathing life into it as we saw with The Firestarter competition last week. (Rather than chucking a load of petrol over a barbecue and watching it go out leaving the sausages burnt and foul.)
So when I bill the new course that starts on Monday as 'How To Write A Classic' I hope you will not feel too awed.
I've been ever so 'umble' in the last three months, quiet and cosy as a Hobbit in my hole, studying the all-time bestselling...
We are a community of writers dedicated to pushing, cheering, dragging, cajoling, bribing each other over the finishing line of 'The End'.
The purpose of The Novelry is to make sure that each and every one of our member's manuscripts is 100% safe at submission. This means putting it through its paces and many, many rounds of checks and fine balances most crucially, in the final stages at the Members Lodge.
Round after round of revision at the Members Lodge - based on the guidance given - means that manuscript will only be rejected because of an agent's personal peccadillo, and not because:
None of these will apply to one of our manuscripts.
We are men and women who have become comrades in ink. We turn to each other. We salute each other, we cheer, and yes, we do whinge a bit when the mood takes us. We like it that way.
We are about to celebrate the first anniversary of Kritikme and...
Start by locating the source of evil in your world. Conflict is the essential ingredient to a children's story.
It may or may not be a dragon. (Please God, not another one.)
The real evil in Narnia, Wonderland, and Neverland is time.
Oh Kronos, you creep.
Kronos (or Cronus) was the King of the Titans and the god of time for the Greeks, a destructive, all-devouring force. He ruled the cosmos during the Golden Age after castrating and deposing his father, Uranus (Sky). In fear of a prophecy that he would in turn be overthrown by his own son, Kronos swallowed each of his children as they were born.
Time is the old grandfather clock who gets tick-tocked off in fantasy fiction, particularly children's classics.
Got five minutes?
"Well, sir, if things are real, they're there all the time."
"Are they?" said the Professor; and Peter didn't know quite what to say.
"But there was no time," said Susan. "Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place....
Writers are creative people, and they're most creative of all with time. Successful writers make time to write.
Are you busy?
As in you have a great deal to do and don't have enough time?
Right-o. Yup. I haven't yet met anyone who isn't, have you?
You have the same amount of time as everyone on a day to day basis. You have twenty-four hours. You can argue that they are not yours to use as you lie, but that's not entirely true. You can always walk out of your life and it's the fantasy subject of many a good book and the practice of many a holy man or woman too.
When you say you are busy what you mean is this is not important enough to make it onto the 1... 24 of the hours I have available. So next time he or she doesn't call you because they were busy you will know you did not make it into their top 24 things to do that day or the next.
It would be very cool if you had the guts to say 'this is not important to me' rather than that you are too busy since you...