It's time to come out of the closet. I write, I am an author, and I also like nice things.
I know I should abjure all fripperies in favour of sackcloth and the ashes of the latest manuscript, and 80 days out of 100 I do, but then you see when I come up for air, I fancy a handbag.
And when I am preparing to write a novel, I don't think twice about buying a beautiful new notebook, a heavyweight fountain pan, a scented candle and other items for the altar of my writing desk. I keep the bag, and maybe the wallet, close by to look at them to remind me of what will happen when I come into my kingdom, when my books are back on the bookshelves and I'm having mild panic attacks on radio stations. Then, when that day comes, I will look like I'm smart, I say to myself. I'm ready!
It's a material and a spiritual practice, getting set to write a book. A bit of preparation and comfort-shopping before a pilgrimage to the within. You have a map and...
So you have to know when to stop. 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.
So get a good handle on what the success factors are for the book you're writing, roughly lay them out. 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. Ok, writers aren't 'writers' like its a breed of livestock - they're people - who are telling a tale for two people and both those people are them.
All I know is that when I'm turning about myself like a cat, or the chocolate stash is...
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...
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.
In last week's Sunday blog we looked at you and your phoney old sense of time and what to do about it. (And yes, I am still sinning with the number one sin of writers which I listed for you last week. See the 'busy bullshit.' Do read it if you haven't.)
This week we're looking beyond the often quite charming villain in the Classic, to find the real source of evil in Wonderland. As some of you will know, I've been delving into the works of C.S. Lewis, J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll,...
Money wouldn't enter into it.
I yearn for time and space and since they appear to cover most of the immediately and unarguably available dimensions in which we live, I consider this common sense. Otherwise, one might as well hanker over kippers, or cutlery or cupcakes, since everything besides times and space is counting and we were made for a more divine mathematics. (Cupidity is not a vice writers or artists indulge.)
Let's deal with lifestyle first, then we'll come to literature (and science) in next week's Sunday blog.
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...
A few weeks ago, I dreamt that my legs were covered in thick, lupine hair. A pelt of fur. Then I dreamt a few days later of being in a clinic on a table with a cold steel blade tracing the bones of my legs shaving them. A few nights later, in another dream, the hairs on my legs were long, thick and golden stalks of hair like wheat in a field, with the wind blowing through them.
On Saturday evening, last week, I was talking about the notion of our 'shadowlands' (the secondary world in speculative fiction) with a Kritikme fellow writer who had some very interesting mythological references to offer on the matter. That night I dreamt that I was reaching down to my nether regions pulling out single hairs that came out individually as black quills, like the spikes of a porcupine filled with black ink.
I woke and thought about the fur coats in the wardrobe in Narnia. Suddenly the single philosophical theme of my...
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