Saturday, 16 July 2011

How long does it take to Write a Novel?

A year?  Two years?  Five?  A lifetime?

I wish I knew.  It's taken me about two years to get to where I am now; beginning a third draft and preparing to make some big changes.  My biggest problem?  Having to write part-time; snatching a couple of hours in the evening, getting up early at the week-end, making notes on the KLM city hopper as I chase around the endless white corridors of food factories.  I find it difficult to maintain consistency in ideas.  Far too often I will cook up something that I really like and try and make int fit into the story.  Or I forget a character's motivation in a particular chapter and end up making them do something meaningless, or completely out of character.

Concentrate on character and make notes as you go along, even if its' just a brief synopsis of each chapter that you can glance at every time you sit down to write.  With this third draft I am really scrutinising the previous day's work, making corrections, checking that my characters are being true to themselves, thinking about the plot and how events early on will shape the rest of the story.  I think I may have found my style of writing.  Hey, I'm a beginner after all!

So how long does it take to write a novel?  Flicking through this morning's Telegraph 'Review' supplement I came across a critique of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.  The author set himself the challenge of writing a novel in a year.  That meant he had two weeks to draft and revise each of the book's twenty-six chapters, whilst holding down a day job as a Financier.  Supposedly he received an advance from his publisher in the region of £100,000.  The stuff of dreams.

Is Rules of Civility any good?  I haven't read it so I can't pass comment.  The reviewer gave it three stars and accused it of feeling 'a bit second hand...'  Still £100,000 for a year's work - you've just bought yourself the time to write something even better.

I think to write a novel in a year you have to believe in your characters from the get go.  For me that suggests that you've spent some time thinking about them, shaping them in your head, not to mention having done some considerable research in the background.  Perhaps I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm a little envious.  I'll keep pushing on until my novel is ready.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Kindled! (And other snippets)

Yes.  Kindled.  Set alight.  Well sort of...

I took the plunge and swallowed a bit of pride and allowed the contentious Kindle to settle between my fingers.  Have I been converted?  Um, fifty-fifty.  It's not a book, which may seem a very duh observation - what was I expecting? -  but that was my first emotion as I began to read from it (The Once and Future King, T.E. White).

What I don't like about the Kindle:

  • You can't smell the pages (come on, we all do that!)
  • I don't know what page I'm on - only what percentage of the book I've read.
  • I can't flip through the pages in an absent-minded fashion or rest the open pages over my eyes as I nap in the beautiful British sunshine.
  • I still need to turn the bedside lamp on to read at night.
  • I can't chuck it across the room when I get frustrated with the plot/characters/denouement.
  • I can't use it to remedy a wobbly table
  • Okay I'm scraping the barrel now!

What I do like about the Kindle:
  • If i suddenly decide I want to read let's say...The House at Pooh Corner then I can download it to my Kindle in little more than a minute (without embarrassment).  Perfect for our 'have now' society.  Instantania!
  • I can hold it, I can lay it down on the table, I can prop it up, any angle, and the pages don't flop shut.
  • When taking a flight I needn't use up my baggage allowance on books - I can have all that in just 200g (approx - I used my kitchen scales)
  • It meant I could buy my short story (yes, I know, I bought my own short story - someone has to - available now at if you're interested!)
  • The author portrait screen savers are a nice touch.
  • Actually there are quite a few things i like about the Kindle.

But the Kindle is not a book, and for me it will never replace the pleasure of penetrating the hardcover of my favourite author's latest; of wandering the aisles of a good bookshop (especially the second hand ones with hidden gems in every darkened nook and cranny); of that moment of deliberation, torn between wanting to preserve the integrity of a paperback whilst at the same time having an overriding desire to break its spine and fold the pages down flat.
The Kindle, for all its worth, will never smell like a book, it will never feel like a book, and it will never read like a book.  Like good tea sipped from fine china, words are best enjoyed on paper.

Even more exciting than the Kindle was the arrival of the Writer's and Artist's Yearbook 2012.  If you don't own a copy of this then put it on your shopping list or go to your local library and get a hold of it.  Aside from containing the most up to date directory of contacts for the publishing industry it is also crammed full of advice from established and first-time authors of all genres, commissioning officers, agents and publishers.  It offers support and encouragement to people like us who are striving to get our manuscripts out there.  It's big and red and shiny!  It smells great!  I love it!