Tuesday, 30 October 2007

My ABNA Blog

Take a look in case it's removed by the authorities!
I'm the proud owner of an Amazon blog that I don't think I'm entitled to. They seem to be just for authors who have a book selling on Amazon, or the Chosen One Thousand in due course.

But I thought it would be a good promotional tool for my profile page. So I tinkered about, clicked here and there, filled in this and that, gave up - and it appeared on my page. Woohoo!

You can see it here.

The cartoon I use for my Amazon profile is by my daughter. I like it so much I'm putting it here as well.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Thinking about Mills & Boon...

What makes good writing good (and bad writing bad)?

I listen to the radio while I work; BBC 7, Classic FM and Oneword mostly, and today I happened upon the Mills & Boon serial, The Greek's Chosen Wife by Lynne Graham.

It was immediately obvious what it was, as I came in on the statutory bit at the end where the conflict between the hero and heroine segues into declarations of hidden love. And it was quite bad. Not just the predictability of the plot (arranged marriage turns to true love) with its stock characters - he gorgeous and commanding, she beautiful and feisty - but the quality of the writing, which was both overblown and inept.

Nick, the golden-eyed hero, seldom says anything; instead, 'Nick imparted wryly', 'Nick censured huskily' or even 'Nick slotted in'. 'He found her mouth' had me jeering at the radio, below her nose and above her chin, now there's a surprise.

The book was plain bad, just as Jane Austen's are plain good. But what about good bad books, like the Famous Five series, or Dracula? Or bad good books, like À la recherche du temps perdu?

Your nominations?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

ABNA update

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award closes its list...

Yesterday it was announced that entries had reached the 5,000 mark. Writers who missed out could go on a waiting list, and hope a registered writer would fail to submit.

The competition forum has been seething; anxious people unsure how to interpret the rules, and trying to help each other out in the almost total absence of Amazon admin. We won't be told our submission has 'qualified' until November 12th. No-one knows how rigidly the rules will be enforced; will you be disqualified for not having one inch margins? Or inadvertently leaving your name in the header? When they say 'a thousand-character synopsis' do they really mean a blurb? You can't check your submission, or go back and change it.

I wonder if they expected so many entries that the list would fill two weeks before the deadline?

Now it's just wait and see...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Single Point of View...grrr..

A sacred cow of our time?

Can anyone tell me why we are all told to stick rigidly to one POV in each scene, with the limitations that entails? The idea took hold quite recently, towards the end of the last century. Why is it such a good idea? Whose idea was it? (My theory is that the person responsible was a thwarted writer running a class for other unpublished writers).

Switching POVs is something that doesn't bother a reader unless he's studied writing. My daughter (a voracious reader) is fine with it, though she pounced on my one bit of authorial intrusion like a terrier on a rat, despite the fact that she’d never heard the expression. ‘You’re telling the reader what to think,’ she said.

My favourite authors use multiple POVs. In Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault there is one scene at a horse fair where the POV goes all over the place; Philip, Alexander, Hephaistion, the royal horse trainer, the slaves, the horse seller and even the horse. I'd never thought there was anything wrong with the scene. A more recent example of an author who ignores the ‘rule’ is Philip Reeve, in Mortal Engines.

I switch POVs in scenes between two people, where I want the reader to know what each of them is thinking. Sticking to one POV impoverishes the scene. In the episode where Jervaid is intent on seducing Tor, while she plans to enlist his help with stealing a dragon egg, I want the reader to be party to the thoughts of both, and root for Tor and Jervaid.

And don’t tell me it’s confusing. If you genuinely find it confusing, all I can say is, you’re very easily confused and should probably not be allowed out on your own.

I think it’s a rule made to be broken, unlike say, rules for apostrophes, where you are either right or wrong. (Switching topics, it astonishes me that so many would-be authors don’t bother to look up and learn the few, simple apostrophe rules).

I suspect that one day, single POV will go out of fashion like the dramatic unities theory that had such a crippling effect on French drama, while Shakespeare didn’t give a damn about it.. Swap Shakespeare for Moliere and Racine? I think not…

Friday, 12 October 2007

Aspiring writers' quiz

Have you got what it takes to be a writer?

It's been a while since I've redirected my loyal readers to a quiz. This one is by Holly Lisle, an American author with an extensive and very useful website. I learned a lot from it when I started writing. And she doesn't mention single POV once.

Go to Are you right for writing? and see how you score. (Disregard the repellent colour scheme of beige and pink. And the decorative photo to the left of this post, which is clearly an actress pretending to be an author. Probably Jane Austen).

Oh, since you ask, I got 47. She says: 30 - 49 points -- There's hope; you suspect some of the darker truths about the profession, and have an idea of what some of the rewards are. If you really want to do this, you'll face some disillusionment, but also stand a good chance of finding the real joys of the profession.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Now I think this could be fun...

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

If, like me, you have a novel that, unaccountably, has not yet been pounced on with cries of delight by the publishing industry, this may be your opportunity.

They will accept 5,000 entries; you send your completed novel, and the first 5,000 word extract. Up to a thousand writers will be selected for the short list, then the extracts will go online for the public to vote for. Eventually, three contestants will go to New York for a prizegiving, and the lucky winner will be published by Penguin. It sounds as though Penguin will consider publishing the runners-up, too, if they are good enough.

Take a look at Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (not the snappiest of titles) for details.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

I say, there's a huge hole in that chapter...

Oh. Didn't notice that. Rats.

Have you ever had someone point out a huge improbability in your plot? Small ones are okay, you can usually put them right by a sentence or two deftly inserted before the dodgy bit.

Something like, Alice mused that she had been fortunate indeed, having a father who'd insisted she take Tae Kwon Do classes to black belt standard, so that, should she ever be attacked by three men, she would win. Phew. So much for the doubter who said a girl would never have been able to defeat the baddies single-handed in Chapter Ten.

But what about the ones that wipe out your plot? In Lord of the Flies, Piggy's spectacles become crucially important as the only means of making fire. However, and isn't it lucky that no-one pointed this out to William Golding, Piggy is short-sighted. His lenses would have been concave, and useless for focusing the sun's rays.

Similar thing in the film Casablanca. The 'letters of transit' that guarantee the holder free travel anywhere in German-occupied Europe, that everyone is desperate to get their hands on? No such thing ever existed.

As for the plot holes that have been drawn to my attention in my two didn't think I was going to tell you what they were, did you?