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12 Books in 12 Months

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neilgaiman

The Great Kindle Challenge: Day 10

A couple of days ago I was linked to an article in The Economist suggesting that soon people will stop using shelves for books and adorn them exclusively with knick knacks, much like that old lady you used to know who kept a faux-mahogany sitting room for special occasions (like drinking chintz out of the posh tea set).  The blame for this lies squarely at the feet of ePublishing and the kindle and will lead to seven plagues and the death of literacy.  Or something.

The article touches on the matter of eBook piracy, which is a very touchy subject and is often tagged onto the End of Publishing debate without much explanation.  I’ve read articles by a few authors saying it is A Very Bad Thing, and still more articles by different authors saying that actually it can raise your profile and boost sales.  A summary googling of the topic came up with piracy articles dating back over several years, which I shall now bullet point for your indifference: Continue reading “The Great Kindle Challenge: Day 10”

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Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation

Last night at around 11.15pm I decided that it was time to call it quits on book five and get myself some sleep.  I battered out a few paragraphs to remind myself what I wanted the last couple of chapters to entail, and set about organising my packed lunch for work.  Tuna salad, for those who are nosey about such things…

The word count stands at 30323, and I think it’ll end end up around 36,000 by the time the first draft is finished.  This means that overall this year, I’ve written 165,585 words of fiction across 151 days.  That averages out at 1096.6 words per day, although there have been days when I haven’t written anything at all, and a few when I’ve done 10k in one go.  Averages, dear reader, are relative.

Continue reading “Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation”

Writing Style

This week I’m answering questions from Ian Collings, a writer based in Shropshire who blogs at Take One Step Back and tweets as @ibc4

Of the twelve books you’re writing which falls into your natural writing style the most? Which do you find the easiest to pick up?

My natural style tends towards the silly, often by accident, and even though I haven’t written a kids’ book yet, I’ve harboured ambitions to be a children’s author for about ten years… Essentially I forsee July’s book as being the best – or at least the most enjoyable to do!  That or fantasy, actually.  I’ve written a bunch of short stories that fall across both of those fields and have probably read a lot more of those than any other type of book.

I would love to strike a balance between well written, engrossing but often humorous fantasy written by Neil Gaiman / China Mieville and the silliness of Spike Milligan (whose picture book for little kids, Sir Nobonk, is one of my favourite books ever), with an element of the dark or unexpected twists that you get in Roald Dahl.  And I think May and July’s fantasy and kids’ books are the ones where I’ll be able to give that a proper try.

Mister Grumpy

My last email from Andrew of Far too Snug and Twitter fame.  You may remember the other day we spoke of what book shops do with genre fiction and where I would like to be shelved if I was a published author.

I think when you are editing the 12 books you should insert a recurring character. I always meant to do that with a guy called ‘Mister Grumpy’ but I’ve never quite got round to it. This is mainly because when you are trying to sell an individual story to lots of different magazines it doesn’t really make any sense to have a character whose presence is explained in another story.

I think most people write based on an initial idea that develops and snowballs. It isn’t a conscious effort on most people’s parts to think ‘Today I will write a space opera’. However your interests will certainly shape the kind of ideas you have. In your case you have had to do research into the genres you haven’t been as familiar with as others, yes?

Do you feel that writing lots of different genres will actually sharpen your voice, as you will have to find your way of writing each one?

Maybe when you’re published you find yourself having to write a certain way. Madeleine Wickham wrote her  books before finding success with the Shopaholic series under the Sophie Kinsella pen-name, but the latter’s success allowed her to return to her initial interest in writing more Wodehouse-esque novels (which, incidentally, got described as ‘Literary Fiction’ on World Book Night. They seem more like comedies based on the descriptions though).

For example, I have recently read The City and The City by China Mieville and The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. Mieville’s previous books have been fantasy/steampunk, so City… was shelved in that section. Raw Shark… was Hall’s first book, and is shelved in Fiction, but there’s certainly overlap between the two to my mind involving conceptual space and the human mind’s compartmentalising of things. Either could be shelved in the other’s section.

Both are very good, by the by.

With that in mind, would you rather be a popular fantasy author who moved into other territories but still got shelved in the same place, or a critically acclaimed Fiction author who dabbles in other genres?


I think that writing in different genres will challenge me and develop my voice in other ways, yes.  I hope it does, anyway.  And of course the more research I do the more likely that is to happen, because reading other books in the genre gives you an understanding of what works, what doesn’t; what has already been done to death and what might benefit from a different spin being put on it.  The main thing that’s come out of this so far is that I need to spend more time reading and absorbing other people’s stories – I perhaps don’t yet know enough to be as clever about things as Dianna Wynne Jones or Neil Gaiman, but I’ll get there!

I think I’d rather be popular than critically acclaimed, to be honest.  I would like to think people were reading my books because they enjoyed them, rather than because they’d been told by a panel of self appointed experts that it was clever or deep.

I don’t think I’m in too much danger of being critically acclaimed though, because my sense of humour comes through in everything I write and unfortunately I do tend towards the silly.  I would edit things out that looked in danger of becoming too serious or po-faced.  That isn’t to say that I don’t write well or have interesting ideas… but I’d rather be Pratchett than Tolkein.  Although if I come out with anything as good as China Mieville does I’ll be insufferably smug.

I do sort of think I’d get annoyed if I got pigeon holed in one genre, but there again it would depend on what that genre was.  I can’t envision writing the same character for 30 crime books, like Ian Rankin or MC Beaton – but if I was writing fantasy, the nature of the genre might well involve overlapping without having to focus on the same protagonist every time.

Freedom to write and do different things is always nice, because if you open yourself up to new experiences it can give you other viewpoints and ideas that work quite well in separate contexts.  As well as writing fiction I do local news journalism, cultural comment and reviews, and the odd comic or illustration; then when I return to 12 books I’ve got different ideas and perspectives to filter in there on top of specific genre research.  However, if I had a character like Harry Potter or Rebus that people really loved and wanted to hear more about, I can’t imagine that I would say no!

In summary – I would like to be popular and able to dabble in a few different genres, but my main hope is that people enjoy reading what I write.  Preferably enough that I can make a living out of it, one day…

I Have Questions

Further to Monday’s shout out for guest bloggers, for the rest of this week I am answering the queries of Andrew Blair, an Edinburgh-based writer of comedy and other things.  You can see some of his work on this website, or follow him on Twitter @aagb1884.

Tuesday 26/4/11, 08:00

Ali,

I have been reading your blog sporadically. I have questions.

Number 1. You are writing in 12 different genres. This is not a question. What genres of books do you predominantly read and have you enjoyed the experience in researching others? That is a question.

Andrew

Tuesday 25/4/11, 13:01

Andrew,

I don’t really have a favourite genre, although I lean towards books with a sense of humour and quite like things with a fantastical element.  I also like a lot of YA and kids books, and Scottish fiction.

To give some examples: some of the best and funniest books I’ve ever read are the Mr Gum series by Andy Stanton, which I’d recommend to anyone (even though they’re really aimed at 8 year olds).  Meanwhile in fantastical terms, I go from the very dense prose of Isabel Allende to Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman graphic novels with a bit of future dystopia from Aldous Huxley or Margaret Atwood along the way.

In terms of YA, I’ve recently enjoyed stuff by Holly Black and Gemma Malley, as well as The Gates by John Connolly who started out writing adult crime novels.  You can read the first chapter on his website, and I think it’s awesome.

Great kids books I’ve read lately include The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester and The Secret Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I’d also recommend Steve Augarde‘s ‘Touchstone Trilogy’ which is suitable for 11+.  Good Scottish novels include The Ossians by Doug Johnstone and The Incredible Adam Spark by Alan Bissett, and anything by Muriel Spark…  Essentially I like to think I’ll give anything a go, and as such my ‘to-read’ list is very, very long.

In terms of research for 12 books, so far I have probably enjoyed the romance month the most because the genre is often unintentionally very funny.  It’s quite rare to find a romance book that is genuinely romantic, I think partly because a lot of authors tend to get caught up in sex scenes – one of the reasons why I decided to go for unrequited love, actually – and these are notoriously difficult to write well.

Ali

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