Many moons ago, I was a beta reader for Nicola Morgan’s book Write to be Published (Snowbooks). After discovering Nicola (who has had over 90 books published) through her amazingly useful blog about writing and publishing, I was excited to see all the tips and information coming together in book form.
A few days ago, I received my signed copy. I started re-reading it straight away because I knew it would be even better than the fantastic draft I had first seen. It didn’t disappoint.
Write to be Published is, as Nicola puts it, a broad view of the writing and publishing world. It gives you the basics of all the information you’ll ever need to understand publishers and agents, and provides you with hard, honest advice.
The book unpicks her theory of getting published: writing the right book, in the right way, and sending it to the right publisher, in the right way and at the right time. Lots of things to get right, then! And the book suggests exactly how to go about doing that, including lots of writing advice.
I’ve read a lot of books about writing, but what makes this one unique is Nicola’s voice. She’s on your side as a writer, but she gives you the cold hard truth. Nothing is sugar-coated. There’s no Zen philosophy about writing. This is a book about the realities of traditional publishing.
But rather than putting the reader off, the book has a fighting spirit. It demonstrates how to give yourself and your writing the best chance it can have in such a cut-throat industry. I think it will effect its readers in two ways: either they will fling the book at the wall in despair and give up writing, or they’ll take on the challenge, knuckle down and won’t give up.
If you are the type of person to pick up this book, as Nicola says in her introduction, you the type of person who wants to learn. And that’s the foundations of a good writer: one who is constantly learning and honing their craft, and arming themselves with knowledge and information. In which case, I suspect you would fall into the latter category of people, the ones who would take the challenge head-on.
If you’re serious about getting published, I highly recommend this book – its a goldmine of information.
(If you’re interested in buying the book, you might want to check out Nicola’s post: ‘Where Do Authors Prefer You to Buy Their Books?’)
Last night, I had the privilege to attend a talk from this year’s Man Booker Prize winner, Howard Jacobson. I luckily obtained a free ticket via the university (though tickets were only £10 anyway). It was my first venture into the British Library(!) which, as it turns out, is a very impressive and welcoming place.
I haven’t read anything by Jacobson… I must admit, I hadn’t actually heard of him until the event, and I hadn’t been following the Man Booker Prize… Prizes don’t particularly interest me, because of their subjectivity and exclusivity. I’m no where near the stage when I can start to dream of nominations and wins…!
But he was a fantastic public speaker. Very insightful, and very funny. I liked his views on literary prizes: they’re not the driving force of writing, but once you know they are out there, you think it would be nice to have one!
Howard Jacobson’s writing insights:
- Don’t give your characters boring names. ‘I don’t want to read about Paul and Jane!’ Some of Jacobson’s character’s names include: Sefton Goldberg, Julian Treslove, Sam Finkler…
- Plot is boring. ‘I don’t read a book to find out “who dunnit”‘ – for Jacobson, the best novels are character driven. A fan of Dickens, he said Great Expectations is a great novel, because even though it is driven by plot, the revelation at the end changes the character of Pip, and so it is more about character growth than anything else.
- Don’t plan. Otherwise it sounds too much like plot, and you end up forcing the novel to direct it towards your pre-planned scenes.
- Know your characters by writing them. Jacobson says he doesn’t know anything about his characters until he starts writing about them, and the novel then shapes around them.
- Edit as you go. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I have heard this technique from many authors. Don’t write a first draft and then go back and edit it, but edit each sentence as you write them. Jacobson says on a bad day, he will write one sentence.
- Write what you know. Now, Jacobson didn’t directly say this, but it was implied. He said the only novels he had to abandon (after only writing a few pages), were the ones in which he tried to be like James Joyce or the like. Instead, he found himself writing about things that were much closer to his current situation. Sometimes so much so that he had to move after a novel was published because too many of his colleagues would recognise themselves in the story!
Of course, what works for Howard Jacobson won’t work for everyone. But it was incredibly interesting being able to have a little insight into the way the Booker Prize winner writes.