24 April, 2015

The Art of Manifesto Writing

If you live in the UK, you will be aware that there is apparently only one newsworthy event going on at the moment. The upcoming General Election - mercifully only a couple of weeks away now - is all anyone seems to be talking about. Democracy is a wonderful thing and I always use my vote, but there's no denying it can get tedious and frustrating listening to a lot of people who think they have answers, arguing over what the question should be.

As a writer, this article in The Guardian tickled my fancy. It's about which manifesto is most "nicely written". (For those who aren't in the UK, you should know The Guardian is a left-wing newspaper, but it's a flippant, rather than campaigning article.)

A taste of the tone of the article can be summed up with this quotation: "Not a single manifesto has the guts to declare its intention to discriminate against people with freckles, strip the inhabitants of Swansea of their civil rights, deport Bruce Forsyth or promise a free bottle of whisky a day to every household."

Apparently the Conservative effort is full of photos of "random, anonymous human beings grinning at the camera, to show that it is humans, rather than rabbits or dishwashers, that politicians care most about." Although they do also avoid cliches, which has to be a plus!

The Labour manifesto tells us what our country is good at... "That we are also good at haranguing immigrants and puking all over each other in city centres goes tactfully unmentioned." While the Liberal Democrats might be suggesting either that we should be "a closed, backward-looking but confident and optimistic nation, or an open, forward-looking but diffident and nihilistic one." The SNP's offering is boring but "more literate than Ukip’s manifesto, however, though so is the average 10-year-old."

And so it goes on.

The prize for stylishness should, according to this article, go to the Green party. For balance I should point out that, while the Green party are left-wing and therefore more likely (though not necessarily - don't shoot!) to be favoured by artists of all kinds, they have stirred up a bit of a fuss by proposing some worrying changes to copyright law. (If anyone has any thoughts on that, I'd be interested to hear them!)

This has got me thinking - what writer-friendly policies do you think should be introduced in your country? Personally, I'm working on a free chocolate allowance to anybody working on the first draft of a novel, plus one paid day off work or free day's childcare per month for anybody who's submitted a piece of writing to more than three places in the last six months. What do you think?

10 April, 2015

Quotable Friday (43)

We all need to take inspiration from wherever we find it, right? Books are often inspiring for many reasons and this week I wanted to introduce you to a book you won't find in Classic Fiction or even Self-Help in you local library. Oh the Thinks you can Think! by Dr. Seuss is a children's book and certainly not one of Dr. Seuss's most famous. But ever since rediscovering it when reading it to our son, my husband and I both rave about how inspiring it is.

The whole premise of the book - accompanied by marvellous, wacky illustrations - is that there is no limit on what you can think. You can conjure up any thought you want to - be as imaginative as you dare! Here are a few sections as a taster...

You can think about gloves.
You can think about SNUVS.
You can think a long time
about snuvs and their gloves.
You can think about Kitty O'Sullivan Krauss
in her big balloon swimming pool over her house.

And left!
Think of left!
And think about BEFT.
Why is it that beft always go to the left?
And why is it so many things go to the right?
You can think about THAT until Saturday night.

THINK! You can think
any THINK that you wish...
Think a race on a horse
on a ball
with a fish!

07 April, 2015

My (New) Writing Room

After a £780000 grant allowed the desk belonging to Charles Dickens to be saved for the public a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would share with you some pictures of my own desk. If anybody wishes to give me money for it, it's a relative bargain at £779000.

My husband and I recently moved house. In our old house I had a writing room with gorgeous views, but I had to give it up for our son's bedroom. I moved to the living room, which also had gorgeous views, but I did miss having a designated space for my writing.
Perfect size!

At the beginning of 2016 I might well have to give up my new room for a child's bedroom again, and move into the (big!) hallway of our new house (although there is a summer house in the garden I have my eye on...), but for now, let me show you round my writing room.

Where do you do your writing?
Shelves stacked with useful books and all my junk! 

Pinboard with current reminders for the novel-in-progress

Writing desk with some currently-necessary books.

Two screens (one with optional baby photo)


Not as amazing, but not a bad view either!


Cupbaord with useful space for novel plotting on the side.



23 March, 2015

Good News - Most-Read Books

Last week, I had an exciting e-mail from my agent, telling me that The Art of Letting Go was one of the top 10 most-read books on Kindle in February, in the UK. I hadn't realised that Amazon could tell what people were reading on their Kindles. I assumed they only knew if someone had bought something rather than if they were actually reading it, but apparently they know all.

Several people I know with Kindles use them as a place to stockpile books. When they see a book being sold at a bargain price and they like the look of it, they'll buy it. It may sit on their Kindle for months or years before being read, but they use promotions as a way of stocking their virtual shelves rather than finding something immediate to read. I therefore assumed that a lot of people might've bought my book last month but not many would have read it. I am so glad to be wrong!

The more I think about it, the happier I am with this statistic. The Art of Letting Go was in the Top 100 bestsellers for most of the month, but got nowhere near the Top 10. So for it to be one of the ten most-read e-books in the country is very exciting. I was also apparently one of the 20 most-read authors, despite this being my only book to date. Even more importantly, being read a lot hasn't led to a lot of one star reviews. There are some negative reviews, of course, but I got my 50th five stars last week as well. At a time when it would be easy to feel as if my writing was at a standstill, good news is always welcome!

13 March, 2015

Quotable Friday (42)

I wasn't going to do a Quotable Friday this week, but it seemed wrong not to in the circumstances. I'm not a die-hard fan of Sir Terry Pratchett, but I've read a fair few of his books, enjoyed them all and spent a lot of my youth listening to the fabulous Tony Robinson reading the audiobook versions. Following his death earlier this week, he is going to be greatly missed by thousands of readers and writers alike.

It seems an impossible task to choose a quotation from his huge catalogue of books. He basically invented flippant fantasy and was its king for years. The thing that got me into writing was accepting a dare to enter a novel-writing competition. My shortlisted entry was likened in style to Pratchett by the judges so I owe him a lot. My usual style is nothing like that now, but I still wanted to share a little something from his advice to fantasy writers about taking fantasy seriously (even if it's comic), found in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook...

"Taking it seriously means that there must be rules. If anything can happen, then there is no real suspense. You are allowed to make pigs fly, but you must take into account the depredations on the local bird life and the need for people in heavily over-flown areas to carry stout umbrellas at all times."

One of the most popular of Sir Terry's characters was Death itself. So it seems appropriate to pick a final quotation from him...

"DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING,' said Death. "THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH."

He may have left too early, but don't think Terry Pratchett is going to be forgotten.