Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Literary fiction and the 'rules'

One interesting thing I've noticed about literary fiction is that it doesn't really obey the same 'rules' as genre fiction. I'm not talking about the rules of structure or the formulas of plot, although it certainly doesn't do those the same way. I'm talking more about those simple little rules that everyone (particularly on the internet, and usually including me) feels are so important to successful writing.

Take the big one. Show, don't tell. In popular (genre) fiction, this rule has been fetishized to the point where it's practically a crime to say anything directly about a character. Yet for those literary writers I've read, it seems to be almost a given to tell a story at more of a distance, with less moment to moment immersion and only a few telling details.

Another seems to be the primacy of dialogue. Genre writers like to put things in dialogue. I like to put things in dialogue. Some writers go so far that there's very little else, perhaps because description looks more like telling. Yet literary works often seem to have much less, perhaps again because of that sense of literary distance.

These differences are just things I've observed, and I'd be interested to see if anyone else has seen the same things.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Second Test Round Up

Okay, so the test ended a few days ago now, but I've been distracted. Anyway, things to take away from the rather one sided England victory:

  • Injuries. Everyone seems to be injured. Kevin Pietersen has done his calf. James Pattinson has gone home with a stress fracture of the back. Ashton Agar was struggling with some sort of hip thing. Graham Swann got elbowed in the lower back by Usman Kawaja while the latter was going for a run. In this kind of 'double' series, injuries really matter.
  • 'Fragile' batting. Fragile used to be a word applied to England's batting order, particularly in the 1990s. Good days, glimmers of promise, but ultimately collapse. The same seems to be true of Australia. They have potentially good top order players, but none of them are converting that into big runs.
  • Australia's spin question. I like the look of Ashton Agar. He seems promising. Yet he isn't the finished article, and he hasn't taken many wickets yet. Part timer/all rounder Steve Smith out bowled him this time around. Now, I feel like Smith needs to stay as the second spinner, but Agar needs a good third test if he's going to keep his place.
  • Joe Root/Jonny Bairstow. Root nailed down his place in this test with 180 and a couple of wickets. Fellow Yorkshire player Bairstow hasn't really cemented his test spot yet, with his bottom handed technique seeming ideal for one day cricket, but not the longer stuff where even slight technical issues can be preyed on for hours.
  • DRS. Again. The Australians really aren't very good at it. It's simple. If the decision is so bad that you want to swear at the umpire for being so utterly blind, use it. Otherwise, leave it alone.

Pink Narcissus Kickstarter

Pink Narcissus Press, the publishers of my novel Court of Dreams, have decided to try out kickstarter funding for their next project, which is an anthology of sci-fi short stories. Although I don't have anything in this one, it sounds like fun, and some of the kickstarter offers include original artwork from Duncan Eagleson (who worked on Sandman issue 'The Hunt') or the chance to bundle one of PN's existing novels/anthologies with the anthology.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Second Test Build up

A quick look back at the first test and a few thoughts on what we can expect from the second one:

  • Steven Finn to keep his place. Although he was probably the weakest of England's bowlers in the first test, Lords will suit him better. England are also quite wary of changing a winning side, and even if Tim Bresnan offers lower order runs/reverse swing, it probably isn't enough to offset what seems like a recent lack of pace.
  • Swann to take a few wickets. Everyone was saying that Nottingham was dry and he'd get hatfulls. What that ignores is that Swanny can turn it most places, and the pitches that suit him best are probably those that have a bit more pace. Also that the 1st test was at arguably his least productive venue. Although Lords is hardly a spinner's paradise, he has done better there, and will probably enjoy the help it gives to the seamers so that he doesn't feel he has to do all the work.
  • Michael Clarke to get runs. It would be nice if we could keep Australia's captain quiet, but realistically, he's likely to get big runs at some point in the series. England's advantage is more about the way their whole top order bats as a unit. Hopefully, a quicker pitch will suit KP's strokeplay more too.
  • James Pattinson to do well. Lords suits a particular type of seamer. One who might or might not be quick (he is) but who also hits a length accurately and forces the batsman to play. Glenn Mcgrath used to clean up at Lords. Pattinson could do so too. Of course, Finn and Broad also like to bowl there, so it won't all be one way.
  • The tailenders to get fewer runs. Agar looked good with a bat. So did Pattinson. Broad did pretty well (obvious edges notwithstanding). But it was a slow pitch. One where they knew they weren't going to get a killer surprise bouncer. That changes the way people play, a lot.
  • Australia to get better use of the DRS. Broad's non-dismissal was a big mistake by the umpire, and not terribly sporting by Broad (although perfectly within the rules, and pretty common on faint edges). But it was also a failure by Australia, because they used up their decision reviews on bad reviews earlier in the match. They tried to use a system designed to reduce bad calls to get a marginal tactical advantage, and it blew up in their faces. They won't make that mistake again.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Just out of interest, does anyone use scrivener? I acquired a copy, since I thought it would be a useful tool for work, but at the moment I'm not convinced enough about what it can do for me to move away from a big folder full of Word documents.

So does anyone have any tips on using it? Does it suit a particular style of working more (at the moment, it feels like it's a 'write lots and sort it out after' tool, which isn't really the way I write)? I'm trying it out by writing down some random thoughts on writing as part of a project I've always had half an eye on, but I could use some thoughts on good ways to get up to speed.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

My Dad, 1939-2013

My father used to read my blog posts on a regular basis. It was a fact I hated; one that always felt like I had to hold back because of. I'm writing this because of something that has just happened. About half an hour ago, I was told that my father had just died in hospital, following complications in an operation. It was the outcome we all expected, but it is one that still feels like a shock.

I'll be honest: there were days when I hated my father. He was variously a drunk, a thug, a bully and inclined to preface anything in any family member's life by telling them that he couldn't help them. He was inclined to play the martyr when anyone stood up to him, accusing them of bullying him in turn.

Yet he was also there on some of the occasions that mattered most. He brought me home when I suffered my first breakdown, at Reading University. He helped me put things back together when I suffered my second, during my PhD. He allowed me to stay at home while I built up my ghostwriting business to a level where I can now, just about, support myself. As a child, he was the one ferrying me about to fencing training and kung fu lessons, things that stay with me even now.

And, now that he's gone, I can see that somewhere in amongst the rest of it, he was probably proud of me and my brother too. He never really showed it, he certainly never said it. He once picked up a work I'd ghost written and his only comment was that there was a grammatical mistake on the first page. Yet he did read it, just as he read this blog. Just as he read practically everything else I produced.

I think I'll probably miss that.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


This is for the IWSG for this month. So, what's making me insecure about writing this month?

  • Waiting for replies. How long is it before it becomes acceptable to gently nudge a publisher and ask whether they've lost your stuff, because one of my current submissions seems to have taken longer than any previous one. I wouldn't mind, but if this doesn't come off, I'll probably put the novel out myself, and I'd like to be able to do that while I'm still getting some benefit from working with a couple of bigger authors.
  • Sequels. I'm on/building up to a couple of sequels at the moment, and the thing with them is having to live up to the last one or make it better. It's also about the thing of having to fit a new story into an old world, where normally, I like my settings to come out of the story that needs to be told.
  • Volume. I had a quick count up last month and found that I'd worked on over 45 published novel length pieces to date, some of which have done interesting and impressive things like making it into the NYT top twenty. Of those pieces, exactly three are mine, and they haven't done anything like as much. More than that, my own writing generally seems to be taking a back seat to all the ghostwriting at the moment. I have ideas, even ideas I'm working on, but they just don't seem to be happening right now. It's not just the full time nature of my ghosting. It's being full time writing, so that I don't really want to do more writing in my off hours.
So that's what I'm being insecure about this month. I'll see you all next month.