Readersforum's Blog

April 1, 2014

Ten rules for writing fiction

Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray. Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, we asked authors for their personal dos and don’ts

CityElmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

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March 10, 2014

Catton, Tartt and Atwood on Baileys Women’s Prize longlist.

 

GoldfinchBy Sarah Shaffi.

Six debut novelists will compete against writers at the “top of their form” on the longlist for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction [full longlist below].

Former Women’s Prize winners Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun, 2007) and Suzanne Berne (A Crime in the Neighbourhood, 1999) are nominated, while other major names include Donna Tartt, Margaret Atwood and 2013 Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton.

 

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January 27, 2014

The 9 Best Books That Don’t Exist

SandBy Gabe Habash

It’s time to make you really sad: here are 9 great books…that don’t actually exist.

But while the world would certainly be a better place if they did exist (except #4 and probably #1), if you haven’t read the books they’re from, change that right away.

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December 11, 2013

State surveillance of personal data is theft, say world’s leading authors

Clockwise from top left, eight of the people who have signed the petition: Hanif Kureishi, Björk, Arundhati Roy, Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Tom Stoppard, Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis

Clockwise from top left, eight of the people who have signed the petition: Hanif Kureishi, Björk, Arundhati Roy, Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Tom Stoppard, Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis

• 500 signatories include five Nobel prize winners
• Writers demand ‘digital bill of rights’ to curb abuses

By Matthew Taylor and Nick Hopkins

More than 500 of the world’s leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people’s digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.

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October 11, 2013

10 Famous Authors Who Remind Us That Great Writers Can Also Be Decent Human Beings

The Television Academy Of Arts And Sciences' Presents An Evening With "Game Of Thrones"Authors, and artists in general, are notoriously difficult to deal with. The list of writers who created masterworks that illuminated truths about the human condition – all while behaving badly toward others in their actual lives — is a long one.

There are certainly exceptions to this rule, though. Some authors manage to create beauty on the page and also do good in various ways — whether by donating their time and money to worthy causes, connecting with their fans in meaningful ways, or just being kind to their friends and families.

Here, from a range of genres and time periods, are some notable exceptions to the “all famous authors are jerks” rule:

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July 31, 2013

Mixed response to Man Booker longlist

 

booker-longlist-2013-smaller-pic  By Joshua Farrington

The newly released Man Booker Prize longlist has been praised by the media for its diversity, but criticised for missing several big names and including multiple titles that have yet to be published.

The Guardian praised the judges, and said: “This is a jury not afraid to be experimental.”

It commended the scope of the longlist and said: “The longlist casts a wide net in terms of both geography and time, ranging from the slimmest of novels—Colm Tóibín’s stark, surprising The Testament of Mary conjures the gospel according to Jesus’s mother in a mere 100-odd pages—to vast doorstops, playful with genre and form.”

The Daily Mail focused on authors it saw as being “snubbed” from the Booker list, describing the nominated authors as “obscure . . . mostly unknown”. It said: “This year’s longlist is notable for the number of big-name authors who have been overlooked, including J M Coetzee, Roddy Doyle and Margaret Atwood. Five of the books have yet to be published.”

The Daily Mail also quoted Alex Donohue of bookmaker Ladbrokes, which has appointed Jim Crace as the current favourite at 9/2.

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May 24, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Be A Writer

Matt Haig

Matt Haig

By Matt Haig

I worry that sometimes in my blogs I have gone on a little bit too much about the wonders of being a writer, and so this time I’m giving the other side of the story.

 

Indeed, here are just the first ten reasons not to be jealous of writers.

 

1.     They have bad backs. Maybe not the debut writers, but by the time of their third or fourth novel, they can hardly walk. This is why Margaret Atwood has to be winched everywhere with the aid of a helicopter. It is why Salman Rushdie is eight inches shorter than he used to be. It is why Julian Barnes always clenches his jaw.

 

2.     They are depressed. Writers are miserable. Think of some of the saddest people in history – Woolf, Plath, Hemingway, Sexton, Poe, Tom Clancy – and ninety per cent of them are writers. They write because they are depressed. Even Dan Brown is depressed. Every single person you pass in the street has happier brain chemistry than Dan Brown. Probably. That’s why he has to hang upside down like Bruce Wayne between paragraphs. Possibly. And why he believes life is a kind of Countdown Conundrum designed by Dante or Da Vinci or albino priests. Possibly. And look, US website health.com says that writing is one of the top 10 professions most likely to lead to depression. So be jealous of happier people, like undertakers and debt collectors. Being a writer is deciding to live your whole life as if it was soundtracked by Radiohead.

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May 2, 2013

Chris Beckett wins Arthur C Clarke award for Dark Eden

Dark-EdenChris Beckett beat Kim Stanley Robinson and Ken MacLeod to win the UK’s top science fiction prize for his novel about an incestuous colony stranded on an alien planet.

By Alison Flood

Dark Eden, the story of an alien planet where the incestuous offspring of two stranded astronauts struggle to survive, has won the UK’s top science fiction prize, the Arthur C Clarke award.Author Chris Beckett, a part-time lecturer in social work, beat some of science fiction’s best-known writers, including Kim Stanley Robinson and Ken MacLeod, to take the prize. Given to the year’s best science fiction novel, the Arthur C Clarke has been won in the past by Margaret Atwood, China Miéville and Christopher Priest. Dark Eden is only Beckett’s second novel, but the British author is no stranger to awards: in 2009 he beat Anne Enright and Ali Smith to win the Edge Hill short story prize.

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April 5, 2013

20 Awesome Examples Of Literary Graffiti

enhanced-buzz-27754-1363039938-15  Thank you, graffiti artists, for making our streets a little bit smarter. How many of these literary references do you recognize?

1. Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five”

 

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March 26, 2013

Folio to sponsor Literature Prize; stellar Academy revealed

folioprize | By Charlotte Williams

The Folio Society has been announced as sponsor of the Literature Prize, the new award co-founded by Aitken Alexander director Andrew Kidd.

In an announcement at the British Library last night (13th March), organisers revealed the £40,000 prize, which aims to “celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world”, will now be known as The Folio Prize.

The organisers also revealed a stellar and international list of over 110 authors and critics —including many of the biggest names in books—who have agreed to become members of the Folio Prize Academy, which judges the award.

Ian McEwan, J M Coetzee, Peter Carey, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, John Banville, Philip Pullman and Jeanette Winterson are among them; they are joined by literary editors including Claire Armitstead (the Guardian), Gaby Wood (the Telegraph) and Erica Wagner (the Times), as well as Granta editor John Freeman. The Academy members are listed in full below.

The inaugural award will be presented in March 2014 for books published in the UK between 1st January and 31st December 2013, written originally in English from authors anywhere around the globe, and published in any form or from any genre.

The Academy will choose 60 titles, and then pick an additional 20 books from publisher nominations. The five judges of the prize will be Academy members, and will be drawn by lots in July. The panel must include three members from the UK, and two from outside the UK, and there must be no more than three members of the same gender. Five names will be drawn randomly from the two groups alternately, starting with those from the UK.

The selected judges then choose a shortlist of eight books, which will be announced in February 2014.

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