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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December 11, 2013

Ten Unbeatable Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers

santa-fifty-shadesBy Kimberly Turner

Sure, you could put on actual pants to go partake in some door-bustin’ shenanigans at the mall, but between jingling bells, decking halls, and consuming your body weight in holiday cookies, who has time for that? Not you, my friend. Not you. Know what else you don’t have time for? Sifting through page after page of Mega Lightning Cyber Xtreme Deals, hoping to stumble upon the perfect gift for your loved ones. No! That’s why we here at LitReactor have done the sifting for you and come up with ten amazing presents for your book-loving friends and fam. Think of it as our gift to you.

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October 14, 2013

8 Tips For Creating Great Stories From George R.R. Martin, Junot Diaz, And Other Top Storytellers

3019333-inline-s-6-tips-for-creating-mind-blowing-fantasy-talesBy: Hugh Hart

Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: The Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction is jammed with storytelling wisdom from some of world’s top fantasy writers. Here’s some of it.

What the hell is a Story Lizard? In Wonderbook: The Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (Abrams Books, October 15), Story Lizards join Prologue Fish and other infographic helpmates designed to banish dry textual analysis in favor of a kicking, screaming, slithering approach to storytelling creativity.

Author Jeff Vandermeer, a three-time Fantasy World Award-winning novelist who co-directs the Shared Worlds teen writing camp, says “The way we’re taught to analyze fiction is to break down and do a kind of autopsy. But I think writers need to be more like naturalists or zoologists when they study story because then you’re looking at how all the elements fit together.”

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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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June 25, 2013

SOME FUCKING WRITING TIPS

HaigBy Matt Haig

This is the first blog I’ve written since writing blogs for the respectable charity Booktrust. Booktrust gave me no rules for writing blogs, except that they said I couldn’t swear. So after six months of non-swearing I have been bursting to fucking swear. I really fucking have. I just need to get it out of my system.

Anyway, thought I’d start as predictably as ever, and give some fucking writing tips. Here they fucking are:

1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.

2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)

3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’

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May 3, 2013

World Book Night: Is It Easier to Give Away a Book or a Flower?

wbn1By Judith Rosen

I felt like one of those women handing out cigarettes in yesteryear. If you’re too young to remember them, you may have seen pictures. Except I have a couple years on most of those women, o.k. all of them, and rather than a sexy outfit, I chose a heavy down jacket over which I wore a sandwich-board sign, and I use the term loosely, made with a reflective vest covered over with a couple World Book Night flers in clear page protectors. I don’t know if it helped, but I wasn’t too cold last night, given the drizzle and chill.

Last year when I was a “giver” at World Book Night, I chose a spot across from the Central Square T station in Cambridge, Mass., and found it difficult to break down people’s resistance to taking a book. They thought I was trying to foist a Bible on them, or maybe I was part of some cult. This year I was determined that it shouldn’t be so hard to give away 20 books. To get in the mood I used the pre-WBN kick off event at the Cambridge Public Library with Vanessa Diffenbaugh (The Language of Flowers), Lisa Genova (Still Alice), and Neil Gaiman (Good Omens, with Terry Pratchett) as a pep rally. It certainly got the high school students in the row next to me wound up. They wanted to sign up then and there to be givers. So did a former educator who had read Still Alice in her book group and had never heard of WBN.

I was especially pleased to get to hear Diffenbaugh, since I had chosen her novel to give away.  A debut novel by a local author seemed like an easier sell than many of the more “classic” books on last year’s list. Plus I had one other trick for getting people to take my books. Since her book is so interconnected with flowers, I decided to buy 20 carnations from Brattle Florist, the same florist shop in her acknowledgments, to handout with each book. That was before I learned from Gaiman’s talk that April 23 marks Cervantes’s death and in Spain men give women a rose, and women give them a book on that day. The first Book Day, as it is known, was held on Cervantes’s birthday (October 7) in 1926, then moved to April in 1930.

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April 23, 2013

Writing advice from writers handwritten on writers’ hands

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

 For a series called “Hand in Hand,” Wofford College invited various authors of speculative fiction to jot down short but important bits of writing advice on their own hands, photograph it, and send it in. Here is a selection…

 

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April 17, 2013

SA startup Paperight wins prestigious innovation award at London Book Fair

london_book_fairIf you haven’t heard of Paperight, the network of independent copy shops that print books, it’s time to pay attention: the South African startup is capturing the imagination of the world’s publishing industry. On the heels of being named one of the winners of the O’Reilly Tools of Change Startup Showcase held in New York City, the startup from Cape Town was awarded the Digital Minds Innovation Award at the London Book Fair — one of the world’s most prestigious publishing events.

The showcase held Sunday night at the Digital Minds Conference, a precursor event to the London Book Fair, was a pretty big deal. The event that inspired conversation about evolution, innovation and disruption in the publishing industry, included keynote speakers such as authors Neil Gaiman and Robert Levine, as well as Will Atkinson, Sales and Marketing Director at Faber & Faber.

Paperight, funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, beat out seven other shortlisted candidates by popular vote. The audience favoured Paperight’s solution to book distribution problems in South Africa: by allowing photocopy shops to print books cheaply, quickly and — crucially — legally, Paperight is increasing access to books where they have never been physically and financially accessible before.

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January 30, 2013

Piracy is yesterday’s worry for today’s ‘artisan authors’

Starship EnterpriseFile sharing and self-publishing are becoming the norm for a generation of writers looking beyond a moribund publishing eco-system.

By Damien Walter

The community of SF writers has reason to dislike digital copying, or “piracy” as it’s commonly labelled in the tabloid press. Genre writers exist, by and large, in the publishing mid-list, where mediocre sales might seem most easily eroded by the spectre of illegitimate downloads. SF, fantasy and horror are also the literature of choice for the culture of geeks most likely to share their favourite authors’ works on torrent sites. Not surprising, then, that many professional genre writers and editors respond to the growing reality of copying with the absolutist position that piracy is theft, and should be punished as such under the law.

But SF writers are far from united in that position. Novelist, blogger and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow is well known for providing free digital copies of all his books as a marketing strategy, arguing that in a digital economy, obscurity is a far greater threat than piracy. Charlie Stross blogged such an effective argument against digital rights management on ebooks that it influenced at least one publishing imprint to drop DRM on its novels. And interviewed on the subject in 2011, Neil Gaiman, ever the gentleman, kindly points out that if you are a writer courting fans, screaming “THIEF!” at them and threatening legal action for copying might be … counterproductive.

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January 7, 2013

Our Picks For The Year’s Biggest Reads

ShiningWhat are the best books of 2013? We’ve stepped out of our time machine (hint: talk to that person next to you on the airplane, don’t try the veal) to bring you the must-read titles from the year ahead.

It’s shaping up to be a fascinating 12 months, with the sequel to The Shining, a new David Sedaris, a self-published book poised to become a global success, a new James Salter, a new Suzanne Collins, a new Karen Russell… and so much more.

Read on, read often, and support your local bookstore and library. Trust us: in the year ahead, they’ll really appreciate the support.

Here’s our list of the best books so far listed to appear in 2013:

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