Thursday 27 September 2012

Judith Kinghorn's talk at Horsley Library, Surrey

I went to Judith Kinghorn's talk at Horsley Library in Surrey last night, which is down the road from me.

Judith's novel, The Last Summer is one of my favourite books published in recent years (click here for my Amazon review). The Last Summer will be released in the US in December 2012.

Helena Towers from Headline led the talk with Judith, then the audience asked questions.

About The Last Summer:

Judith wanted to write in first person narrative and about life in the UK during World War I, rather than the trenches. She researched The Last Summer (set 1914-1930) by submerging herself in that period: reading novels, biographies, diaries and listening to music. One of Judith's favourite wartime memoirs is Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (published in 1933). One of her favourite novels is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, written in first person narrative.

Initially writing The Last Summer was an indulgence, escapism until the storyline evolved. Judith said, 'When you write, the book takes you on an adventure'. She didn't plan much as she'd spent years researching the period, although she did draw up outlines of the characters. Judith wrote The Last Summer in five months.

How Judith works:

Judith is at her desk writing at 9am and she rarely stops for lunch. It can take an hour or so to get into the world of her novel. She uses photos to help set scenes and to see characters. Her Pinterest board for The Last Summer is inspiring.

Judith's next novel:

The Last Summer is the second novel that Judith has written. Her first novel, The Memory of Lost Senses will be published in February 2013. She described this novel as a 'labour of love' and it took her a long time to research and write it. The Memory of Lost Senses is quite different from The Last Summer and there are three protagonists. It's set mostly in 1911 and moves between Italy and the UK. I look forward to reading it.

I know Judith from Twitter (@judithkinghorn). It was lovely to meet her in person and now I have a signed paperback.

Thank you Judith for an interesting talk.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Imagine if you could buy the paperback and e-book together

I took a Kindle on holiday for the first time this summer. This meant I didn't weigh the car down with my usual pile of books.

Sometimes after reading an e-book, I find I'd like the paperback as well. If I enjoy a novel, I want to put it on the bookcase and re-read it. As a writer, sometimes I like to flick through a novel to find examples of a certain kind of writing or to look at how chapters or scenes are structured. It's not the same doing this on a Kindle.

When I read the Stephen King book, 'On Writing' on my Kindle, (For more about this book, see post-Is it worth sharing a first draft in progress with a writing class?), I wished I had the paperback, so I could use post-it notes to mark pages I wanted to look at again.

I saw many tweets during July and August saying something along the lines of: 'I wish I had the e-book version of the paperbacks in my TBR (To Be Read) pile-as I want to take those books on holiday.'

So what's the answer? Wouldn't it be nice to have the paperback at home and the e-book version for train journeys and holidays?

I had to renew the anti-virus software for my computer recently. These days I get a code called a Product Key, which allows me to download the software onto three computers.

This made me think about buying both versions of a book. What if when you buy a paperback in a book shop, you could pay a bit extra for a code which allows you to download the book to your e-reader? Or what if you could buy the paperback at a discounted price if you've already bought the e-book?

Would this be a way of saving the paperback and book shops, which may decline if the growth of e-books continues? And would it mean more sales for authors?

What do you think? Have I been drinking too much coffee?

I'd be interested to read your comments on anything relating to the above.

More posts about e-books/Kindle:

Does downloading samples change the way we read?

How has the e-book changed being a reader and an unpublished writer?

Thursday 13 September 2012

How do you write from the heart?

This blog is almost a year old and the most popular post has been Why do I write?

Maybe the photo of me and my mother on my first birthday is what made readers click into it. Or maybe the reason is because it's the only post I've written from my heart.

I watch a lot of films; sometimes when I should be doing other stuff (like hoovering or cleaning the bathroom), using the excuse that I'm watching the film for research. I like to listen to the dialogue and to see how characters and plots are constructed. I like to analyse why a film has or hasn't been a hit.

The other day I watched a film called 'The Art of Getting By'. It's on Sky+ Anytime at the moment. I hadn't heard of the film before it was on Sky, maybe because it wasn't promoted much. I found the plot to be weak in places; the pace a little slow and the male lead, who plays George not that convincing. There's almost always something I can take from a film which isn't perfect and I continued to watch it.

In the film, George is in his final few weeks at high school and the headmaster tells him he's unlikely to graduate. He can't motivate himself to work and the reason for this can be found in the backstory of his family life. He meets a girl. Then he meets an artist who visits the school to do a talk. George is good at drawing and doodles in classes instead of listening to the teacher. He and the artist talk.

George says: 'I just don't know what to paint.'

The artist says: 'The fact that you struggle with it is a really good thing, but how can you call yourself a painter if you don't paint?'

This is much like writing.

Towards the end of the film, George turns a corner. The headmaster offers him the chance to complete a year's work in three weeks and he accepts.

His art teacher says: 'I want one, one meaningful work from you. I want you to look in the mirror, listen to your gut, make an image that speaks to the real you, what you care about, what you believe.'

And he does just that. I won't tell you what he paints in case you want to watch the film, but you can probably guess.

Writing is the same. If it doesn't come from the heart, how can it be a writer's best work?

My first novel is written from the heart, but at the moment I'm trying to work how to put that heart into my second novel. Hopefully if I keep writing, I'll get there in the end.

And on those days when I don't feel like writing, I read that post-Why do I write and remind myself what made me start in the first place.

Do you find it easy to write from the heart? I'd be interested to read your comments on anything relating to the above.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Is it worth sharing a first draft in progress with a writing class?

On Writing

I read Stephen King's 'On Writing' on holiday this summer. This book is well worth a read with advice on all aspects of writing. It was so good that I'll read it again soon and make notes. However, the first part is autobiographical and it takes a few chapters to get to the bits which are especially useful. I could write a whole series of blog posts about the points Stephen King makes (and maybe I will), but this week the point most relevant to me is about showing the first draft to a writing class.

He says:

'The pressure to explain is always on, and a lot of creative energy, it seems to me, is therefore going in the wrong direction. You find yourself constantly questioning your prose and your purpose when what you should probably be doing is writing as fast as the Ginger-bread Man runs, getting that first draft down on paper while the shape of the fossil is still bright and clear in your mind.'

I agree.

Last year I started my first draft of Book 2, 'The Painting' and went to a few writing classes, using the novel for homework exercises. This part was useful as it gave me ideas on where to take the plot. But when it came to reading out my homework in class, the subsequent analysis seemed to hinder my progression. I began to analyse what I'd written instead of getting the story down without thinking too much about it.

I must point out that these writing classes were great for me in many ways. I hadn't written a first draft for a few years and I wanted to do timed exercises to regain my confidence. Also my fellow students and teacher were lovely and I've kept in touch with some of them (Hello if you're reading!). I enjoy spending time with other writers and it's comforting when someone in a class says, 'I don't feel like writing at the moment and don't know how to get back into it...' It's good to know I'm not the only one who has to put the kitchen timer next to my computer and make myself write for twenty minutes sometimes.

In hindsight, I should have used the class for writing about other stuff, keeping Book 2 to myself until I'd completed the first draft.

So now I'm aiming to complete the first draft of Book 2 ('The Painting') by Christmas so I can submit an edited version to The RNA's New Writers' Scheme next summer (as long as I'm lucky enough to get onto the scheme again). I shall continue with my quest to get Book 1 ('The Grandson') published, but in the meantime I need to produce another novel.

I'd be interested to read your comments on first drafts or on anything relating to the above.