Sunday, 28 February 2016

Reading Rowbotham

Reading Michael Rowbotham's latest, 'Close Your Eyes', I came across this passage: "I think society tolerates aggression in men. They are seen as fragile, unhappy creatures, no longer in control, no longer having the same privileges or power as in the past, so we are supposed to forgive them for swinging a fist."
I don't agree we should forgive them, but the idea of men feeling displaced and domestic violence being a symptom of that was what my protagonist is saying in A New Era For Manny Youngman. It's gratifying, and in a way reassuring, to find others are identifying the same social issue that led me to write the novel, even if they do it from a different angle. 
That said, 'Close Your Eyes' is a very good read if you're into crime novels. I highly recommend it.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Notes from Perth Writers Festival (2)

The dot points in this and the previous post are offered as thought starters and possibly useful bits of information. Obviously there was more said about each of them but I couldn't write a full report on each of the 20+ sessions I attended. I haven't attributed quotes to particular authors in a lot of cases because I felt it was the idea that was important, not who said it.
  • Donna Ward of Inkerman and Blunt publishing distributes her books through New South Books, which is also a publisher. She also uses a printing broker to get the best price for her printing;
  • Ward said radio stations are only interested in hearing about and interviewing authors about six weeks before the release date;
  • I watched 13 would-be authors pitch to three publishers. It was clear the publishers wanted to hear that the book was something new and different. They weren't interested in hearing what it was about in detail;
  • The three publishers were not interested in books over 150,000 words and preferred  60,000 to 100,000;
  • They also wanted to know who the protagonists were - looking for interesting, different characters;
  • A large percentage of the authors presenting at the Festival were young mothers in their 30s and the big topics appear to be the problem of difficult husbands and children and parental responsibility. This seemed true even in crime novels with women detectives. Obviously women in that age range are a major target audience;
  • A lot of these women writers are doing or have done PhDs in creative writing;
  • All characters should have flaws. It's what makes them real. The flaw can be lack of action when it is needed as well as something they do;
  • Rainforests and former hippy communes appear in a number of novels. Rainforests can be mysterious, hiding things as well as exotic. Former hippy communes symbolise the loss of a previous idealism or feeling of place, even loss of a friend or child;
  • Effective symbols often expand from the local to the global. An example given was a small boy riding a bike in figure of eight patterns in the sand which became the symbol for infinity;
  • Emma Viskic recommended writing some scenes twice from different povs or with other changes to see which worked;
  • Several authors had found their publishers by first winning awards, some with novels and some with short stories. It appears publishers watch competition results;
  • Principal characters should be on two journeys, one physical and one emotional;
  • What characters notice is always important. In tells about their character and can also set the tone for the novel;
  • Perth writer Sarah Foster's latest novel uses first person pov only for the character of the mother to show how mothers can often be isolated from what is happening around them;
  • Most of the presenting writers did not plot heavily and if they did found the story changed as they were writing it;
  • Crime writer Alan Carter went to Shanghai to write the scenes set there in Bad Seed. He walked the streets getting the feel of the place and wrote the scenes there, out of sequence with the rest of the novel, while he had that feel of place fresh in his mind;
  • Carter gave a format for crime writing - In the first 10% the murder and first suspects are established; at around 25% the focus is on one main suspect or another body is discovered; at around 50% there is a significant event which changes the course of the story; at 75% there is another major change and the sub plots start to converge; around 95% it starts drawing to a conclusion;
  • In a session on the Dorothy Hewett Award the judges said they were looking for a literary novel, by which they meant one that paid close attention to language;
  • All judges said they did not read the precis accompanying a submission but shortlisted by reading the first ten pages
  • Judge Lucy Dougan said she was looking for a sense of the world the novel inhabited and whether the writer convinced her of the existence of that world. The voice had to be assured, indicating that the author knew what he or she was trying to find out;
  • Judge David Carlin described the writing process as having a flag set up in as maze. You knew reaching it was your goal but you had to find your way to it;
  • Judge Terri-ann White said she was looking for a distinctive voice that says "I am telling this story and I have a particular way of doing it".
  • White, who is a publisher, said if a submission said the ms had been professionally edited she was less interested in it because that was the job of her own editors;
  • All judges said they were put off by unusual page layouts and fonts. It should always be the traditional presentation recommended by publishers in their submission guidelines;
  • All said an ms with too many typos was not acceptable. It should always be proof-read;
  • Iain Pears' book Arcadia comes with an App that can be downloaded. By following different paths at points in the story the reader can change the course of events and produce a different story. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Notes from Perth Writers Festival (1)

Four days of networking, connection and obtaining information. I can't write it up at length so I'll just give dot points. I'm breaking it up into separate posts or it would be too much at once.

  • Inkerman and Blunt is a publisher in Melbourne - head is Donna Ward. Interested in quirky stuff and is publishing a set of pocket-sized novellas to read on trains etc. Not taking any more submissions this year but worth keeping on the radar.
  • Quotes from Fran Bryson, travel writer and former agent: "You've got to write the crap out" and "Read the acknowledgements in books in your genre for names of agents and editors".
  • Shona Husk began writing fantasy romance novellas as a way to get started. Now writing book length and published in US. Going into e-publishing.
  • Claire Boston found her publisher through a pitch panel at a Romance Writers Festival
  • According to successful Simon and Schuster romance writer Michelle Diener only 1% of submissions to traditional publishers get contracts. She is turning to e-publishing. She says a handful of upper class New Yorkers who dominate the big publishers have been deciding what people read. That is changing with e-publishing and there is an explosion of new voices and new ideas.
  • NOTE THIS ONE - Diener says it is NOT TRUE e-book sales are dropping and people are turning back to print. Those stats are based on the top five big publishers. Their e-sales are dropping and their print sales are high by comparison. If Indie e-sales are included, total e-sales are still increasing and total print sales are dropping.
  • Echo Publishing is based in Melbourne. Angela Meyer is commissioning editor. Recent publication Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic about a deaf detective. 
  • Viskic defined editing processes: "Structural edit means I don't understand the plot;  Line edit means I don't understand the sentence; Copy edit means I don't understand how you spelt your name wrong."
  • Viskic met Meyer through writers group on twitter.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

I've been working on a presentation to the Society of Women Writers WA on "The Realities of  Book Marketing" and it has been a very interesting project. Once you get through all the fluff and bullshit by so-called experts and work out who does know their stuff there does seem to be a sane way for authors to market their books provided they don't expect to be best-sellers overnight. It involves a combination of publicity to get your name as widely known as possible, some personal appearances for the same reason and to sell some hard-cover books directly,  the development of an e-mailing list of people who are likely to buy the sort of book you write and some techniques for persuading them to make the decision to buy. It also involves pacing yourself to spend a little time each day marketing while getting on with writing your next book. Now I've worked it out for the presentation I'm going to put it into practice and see if it works.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

On a roll at present. Got the POV situation in Who Would Kill A Grandmother sorted out and have now rewritten all of the stuff I had written previously and was unhappy with. The trick was to make the POV characters the drivers of the story and not the watchers. Instead of asking "what happens next?" I ask "what do Tom and Joan do next?" I still have to follow the outline of events in the story but Tom and Joan are now interacting with them and becoming much more interesting as a result.
I'm being distracted a bit by the need to finish my presentation to the Society of Women Writers next week but that in itself is a learning experience which I hope will improve my marketing practices.