A Life Of fiction CXXXIV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.


Input should exceed output: Yes, I know that I have used this Conan Doyle phrase before – in A Life Of Fiction XCIV: Inspiration Not Theft and in A Life Of Fiction XXXVIII: Inspired By Classics Of The Past – but it is something which I believe. A writer must read, and read as widely as possible. Despite the fact that I now find it hard to concentrate, I do try to read a little most nights. I don’t read anything as much as I’d like, though; and nowhere hear as much as I used to read in the past. I used to read a book every few days. But now I’m lucky if I can manage to read two books in a month.

I still buy books at the old rate, though, which means I have a big backlog of books which I intend to read. I will get around to reading them all at some stage. Really, I should have a moratorium on buying more books until I have cleared the backlog of unread books. But, if I go in a charity shop and see something good for £1.49, then I tend to pick it up, before somebody else gets their clammy hands on it. I can’t really afford to buy brand new books any more. I buy new David Mitchell books when they come out in paperback, and I bought the new Lizbeth Salander book. But that’s it. Everything else I get through charity shops.

You learn through writing. That is one way of getting better as a novelist. After you write a million words you will be a lot better than when you began – and, really, a million words is not that much. You can easily write that much in a year. But there is only so much that you can learn through practice. You have to read as well.

Take in everything but the plot. Don’t try to plagiarise or copy, you will never be as good as the original. Look at the way in which books are structured. Great authors do not become great by accident, but because they have mastered their craft. Look at the way in which they tell their tales. If after doing that, you feel that your novel (or whatever) is not quite perfect yet, with Word you can easily rearrange sections of text.

Look at the way sentences are arranged on the page. The visual element is important. Things will look better if they look professional. Most novels, for example, when starting new paragraphs indent three letters. Even without changing content you can improve the way that things look (unfortunately, this WordPress site does not seem to do that – or, if it does, I haven’t worked out how).

Read dialogue. Pay attention to the way that it is portrayed and structured. Take in and absorb the lessons of syntax and grammar. But, above all, enjoy what you are reading.


On some of the forums which I go on there is an apparent great deal of interest in what people are reading at the moment. At least three of the forums to which I occasionally contribute there was pages dedicated to What book is beside you bed at the moment? (or words to that effect). Dutifully, I list the book which I am reading, although I am not entirely sure why. Does somebody out there actually care that I have finished 11.22.63, by Stephen King, and that I have now moved on to Dead Souls by Gogol?

I try to take an interest in the books which other people are reading on those forums. But, unless there is a review of the book, I find it hard to get interested. Sorry. Maybe it’s just me – I’m not the least bit interested in Facebook or Twitter, and would not join them in a million years.

I do like the fact that people are reading. Without readers there wouldn’t be much point to authors, would there?

Input should exceed output; that was what I was talking about, wasn’t it/ I do read more than I write, but probably not by that much, as I write three thousand words a day, and there are some days when, because I have been out, I’m too tired to read before I go to bed.

It is very important to read as widely as possible if you have illusions of one day becoming a successful writer. Don’t just read fiction – read everything which interests you. Read up on art, history and whatever. If you are writing genre fiction then read up on myths and legends. Even if what you right is not based on those legends you should check them out as they may provide you with ideas for plots in the future. There are only so many different plots, after all. Most ones are just variants on a theme.

Anyway, I have exhausted ideas for this post. I guess that I must go and find something to read.


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