Sooo… the things I wanted to talk about:

Jim Murdoch’s new novel, Stranger than Fiction. I really enjoyed this, and Jim’s profoundly idiosyncratic view of the world is always fascinating. I tried to come up with one of those pithy one-liners that you are supposed to use to encapsulate a project for the movie industry (which is popularly supposed not to be able to cope with more than a sentence of information at a time) and what I decided on was Alan Bennett meets Douglas Adams! The characters from Jim’s previous novel are resurrected, having died at the end of the last one, in a manner not unreminiscent (is that a word?) of Eoin Colfer’s continuation of the work of said Douglas Adams. I loved it. Jim’s novel, I mean, not Eoin’s – haven’t read that and probably won’t – I’m not sure why I don’t like writers picking up the work of deceased literary stars and taking it on, but I don’t.

Writers who won’t – don’t get me started! I have been talking to a writer for seven months (seven!) about a project that she’s capable of achieving and has all mapped out, but she just can’t bring herself to start. Way back in 2006 Fortune Magazine’s Geoffrey Colvin wrote an article highlighting research that shows that the gap between success and failure is filled by practice and consistent feedback on the quality of that practice. Now I’m not a great fan of workshops, because I think they become an end in themselves for many people, but if some writers just used a quarter of the time they spend thinking and talking about their work on actually getting words down, they would develop some of that practice and might find that not only did their ability to work improve, but the work itself did too.

But then there are writers who won’t stop. I feel guilt every November when I watch some talented writers diving into NaNoWriMo with flailing abandon. You see, when I was a NaNo coordinator I pushed a lot of these people into their November excess and now I watch in horror this one and only time of the year that they write anything at all. It’s an unintended by-product of NaNo frenzy that some writers find they can’t get into the habit of writing all year round, or writing without the plaudits and excitement of the massive social network that surrounds the event. And this means that in November they are happy to produce 50 or 70 or even 90 thousand words that they put in a drawer and forget about. It’s as if they store up all their writing stimulus through the year to splurge it out in one great orgy of unstoppable wordiness. Okay, it’s not my problem (I’m not a coordinator any more, for one thing) but it does worry me more than a little that NaNo might be destroying writers rather than creating them. Anybody else got any evidence, especially to disprove my theory that a few writers can only perform under NaNo stimulus?

And I was going to blog about an average day in my life, but it’s too depressing to contemplate the deadlines looming over me right now, so I shall save it for next time.

The picture shows Morgan, formerly known as Toulouse, but she wouldn't answer to it ...

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