Monday, 26 August 2013

Jasper Fforde on writing and getting published

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to sit down with Jasper Fforde and pick his brain about writing and getting published.  This is the man who gets on the best seller lists every time a new Thursday Next book comes out, so he knows what he is doing.

His first warning was not to write "me too" books, copying something that is already out there.  This is worth remembering these days where if one book becomes outrageously successful a glut of "me too" books follow as writers and publishers try to cash in on the originals success.  Jasper said there is always new ground to be broken as a writer.

He stressed not to let thoughts of selling the book be your main motivation for writing it - write to entertain yourself.  If you enjoy it, other people will.  If you write something that is not 'you' it will come through in the writing.  He drew the analogy of meeting someone for the first time; you draw conclusions as to what type of person they are and if you spend six hours in their company you know if they are being genuine.

Jasper said the most enjoyable part of writing for him is the "downward canter towards the end with about twenty thousand words left to go" and he said there is always a point in the middle of the book where you are not sure where the book is going.  This is when most aspiring writers give up.  This is the part you must continue through.  Your novel will have several threads weaving through it and one of these will get you to the end.  If you are finding it hard think about what the character really wants.

If you wish to be a professional writer Jasper warned of e publishing; your first few books probably won't be very good and if you put them on the Internet they will be out there forever and may put people off reading your later, better books.  He said it takes about eight to ten books in before you have really learnt your craft as a writer and have produced a really good book.  To help you get there he said writing something, anything, every day - a journal entry, a short poem...  Keep your hand in and practise your craft every day.

Jasper's advice in summary is - if you want a ten year career as a writer keep going and write every day.  By your eighth book you might have something good enough to sell.

I spoke to Jasper Fforde at the Fforde Ffiesta which happens every eighteen months in Swindon (home of Thursday Next).  The next one is in May 2015 and details can be found at 

A small group of seven people have now been challenged to complete a first draft of fifty thousand plus words by the next Ffiesta - although we are expecting one and a half books from Mr Fforde and one of the writers is creating a graphic novel so we've agreed half of it should be complete as it has the extra challenge of words and pictures - you can follow Roger's blog at 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Post natal writing

Hello all, it's been a while. Six weeks ago Eden Rose was born and its pretty tricky writing with a newborn.  At the moment I am tapping away one handed on an iPad whilst nursing. I'm doing a lot of nursing - I feel like a dairy cow. It's hard to get the time to write at the moment. It puts me in mind of a quote I read somewhere (was it Mslexia?) in which a female writer claimed women had to be childless to be a writer. Of course, this sparked a furore - but was she in any way correct? I am certainly struggling with time (and fatigue) at the moment.  However, motherhood has not taken away my intellect, or passion - sometimes life just gets in the way for a while.  I refuse to see this period of my life as wasted writing time, instead I am seeing it as reading and thinking time.  It is easy to read on a kindle one handed and there is plenty of time for thinking - I've already plotted half of a new book.

Perhaps all writers should take a reading and thinking sabbatical once in a while? Maybe it could even help us refine our craft?

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Guardian Great Sci-Fi Hunt part two - reflections

My last post was about this sci-fi hunt and since then a few things have annoyed me about this.   I followed Damien Walter (no relation) on Twitter and so kept up to date with his 'hunt'. I found it very disappointing.

He used it as an opportunity to (to my mind) criticise self-published indie authors.  These are writers who write for love, not glory, and just want people to enjoy their stories. Many are given away free.  These people cannot afford an editor and yes, mistakes will creep in.  I mean, I've seen mistakes in books published by large publishing houses - they happen!  He said the writing was not of a good enough standard - whether he got to fairly test this or not I can't say as there were a lot of books for him to read in a short period of time.

The 'winners' were (3 out of 5) published by independent publishers, not self published and so benefitted from editorial support, art, formatting and limited promotion.  Of course, the standard of these is going to be higher, they have a team around them to make it so.

He claimed only these five books out of eight hundred had any merit.  I wonder how he found time to read even the openings to eight hundred books in a matter of weeks.

I don't begrudge these winners, but I am disappointed this was not the opportunity for the unknown writers out there that it purported to be.  I'm sure for The Guardian and Mr Walter it was great publicity though as the sci-fi community is huge.

To all the truly indie authors out there - keep going and the audience that appreciates you will find you.