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Comment from the book world in January 2018

2018

Finding a publisher

5 February 2018

'What you have to remember about the publishing business is that a young editor or small publisher makes a fortune by finding an unknown writer and making the book into a best seller. That is how you get on in the publishing business. And so if you do write something good, they will be crazy about it and they'll publish it with great enthusiasm. They will also spend money advertising it.

So although people say, "it's terribly difficult for a first novelist to get published," in fact, if you are good it is not that difficult.

My first novel was not very good but it still got published. It wasn't good enough to be a bestseller, but it had something and a publisher read it and thought, "this guy could be going somewhere". He published it because he thought I might write something better one day.

Your job is to show them what you can do. To start with, you will need an outline because the publisher will want to know what the story is about and how it develops. They will also want to know whether you can write and if you have got the power of words.

For that, you will have to write at least some of it...'

Ken Follett, author of The Kingsbridge Series and The Century Trilogy from the Masterclass on his website

 

'Remake a world'

22 January 2018

'If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories - science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world."

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

 

'Reading other poetry aloud'

15 January 2018

'T. S. Eliot said to me "There's only one way a poet can develop his actual writing - apart from self-criticism & continual practice. And that is by reading other poetry aloud - and it doesn't matter whether he understands it or not (i.e. even if it is in another language.) What matters, above all, is educating the ear."

What matters, is to connect your own voice within an infinite range of verbal cadences & sequences - and only endless actual experience of your ear can store all that is in your nervous system. The rest can be left to your life & your character.'

Ted Hughes, giving advice to his 18 year-old daughter Frieda on becoming a poet

'In a book it happens in your head'

8 January 2018

‘One of the reasons children find magic so exciting is that they get told what do all the time. It offers them a freedom and power. I did lots of fairy, witch and giant research, it makes the fantasy more rich. Bringing in Arthurian and Shakespearean references, it's very British-inspired...

Books ‘Offer something special and different. A language medium, a thinking space. And it's also fantastic for empathy. On a screen it happens out there, in a book it happens in your head...

I do put in complicated ideas because I think children are highly intelligent. Thinking outside the box is natural to them. The heroes of my books are always the creative, inventive thinkers.' She wants her books ‘to feel like sweets not brussel sprouts. Not something that you ought to be doing but something you want to be doing.'

Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon series and The Wizards of Once in the Bookseller.

 

'The dream transaction'

1 January 2018

'A published writer has people pay to read the manifestations of her imagination, soul, and heart. For me, that remains extraordinary. It will always be the dream transaction for me, but it is also the most exposing, the rawest, unavoidable, supremely important fact in my life that I have battled desperately to understand and get a handle on these past three years. It's a rockier path, certainly, knowing you are going to be held publicly accountable, knowing that your personhood will be as relevant to your artifices when it comes to talking about the work. I know I'm not alone in this battle and I am grateful to the other writers who have spoken to me about this on the way, sometimes reaching out without me even having to ask.

My own lack of anonymity when I publish is something I am coming to accept. I handed it over without even thinking about it. I made a pact with the kindly devil with my eyes wide shut, but I do not regret it. Having my novels bought and read has been the best thing that ever happened to me. Sometimes, however, the things that are best for us are not always the easiest. I do regret my inability to find my pause button, but maybe writing that regret here will enable me to locate that mysterious setting inside myself? I want to write, and write well, and that's nearly all I ever want to do...'

Jessie Burton, author of bestselling The Miniaturist (just very successfully made into an excellent BBC One two-parter) and The Muse on her website