This week I’m not organised, for reasons I am unwilling to share just now. So instead, I offer you a series of things that have been puzzling, fascinating or disturbing me during my writing week:
• The hardcover issue – a mate has just been offered a publishing contract, but her book will be going straight into paperback. She feels that this is damaging her chances of getting reviews, but is it? And is that the real issue here? For me, as a book buyer, and a review reader, I have the habit of reading reviews and then bookmarking the title until it turns up in paperback. Hey, get real people, I’m a writer! I’m a fairly successful writer, but nowhere near successful enough to buy books in hardcover when waiting six months more than halves the cost. Equally, I tend to buy books that are recommended by reviewers I know: the Goodreads gang whose reading patterns are enough like mine for me to know that what they enjoy is probably going to be interesting to me. The London Review of Books is great, but I’m not sure how much it actually influences my purchases.
Am I typical? I don’t know. But I do know that recession behaviour is going to promote paperback buying over hardback. There is another point to bear in mind though – libraries buy hardbacks, and some writers make their midlist careers out of being library-friendly. What should my mate do? I have no idea – do you?
• Teaching teaching teaching – I’m working on the course outline for Recession-Proof Writing which I’ll be teaching as a one day workshop in Brighton on 7 February and in Canterbury on 9 May. I love teaching, but I’m always scared I’m going to bore my students so I spend a lot of time working on learning psychology as well as on writing tips. I’m not sure how useful the bulk of students find this, but the ones who ‘get it’ really do become successful, productive writers.
I’m coming up with titles for different parts of the course and so far I have ‘Being Pete Postlethwaite’ as an homage to ‘Being John Malkovich’ for the section that explains what a sustainable career actually looks like and ‘Lessons Learned From Rabbits’ for the section on editing and sending out work. I hope these titles make the workshops fun and interesting, but perhaps I’m just a weirdo. You can tell me the truth, I don’t mind …
• Lessons Learned From Rabbits (LLFR) – if you’ve ever read Watership Down, you will know things about rabbits you probably didn’t want to. Part of LLFR is about the process of managing work that hasn’t placed in a year. Did you know that female rabbits (called does) can actually reabsorb a foetus if conditions are not good for gestation and birth (and would that change the nature of sink estates and teenage pregnancies, if humans could do it?) Well rabbits can. And then, some months later, they can use the component nutrients they’ve retained to become pregnant again.
So I want to explain to those attending the workshop that a piece of work that is shorter than a novella, and has been sent out at least six times in twelve months, and hasn’t placed, is probably due for re-absorption, which, in my vocabulary, means putting it in a drawer for a long time (at least six months) and then, instead of editing or revising it, using the best parts to create a new story that is radically different to the former version but draws on its highest elements. Like the doe does. But does that sound to Frankensteinish for the average writer? And are my sentences getting worrying long? You can tell me the truth, I don’t mind …
And the last thing that was vexing me was tracking down my favourite lipstick, damnably discontinued by Benefit, but I managed it and now have two tubes of the necessary stuff winging their way through the post. How very frivolous … but not as frivolous as this shop window (in Hove actually). Look more closely, those flowers are actually lollipops!