Writing and Reading for Pleasure: July 2015 | Douglas Burcham

Douglas continues his writing and reading for pleasure posts with a slight change of emphasis in format for the future. The post includes news of progress on his writing, a follow up on the last two posts and a current news commentary.


During June I made an excellent new start towards a target completion date of Christmas 2015 for a final format of Gemini, the first book I started writing in June 2010. This new start in self-editing, assisted by Autocrit, includes restructuring the trees, branches and leaves of the underlying plot and upping the pace by conversion of more of the past tense text to present continuous tense more suited to the dreams on which the story is based.

Simon Heffer — in a new weekly column in the weekend Daily Telegraph — says something like; “However much you feel compelled to do so there comes a time when amendments and changes have to stop and your baby has to go to press.” Let’s see how I progress by Christmas with this advice in mind. I am already much happier with Gemini and my new challenge. In the first of his new columns, he advocates broadening cultural horizons by exploration.

I have also started to re-read How to Write a Blockbuster by Helen Corner and Lee Weatherly which my daughter gave me in July 2010. I read the book all through late 2010 and have dipped into it many times since. Starting a full re-read demonstrates to me how much I have learnt and formed opinions about ways of writing since 2010. The book, while pitched at authors who want to go the traditional publishing route, is in some parts not relevant. I do relate to some comments so far.

Aim high – vital writing, self editing and submission skills can be taughtwrite what you love and you as author has to be your books biggest fan. As I am writing for my enjoyment and not targeting specific readers, this is especially supportive and helpful.

In my TIPM May post research project I said I would start with How Novels Work by John Mullan. It is living up to my high expectations. I dipped into several chapters last month and studied the introduction and chapter on Beginnings. This first chapter makes a series of valid points about the beginning, telling (or maybe showing) your reader what they have let themselves into by starting reading your book and to be welcoming and accommodating. Based on my reading so far, this book will sit on my writing advice bookshelf next to Stephen King’s On Writing.

While in France in June I was handed a copy of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Essays in the Art of Writing by our host. This is a book published in France to help French students gain a better grasp of the English Language.

I will take the liberty of including an extract from a Letter to a Young Gentleman who Proposes to Embrace the Career of Art. I am sure we have all found writing is a lonely occupation needing some words of encouragement from time to time, as well as glasses of red wine which flow easily from five litre boxes in France. My doctor has suggested I use a smaller glass. It does not work because it seems to be refilled too often!

I take the author, with whose career I am best acquainted; and it is true he works in a rebellious material, and that the act of writing is cramped and trying both to the eyes and the temper; but remark him in his study, when matter crowds upon him and words are not wanting – in what a continual series of small successes time flows by; with what a sense of power as of one moving mountains, he marshals his petty characters; with what pleasures, both of the ear and eye, he sees his airy structure growing on the page; and how he labours in a craft to which the whole material of his life is tributary, and which opens a door to all his tastes, his loves, his hatreds, and his convictions, so that what he writes is only what he longed to utter. He may have enjoyed many things in this big, tragic playground of the world; but what shall he have enjoyed more fully than a morning of successful work? Suppose it ill paid: the wonder is it should be paid at all. [!! DB.] Other men pay, and pay dearly, for pleasures less desirable.

Thank you Robert Louis Stephenson during the 1880s who wrote words (yea many words and long sentences) in support of the Writing part of my posting title — Writing and Reading for Pleasure. On the morning of 3rd July I had such a morning of successful and enjoyable work which took a turning point at around 50,000 words in the Gemini One plot forward. I reflect what I have written may result in split readers’ views. The end is a cliff hanger which leaves me with a problem of whether or not to start Gemini Two at this point.  Sorry, it also made me a day or two late in completing this post, but when on a roll, don’t stop!

On a visit to my local library in June I found another useful supportive quote to my writing in The Bookseller by Andrew Miller – a past Costa Prize Winner.

The moment you try to play safe you are likely to produce work that is of no interest. As a rule of thumb, be adventurous, be free, write the book you want and don’t lose your nerve.

Bravo… a wonderful tonic and a help to me in my unusual writing which I enjoy composing. I press on in Andrew’s great spirit with renewed vigour, sailing wind in sails, out of my last sixteen month of doldrums.

Next month I will elaborate on two further aspects of teaching oneself to write. Be it web posts and computer software, or I may decide to reflect on the writing structures for trilogies having just completed three books by Stieg Larsson about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. His death was great loss to thriller writing readership. They have knocked me out of my furrow of “thriller reading fatigue”.

There are six items of writing and reading news which have caught my attention this month are:-

  • A proposal for a women-only authors publishing in 2018. (Fiction?)
  • Children’s book sales being at an all time high, but publishers are finding readers hard to tempt and find. Children are a canny lot.
  • The comments of the retiring Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman, about how what she has tried to do for the cause of young people’s reading and libraries and the flak she has encountered from trolls while doing so. She says in a delightful combative comment. “If you are not taking flak you are not over the target!”
  • Whether an advance copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, written from a male perspective, was stolen or part of a publicity stunt.
  • Amazon’s decision to change authors receipts to electronic pages read, rather than books sold. This is mentioned in another TIPM post this week and it is for me a subject to be watched over the coming months because the whole basis of all writers’ returns and readers’ costs for books appear to be entering new uncharted seas.
  • The death of Graham Lord on 13th of June 2015, who pushed his employers to set up (from 1994) a rival book prize to the Booker Prize while he was Literary Editor at the Sunday Express. Many winners, including Hilary Mantel (who has also gone on to win the Booker Prize), are now in the bestselling author listings.

Good reading, writing and publishing to you all everywhere, as always …

DouglasDouglas Burcham started writing on 1st June 2010 and has not stopped since. He was saved from the clutches of vanity publishing by Mick Rooney of TIPM in July 2010. In May 2013, his characters, including his fantasy twin brother Alexander, took all his fiction writing and set themselves up as the Allrighters with other writing friends. They self-published a book of short stories ‘Ywnwab!’ in September 2013. In their 2014 and 2015 Writing Plans, by working in 16 to 18K word bites, Douglas, along with the Allrighters, are trying to convert a million words of draft writing completed in January 2014 into several reader friendly books totalling 900,000 words of fiction and 100,000 words of non-fiction. The latter being about writing and memories of buildings, trains, boats and planes. Progress in 2014 and 2015 has been slow as Douglas and the Allrighters prefer new creative writing to editing and restructuring existing writing. A new writing plan in the June 2015 post indicated a move to completion of Gemini c256k words in four books by Christmas 2015 followed by  Amazon Kindle publishing and some well produced hard copies for friends and family.

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