Welcome to the blog of the Consulting Editors Alliance. This is our forum for sharing views on the wonderful, bizarre, enormously frustrating and satisfying (depends on the day) world of book publishing and our roles in it as freelance editors, writing collaborators, and ghostwriters. Please join the conversation!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Advice for Writers

Last Sunday's New York Times (May 2) had several items of interest to writers. Deborah Solomon, in her weekly Magazine column, interviewed best-selling author Charlaine Harris about her vampire series (basis for the HBO series "True Blood") and concluded by asking Ms. Harris whether she had any advice for writers. Her answer: For any writers at all, read everything you can and then put your butt in the chair and write. That's all there is to it." Of course there's a lot more to it than that, but there's still great truth in what she said. Everything you read can be a learning process for you--not so you can duplicate what another author has done, but so you can understand how that author has made the novel work.

And continuing in this vein, I was struck by the opening sentence in the front-page review in the Book Review by Christopher Buckley of a new (and first) novel by Tom Rachman called The Imperfectionists, which is garnering raves everywhere. Buckley wrote: "This first novel by Tom Rachman, a London-born journalist who has lived and worked all over the world, is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off." A highly successful writer himself (Thank You for Smoking and Losing Mum and Pup, among others), Buckley is still open to learning. He's so impressed with this novel that he wants to figure out how the author did it.

One more reference: Again in the Magazine, Virginia Heffernan writes about "how the digital age is making self-publishing respectable." As she writes, back in analog times, self-publishing reeked of "vanity presses" and had the unmistakable look of something that could only get published if the author paid for it. But times have changed, and she cites that last year 764,448 titles were produced by self-publishers and so-called microniche publishers--up an astonishing 184% from the previous year. She points out that "cheap, digital-publishing technology ... has been a godsend to writers without agents or footholds at traditional publishing houses." And she reminds us that "luminaries like Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin, and Edgar Allan Poe self-published books." So there's a whole new way for authors to get their manuscripts published. And Heffernan cites the names of some companies that writers can go to for printing and, in some cases, distribution and promotion.

1 comment:

  1. Although the advice seems simple, I think it's probably one of the most important things a writer can do: read.

    As an English teacher, I see the negative impact of not reading in my students' essays all the time. They don't know how to string sentences together because they haven't spent enough time reading and appreciating good sentences.

    I find it amazing that my students who are interested in writing fiction dismiss the importance of reading; they don't have time, they say. Or their too distracted. Stephen King put it best when he said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write."