Every time I see someone describing themselves as an aspiring writer, I want to shout at them, “There’s no such thing! Being a writer is like being pregnant – you either are or you aren’t. So are you writing or not?” Because if you write, you’re a writer. And if you don’t, then you’re not.
I wanted to hate this book. I wanted it to be Twilight-eqsue, capturing the imagination of the young and crossover mainstream reading public in spite of the fact that it was okay rather than great. I wanted to get to the end of the book and feel superior in some way. I wanted to be able to hate this book. But I don’t. I can’t. Because it is a great book.
This is the story of Hazel and Gus and how they fall in love. Sounds cheesy, right? Sounds like it’s been done in young adult novels a hundred times before, right? Hazel has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Gus is in remission but has had a leg amputated. Okay, a little less cheesy but cancer? So Jodi Picoult, right? Still been done before, right? Except even though the concept feels like it’s been done before, it’s never been done this well before.
How often do we see it on news broadcasts after the capture of criminals and terrorists? When searching the personal belongings of the perpetrators, police discover pamphlets on how to make bombs, books on forensic procedures and internet searches on where to dispose of bodies. Who would ever have thought that writers, the architects of awful acts in the imaginary realm, would have so much in common with criminals and terrorists, the agents of awful acts in the real one?
“How long should chapters be?” is the proverbial “piece of string” question but I’ve seen writers asking it on writing forums so I thought I’d have a go at answering it. The definitive answer, of course, is that there is no fixed length any chapter should be. It needs to be determined by each individual author and depends on their preference, the type of book being written and how the chapter reads when it’s eventually written.
But there are some identifiable methods that it might be useful to list if you are struggling with this question.
The Girl on the Train was voted the number one book of 2015 by viewers of the ABC’s “The Book Club” television show. I suspect what that really means is it was the book read by most of the viewers of the ABC’s “The Book Club”. After all, you have to have read a book in order to want to vote for it. I’m only getting around to reading it now so obviously I wasn’t one of those people.
But even if I had read it before now, I wouldn’t have voted for it to be the number one book. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how some books can capture the imagination of the reading public, even when they’re not perfect, even when they’re not that original.
For over a year now, I’ve had the words “The Apostrophe Hall of Shame” on my blog post ideas board. So why haven’t I written the post until now? Not for a lack of incorrect uses of apostrophes, that’s for sure.
Actually, it’s the opposite. An abundance of not only apostrophe abuse but also poor spelling and terrible grammar consistently inflicted on the content consuming public. I’ve been so overwhelmed by bad examples that I haven’t known where to even start.
The media are particularly bad examples. Journalism was once the bastion of making sure content was written and spoken correctly. At least if the journalists weren’t getting it right, there were editors to correct their mistakes before the content went public.
Not anymore. And as Fairfax Media announces another 120 jobs to be axed in Sydney and Melbourne and their staff go on strike, I’d be concerned for the editors that remained, if I actually thought there were any.
Unless you have the world’s biggest ego, you’ve probably suffered at one point or another from an onslaught of anti-mantras. You might have mistaken it for being honest with yourself about where you are and how much time and work you’re going to have to invest in order to get where you hope you’re going, wondering if that’s even possible. In fact, it’s much more likely to be a lie, the devil on you left shoulder simply drowning out the angel on your right.
Tell me if any of these sound familiar.
I love Max Barry. He’s one of those writers that makes other writers think, “That’s brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?” Jennifer Government is the second book of his that I’ve read (the first being Lexicon) and it has only reinforced my perception of him, his ideas and his writing.
I’ve written previously about anti-heroes and villains and how they seem to be the characters of choice these days, at least the characters that seem to resonate most with readers searching for complexity. So, of course, growing numbers of people are attempting to cash in on that. The problem is that we are being flooded with ridiculous caricatures that are no more scary than me in the morning before I’ve brushed my hair and had some caffeine. Every James Bond villain ever may have something to answer for this.
When we examine the more successful and enduring villains, such as Dracula and Frankenstein (or his monster – depends on which of them you think was the bigger baddie), and some of the more recent but no less memorable, such as Dexter Morgan and Hannibal Lecter, we find people and creatures who scare us but who also exhibit vulnerability, meaning that in some capacity they are scared themselves. They’re at the darker end of the light and dark scale but they’re more deep grey than black. And regardless of their villainy, there’s also something attractive about them, something tempting about them, something that draws you in, even when you know you’re probably going to end up dead if you don’t resist.
If you’re planning to give it a go, here’s a few things to consider to make sure you have readers crying in terror instead of with laughter.
My little sister is obsessed with op shops (charity shops, second-hand shops, whatever you call them in your location). When we recently happened to drive past one in an area she doesn’t usually frequent, she made me stop and go back, then dragged me in. She went straight for the clothing racks. I went straight for the book shelves.