Book Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

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I saw the movie of this book several years ago so it’s one of those rare experiences for me in that I’m reading the book afterwards. Normally, I find that a challenge because I’m constantly anticipating what’s about to happen. That didn’t happen with this book because the movie is very different… and so much better.

The Silver Linings Playbook is narrated by Pat, who is living in “the bad place”, as he calls it. His mother is there to take him home after… is it months or years? Pat can’t tell. He can’t remember why he was living in the institution either. Pat only has one goal: to be reunited with his beloved wife, Nikki, by focusing on being kind instead of being right, reading great American literature and by keeping up his gruelling exercise regime. He feels he was unkind to her, didn’t involve himself enough in her interests and let himself go during their marriage and if he can only rectify these things, then Nikki will welcome him back with open arms and everything will be alright again. Because he believes in silver linings. Continue reading

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Should You Market Your Book, Yourself or Both? (Part 2: Marketing Yourself)

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On Tuesday I looked at marketing your book and today I continue the theme by looking at ways to market yourself. It’s not everybody’s favourite task – in fact, I once asked a friend if she wanted to be the public face and name of my books because I was so afraid of the scrutiny (she declined) – but if you’re planning on publishing more than one book, establishing your identity as a writer can be just as important as establishing the quality of an individual book.

Find Your Angle
Everybody has an angle – they just have to discover what it is. John Grisham is a former lawyer so when he started writing crime books, it made total sense. Jeffrey Archer was conned out of a significant amount of money so when he wrote a book about characters trying to exact their revenge for the same thing and get their money back, it was a great selling point. When Lauren Conrad wrote a novel about a girl and her best friend appearing on a reality show, the fact that it was a thinly veiled autobiography and she had a guaranteed readership from the audience of the show she had appeared on helped to ring up the sales, even if the critical acclaim didn’t accompany it. Continue reading

Should You Market Your Book, Yourself or Both? (Part 1: Marketing Your Book)

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I love to ask myself questions that I don’t know the answer to and spend time considering them at length, then spend time discussing them at length in a blog post. So, somewhat surprisingly, when I asked myself the question “Should you market your book, yourself or both?” I realised I already knew the answer. Of course, all writers seeking an audience for their work must market both their books and themselves. It’s everything that comes after that realisation that tends to be a lot more difficult.

I’ve previously admitted that I have a problem with marketing myself and I’m not much better at marketing my books, not because I don’t think they’re any good but because a lifetime of reinforcement that humility is more important than confidence when it comes to self-promotion is hard to overcome.

So here’s an exercise in “do as I say, not as I do”. You don’t have to do them all – in fact, you probably shouldn’t, at least not all at once in an effort to avoid overkill. But by selecting the right combination over the right length of time, your marketing efforts may just pay off. Today I’m looking at marketing your book and on Thursday I’ll look at marketing yourself and together those two approaches will hopefully translate into book sales now and in the future. Continue reading

For the Love of Language

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I like knowing stuff. It doesn’t matter what that stuff is, I just like knowing it. Knowledge is cool. I haven’t figured out what to do with it all yet but in the meantime, I’m continuing to accumulate it.

In that spirit, I was watching a couple of documentaries about Tourette’s syndrome – one focused on children struggling with the condition and the other explored the difficulties in obtaining employment when unable to control muscular and vocal tics. And as I commonly do (because I always want to know more), I Googled Tourette’s syndrome and began reading on Wikipedia about the details the documentaries weren’t going into.

One of the children in the documentary and one of the men looking for work had what I discovered was called coprolalia – “the utterance of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks” – and that only a small minority of people with Tourette’s exhibit this symptom. When I clicked through the link to find out more about coprolalia, I discovered that “copro” came from the Greek for “faeces” and “lalia” came from the Greek for “to talk”. Coprolalia literally means “to talk shit”. Continue reading

Book Review: The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster

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This book falls into a rare category in my back catalogue of reviews. I hardly ever award a book 5 stars and I hardly ever award a book 1 star because I want to reserve them for books that are genuinely perfect or genuinely awful. Unfortunately for Zoe Foster, she now becomes the author of only the second book I’ve ever give 1 star to.

Lily is the narrator and she may well be the titular wrong girl as well – it’s hard to tell, there are so many of them in the book. After sleeping with her best friend, Pete, he casually tells her he’s in love with someone else. She not-so-casually tells him piss off and that’s the last we see of him. Lily’s housemate, Simone, has just broken up with a total dick so the girls decide to have a man break and detox.

But Simone is a bikini model and an airhead and a perpetual pill-popper, so she doesn’t last very long. Instead, she hooks up with… well, pretty much everyone in the book. And then she nabs the hot new chef Lily works with as a segment producer on a morning television show. Cue Lily spending pretty much the rest of the book alternating between being envious and telling herself she doesn’t really like the chef that much. Continue reading

Rules versus Styles versus Preferences When Editing

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The English language is one of the hardest in the world to master and only seems to be getting harder thanks to its constant evolution. The fact that there are so many different opinions about what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” doesn’t make it any easier, especially for those wanting to edit their writing and looking for definitive answers. After all, as writers, we generally don’t want to get involved in the battle. We just want to know who won.

Unfortunately, I don’t have good news on that front. Because while there are some definitive rules, there are also styles that change depending on which country or publication you write in and there are even preferences that individuals make up their own mind in relation to. Continue reading

Free Writing, Free Reading, Free Editing: Where Do We Draw the Line?

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As a writer, I understand very well the concept of writing for free. I do it every day. I write my novels with no expectation of ever being paid for my writing labour. (I hope but I don’t expect.) I write my blog posts and publish them on a freely available blog to educate and entertain people about writing and its offshoots. I sometimes write articles about employment and post them on LinkedIn to support my job title, which lists me as a “Freelance Blogger, Writer and Editor”. I write ads for family members with their own businesses without charging for it. I write blurbs and introductions for other people’s books without receiving a single cent.

I also understand the concept of reading for free – how could I not when I post all that writing mentioned above so people can read it without charge? Plus I read a lot of news websites, particularly The Age online, news.com.au, the New York Times online, the Washington Post online, ABC (Australia) News online, BBC News online, CBC News online and sometimes the Miami Herald online, the LA Times online and the Chicago Tribune online. When I run out of free articles to read each month on the sites that charge for subscriptions, I content myself with browsing headlines and public news websites. (I’d like to be able to afford to subscribe but I’m just a poor writer at the moment.)

But where I draw the line is at free editing. Everybody learns to read and write at school (or at least has the opportunity to) but editing the writing of others is a very specific skill and many, if not most, editors train further in order to do it properly and professionally. Certainly to apply for professional membership of the Institute of Professional Editors here in Australia, you need an eligible qualification. And with the Federal Government trying to restrict fee support for courses less than three years in length and with many educational institutions abolishing their writing and editing courses (including Holmesglen Institute of TAFE where I studied and graduated with an Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing), those qualifications are becoming harder and harder to come by. So why would anyone ask for or expect an editing service to be provided for free? Continue reading