In March 2015, Terry Pratchett, the British author of over seventy books and creator of the Discworld series, lost his battle with early onset Alzheimer’s. He was just sixty-six years old. In June and September 2015 respectively, The Long Utopia and The Shepherd’s Crown, his two final completed books, were published. In 2017, the manager of Pratchett’s estate used a steamroller to flatten a hard drive containing all his unpublished, incomplete works and tweeted a picture of the destroyed device. It was Pratchett’s wish fulfilled.
Pratchett’s estate and heirs were in an enviable position. With seventy-odd books already published, the royalties will be flowing in for many years to come so their decision to respect his dying wish was, it would seem, a relatively easy one.
However, it doesn’t always appear to be the case. Despite her immense success, after Virginia Andrews’s death in 1986, her estate hired a ghost writer to keep penning works in her name. Some of them were begun by Andrews but not completed before she succumbed to breast cancer at the age of sixty-three.Continue reading
I think I’m safe enough making a general statement here: most writers would love to be in a position to simply write what they want when they want. Unfortunately, having to earn a living that lifts you above the poverty line often means writers either work a non-writing job or offer their services to write things that under normal circumstances they wouldn’t give two hoots about. Non-writing jobs result in equal parts financial independence and resentment but being a writer for hire can just as often be a minefield. There are lots of reasons for this but there’s one that has stood out for me in several writing requests and that’s being asked to write something but not being provided with a brief.
It won’t come as a shock to anyone with even a small amount of common sense but professional writers aren’t mind readers. We don’t have some sort of sixth sense that allows us to automatically know what needs to be written. So when we’re asked to write something that we aren’t specialists in or aren’t particularly interested in, we need instructions that comprise more than just one sentence.Continue reading
I’ve written before about how writers seek criticism when what they really want is praise. Who doesn’t? Everybody wants their endeavours – regardless of what those endeavours are – to be validated. But no matter how hard a writer works on a piece of writing, there will be people who won’t like it. Not necessarily because it’s bad but just because. That’s life.
A writer can solve this problem by choosing not to release their writing. But it smacks of cowardice and self-perpetuating redundancy. Most people who write want to be read. So we find the courage from somewhere while reminding ourselves that universal popularity just isn’t possible. Because for every person or book or movie or decision that seemed to have plenty of admirers, there will always be a group of people who vehemently dislike or disagree with them or it. Their dislike or disagreement may be valid. It may have carefully considered logic behind it. But it may also simply be a reflection of personal prejudices or specific preferences.Continue reading
Reading The Spare Room by Helen Garner reminded me very much of reading Glenice Whitting’s Something Missing. Not because of their stories or characters but because I know Glenice and when I read her book, I realised that it was based heavily on and drew extensively from her own life. I don’t know Helen Garner personally at all but I’m starting to wonder how much of her fiction is actually fiction. Almost everything she’s written that is classified as such seems to have a real life twin.
Helen (yes, the main character’s name is Helen – more evidence of a thinly veiled story) has agreed to host her Sydney friend, Nicola, in the spare room of her Melbourne home while she undergoes three weeks of cancer treatments. Nicola has always been a bit flighty and end-stage bowel cancer isn’t going to change that. She’s already done the chemo, the radiation; it hasn’t worked. So now she’s placing her faith in the Theodore Institute where they intravenously pump her full of Vitamin C, have her hold electrodes while in an ozone sauna and perform cupping, all to force the “toxins” out. Nicola’s immense pain is proof that it’s working, they say.Continue reading