September Writing Magazine

In the September issue of Writing Magazine Adele Parks discusses Whatever It Takes to write 12 novels in as many years. Actor-turned-crimewriter Linda Regan explains how she got published with Street Girls and there are features on historical romance writer Linda Mitchelmore – To Turn Full Circle – and bestselling Below Stairs author Margaret Powell.

Margaret James explores defining commercial fiction for male readers, focusing on the adventure novels of Dave Gibbins, Matt Lynn and Simon Scarrow. Other features cover ‘second novel syndrome’, novel approaches, writing picture books for children, penning flash fiction and boosting your ebook profile. Agent Jane Judd discusses the importance of not giving up too easily.

More besides, including turning dreams into stories, Waterstones’ longest-serving manager on how writers can make the most of high street bookshops and top tips for writing about pop. Plus competitions, fiction and non-fiction writing columns, even more advice and tips, poetry, and my usual market reports and news roundups in Writers’ News.

Writing Magazine, September 2012

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Time’s Arrow to the Cryptozoic!

Here is some evidence from a reputable website that, as suggested in Brian Aldiss’ An Age (published as Cryptozoic! in the US), and much later (or earlier), Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow, time does flow backwards and we are perceiving the wrong way around. Either that or every piece of writing, from book to webpage, needs an editorial once-over.

Click on the image to see full size and read the ‘newer edition’ text at the bottom. ‘See a problem with this suggestion?’

backwards

 

Bad News Customer Reviews

What use are Amazon customer reviews, or indeed the user reviews on any website? During Amazon’s first decade the company employed a team of freelance writers to review books, videos and DVDs. I was one of them. Crucially, our opinions remained our own. But we worked to guidelines which included being factually accurate, not committing libel and avoiding spoilers. Then Amazon introduced customer reviews, and the result is now a caveat emptor free-for-all.

While many customer reviews are excellent, Amazon imposes no quality control – some reviews are no worse than ill-informed and amateurish –  and no warning that one might at any time come across a massive spoilers. Amazon long ago gave-up proofreading customer reviews, and some Amazon users have no consideration for the reader or creative artist, and no idea of civilised reviewing etiquette.

Stone's Fall by Iain Pears

I have just finished reading the novel Stone’s Fall, by Iain Pears. This is an exceptionally long, intricately plotted historical thriller / mystery. It’s not perfect, but it is an extremely enjoyable and intelligent piece of work. Unfortunately, with 450 pages to go I decided to see what Amazon’s customers made of it. I happened to read a short ‘review’ by someone who admitted they had not read the whole book (they awarded it one star and described it as ’a waste of money’), but felt it their right to explain the central mystery of the entire narrative. Something the author chose to keep secret until almost the last page. It is a testament to Iain Pear’s skill that I remained engrossed despite knowing where the story was heading.

Not content with attempting to spoil the novel for the reader, the ‘reviewer’, hiding behind a pseudonym, also casually libeled Mr Pears, stating without evidence that he ‘must have stolen this idea for a book from some movie or book from the 1940’s or ’50’s’. I would like to see that stand-up in court.

So faced with the contemptible and unacceptable I have decided to stop looking at customer reviews before reading or watching any work of fiction. Meanwhile with some reservations I’d recommend Stone’s Fall. Clare Clark sums up the novel well on The Guardian without spoiling anything. Read the Amazon customer reviews at your peril.

August Writing Magazine

The August issue of Writing Magazine is out. Philippa Gregory is interviewed by Judith Spelman about her passion for history and her new novel The Kingmaker’s Daughter. This Is How It All Ends author Kathleen MacMahon discusses her writing day and the luxury of writing time. Children’s writer and illustrator Steve Smallman talks about how he got published, and there are features on CJ Sansom and Redemption thriller writer Will Jordan.

More besides, including the regular columns, features on the secrets of successful ebooks, how to edit like a pro, using an iPad as a writing tool, what a writing MA can do for you, improving your journalism, breaking into health writing, fiction and non-fiction writing columns, advice and tips, poetry, competitions, and my usual market reports and news roundups in Writers’ News.

Writing Magazine August 2012