Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Genre Bending

At a writer's conference I attended earlier this year, there was some discussion about genres. Both agents and publishers made it quite clear that if you are a newly established or aspiring writer you have to commit to one genre of writing. To skip from one genre to another or even worse lay claim to a cross-genre piece of work is a sure way to get the reject stamp across your manuscript before the title page has been turned.
On the face of it, it seems fair comment. To clinch that publishing deal or get yourself a good agent, it's quite reasonable for them to identify exactly where your writing is at.
It seems that even quite established writers have to remain committed throughout their careers.  For instance, if an established sci fi writer decided he wanted to skip the light fandango, turning cartwheels cross the floor to turn his hand to say a good swashbuckling pirate adventure, would this leave his sci fi readers feeling kinda seasick? Or would he get new swashbuckling pirate readers, a crowd calling out for more?

Okay I'll stop waxing lyrical before we all turn A Whiter Shade of Pale.

There are, of course, exceptions to any rule, which exempts a writer from genre specific creativity. Alas, this is beyond the reach of most of us. If, however, you happen to find yourself at the  top of the literary food chain, then maybe, just maybe, (not guaranteed) your name can be put to anything. You have become canonized as a BRAND.

Yes Ms JKR has made her departure on the Hogwart's Express into the world of adult fiction. Adult fiction is about as genre specific as she needs to get. She is not just 'a' brand, she is 'the' brand, or is she?
I'm sure her new novel The Casual Vacancy will be an amazing piece of work. JK's talent is indisputable. The magic of Harry Potter enchanted both children and adults alike in books and on the silver screen. I think she succeeded in finding the child within us all.
I'm sure she will sell squillions of copies on the day that her new novel is released, but what are her follower's expectations? Will her readers miss the incredible fantasy world that she created for Harry P? Will adult themes such as sex, murder, or heaven forbid she may even say the 'f' word, sit well with her readers? Or will she retain the distinctive ebullience and jolly hockey sticks flavour that has served her so well, and can be quite refreshing?

I like to think I can write comedy. But I've said this before and I'll keep saying it, I don't think comedy necessarily is a genre. For me it is a style. Comedy is a voice, it is refers to the delivery of a good story. It governs narrative, characterization and plot, true. I need to deliver it in a particular manner. The characters either need to be either comic or find themselves in comic situations. The plot must take at least one character way out of his or her comfort zone to create the right level of absurdity necessary to please the reader. It must have a happy ending. However, the story needs to be believable and captivating and take the reader through more emotions than merely rib-tickling laughter.  
I think next time I pitch my work; I'm not going to say its comedy or humour. I'll come up with as broad a genre as I can like adult fiction something like chic lit or choc lit (whatever that is) but for both genders.

I don't know if the demand for genre is a modern thing. Dickens, Hardy and even Shakespeare were not confined to genres. But during those days before they became immortal, were they branded as brands?

In two weeks I will be going to Theakstons Old Peculiar Crimewriting Festival. I'm going to have an amazing time rubbing shoulders with some of the worlds best crimewriters and attending some workshops to hopefully improve the way I write. But hold on, I'm not a crimewriter. But I write and I may want to write  a crime story  in  a comedic style. And I may find I have an affinity with some of the crimewriters , because they are writers. But that is not my main reason for attending.  
I read most genres from non-fiction through to biography and most genres of fiction. But I'm a hopeless crime fiction addict when it comes to reading. I used to read Hank Jansen and Mickey Spillane as a boy, so I suppose it has stayed with me.
I love classic literature, Thomas Hardy and Dickens being my favourites but also went through a phase when I couldn't absorb enough Russian literature.

On my Facebook, Twitter and indeed this blog I have made connections with all manner of different writers. I recently purchased a 'YOUNG ADULT' novel Kiera's Quest: Awakenings by Kristy Brown. (Do buy it on Amazon, she has a second book out soon) I only bought it because I socially networked with the author, or I would never have given it a second look had I seen it online or in a book shop. I don't read much fantasy. However, I must admit this book intended for youngsters was a guilty pleasure for me as a reader and it was an amazing piece of work. I don't think I could do it. I can write about the world around me and even about how the world was before me. But to create a whole new world with a different civilisation with a unique eco system and mode of government is far beyond my capability.

What's your genre of writing and does it run parallel with your reading? Or do you think that a writer is a writer regardless of genre and shouldn't have to commit to just one?  

Friday, 15 June 2012

Acceptance Speech

I've been handed The Versatile Bloggers Award, by my good Blogland friend Deborah Barker. Thank you Deborah for nominating me, I feel truly honoured. Deborah's site 'Living Between the Lines' is a good tonic. Once you've visited you will be sure to go back. The best way I can describe Deborah's blog is it has all the nourishment of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen seasoned with all the Englishness you can get from 'Cider With Rosie' by Laurie Lee. I find Deborah's writing inspirational, motivational and heart-warming.

Now for the VBA rules. First I have to thank the person who nominated me. I've done that, thank you Deborah. Then I have to nominate blogs for the award that I believe are excellent.

Blog Nominations I met Mike French at a writer's conference this year. He was a good companion and lunch buddy. We exchanged url's and email addresses and I bought Mike's book, 'The Ascent of Isaac Seward.' Little did I know what an amazing writer Mike is. His book took me on an incredible journey into another dimension that I could never have dreamed of. I strongly recommend you put this book on your bucket list. If you don't you will have missed out on something  mind-blowingly good. Mike's next book Blue Friday will be published in a digital edition on 1 September 2012 and launched in paperback on the 10 November 2012 at the Novacon science fiction convention. Mike is also editor of the literary magazine 'The View from Here.'

We are at the dawn of a new era and generation of writers. With the advent of the electronic book, it would be foolhardy not to embrace it as a supplement to cherished collections that are stored on bookshelves. This has brought about a number of book blogs sites with reviews from ordinary readers. I, for one am finding it is almost second nature for me to write a review when I have finished a book. I will be honest and say that if I don't enjoy a book I'm unlikely to write a review to avoid writing something negative, but that's me. These alternative sites have broadened my reading preferences towards books and genres that I may never have noticed whilst browsing in the High Street or on Amazon. I would like to nominate a couple of my favourites. A delightful site with a broad cross section of genres. You may choose to rate 20 or more books to get personalized recommendations A massive amount of content here. Clearly a lot of thoughtfully laid out work has gone into producing this site. When I get round to reading the Hunger Games, I think this is the site that will get my review.
There are many more, I could mention, and I'm sure they will be nominated by others soon enough.

My final obligation under VBA rules is to tell my nominator (Deborah) seven things about myself. So if your name is not Deborah Barker, please look away.

1)    I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. I also enjoyed creating my own stories. At school, for a short while I was writing a James Bond type serial and my father used to tell me his mates at work were following it too.

2)    I equally love art. For me painting and writing are closely linked. I painted for a number of years but my real passion was, studying the old masters. Everything from Renaissance through Flemish schools, Impressionists, Pre-Raphaelite, to contemporary. If I didn't have to work for a living, I think I would become a perpetual student studying art history.

3)    I'm not looking to make money from my writing, but I would like to have something published, even if it is only for my nearest and dearest to pass down the line, I would be happy.

4)    World history I find fascinating. I suppose I could link this with travel, because once I have had that hands on experience of visiting a historical site, it will continue to haunt me, to find out more, and perhaps write a little too.

5)    Something I may talk to you about some day Deborah, is that like you, I too have connections to the Raj. My mother was born in India in 1924 and did not come to England until 1948 during the partition. She sailed on a troop ship around the Cape of Good Hope to get here. She was raised by her aunt, my Great Aunt Gertrude (who lived until I was 21 so I knew and loved her very much), who was governess to a local ruler's (the Khan of Calat) children. My sister and I have many old photos from my mother's time of living in the palace.

6)    I would love to go to India, but am very afraid of getting ill. I have been ill twice before in different countries. My sister Jean went to India this year, determined to take great care not to get the dreaded Dehli Belly, but she did, poor thing.

7)    I have two lovely grandchildren. What more can I say, Life is pretty good really. You just have to know what are the important things and value them dearly.
Okay that's the end of my acceptance speech. No... please... you don't need to stand up. J

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Comedy of Errors

I find it very difficult to stand back and take a good objective look at my work. Poor sentence structure, bad  grammar and spelling that would send me to the back of the class in primary school are shrouded by the plot and characters that are so firmly embedded in my brain. For me to find the errors, is like trying to entangle a massive Wordsearch puzzle. Hence the freedom or lack of discipline that I allow myself as a creator has caused my affliction.
I attend a writing group that I feel comfortable enough to share samples of my work. This is better than taking criticism from my nearest and dearest.
Here is a list of my most common errors that I make.
Overuse of specific words, for example: 'That' as a pronoun and as an adjective. 
Overuse of character's names, both in narrative and dialogue. The reader will become very quickly irritated if they are needlessly but constantly reminded of the character's name.
I get my tenses mixed up: 'he walked across the room' and on the next page 'he walks back.'Apostrophes.  When you need one they never appear and when you don't need one you can guarantee you'll get two.  'Is that you're car?' she asked. I gasp in amazement trying to fathom out how I could make such a basic mistake.
Spelling is so bad my poor computer needs a memory upgrade just to keep up with the spell checker which is constantly working in overdrive.  ' You no what?' is an error that is not beneath me.
Bad word processing. Cutting and pasting is the work of Satan. I was never good at cutting and pasting wallpaper when decorating. The pattern never quite lined up and the seams show. The same happens in writing.
One of the greatest gifts that I have been taught is how to touch type. I can turn my head away from the screen and smile to myself as my fingers appear to do a highland fling on my keyboard. When I'm sat at a keyboard, I become Beethoven playing the final draft of a symphony. My typing speed is not up to secretarial standard but it keeps up with my thoughts at a rate I would never manage with pen and paper.
Maybe I should go back to pen and paper, but maybe not. I can see my wheelie bin now stuffed with screwed up sheets of paper... it's definitely not green.
I tell myself that other writers must share my afflictions, and perhaps even Dickens, Joyce, Hardy, Wilde got bogged down from time to time picking out too many adjectives  and greengrocer's  apostrophes.
The National Gallery have x-ray facilities that can find the underpainting of great artists such as Leonardo De Vince, which uncovers the changes that were made illustrating the artist's struggle to find the optimum composition, It's exactly same for writers.
Henley's Ricotta is now complete in first draft. Now I have to pull some weeds out,  some pruning and  then maybe I'll stop fiddling with it and submit.