There was an error in this gadget

Friday, 15 April 2011

Lesley Cookman Guest Post

Lesley Cookman Takes Over The Literary Project

Gemma has very kindly invited me to contribute a guest blog for The Literary Project, which is a great honour when I see the other prolific and august authors who have preceded me, and whom she has interviewed.

Thinking about what might be of use to pre-published writers, whether novelists, short story or non-fiction writers, my first piece of advice would be, as it always was when I was teaching creative writing, to READ. It's amazing how many people say "Oh, I'm definitely going to write a book, but I simply haven't got time to read." Well, if everyone was like them, there would be a lot of books out there with no-one to read them. And the industry would grind to a halt.

So - READ. Particularly in your own genre. It tells you what the public wants, or at least, what the publishers and editors think the public want. And that isn't always the same. For instance, my "cosy" crime series is the direct descendent of the Golden Age detective fiction and the large publishing houses don't think there is a public for them. However, the smaller independent publishers know a thing or two about what the public really want, and my own, Accent Press (long may they rule) took a punt on the Libby Sarjeant series and here we are, eight books in and with two more on the stocks.

Anyway, back to the advice. Read to find out how to write. How to write dialogue, to see how things look on the page (not too many long paragraphs, for instance) and how to plot. There are many, many books out there that will tell you how to do this, but you can't do better than to read and compare other people's books and work out why they work - or don't, more importantly. This is not to say you must slavishly copy the style of your favourite author or journalist but to learn what has got them published.

Write what you know - well, not necessarily. SF, fantasy, horror and crime - most of us haven't experienced them, have we? I haven't murdered anyone yet, although give me time, neither have I investigated a crime, other than trying to discover which of my four children perpetrated the latest domestic incident. Your imagination provides everything you need to start, and with the enormous resources of the internet research is available to confirm any detail of which you aren't sure.

Network. Yes, a rather naff late 20th/21st century term, but very necessary. When I started as a features writer with Which Computer some time before Adam got his fig leaf, we didn't, strangely, have the internet or social networking sites, and we had to Go Out And Talk To People. Most of us who worked in that kind of environment latched on to the internet very early on, but as so few others did, it didn't do us a lot of good. I began going to events such as the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) meetings and got to know a few people in the industry. Nowadays, you can connect with your favourite authors, make friends with agents - only don't pitch to them on Twitter! - and research opportunities easier than ever before. And still go to the real life events, too, if there are any appropriate to your particular fancy and if you can afford to.

Have I said anything helpful? I'm probably only reiterating what many others have said before. There are many how to sites and blogs out there, and I expect Gemma knows all of them. One thing we will all say, though, is to repeat the old adage: 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. It's hard work, but persistence and dogged stubbornness will win the coconut. (Mostly.)

All the best,

Lesley Cookman

The latest Libby Sarjeant novel, Murder to Music, is out now and can be ordered here.


Lesley Cookman said...

Thanks, Gemma!

Gemma Noon said...

Thank you, lesley, for doing such a good job taking over the blog for me!