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Comment from the book world in December 2009

December 2009

From screenwriting to books

21 December 2009

'The beauty of screenwriting is that nobody can do anything without a script, so whether you are going to make the film or not at the end of the day, the writer gets paid, and has to be paid at every stage and for every rewrite... For years my mother had been saying to me, "Write books because then it's yours", so I thought "I'm going to take all the ideas I've had for films over the years and start writing books...

As a screenwriter you have to be succinct and cut out any extraneous words or descriptions so when I started writing prose for the first time it was really difficult to make it last. I'd write Chapter One (and it would take up) three-quarters of the page!'

Belinda Bauer, author of Blacklands, in the Bookseller

'A compulsion, a pleasure, a necessity'

14 December 2009

'It is a peculiar conundrum to write in the knowledge that you are creating a product, but not concerned with production, and knowing the only way to do it is to put that knowledge completely aside. I think for most writers it's a form of mental acrobatics verging on contortion: to hope to reach others by creating something uniquely personal. Or perhaps I'm making a generalisation based only on my own, rather roundabout journey.

From childhood, writing has always been a compulsion, a pleasure, a necessity, and not concerned with compromise or approval. But when I was 21 I wrote my first screenplay and an agency took me on. I moved back to London from Paris, where I had been teaching English as a foreign language with some fabricated qualifications, rented a flat and waited for my career to happen. No one feels older than the very young, and it seemed to me that I had travelled a long time to reach that point. I remember a sense of joy and rightness. There was nothing else for me to be doing. I was meant for this. So armed, or unarmed, with my naivety I faced the market place, and everything changed...

For me, in the end, unemployment was my apprenticeship and I had my first novel published when I was 40. I am concerned about those very young people being trained up in creative writing courses and universities around the country; being taught how to present, how to sell as if they were heading for careers in advertising, being snapped up by agents and scraping it all in the first - only? - book. Success may be recognition, it may be admiration, or money, but it is an impossibility without the purity and the clarity of the thing itself. Fifteen years ago I would sit down to write and think: "What will people like?"and now I begin every day with the virtual mantra: "Do what you need to do; nobody need ever see it."

Sadie Jones, author of The Outcastin the Sunday Telegraph

'The essential component of fiction is plot'

7 December 2009

'I know that what I do is not literature. For me, the essential component of fiction is plot. My objective is to get the reader to feel impelled to turn the pages as quickly as possible. If I want to achieve that, I can't allow myself the luxury of distracting him. I have to keep him hanging on and the only way to do it is by using the weapon of suspense. If I try to understand the complexities of the human soul, people's character defects and those types of things, the reader gets distracted.

Of course, I've read literature in the classic sense. We've all got those type of books on the shelves. They made me read them at school and I admit that I didn't like them much. I couldn't understand why they were said to be so good.'

John Grisham in the Sunday Telegraph