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Comment from the book world in December 2019

December 2019

'It's harder to write a really good short story'

30 December 2019

‘The thing I like about novels is that they are a more forgiving form. You can make missteps. It's harder to write a really good short story - I'm more aware of the flaws in my short stories. There's pleasure I get being able to spend that much time with people and ideas in novels, but if you write a short story, the magical period of an idea to the excitement of composition and the first draft is short, but deeply pleasurable in a way novels are not...

I teach creative writing and I think it's not like making a soufflé; you can't give anyone the steps to follow. It can't be taught in the way life drawing can. But you can teach people how to notice what the work they admire is doing, and to sit around a table and look at their writing and how to make it achieve what it wants to achieve.'

Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway, Thunderstruck and four other books of novels, short stories and a memoir, in the Observer.

George R R Martin and Game of Thrones

16 December 2019

‘There were a couple of years where, if I could have finished the book, I could have stayed ahead of the show for another couple of years, and the stress was enormous. I don't think it was very good for me, because the very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day - and a good day for me is three or four pages - I'd feel terrible because I'd be thinking: "My God, I have to finish the book. I've only written four pages when I should have written 40."

I'm glad of the emotional reactions, whether to the books or the television show, because that's what fiction is all about - emotion. If you want to make an intellectual argument or persuade someone, then write an essay or piece of journalism, write nonfiction. Fiction... should feel as if you're living these things when you read or watch them. If you're so distanced by it that a character dies and you don't care, then to an extent the author has failed.'

George R R Martin, whose epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has been made into a hugely successful tv series, Game of Thrones, and which still has two more volumes to come, in the Observer.



'If you aren't growing as a writer, you are dead.'

9 December 2019

'Dear Aspiring Writer, you are not ready. Stop. Put that finished story away and start another one. In a month, go back and look at the first story. RE-EDIT it. Then send it to a person you respect in the field who will be hard on you. Pray for many many many red marks. Fix them. Then put it away for two weeks. Work on something else. Finally, edit one last time. Now you are ready to sub your first work.

Criticism is hard to take at first. Trust me, I've been there. But learn to think of crit marks as a knife. Each one is designed to cut away the bad and leave a scar. Scars prove you've lived, learned and walked away a winner. Any writer who tells you they don't need edits is lying. I don't care if they have 100 books out. Edits make you grow and if you aren't growing as a writer, you are dead.'

Inez Kelley, author of Turn it Up, Myla by Moonlight, Jinxed and five other romance novels