Image source: Matthias Tunger, Corbis Photographer, via Jennifer Armstrong article in BBC News.
I can’t say I’m a stranger to binge eating, or even binge TV-watching. But with the holidays coming up, I can think of something much healthier to do with my time.
It’s been a lot time since the last binges, and I was a lot younger. I remember the Harry Potter books being devoured especially quickly and ferociously. Having to wait a year or more between books was torture back then!
Thankfully, when it came time to dive into the Tomorrow when the war began series by John Marsden, most of them had already been written, so I didn’t have to wait between books. I just had to scour every bookshop at every shopping centre near me until I had collected every book.
Image source: MemeCreator image created by me 🙂
More recently, there’s been the Divergent and Hunger Games series. (Tangent: Don’t you wish ‘serieses’ was a word? Sigh.) Again, I didn’t know about them until my Youth Group kids told me the movies were coming out. Sweeeeet!
Now yes, if you go too far too fast with binge reading you still feel as awful as if you’d binged on food or drink. You feel full and a little dazed, starved of sunlight (unless you have an awesome reading window or back porch) and kind of wilting from lack of exercise.
But it’s still the most productive of binge behaviours, since it helps you write better when you get back to your own stuff. Phil Edwards in the Huffington Post talks about his experience of reading 300 books in 2013, and how it actually helped him to know more (he wrote for a trivia site to prove it) and write better.
“In the end, what makes a book valuable is not the paper it’s printed on, but the thousands of hours of work by dozens of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible reading experience for you.”
― John Green
At the publishing house where I used to work, we had one author who simply would not listen to the advice of his editors.
Ultimately, the final say in how a book is edited is up to the author. It’s their copyright; it’s their book. But the publishing house always has the option of terminating the contract if the author refuses to make required changes.
Our editors recommended very strongly that this author edit out his “purple prose”. This guy was in love with adjectives. It was a common problem in all of his previous books, too.
When this author’s book was finally published, it got reviewed in the Courier-Mail (one of Australia’s larger newspapers). Guess what. The reviewer picked up on the purple prose, too. They nailed the book, and it didn’t sell well – big surprise.
We talked to the author about it but he was convinced that it was a coincidence that everyone had picked up on the same issue and made such a big deal about it.
This is why listening to your editor is so important.
Go where you find inspiration, and go there often.
Alain de Botton writing in the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport Image source: Zocalo Public Square
I’ve driven to the airport too many times recently, saying goodbye to people I love.
But it’s gotten me thinking.
How about visiting an airport to inspire new creativity for a “stuck” story?
Airports have always inspired me, with their excitement and anticipation of new adventures and fond reunions. I love starting new adventures and seeing people saying their “goodbyes” and “welcomes homes”. What does it mean symbolically if a character is at the airport? And where could your character end up?
Image source: Profile Books
I started thinking about this when I read an article about Alain de Botton, who did a one-week writers residency at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5. You can read about his experience and the book he wrote about it in his book, A Week at the Airport.
For this project, he stayed in the airport and the hotel for 24 hours a day for one week. That was his only venue – and he said the confinement to one setting was great inspiration.
He was inspired by the terminal itself – its technology, the design, and its sheer size and scale. He said he likes airports so much he often longs to be delayed in them.
How to edit truly bad stories Image source: Fonts and Fiction Blogspot
This post is a long one, sorry, but stick with it! I really believe this is something we need to make time for.
Recently, I was looking for inspiration for a part of my novel where one character interrupts a battle to give a passionate speech that marks the beginning of the road to peace. One of the first results when you Google “speech about peace and war” is Martin Luther King Jr.’s little-remembered 1967 speech opposing American involvement in the Vietnam War, ‘A Time to Break Silence’.
I had no idea that reading this speech would change the topic that I would blog on today.
“A time comes when silence is betrayal. In Vietnam, that time has come for us.” – Martin Luther King Jr., ‘A Time to Break Silence’, 1967
Many of you, upon reading the title of this post, assumed that I’m talking simply about my profession of editing. “I say there are bad stories being written out there, and we gonna git ‘em fixed!”
I wish I was.
In the world today, as there has been every year since the dawn of man, there are bad stories being written. By governments and individuals. By my government in Australia. By individuals who I know who think that the government is doing the right thing.
And I need to talk about it. I need to tell you about it. I need to talk about why we are writing a “bad” story and how we can edit it so that we aren’t ashamed of what we have written.
“I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.” – George Orwell, ‘Why I Write’ Essay