Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘Agatha Christie’

The Importance of Being Edited

In Books, Writing on April 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

When it comes to the wordsmithing of the books we read and write, there are two main schools of thought:

1. As long as the story’s cracking, I don’t really mind a few mistakes

2. Attention to detail is everything – I won’t compromise on good grammar!

I read two thought-provoking articles last week that kind of fell into either camp.

Firstly, Susan Kiernan-Lewis’ piece on “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good”

Secondly, The Digital Reader’s piece on “eBooks: Is it the Editor in Me?”

Both opinions are valid.

But, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care how good your story is – if I sniff out errors (whether grammatical or structural or whatever), I’ll immediately turn off your book. It almost makes my eyes bleed.

And, as an experienced sub-editor and proofreader (and someone verging on having OCD about good use of language), I can spot sloppy work at about a trillion paces. It says to me that you don’t care about what you’ve written – you haven’t given your writing the respect it deserves. Or your reader.

Now, there’s no doubt that mistakes exist in traditional books (I constantly find bloopers in Agatha Christie’s reprints). But, it’s the rise of the self-published eBook that has really brought the issue of quality control to the fore.

The majority of what you should invest in an ebook is your time and energy. As Smashwords’ CEO Mark Coker expertly explains in his free manual, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, there is very little financial investment required.

HOWEVER: You should never, ever scrimp on getting your manuscript edited and proofread. It’s false economy. A professional editor won’t cost you the earth, but the result they’ll give you is priceless (to find a good editor in Australia, contact your Society of Editors state chapter).

Please – if not for yourself, then at least do it for me…

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The Crime Writer’s Inspiration List

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on February 17, 2012 at 11:37 am

When you’re writing a crime/mystery novel, your focus gets very insular. You get so close to what you’re doing that, I find, it’s really important to occasionally look outside for inspiration.

When I’m stuck or stale, I get inspired by (and this is a work-in-progress list):

Books

The Dark is Rising Sequence – Susan Cooper

The Secret History/The Little Friend – Donna Tartt

Inspector Morse (the whole series) – Colin Dexter

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow – Peter Hoeg

A Place of Execution – Val McDermid

The Ice House – Minette Walters

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

Devices and Desires – PD James (the opening scene still gives me shivers)

Death of a Wombat – Ivan Smith and Clifton Pugh

Stasiland – Anna Funder

Anything by Henning Mankell

TV

Twin Peaks

The Killing (Danish version)

Red Riding Trilogy

Movies

Swimming Pool

Let The Right One In (Swedish version)

Lantana

Secret Window

Picnic at Hanging Rock

The Ghost Writer

Music

December – George Winston

Mozart

Muse

PJ Harvey

Places

Bruny Island – I stay at my shack on my own, which terrifies me (and is therefore good for crime-writing).

Tasmania’s East (the empty coastline from Swansea upwards) or West Coast (especially Strahan, Macquarie Harbour and Gordon River), or the Midlands (the wide open farmlands and bleak hills).

Online

I use Ommwriter occasionally

I love Toast‘s online catalogues and Toast Travels

Wallpaper – currently, this Donna Tartt one

Looking at this list, I realise the majority of items on it are notable for their remarkable expression of a ‘sense of place’ – particularly a cold, out-of-the-way, edge-of-the-world place… (hello Tasmania). There are many, many more books, for example, that I absolutely love, but they don’t all make the cut when I need to be inspired in my own writing.

Agatha Christie’s Tasmania

In Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Tasmania, Travel, Writing on January 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Agatha Christie came this close to being a Tasmanian… Sigh. I was born the year Agatha Christie died: 1976. I’ve also got the same initials as Agatha… I’m not superstitious, but I do admit to being inspired by this. To me – as a crime writer and reader – the great AC is hard to top. I have a bookcase devoted to her books. All of them.

I love how her books are the perfect example of what I admire most in writing – my ‘mantra’, I guess:

“Stylistically simple; intellectually interesting.”

Agatha didn’t aspire to any pretensions. And she’s sold over a billion books.

Agatha wanted to move to Tasmania…

Yes, AC travelled to Tasmania, as part of her grand world tour in 1922. She was entranced by the colours and stories of this island; she even checked out some skulls and skeletons.

There’s a great map of her 1922 travels at the official Agatha Christie site. However, when I originally looked at it, it didn’t include Tasmania. So, I contacted Chorion to pass on this info I’d found on Agatha’s time in Tasmania.

 

(The above taken from Nicholas Shakespeare’s book, In Tasmania.)

 

 

(Taken from Janet Morgan’s Agatha Christie: A biography.)

 

More will no doubt be revealed this year, when HarperCollins publishes Agatha’s diaries and letters from her travels in The Grand Tour – compiled and edited by her grandson, Mathew Prichard.

“Leaving behind her two-year-old daughter, Christie began her adventure at the end of January as part of a trade mission ahead of the British Empire Expedition in 1924. Travelling to Hawaii, Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the young author – who had already published two novels – described her adventures in weekly letters to her mother, also taking photos on her portable camera of the places she visited.”

Can’t wait to read it. And see what it says about Agatha’s Tasmania…

Running Writing

In Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

No, not what we were taught at school… Running writing is the writing I do in my head when I’m running.

Running is something I’ve recently gotten back into, as a way to expend my considerable creative and nervous energy in a productive way.

I have a tendency to expend that considerable energy in an unproductive way. Usually, drinking and being a dirty stop-out. For example, during the period when I was a newspaper columnist, I reported on Sydney’s coolest events and parties (oh boy, have I got some stories from those days!). Every night started with the promise of so much, and I never wanted to go home. I spent a year meeting punishing daily deadlines with a 365-day hangover*.

But I digress…

As a creative person, drinking and partying certainly burns up the energy and provides a certain dubious creative outlet. It is undoubtedly the path of least resistance to ‘expressing’ your creativity.

But, when you wake up in the morning, there’s nothing to show for it.

Hence, running

I run outside, for quite a long time, through the Tassie bush or along the beach. Why running? In Ayurvedic terms, I’m a Pitta (mentally hotheaded, physically easily overheated), and Pittas need the sensation of the cooling breeze on their face as they exercise. We need to escape, get out, be free…

Now that I’ve broken through the initial two-week pain barrier, I’ve reached that blissful stage where I’m writing in my head as I run. I don’t ask or expect it to happen. The welcome monotony and freedom of running frees up my thoughts. I write articles this way; I write whole chapters for my books.

Running writing = free thought

The physical act of running is a good metaphor for the type of writing it produces. Writing that flows, that has good rhythm, that is without restrictions (mental or space-wise). Don’t worry that you won’t remember what you’ve written in your head. Even if you don’t get it down word-for-word, running writing flavours what you do for the hours afterwards.

And don’t worry if you don’t like running. Walking is just as good. Washing dishes. Or, as Agatha Christie liked to do it, soaking in the bath while eating apples.

*If you’ve ever seen Secret Window with Johnny Depp as the alternately neurotic and apathetic writer, you’ll have a pretty good picture of me in these phases (although I’m not that handsome and I don’t have a brilliant French life) – unwashed hair, worn Missoni dressing gown, lying on the couch recovering from a hangover. And the avoidance of writing dreadlines that have taken on a life of their own…

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