Thursday, 13 October 2011

Novels - Reading and Writing them

I have always been an avid reader, from Enid Blyton's Sunny Stories to Girls' Crystal magazines, graduating to novels by Charles Dickens - a love inherited from my mother. I was also fortunate to have a good English teacher who patiently opened our hearts and minds to Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Sir Walter Scott and various other authors.
            However reading tastes change with the years and I doubt if I would have the patience to read some of the novels I once enjoyed. In my late teens I moved to books like Reach for the Sky, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Cruel Sea. They seemed to relate to real life. When my children were born and I was a busy farmer's wife I read light fiction for relaxation and escapism. I loved Lucy Walker's Australian Novels, Lucille Andrews medical romances, Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Daphne Dumaurier and some Barbara Cartland and Catherine Cookson novels. In more recent years I have read novels by Dick Francis, Wilbur Smith, Sebastian Faulks. E.V. Thompson. I enjoyed Half Hidden by Emma Blair about the German invasion of the Channel Islands. I did not expect to enjoy Steig Larson's trilogy but I did and I am sorry he did not live to finish the fourth novel.
            I see now that I should not have started mentioning names as there are so many more writers whose work I have enjoyed over the years. I am almost ashamed of the number of books I own and I doubt if I shall ever manage to read them all.
            So as a writer do I read less? Unfortunately the answer is yes in my case. After a long spell in front of the computer my eyes tire more easily. Some people reading this blog may be readers, but not authors, so here are the steps to the novel on your shelf. Apart from the effort and application, not to mention imagination and inspiration, required to write that first draft of a novel, it is necessary to read through from the beginning (often two or three times) crafting the novel to the very best story we can manage - gripping attention at the beginning, making characters come alive, strengthening the plot, maybe adding excitement or tension, and bringing the story to a satisfactory conclusion. Once it is the best novel the author can write it goes off to publisher (usually via an agent these days). Even if the editor likes it she has to convince the rest of the publishing team that it is saleable. After that it goes to the copy editor who checks grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and queries any facts which he/she thinks could be wrong. This version is then returned to the author who must check the details which have been changed and either agree or query them. The novel then goes back to the publisher who will have commissioned a jacket for the book. He sends it to the typesetter. It comes back in the form of loose pages set out for the printed book. Once again the author checks for any misprints and to see whether any passages have been missed out. This I do with a ruler, line by line. Some authors start at the end and work back because we should not be reading the story at this stage.
            Many publishers now send the copy edits on line, but the postman has just brought a special delivery with the copy edits for my next novel, Another Home-Another Love, so I must go and start my real work now.

1 comment:

  1. Gwen - a fascinating and really informative post, and an insight into your world.
    Like you, I have loved books ever since I first made sense of the black marks on the page. I probably read every book ever written that had a horse or pony in it but one of my earliest and most enduring literary loves was Little Women (and the three that followed). I was Jo March through and through!