Saturday, 1 October 2005

There's an interesting piece in today's theguardian by Susan Hill, describing what happened when she decided that her small publishing company, Long Barn Books, should publish a work of fiction.

Now that Lord Alexander's Cipher; or, the Bridekirk Behemoth is safely in the hands of the RNA's New Writers' Scheme (Yessss!) I find myself reading articles like this and trying to assess my novel against any criteria mentioned. So when Susan Hill says:
Read the great novels, the classic novels past and present. It is the only way to learn and above all learn how to tell a story.
I give myself a tick in the box - I haven't read all those that she mentions, but I have read plenty of others of, I am sure, equivalent merit. Then she says
Try to think of a great novel that does not have a story, memorable characters, vividly evoked settings.
and I immediately start to think that I may not have done a good job of evoking my settings vividly. I certainly don't have the long descriptive paragraphs like the opening account of Sale Park in Georgett Heyer's The Foundling, or of Highnoons in The Reluctant Widow. I have a gut feeling that my book is a bit underwritten in this respect, but the great thing about the NWS is that I will get a professional opinion on that in a few weeks' time.

And then I get to the bit where Susan Hill announces the book that she plans to publish:
But I was looking for a full score and I had almost given up hope of finding it when into the box popped the beginning of The Extra Large Medium or Unfinished Business by Helen Slavin.
and the first thing that I notice is that the title has an "or" in it, just like mine. Result!


Alex Bordessa said...

Glad to hear the Behemoth has winged it's way to the NWS. Here's hoping you get a great report, and it gets recommended. Good luck!!!!!

Douglas Hoffman said...

Stephen, I think a "vividly evoked setting" is the least important criteria of those mentioned. Think of Dickens, for example: great characters and story, feh when it comes to setting. Great Gatsby also comes to mind. For me, the only thing memorable about the setting of Gatsby was the pier (which might have been any pier anywhere) and the huge billboard of the eyeglasses at the East Egg/West Egg border. I remember the characters and the story, that's about it.