July 2011


There’s an interesting discussion going on, described by Catdownunder. It caused me to ponder the following question:

If you write for readers, which readers do you write for?

Presumably, the answer is that you write for the majority. Which begs the question:

What about the rest of us?

Do we always have to put up with what the majority want?

I’m thinking of Jodi Picoult’s book, Nineteen Minutes. I read it because someone told me it’s about bullying. The book says several important things about bullying and I felt a lot of empathy towards the main character, despite the terrible crime he committed.

But.

I didn’t like the ending. I felt as if the author said, “My readers want a surprise, so I’ll tack one onto the end and then go through the book and throw in some foreshadowing.”

Also, the back-cover blurb mentions nothing about bullying. Would the majority of readers be put off if they knew that was the topic?

And what about readers who don’t know what they want? Must they be limited in their reading by people who tell them, “This is what you want”? Like my mother, who insisted on reading the Alice books to me because I was supposed to like them.

Catdownunder suggests another way, one that sounds more difficult to pull off but is probably more satisfying for the reader, whoever he or she is.

Are the only people who want to read a story in which one of the characters suffers from social anxiety those who have the disorder themselves?

 

Why did this come up now? Well, yesterday Nicola Morgan posted an excellent piece about why selling books, and not just publishing them, is important. In the comments, I agreed, mentioning that for me selling a lot of books would be a big step towards my goal of raising awareness of social anxiety. Nicola responded:

tbh, you will probably raise awareness more by your blogging and other work. After all, the book would be read mostly by people with the condition already.

One response to that, which I didn’t make clear in my comment, is this: I think that even if I sold a lot of books that had nothing to do with social anxiety, becoming known would help towards that goal.

But what if I did publish a story that involves social anxiety in some form? Would that be of interest only to people who have experienced it? Why?

There are novels about people with asperger’s, depression and other mental health issues. The people who read them haven’t necessarily experienced these things and don’t necessarily know someone who has. Why not social anxiety?

That voice in my head, the one who would like me to give up, says this: In real life, other people don’t want to know those with social anxiety. They see them as boring, stuck up, stupid, weird. So obviously they don’t want to read books about them.

But a story can show they’re not boring or stuck-up or stupid or weird. (Well, maybe they are weird.) A novel can look inside a character’s head at the thoughts locked inside. Couldn’t that be interesting to anyone? Does a reader need to know the sort of thoughts that might be there? Does a reader need to have encountered the sort of  incidents the character might experience in order to want to buy the book?

Do you need to have it to read it?

—000—

And that, in a way, brings me to Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, which I just read. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Edit: Do read Nicola’s clarifying comment.

On May 1st, I joined several other writers hoping to write 80,000 words in 80 days. For the first three days, I wrote just over a thousand words each day. Then I got stuck and couldn’t decide how to continue my story. After a few days of not writing, I continued but didn’t write every day and usually didn’t write as many as a thousand words on the days I did write.

Now that the challenge has ended, I can tell you my grand total:

26,122

I didn’t quite make it. I didn’t get anywhere near. But I’m not disappointed. I wrote a lot more than I would have done without the challenge, and next time I’m going to do better. As long as I internalise some of the lessons I learned.

Like Annalisa, who managed 43,457 words, I’m going to list those lessons:

  • I like to write in the garden, but I can write elsewhere, like the bedroom, the living room, a bus.
  • A week on holiday doesn’t mean a week away from writing. It means three weeks away from writing: one on holiday and two more to get back to the routine.
  • To write a thousand words a day, I need to plan properly beforehand. I need to get to know the characters, find out the details and, above all, to work out the plot. Anything can change while I’m writing, but I don’t want to come to a standstill.
  • No disaster will occur if I’m not on Facebook and Twitter 24 hours a day.
  • I need to find a better hiding place for my pens. The drawer of my desk is too obvious.
  • I will get to the end of the story before I hit 80,000. That’s all right, because when I go through it, I’ll think of all the things I should have written.

Many thanks to Sally Quilford for organising this. I’m looking forward to the next one.

I look down on the conglomeration that is my city. Men in suits and black hats in the burning sun, women in short skirts and sleeveless tops – along with women more suited to the above-mentioned men and men suited to the above-mentioned women. Lorries, buses, cars, taxis, motorbikes. Buildings, old and new:

Buildings - old and new

The bridge on which I’m standing has been open for three years and yet this is the first time I’m walking along it. I need to get out more before I stop recognising my city.

My problem is to decide what to call it in English. In Hebrew, it’s called Gesher Hameitarim – The String Bridge. But that’s string as in a violin string. Online, I find two options: The Bridge of Strings or The Chord Bridge. I like the way “chord” combines music and geometry.

As I stand at the top of the bridge watching the changing view, people pass me, alone or in couples, quiet or chatting, on foot or on cycle. They don’t seem to notice the view. They’re probably used to it.

Eventually I leave the bridge and follow the tramlines along Jaffa Road. There are plenty of stops for the tram or light railway, all empty because the opening of the light railway has been postponed yet again. Ghost trams pass by, their seats still covered with plastic, their destinations flashing alternately in Hebrew, English and Arabic.

I sit down at one of the stops, providing it with some company for a few minutes. Buses have been rerouted away from here and it would be quiet if it weren’t for the drilling across the road. An old man approaches. “Is this hat yours?” He fishes a sun hat from under my seat with his walking stick and takes it with him.

The market is crowded, even though it’s only Tuesday. People are busy rushing everywhere. In the middle of it all, an old woman is standing in stained clothes and a straw hat. Next to her is an old shopping trolley filled with plastic bags. A bag lady, I think, until I go round to the other side of her and see what she’s up to.

Artist in Machane Yehuda Market *

Yes, I definitely need to get out more.

( * Apologies for the rubbish bin in the photo. There was no other way to take it.)

You might want to look at this blog tomorrow.
There again, you might not.
I won’t reveal any more except to say that it’s not just for animal lovers.

For three of our days in Italy, we rented a car. Hubby did all the driving. He prefered it that way and we didn’t go for long distances.

On the first journey, still in the airport car park, he looked everywhere for the handbrake and couldn’t find it. It seemed that the handbrake was automatic. We didn’t even know of the existence of automatic handbrakes, but somehow it worked. Fine.

We spent a few days without a car before returning to our own car with its normal handbrake. Yesterday, hubby went out for a short drive. It wasn’t the first time he’d driven since our holiday. He parked the car in our carport and was in our house, a few minutes later, when he heard a lot of hooting.

Fortunately, he went out to investigate. Our car was blocking the road!

He’s never left the handbrake off before. We think there could be some connection with that rented car.

 

Il Vittoriale degli Italiani

I only spent a week in Italy, but I still haven’t got back to normal. Perhaps that’s good, but I really ought to start doing lots of things.

A wonderful time was had by all four of us. One thing I didn’t do was to learn any Italian. At breakfast on the first morning, there were boiled eggs with eggcups available. I wanted to know whether the eggs were soft (requiring the use of an eggcup) or hard (enabling me to peel the whole thing and eat it on the plate). I held my egg up to the waitress and asked, “Is it hard or soft?” It turned out she didn’t understand, so she went to ask the receptionist for a translation. When she returned, she said, “Egg.”

To sum up: Lake Garda is beautiful, but so are the lakes in Switzerland and they’re easier to visit. Venice is special, unique, amazing. If you haven’t been there, why not?