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writing

In praise of serendipity

December 16th, 2016 by morven_gow | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on In praise of serendipity
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img_2140In praise of serendipity

Over this semester, we have all enjoyed learning at the collective knees of visiting speakers. They have represented all sectors of the publishing industry – bar one.  Best represented by the chaotic, Bernard Black of Channel 4 TV’s Black Books I confess a deep and abiding love for the mostly unkempt and tatty world of the preloved book.  Every place associated with a book is sacred and has the air of a temple. For me, there is no other book buying experience to top the emotional pull of a second-hand bookshop.

Crossing the hallowed threshold, it’s best to be in a state of mindfulness – open to the calls and vibrations coming your way from the waifs and strays on shelves, on tables or piled high in columns around you.  “What a load of tosh!” I can hear some of you cry out.  But others will agree with me.

You will discover exactly the book you didn’t know you needed or wanted on that day and at that time you ambled into the shop.  We behave quite differently depending on the reading material we require at any one time and, while a bricks/clicks-and mortar bookshop, or Amazon and others, can supply you with exactly what you know you want, their book shelf categories and algorithms cannot hope to compete with the happy discoveries which occur when the infinite random variables in your brain meet the ideas and thoughts bounding off the shelves, tables and columns.

If you are concerned about the ‘dark’, second-hand book economy, with authors, publishers and agents missing out on remuneration, as long as you remember to sing the praises of the books on sites like Goodreads, you will be playing your part in the book selling process, encouraging others to buy and read the books. You may even replace the preloved one with a new copy, if it’s a bit too tatty and it’s captured your heart.  In the photograph, there are some titles which called to me from shelves in Wigtown, Galloway; Arklow, Wicklow; Glasgow and Dunlop.  They have found their ‘forever home’ with me.

Go on.  Find your local ‘Black Books’. Bernard may even have a glass of wine waiting for you.

By Morven Gow

A Retrospective on NaNoWriMo

December 9th, 2016 by isabella_pioli | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on A Retrospective on NaNoWriMo
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For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo means, it is the National Novel Writing Month which takes place every November, in which people all over the world decide to write 50,000 words. During my undergrad, I would work on school-work during November trying to retain some semblance of motivation as the semester dragged slowly to a close. My roommate, on the other hand, would begin to write a novel. For four years, every November, she would write a novel; and I would sit on the other side of the room resisting the urge to slam my head into my desk and begging the Finals Gods to grant me one more moment of academic inspiration. My roommate, who for the purposes of this post shall be called Calliope, managed to balance four classes, hockey, her job, various extra-curricular activities, and a novel. She is what NaNoWriMo participators call a pantser, meaning she starts writing without thought or plan, she writes as inspiration comes and a novel is the end result. I hope you can feel my disdain for this woman, she’s my best friend and I love her, but in this month, I loathe her.

So, I talked to Calliope about her process and why she does it. It seems to be that writing and not looking back is the main task. Editing while writing is a no-no, so you should probably just turn off the function in Word that tells you that everything that you do is wrong. Two of my current grad school roommates decided to participate this year, one a native Scot (Caitlin) and the other an Italian (Marta).

storyboard

Storyboarding. Started out as a post-it. It has grown.

Marta decided to write her NaNoWriMo project in English as she thought it would be a good way to practice her English. It was her first NaNoWriMo experience and she got to 3000 words while balancing a very full class schedule. She decided to write a dystopian fantasy and had drafted a plot-line as well as some character descriptions. She put some thought into the world she was building and set forth to write whenever there was time and whenever inspiration struck. Only, time is very limited during the month of November in a grad program, and inspiration is a cruel and flighty mistress. All in all, Marta said that she enjoyed the experience and would do it again, only next time there would be daily word count goal and hopefully less stress.

It was also Caitlin’s first time writing in NaNoWriMo. Caitlin started the process with an outline, characters, and had written 10,000 words prior to beginning NaNo, so she didn’t start from scratch. To clarify, those 10,000 were not included in her final word count which was 32,000; she also counted an additional 5,000 words for school assignments. Caitlin initially set aside an hour or two a day once she had finished with her classwork for that day. As the month continued, she discovered that it was hard to find motivation and began to use the weekends to catch up in her word count. However, by week three, she realized she wouldn’t hit 50,000, but had begun to average 1,000 words a day. Caitlin felt pleased with her progress as she had more at the end than when she had started. She may not have ‘won,’ but she was glad to have taken part in the experience anyway, regardless of the outcome. Similar to Marta, Caitlin said she would do it again, when she wasn’t in grad school and therefore, less likely to be so stressed.

I made the decision to attempt to do NaNoWriMo this year. Why? I have NO IDEA. Because grad school isn’t hard enough? Because I’m apparently both a sadist and a masochist? Because I love a challenge? Because I thought, “This is the perfect time to write the content of my Publishing Project?” All of the above, but mostly the last one. And what did I learn from this experience? It is really hard to write an essay, let alone a novel. I don’t think being an author is in my future. However, I also recognize that authors write over a period of time, not in a rush of 50,000 words in a month. Sure, there are times when your muse visits for longer than an hour and in those gracious periods of time words are written in incredible amounts. Chapters finished, characters killed, plot moved, but then the will to write ceases. My muse likes to visit when I’m busy with other things, and especially when I lack paper. My arms have witnessed a lot of ink this month. Still, I failed horribly at the target word count. Sure, if I counted all the words I wrote for my class essays and my text messages, I probably would be closer to 25,000 words, but still nowhere near 50,000. I honestly only made it to 8,000 in my novel.

I didn’t put aside a set hour every day. I didn’t really take the challenge all that seriously, because once I reached 6,000 words I realised that I had more than enough for my publishing project. The thing is – the story won’t leave my head. I have a wall in my room covered in paper that lays out the book’s timeline, I have character biographies, and a family tree. I have an idea of how this world I’ve built will end. I think the thing that NaNoWriMo helped me discover is that I cannot write a story without plotting ahead of time and that my imagination is nowhere near as dead as I thought.

Overall, I think the main thing that I realized is that books are written by many types of people. The author writes the words and maybe they are good, maybe they have the potential to be good, and maybe they will never see the light of day. We all have a story inside of us, but only some of us set aside the time to put pen to paper and let the words flow outside of our internal monologue. I hope that I continue to write my story in spite of the fact that November has come to an end. I hope that we get a November that proves friendly to writing a novel, a month not filled with due dates and stress, but let’s be honest, stress and due dates don’t stop with school ending. But hey, look at that I’ve written another 1000 words and somehow it came easily. If anything, this experience has taught me that looking at the word count is somehow easier than looking at a page count. Oh, and that it helps to have a good writing playlist (mine was a combination of Florence + the Machine, Sia, Electric Light Orchestra, and Cat Stevens). So, plan ahead, if that’s your thing. Write whatever comes to mind. Just have a bit of fun, and don’t judge the random meanderings your mind takes at 4 am when inspiration strikes and your computer is close enough that you can just roll out of bed, burrito yourself in your duvet, and squint at the blinding screen as the nagging voice in your mind finally makes itself known even though you only have five hours to sleep before class…no, I’m not speaking from personal experience at all.

by Isabella Pioli

Paula Morris Lecture – How the Novelist Sees the World…

January 23rd, 2013 by tsarchdeacon | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Paula Morris Lecture – How the Novelist Sees the World…
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… With great big sweeping Venn diagrams to connect the myriad of people and organisations that contribute to the life-cycle of a novel. With detailed characterisations and in-depth analyses of the interplay between each Venn bubble, with a structured flow and a bit of conflict to keep it all moving nicely along. Novelists see the world (of publishing) as a fascinating place that might be much akin to the worlds of their books.

There are four kinds of people in the world, none of whom a novelist is particularly enamoured with:

  • Gatekeepers. Agents, publishers, booksellers, the media, festivals, and prizes.
  • Rivals. Other writers. (Note: ‘rivals’ and ‘friends’ are by no means mutually exclusive. Or so they would have us believe.)
  • Necessary Evils. The public, online reviewers, book clubs, festival audiences, etc.
  • Enemies. Yourself. Money. The world at large.

And yet novelists have far more to worry about than these frustrating gnats that surround them. Worries such as publicity, for one, which is an increasingly important aspect of the novelist’s life. It is no longer an isolated art; writers need to be actively engaged with the world through social media and self-promotion. They’re constantly bombarded with people asking questions or favours. They get e-mails by the giga-load.

Then there’s the insecurity. Writers are a ‘whirlwind of insecurity’. Will their next book be their last? Will it be a failure? It’s a life of unstable income and of second jobs – fixing, ghost writing, journalism, anything to keep writing.

It takes a hell of a lot more than talent to get published. It takes persistence and discipline, luck, ego (a.k.a. ‘drive’) and often a very thick skin. It takes a healthy aversion to reading too many reviews and the ability to ignore the call of the market (or risk becoming a hack). A good pen and a few nice turns isn’t enough anymore.

So all this begs the question… why? Why would anyone choose to take on such a career?

‘It’s not a career, it’s a vocation’, Morris said, ‘you should be doing it because you would be miserable doing anything else’.

See more from Paula Morris at her website.

-Talis S Archdeacon

Qinyu Sun, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013

January 22nd, 2013 by Qinyu Sun | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Qinyu Sun, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013
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Hello, you can call me Safina, and  now I am studying on the MLitt in Publishing Studies course in the University of the Stirling.  I am from Shanghai which is located in the east of China. When I was an university student, I always invited my friends to visit the bookshops together and had a cup of tea. Now I have missed that style of life. Anyone who wants to do it with me will make me feel so excited

“Knowledge is the power.” It’s the familiar sentence for us to know during my life of studies in China. So that is one of the reason for me to further my studies here.

My undergraduate degree in Exhibition management and planning was completed in my hometown.  During that time, I took a lot of courses, such as marketing, public relation, economic, accounting, design and so on. I have to do some part time jobs with advertisement companies and some exhibitions. I like creation and design. Fashion is what I purchase now. So you can image that I want to be an editor in the fashion magazine. Design, planning and writing can make me become an editor in a fashion magazine’s company. I wish my dream will come true.

Now I have been here for several months, I have learnt a lot in the publishing major. If you want to more about my daily life, you can come to my facebook or Sina Weibo

The God Complex

December 6th, 2011 by Helen_Lewis-Mcphee | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The God Complex
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My mum’s just finished her book. I don’t mean she’s finished leafing through the latest Dan Brown or Marian Keyes. After months of hard work and hermitic habitude, she has emerged, blinking into the daylight with her brand new manuscript: 80 000 words currently winging their way through cyberspace towards her editor.

And, as if by magic, or miracle, there are all these new people in the world. Claudia, and Aileene, and Lydia, and Jim, and, in his own way, Marius. My mum didn’t just produce my sisters and me, she’s given life to countless characters. And she’s given them lives. With friends, and families, and jobs, and joy, and, often, tragedy.

That’s a pretty scary concept. What does an author do with all this power, all this potential? All these people, all these lives, and there she is, the omnipotent puppet-master, supreme lord of all she’s created. She can breathe life, cure cancer, bring people back from the dead.

But here’s the rub: all of that is just an illusion. There are really no puppets for the master. These characters take the scrap of existence they’ve been given, and they run with it. They make mistakes. They do things they’re not supposed to. They live their lives. And there’s apparently nothing she can do to stop them. All she can do is observe as their stories unfold and their lives unravel.

She cares about them. She worries about them. She cries with their joy, and with their pain. But in the end, she can’t protect them from themselves. All she can do is give them the best start she can, and hope they’ll do her proud with it. Maybe it’s not a God complex. Maybe it’s a Mum complex.

Another author recently said that “Writing a book is just like giving birth.” You live with this embryo of an idea, feeding and nurturing it for months from your very core, until it’s grown big enough and strong enough to survive in the big wide world. She finished by warning of the terrors of publishing: “It’s like handing your baby over to a stranger, who changes its name, puts horrible clothes on it, and leaves it out in the cold to die…”

Helen Lewis-McPhee