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Strange Affairs, Ginger Hairs, Neil Leigh

From 8pm (UK time) today we’ll be talking about ‘Strange Affairs, Ginger Hairs’ by Neil Leigh.

This time, to give the discussion some structure, we’ve got some questions. Don’t feel you have to answer the questions – you can discuss any aspect you want to – but if you do answer one of them it would be great if you mention which question you’re answering in your comment. Hopefully this will help people who comment after the initial hour session.

A general reminder – the main idea is to discuss the book as a finished thing. We’re aiming to discuss what’s interesting about the books as they stand, rather than hold an online workshop or critiquing session. If the writer asks for critical feedback that’s fair enough, but bear in mind that the discussion is in the public domain and readable by anyone.

Some questions to get you started:

1. What’s the tone / genre of this book in your opinion?

2. Which character(s) did you like and can you say something about them?

3. What do you think the setting of the novel (geographical or otherwise) contributes to the story?

And for those who haven’t read the book:

4. On his blog, Neil asks how far writers can stretch the facts about a real place before it becomes a fictional place. What do you think?

Here are the first 100-odd words of the novel:

I awoke, and my first thought was (I‟m going to kill myself!).

It was not a desperate thought, just pragmatic – I couldn‟t be bothered to get out of bed.

 I stared at the ceiling and trailed my thoughts around a swirl of Artex. A minute passed, during which I did not die.

(Hmm, I guess this suicide thing requires a whole lot more effort.)

 I had no method for this rather random intention, other than a prerequisite of it being a painless and unnoticeable process.

Another minute passed, as did several.

You see, I had a general fear of death; a fancy for melodrama; and it was giro day.

See you at 8

Copyright & criticism fears – is it worth it to get a reader?

28/03/2011 2 comments

There’s a lot to suggest that the writers who go out to get their work read by somebody, whatever it takes, often have the best shot at publication. Even while submitting the official way, it seems that getting your work read and discussed elsewhere can sometimes make the difference.

If you’ve finished something, it can be frustrating not to have a reader. Even if things are going as well as they can be without an actual book deal; great agent, lots of interest, etc etc, there’s probably going to be a time when it all goes very quiet, and what happens happens somewhere far away while the writer waits. You’re no longer drafting, so you don’t necessarily need feedback (hate that word), but neither are you published so your book sits and waits with you. In time, you might start to wonder what Novel 1 was for, and whether it ever actually existed. That’s where the idea for Yet-to-be-books came from.

In our first few months, we’ve had some really good discussions but there have been a couple of concerns raised by writers;

1) Criticism / negative comments. Overarching negative comments such as ‘the book is crap’ won’t get through because all comments are moderated. (There haven’t been any comments like that so far). There are some grey areas; minor negatives, criticisms, and criticisms by inference among them. Although it’s explicitly not the aim of Yet-to-be-books, some writers do ask for ‘feedback’ during the discussions, which is fair enough. What of those who don’t, though? It would be interesting to know how writers – members, potential, or otherwise – feel about the idea of criticism in the public domain.

2) Copyright / plagiarism – someone could steal your work, distribute it in an unauthorised way, or let it pass into the wrong hands by negligence. There is some reciprocity in Yet-to-be-books – to get the books sent to you, you need to have a book to send. That way they’re not getting fired off to hundreds of any-olds. The concern remains for some, and there has been a suggestion that we ask all participants to delete electronic copies from their computers and email accounts, then confirm by way of the organiser (me) that it’s been done. Another suggestion is that participants agree, when they join the group, to deleting electronic copies after each discussion. It would be interesting to know what people think of this too. Is plagiarism, etc., likely and are measures like this worthwhile?

In my own experience, a couple of friends have got book deals through other writers who’ve read their novels, then passed them on. I don’t know anyone personally who has experienced plagiarism, but would be interested to hear from anyone who has, in the comments on this post. Do the potential benefits (and immediate satisfaction) of having a reader for an unpublished book outweigh the risks? Is it almost as difficult to plagiarise and publish a book successfully as it is to write and publish one? Writers who have had work discussed on this blog – what has been your experience of criticism / discussion in the public domain? Over to you.

(Thanks, by the way, for a good discussion on Monday 21st – 226 page loads from the UK and US, including 36 new visitors and 43 unique visitors in total. The next discussion will be on 9th May and will be on ‘Strange Affairs, Ginger Hairs’ by Neil Leigh.)

Witherstone – J.A. Brunning

Our next book is ‘Witherstone’ by JA Brunning. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time today by commenting on this post. You might also like to follow the Twitter tag #yettobebooks for live highlights from the comments.

The discussion will stay open indefinitely after the initial hour’s session, so if you’re reading this after 21st March, please still feel free to comment.

Some guidelines here.

Here are the first 100 words or so of the novel:

I couldn’t run fast enough, and knew we wouldn’t be able to escape. I looked back over my shoulder. Dad was right behind me, hauling on Mum’s arm, trying to help her keep up, and he was carrying my little sister Catherine as he ran. Mum’s face was hidden from me but I knew she was frightened for all of us. Catherine was stretching her arms back over Dad’s shoulder towards Grandma, and I groaned. I knew there was no way Grandma would be able to keep up. She was already way behind us, and I caught only glimpses of her as she fell further and further behind.

Dark Acres or A Shadow Portrait – Emma Stott

Our next book is ‘Dark Acres Or A Shadow Portrait’ by Emma Stott. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time by commenting on this post.

Some guidelines here.

Here are the first 100 words or so of Emma’s novel:

This is the true nature of home – it is the place of Peace; the Shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt and…

Chapter One.

Then

Rope upon rope of fire wound tight about the pines, and flames hung like over-ripe leaves: again autumn. The burning spread into the sky and cast the clouds with a feverish light. Sometimes Loch Morend’s mists seemed to deepen to smoke and tease her as to whether fire really had fallen. At last, they had kept their slinking promise.

Pinewood was used to make telegraph poles, she had read, and here a brighter message they sent.

See you at 8

The Hunting Party – Morag Gornall/Edwards

Our next book is ‘The Hunting Party’ by Morag Gornall/Edwards. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time by commenting on this post.

Some guidelines here.

Here are the first 100 or so words of the novel:

James II of England and VII of Scotland became king in 1685 after the death of

his brother Charles II. He converted to the Catholic faith in 1669. James had two

daughters with his first wife Anne Hyde, who were brought up as Protestants. Following

his second marriage to the teenage Mary of Modena, the birth of a son James Edward

Stuart in 1688 meant that there was now a Catholic heir to the throne.

James’ inconsistent domestic and foreign policy had resulted in almost everyone

being suspicious of him. Louis XIV of France, who should have been his greatest ally,

was puzzled by his vacillating support for France and had never forgiven James for

agreeing to a marriage between his eldest daughter Mary and William III of Orange,

instead of the dauphin.

See you at 8!

Confessions of an Ordinary Boy – Brian Centrone

Our next book is ‘Confessions of an Ordinary Boy’ by Brian Centrone. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time / 3pm EST.

Some guidelines here.

“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?” my mother asked, releasing me from her death grip.
“I’ll be fine, Mom, I swear.”
“Come on, Christine, let’s leave the boy in peace now,” my father pressed.
“Well…ok. If you need anything, anything at all, you’ll call?”
“Yup.”
“Or e-mail?”
“Yup.”
My father laid his heavy hand down on my shoulder. “See ya, Son,” he nodded his head, then hesitated. “Be good,” was all he managed to get out, removing his hand and placing it on my mother’s arm.
“I will, Dad,” I promised. I looked at my parents as they hovered in the doorway and wondered if I was actually capable of living up to all their expectations. Especially when the expectations I had for myself were far from those imposed upon me by my mother and father. “Bye,” I waved, edging them on to take the plunge.
One more look of despair from my mother and a forceful tug on her arm by my father and they were gone.

Fluids, Sian Cummins

Our first book discussion will start at 8pm UK time today. From that time, you’ll be able to join the discussion by commenting on this post. See you then!

Some guidelines here.

We’ll be discussing ‘Fluids’ by Sian Cummins. Here are the first 100 or so words of the novel:

On the first morning of the new Millennium, John, 30, named after Lennon, woke with a killer hangover, a dead arm and a dead girlfriend. She was lying across his arm, pinning it to the bed, her fidgeting over for good. John twisted his head to gaze into her sticky half-closed eyes and saw the light. Not flu, not just the tetchiness that comes with the time of year, but an appliance leaking colourless fumes. They’d pushed a leaflet under every door in the block about the dangers of carbon monoxide and it was only now, in the few seconds between sleep and the sight of her dilated pupils, that the message came home.