Knighthoods and writing tips

There was breaking news on newstalkzb at about 6.45 this morning. Richie McCaw has…turned down a knighthood. Well of course he has. Can you imagine the talk at the bottom of the ruck? “Will you please remove your knee from there Sir Richie?”

It’s an idea whose time has not yet come. Let him finish playing rugby and become a captain of industry or a world-famous rugby commentator and then remember that he once won us a world cup, he and 14 other people. Apparently the coach, Graham Henry is now a ‘shoo-in’ for a knighthood. Fair enough…by the way, Mr Key, John me old mate, if you’re looking for someone to give Richie’s knighthood to this year, how about Bob Parker, Mayor of Christchurch? I know the council in Christchurch is not everyone’s favourite, but when disaster strikes and people are afraid and grieving, you need a calming voice and a face to follow and no-one has done that better for the people of Christchurch than Bob Parker.

A funny thing happened last night. I opened a spreadsheet on my Dashboard at Smashwords and discovered 529 sales/downloads I knew nothing about, Sony and Barnes & Nobel. Well I never! So the books are selling in the affiliate channels as well.

Today is the last day of school for the year for Lucas. He has been at school for around nine and a half months. If I ask him how it was he’ll say “good.” It reminds me of the child of a friend of mine who started school and on the Monday of her second week she said, in amazement, “you mean I have to go back?” One week down and about 12 years to go. Lucas  likes school, he likes ‘belonging’ and doing interesting things. He’s learned the haka and made a string poi and made Santa puppets and played in the sandpit and learned to read and count and write along the way. Today, as a special treat, we’re going to a Christmas Festival and a pet shop and an ice-cream parlour after school.

Writing tips today come from Hilary Mantel. She won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 for, “Wolf Hall’, her huge book about Thomas Cromwell.

 1. Are you serious about this? Then get an accountant.

2. Read ‘Becoming a Writer’, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, “how to” books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.

3. Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.

4. If you have a good story idea, don’t assume it must form a prose narrative. It may work better as a play, a screenplay or a poem. Be flexible.

5. Be aware that anything that appears before “Chapter One” may be skipped. Don’t put your vital clue there.

6. First paragraphs can often be struck out. Are you performing a haka, or just shuffling your feet?

7. Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world. People don’t notice their everyday surroundings and daily routine, so when writers describe them it can sound as if they’re trying too hard to instruct the reader.

8. Description must work for its place. It can’t be simply ornamental. It usually works best if it has a human element; it is more effective if it comes from an implied viewpoint, rather than from the eye of God. If description is coloured by the viewpoint of the character who is doing the noticing, it becomes, in effect, part of character definition and part of the action.

9. If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

10. Be ready for anything. Each new story has different demands and may throw up reasons to break these and all other rules. Except number one: you can’t give your soul to literature if you’re thinking about income tax.

P.S. rules #7 and #8 are excellent advice and can lead to great writing. That’s me, not her, saying that. 😉



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Ruth Burns Warrens
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 09:56:18

    My two went on from ‘Nursery’ (kindergarten) to ‘Reception’ (our old Primer 1 &2) at the same school – the change being going from mufti into uniform, and at break times form the separate Nursery playground into the big main playground. Richard was apprehensive about the move up – we told him all summer about the fun new things he was going to do/learn, esp. learning to read. reception Day 1 I collected them and in the car on the way home I asked what they’d enjoyed about their 1st day back st school. Hilary was full of this and that, Richard very quiet. After a long pause a resentful, accusing little voice came from the back of the car – ‘They didn’t teach me to read!’


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