Inside the mind of a writer www.scskillman.co.uk

Posts tagged ‘writers’

Book Review: “How To Craft Superbad Villains: 13 Steps to Evil” by Sacha Black

I found this book an excellent resource for writers, especially for those of us who may be at the stage I was in at the time of reading – nearing the end of the first draft of my WIP, Director’s Cut – which I have now finished.How To Craft Superbad Villains by Sacha Black

Sacha Black equips the writer with plenty of tools to sharpen up and deepen their understanding of villainy. She writes with the knowledge and insight of one who is trained and qualified in Psychology. At times I found her handling of the subject almost too dense and over-analytical – especially in areas such as complexes, which has been the subjec tof one of my past blog posts , based on the writings of Carl Jung.

But then I realised that I could only benefit from Sacha Black’s close attention to this subject; what she writes here repays careful study, because it is so important for a fiction author to understand exactly what constitutes villainy. She is particularly good on the subject of mental health in fictional villains; as she rightly points out, it is no good giving one’s villain a mental health issue and then ascribing their villainy to that issue. She helps the reader focus on how complex the human psyche is and reminds us once again that as writers we must be faithful students of human nature. In addition, her own personal style is very lively, which makes the book more accessible, too, to a popular audience. I highly recommend Sacha’s book.

To see my own book on the writing craft, Perilous Path – a selection of articles containing tips, insights and reminders for writers, including a chapter on how to develop villainous characteristics in a fictional characer – click here

To read my own series of blog posts on how the theories of Carl Jung can help novelists, here are a few for you to dip into:

The collective unconscious

Complexes

Universal Archetypes

Synchronicity

How Many Books Do You Read in a Year?

Recently I thought it would be fun and interesting to ask this question of fellow-writers on our own dedicated Facebook group, having just learned from Goodreads that I’d reviewed or  rated 28 books this year. a-reader

I made a fascinating discovery.  Annual reading achievement varied enormously. I thought I was doing quite well at approximately 30 – and I learned via an online search that a “voracious” reader may get through 30-50 books a year but across the general population it is a very different picture: “According to a YouGov survey, the mean number of books read for pleasure by adults in the UK is around 10 each year, and the median is around 4.”

The answers I received from fellow-writers  took me by surprise: and not least, because I was humbled and impressed by how the majority of these individuals managed to fit in so much reading alongside writing their own books!

“78 – less than two books a week, which doesn’t seem very much at all to me.”

“No more than 5”.

“In 2016 I read 69 – years ago I might read up to 100 a year. One month I notched up 19 books.”

“About 36.”

“About 12.”

“49 and some other started but not finished.”

“Over 100.”

“120 last year – as at 8 January this year I’ve already read 7.”

“55 from the library alone so probably nearer 70 or 80.”

“Going back through my Kindle orders, 54 not including ones I gave up on or old books I re-read.”

“32 according to Goodreads.”

“Between 15 and 30.”

“Probably about 12-15.”

“175 last year and above 150 for each year since 2011 when I started tracking on Goodreads.”

“55.”

I love to read a book which is a totally absorbing page-turner, a book which you can’t wait to get back to. It’s one of life’s greatest joys. I’ve just finished reading The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and I found it a real struggle to read, it’s so slow-paced and (I think) self-consciously literary. I bought it in Waterstones, attracted by the beautiful cover and the interesting blurb. I was determined to persist with it to the end because I’d spent good money on it but felt cheated of that wonderful “must get back to it as soon as possible” feeling with a good book.
When I mentioned this on Facebook, I liked this response:
Books like that become loo books, read a page or two at a time. A friend sent me a non-
fiction title I’d expressed interest in and I can only stomach it a few pages at a time. I’m only persisting because it was a gift and because there is some useful info amid the dross but it’ll get a scant two stars and the fact that I’m only reviewing as a warning to others taken in by the blurb.”
What do you think? Do you know how many books you read in a year? And what’s your view of “fast” and “slow” readers? Does it matter? and does it impact upon the quality of your response to the story, or your reviews, if you do review books (or discuss them at a book club). I’d love to have your comments!

Rummaging For Reality at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick

Here I am, a psychological suspense writer,  at a conference for psychotherapists, healers, counsellors and creative people – and together with them  I am rummaging for reality.

This is  very brief post in a spare hour before I go off to a workshop this afternoon. But already I feel I am working my way towards a new clarity and insight both into this life and into my new novel.  One came this morning. It was very simple: only these words: “We are exploring different parts of the same reality at different stages of our lives.”

A few days before coming on this conference I was doing some of my own rummaging, through a file of newspaper clips which I’ve kept for about 3 decades now – just to see what jumped out at me in my current situation, a new work-in-progress before me.

 

And it was an article from the Sunday Times 10/5/92 written by the novelist Wendy Perriam called ‘Heaven Can Wait’. It was subtitled Do bad Catholics make good writers? And considered the fact that many great writers – e.g. Greene, Joyce, Spark, Waugh, O’Brien and Lodge – either lapsed, or struggling with their faith, poured out words as once they poured out prayers.

In this article Wendy Perriam says many things which touch me profoundly, despite the fact that I am not a Catholic, present or lapsed. I’ll quote just one point here, which I resonate with, and which shone out at me from my ‘rummaging’:

 

‘A sense of religion does give a depth and resonance to fiction, and if our characters have immortal souls, they’re surely more important, more valuable to their creator, than if they’re regarded as mere accumulations of vibrating molecules.’

Hopefully I may have some more insights from my rummaging to share with you in next week’s post!

 

Book Marketing Inspiration and Fresh Ideas for Writers

Led by Adrianne Fitzpatrick (publisher  and owner of Books To Treasure) and Wendy H. Jones (successful crime writer), the ACW Writer Day on Saturday 12th March at Widcombe Baptist Church, Bath, provided me – and a church full of my fellow-writers  – with a wealth of fresh information about book publishing and marketing.

The pictures I’ve included here are all about “authors out and about promoting their books”.

Writers can often find themselves labelled as introvert, solitary and retiring – which of course is how the actual business of book writing gets done.  But when it comes to marketing books, we were challenged to change our beliefs about ourselves. We can and will get out there, in person, marketing books, in a wide variety of places – and not just bookshops either! I was amazed to discover how many possibilities there are for venues for book-signing sessions.- cafes, shopping malls, even banks, to name just a few.

As a result of this day I am now creating a new marketing strategy to reinforce the new beliefs I have about myself. These are exciting times and I will be trying several new things over the next few weeks and months to get out and about with signed copies of Mystical Circles and A Passionate Spirit  – plus a few extra surprising visual aids!

As Wendy H Jones writes in her book Power Packed Book Marketing, “if you feel that you do not have what it takes to be a marketer, …. consider this. It may be time for you to change your beliefs.”

And finally, a quote I find very relevant to this subject: “You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world…. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others”. (A Return To Love, by Marianne Williamson, as quoted by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech, 1994.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely Lake District in Autumn 2013

We spent a few days in England’s lovely Lake District during the recent autumn half term.

Ashness Bridge, near Derwentwater (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Ashness Bridge, near Derwentwater (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

The Lake District is special to me, not only because of its association with numerous famous writers, with Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin, William Wordsworth; but also because of memories from childhood holidays there, and the fact that I regularly visited it during the time I spent as an undergraduate at Lancaster University (approximately 40 minutes drive from Windermere).

As a member of the university hiking club, I became familiar with the Old Man of Coniston and Scafell Pike and I soon learned that hiking didn’t mean gentle  rambling, it meant something very akin to mountain-climbing except without the ropes and crampons, as we scrambled up and slid down steep slopes of scree!

cruise on Lake Windermere (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

cruise on Lake Windermere (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Surprise View, Derwentwater (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Surprise View, Derwentwater (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Bowness-on-Windermere is distinctive for me, as I would go there with my parents when they came to visit me for the weekend. For me, it was a translation from the world of student accommodation to the Old England Hotel. I returned there on later occasions with friends, for afternoon tea on the terrace, overlooking Lake Windermere. The Old England Hotel has held a special place in my memory  ever since.

It is said that the Lake District has the highest rainfall in England. Those who go there must take mist, rain, muted colours, a moist  atmosphere, brooding clouds, along with everything else the Lake District has to offer; and be prepared to carry on regardless, wearing waterproofs. If you experience  the lakes and mountains in bright sunshine, count yourself blessed!

The Lake District is an inspirational place that speaks directly to the spirit.

Here are some more images from our recent visit:

Derwentwater from Keswick (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Derwentwater from Keswick (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Boats beside Derwentwater (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Boats beside Derwentwater (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

The Lost World of the Reclusive Bestseller Author

JK Rowling has said, I imagined being a famous writer would be like being Jane Austen, being able to sit at home in the parsonage and your books would be very famous… I didn’t think they’d rake through my bins. I didn’t expect to be photographed on the beach through long lenses.

JD Salinger and Harper Lee were famously reclusive. Never seen in public, they just quietly wrote novels that became iconic in the 20th century and ended up on every school syllabus. Dan Brown too was reclusive before his plagiarism trial brought him out of the woodwork; now his face is familiar.

Today, authors engage in a Kindle-sales feeding frenzy, blogging their sales figures and Amazon rankings, and spreading in equal measure envy, despair and a mania to replicate their success amongst all the flocks of self promoting self publishing ebook authors. I realise that indie authors are striking back against the publishing establishment, and many enjoy the work of promotion. I applaud them for it.  But my instincts tell me this isn’t what authors were meant to do.  Authors were meant to write, and to do what JK Rowling imagined – sit in the parsonage like Jane Austen. Then they handed their finished manuscript over to a publisher who did all the dirty work of marketing, promotion, sales techniques and strategies, and all the devices and desires of publicity.

I recognise this is a totally unrealistic picture, not in tune with today’s world at all. And I’m well aware that the relationship between authors and publishers has long had its difficulties. The rural poet John Clare (1793-1864) had troubled dealings with “booksellers” who were then the equivalent to today’s publishers. He wrote in his Journal: I would advise young authors not to be upon too close friendships with booksellers…their friendships are always built upon speculations of profit like a farmer showing his sample…if a book suits then they write a fine friendly letter to the author…if not they neglect to write till the author is impatient and then comes a note declining to publish mixed with a seasoning of petulance in exchange for his anxiety.   And I do know I really ought to let down my golden hair from this small room in a tower where I write these words.

Authors are often introverts, shy, retiring. Now they cannot be allowed the luxury of being an INFP on the Myers Briggs Personality Type scale. Accuse me of languishing in my ivory tower if you will. But allow me to post a promotional video (made by my daughter) beneath these words and thus negate the point I am making. And cherish the lost world of the reclusive author.

SC Skillman

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