Sunday, 31 October 2010

Literature, in bite-size portions

Penguin has the perfect solution for those busy people without the time to read a full length novel - bite-size tales! I remember the last initiative - little, orange-spined books that opened up new worlds, certainly for me. I still have a batch of them on my bookshelf, including works by Patricia Highsmith, Saki and Virginia Woolf.

Of course, if you like your fiction short but don't fancy anything that could be defined as 'literary', you could do worse than checking out Byker Books' Radgepacket series, Pulp Press's novellas, or Legend Press's short story collections. Enjoy!

Friday, 22 October 2010

PLR update

News from the Society of Authors:

'As part of the cuts to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, it has been announced that there will be reductions to the PLR fund. However, these cuts are not as severe as  anticipated. 

The annual figures have been announced as follows:

2010/11    £7.45m

2011/12    £7.218m
2012/13    £7.084m
2013/14    £6.977m
2014/15    £6.956m

There will thus be a reduction of 6.6% over the next four years, although the fall in real terms will be significantly bigger. 

Whilst any cuts are to be regretted, it does appear that support for the Public Lending Right scheme has been taken on board by the DCMS, and the cuts kept to a minimum, especially in comparison with the overall Department cuts of 25%...'

So, it could have been worse. But we're not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination: the battle to preserve the current PLR body goes on.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cuts, cuts and more cuts

Along with all the concerns about PLRlibrary cuts are also being announced. In the light of cuts that are being made to child benefit and housing, this might seem a lightweight issue, but it is a very disurbing one. If libraries buy fewer books and are open for fewer hours, and cuts are made to PLR, then money will be taken directly out of writers' pockets. With most of us having to do other things to supplement our income from writing anyway, this is bad news indeed.

I wonder if the root of the problem might be that since the writers that make the headlines tend to be those that make huge amounts of money, there is a public perception that writing is a well-paid job. In fact, research commissioned by the soon-to-be-defunct Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) shows that the top 10% of writers earn more than half the total pot. Only 20% of authors earn their living solely from writing, and a typical professional writer earns around one third less than the national average wage. (I aspire to earning that much!!!)

Then there's the subject of books. Books aren't a luxury, in my opinion, they are a necessity. Writers help us to make sense of the world we live in, they take global issues and distil them into personal experiences that we can relate to, they take us to other countries - other worlds, in some cases - and broaden our horizons, they enrich our lives immeasureably. Then there is the fact that those of us who read tend to use language better, whether written or spoken. Readers get a feel for words that those who don't read cannot possibly experience. And when so many other things are being cut and money is tight, people can't afford to buy as many - if indeed any - books themselves and arguably would rely on their public library more than ever before!

I can't help but wonder how those people making the decisions, with their position of wealth and privilege, can understand what they actually mean for the rest of us. I shouldn't think any one of them has to pause with his or her hand halfway towards a book - or a pair of shoes, or a bottle of wine - and think: 'No, I can't afford that now'. Maybe they should commission a writer to take these national issues and distil them into personal experiences: perhaps then they'd get a handle on just how destructive they are being!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


November heralds the start of another round of NaNoWriMo - that being National Novel Writing Month. Writing begins on the 1st, and the aim is to create a 175 page/50,000 word novel by midnight on the 30th. No writing is allowed beforehand - but you can plan, and I aim to. Because I have signed up to do it this year!

I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2006, and then let my rough, badly-in-need-of-an-edit and in-possession-of-several-gaps novel rot in peace, which was a waste. It needs resurrecting - the idea is still sound, I think.

In 2006, I dove straight in with nothing more than a premise. This year, though, I want to go in prepared. I won't write a word of the book before November, but I'll draw up a roadmap based on the story I have in mind so that I - hopefully - can plough on in roughly the right direction for the duration of the challenge. At the end of it, I hope to have something worth editing that will eventually be worth submitting.

Undeniably, though, NaNoWriMo requires a unique approach. The trick is to fit the writing in between all the other things that still need attending to - the day job, the domestic stuff, the socialising - and use every spare minute to push the story on. My usual style is to write longhand and to do a first edit as I type stuff up, but with NaNoWriMo there is no time for such niceties - it's a case of getting the words into the machine. As they say on the site, December is for editing!

Nineteen days to NaNoWriMo blast-off. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 9 October 2010


Apparently most of us have yet to embrace e-books. Certainly I can't yet find it in my heart to love them, and the thought of an e-book reader is less than appealing. I was slow to embrace CDs, too: although I came to accept them and appreciate the convenience, I have a fondness for vinyl that persists. I wonder if books will go the same way? And where will it all end? There are 'digital vagabonds' who have managed to give up almost all physical possessions, including, in some cases, their homes. Personally, I cannot even imagine taking such a step. I find it difficult enough to part with the odd book or two: the thought of having only a hard drive to call my own chills me. It'll be interesting to see how things develop over the next decade or so!