reading and editing

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by John Jarrold, Jan 21, 2007.

  1. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    One of the pleasures of the book doctor work (posh title for a freelance editor who works directly with authors) is the variation. Most people expect me to only work on SF and Fantasy novels, because that was what I published most of the time for fifteen years. But that's rather like expecting me to only READ SF and Fantasy, which has never been the case throughout my life. About 60% of my editorial work in in the SF & F genre.

    Over the last couple of months I've worked editorially on an historical novel set in ancient Egypt, a conspiracy thriller and a non-fiction book about a British military adventure in South America in the early 19th century. Fascinating.

    I'd make a linked point to any new-ish writer: don't only read in one area. Reading should broaden your experience. That's not to say you should only read 'improving' books, just a wide range. I was lucky. Before joining publishing I worked in public libraries for fifteen years, so if I felt like grabbing a book about the history of battleships, metaphysical poets or a roaring adventure yarn, I could do it. It's worthwhile. As a writer, everything you read can be useful one day...
  2. mistri

    mistri New Member

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    At the moment I'm going through a phase of alternating between SF/F books and Patrick O'Brian titles, but I usually throw in some crime fic and non-fic in there as well.

    Sometimes I think you can get stale if you read too heavily in one genre without mixing in some others from time to time.
  3. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Yes, quite right. Even worse if you only read one author or one area of a genre...
  4. Stormpirate

    Stormpirate Sailing the stormy seas..

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    Reading outside your "comfort zone" is also good if you're a writer. You have to know what's already been done, even if it's outside your chosen genre.

    John, what's the ancient Egyptian novel? I recently finished reading Wilbur Smith's River God and loved it, so I'd be interested in more novels set during that timeframe.
  5. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    This is from an unpublished author. She wanted it fully edited by someone who has done that professionally, sat in publishing meetings for many years and is aware of what publishers want editorially and in presentational terms, and given a wash-and-brush-up before it was sent to publishers - about 80% of my freelance editing work consists of doing that. I also edit published authors - some of whom are changing direction, or just want a professional edit before the book is sent in. I've always loved working editorially with writers, so it's meat and drink to me.
  6. Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    I think it's a really great idea for anybody unpublished and looking to submit to do this first. Definitely on my to-do list for when I get back into writing.
  7. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    My recent reading has included Robert Holdstock's THE BROKEN KINGS, James Shapiro's 1599 - A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Simon R Green's HELL TO PAY, James Ellroy's AMERICAN TABLOID, Francis Pryor's BRITAIN AD and Robin Lane Fox's THE CLASSICAL WORLD.

    All worth recommending for different reasons!
  8. SJAB

    SJAB Active Member

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    I have been digging out a few old favourite paperbacks to re-read,

    Norah Lofts' Gad's Hall and the Haunting of Gad's Hall. I love the way this lady wrote, I often feel her novel the "Luteplayer", is one of the best stories set around Richard the first I have ever read.

    Add to that Gorden Stevens' "And all the King's Men", not to be confused with Robert Penn Warrens' book of nearly the same title. Stevens' book is a what if story set in 1940, and of all those types of stories I feel it is one of the most realistic I have come across.

    I have also be reading "the Wipers Times" a collection of newspapers produced by soldiers in the trenches during WWI

    Though today my copy of "Ink", by Hal Duncan arrived, so I am tempted to curl up and re-read Vellum (to re-fresh my memory of the story) and plunge into Ink. I keep hoping we will have a couple of foot of snow over night, so I can have a good excuse not to go to work ;)
  9. Psyloke

    Psyloke Pseudo Adventurer

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    Reading anything and everything's certainly worthwhile. When I first started writing seriously at the age of 16 I found everything I wrote hovered closely style-wise around the (very) few authors i was reading at the time. As i've read more it seems my own personal voice has become more apparent. Though I'm still scratching the surface of my writing I can see the merits in reading an eclectic mix. I've actually finally given Fantasy a break for a while and begun a novel set in London during the Blitz, plus another kind of contemporary conspiracy thriller. I'm enjoying my writing immensely because of this change around.

    Recently read:

    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (a masterfully written novel both in terms of style, wordplay, & plot - surprising since it's a translation from Spanish).

    The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (very enjoyable and originally set-out)
  10. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Writing in different areas can really stretch you, as an exercise. But everyone should remember that when a publisher DOES take you on (let's be optimistic here) they will want you to write in the same area, not jump around!
  11. Psyloke

    Psyloke Pseudo Adventurer

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    But isn't it possible to write in a different genre under a pseudonym? I would have thought that a published writer with an agent, if he were to write something worth selling, that he'd have a decent chance of eventually selling it even if it's to a different publisher, and even if it's different from what he'd normally write. Surely a great, sellable novel has its own merrits irrespective of who wrote it and what else they write?

    It's just that the thought of only writing in one genre (assuming I'll ever be lucky enough to be published AND have books continually sold ofc) sounds frustrating.
  12. Glynn James

    Glynn James New Member

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    It's nice to hear that writing in one genre is what publishers will want, because my writing was messed up for a long time whilst I couldn't figure out what It was I was good at writing. Horror, it seems.

    I've written various genres, well, nearly everything in the past, but never completed anything substantial until this last year.
  13. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    You basically have to sell VERY well in one genre before publishers will look at your work elsewhere. Pseudonyms were used extensively in the 60s and 70s, and into the 80s, but that was done and dusted by the end of the 80s for almost everyone - in UK terms. Mainstream publishing is much more about specific authors now, rather than filling the shelves with a yard of fantasy, or SF, or thrillers. Orbit publish 'K J Parker', which is the pseudonym of an author in the fantasy field - but the Parker novels are also fantasy, just a different area of the genre. You don't have to rewrite the same book - but commerciality rules all...and being 'worth selling' is much harder than it sounds. Getting a first deal is remarkable, and will never happen for over 99% of writers. Getting another, under a pseudonym, if a helluva lot more difficult.
  14. littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    Here, here to reading in a lot of different areas. I've always done so, and it is amazing how often having read widely will come in handy...in writing, of course, but in day-to-day life as well.

    And, a bit off-topic, John, but what do you think of James Ellroy's writing?
  15. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    I love James. He was published by Random House in the UK when I worked there in the mid-90s, and I had the pleasure of meeting him several times, and chatting about books and films. You can't mistake his style for anyone else, and books like The Big Nowhere, White Jazz, L A Confidential and American Tabloid are all favourites.
  16. Commonmind

    Commonmind Registered Lurker

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    If you just want a recommendation, try picking up "The Egyptian" (a.k.a Sinuhe the Egyptian) by Mika Waltari. It is probably the best Egyptian historical fiction I've ever come across and I read it religiously every year.
  17. littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    Thanks for that, John. Must have been interesting to meet him. I've read several of his novels and have to say he's one of my favorite writers. Then again, I really like noir, which is how I'd label his L.A. novels. Have you read his memoir, My Dark Places? It is part autobiography, part the story of his search for the murderer of his mother. Interesting book. I recommend it.
  18. John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Yes, I was there when we acquired and publioshed that - and James spoke about it when he came into the office. He used to turn up once a year, loaded with French cheese, crusty bread and champagne, for whoever happened to be around the office that day. I remember we discussed the film made of the Black Dahlia case in the 70s, with Efram Zimbalist Jr (who my generation remembers from 77 Sunset Strip!)...

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