Christmas madness prevails, so I'm a bit behind with blogging. Was downtown today and found the state of the imminently-closing Borders branch terribly depressing. I know that some branches of Borders may find buyers and wonder if the Oxford branch will be one of them: on the plus side, Oxford is a bookish city, on the negative, the shop is a huge retail space so must cost a fortune and it's very close indeed to the local Waterstone's, Blackwells and W.H. Smiths. Sad lines of beaten-up bookshelves and trolleys were for sale (none too cheaply, I thought, given the state of them) and garish discount posters everywhere. Made The Works look classy in comparison.
Borders is certainly not going out of business through any fault of mine! Its disappearance may actually be good for my bank account.
Second item on the agenda - pop over to Tess Gerritsen's blog (listed on my blogroll on the right): having sent off her latest novel to her publishers she writes about the process of writing a novel from idea to final draft. Twenty two novels in, she's knows what she's talking about. Of particular significance is her advice that what matters is not so much idea/theme as the situation/crisis you put the character in. She's right: readers need to be emotionally engaged, they need the human dimension, however worthy or high-concept the notion/message behind the story. Secondly (and I stress this all the time, dear ex-students of mine!) she recommends that at first draft stage you do nothing but write that first draft: you push on regardless until the thing is done. There will be time enough at the redrafting stage to fuss and reorganise, smooth out the prose, enrich the characters, sharpen up the dialogue, tidy up the plot. Don't try to be all things at the same time: just write. Then edit.
Which brings us, happily, to my preparations for fictionfire courses, one of which will definitely be on editing. I intend running them again at Trinity College and they'll be in early May - a time when Oxford looks particularly gorgeous. I hope you'll be able to come! I know some of you were interested in my November courses and couldn't make it, so I hope I'll get the chance to meet you this time. Likely dates are the 1st, 8th or 15th May. If you would like to come, you can always register your interest by popping over to the fictionfire site or contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org