Friday, 25 July 2008

Writers: Thou shalt Not Be Boring

So today's Guardian G2 cover story was about Reader's Block. Oh I know that one. Had it bad in my pregnancy years - a book seems like too much of a long term investment when your main priority is to spot the sick dribbling down the back of your shirt before someone else does (or becoming an expert at fashion camouflage, as comic Victoria Wood once suggested, finding clothes the colour of poo).

Apparently, though we Brits trump other Europeans in buying books, we are not very good at reading what we buy. Writes Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian:
It is often said that everybody has a novel in them. The current problem is that so many of us bring that novel out of ourselves and get it published. It would help cure reader's block if lots of people resolved not to. But that is not what is happening. Instead, we are made so anxious by the accelerating onrush of books, especially novels, that we say: "Enough! I can't - I won't - read the winner of the Orange prize, whatever Mariella Frostrup says."
This is not a time to blame the attractions of other media even though other media do play a part:
According to Teletext's 2007 study of 4,000 Britons' reading habits, the top reasons for not reading are: too tired (48%); watch TV instead (46%); play computer games (26%); work late (21%).
TV, the internet, computer games are all worthy competitors and the onus is on us writers (especially in the children's book world) to keep our readers reading.

My advice to younger readers has always been: if you're getting bored, skip paragraphs until you get to something that interests you. Serves the author right for being boring.

It's the perfect time to revisit the tenth commandment of crimewriter Elmore Leonard's classic Ten Rules on Writing:
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.


The article had a sidebar 'The Author's View in which they asked authors like Lionel Shriver, Alain de Botton and Germain Greer three questions: Have you experienced reader's block? How do you overcome it? Could you recommed a book to get people reading again?

I was very happy to see Joanne Harris (now officially one of us since the publcation of her children's fantasy Runemarks) say that she overcame reader's block by reading graphic novels. That, and the fact that Ray Bradbury is one of her heroes makes her a really cool author in my book.

Hey Star Wars fans, today's Eoin Colfer vlog, some Lucasfilm people attend his show and take him back to Lucasfilms for an exclusive tour that has him playing with Darth Vader's sword (oh and stealing the Artemis Fowl bus while the driver was off on a break and trying to flip it over).
Eoin as he drives away with the bus: "When the driver went off for a cup of coffee, I hit him on the head with my boot and stole his bus."
I wonder if they're planning to make a film about his travels.

1 comment :

  1. I too feel a lot better now, to know that I'm in such good company! It was a good article. I though Germaine Greer was unnecessarily sniffy about novels, though...but then that's her stock in trade, isn't it?


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