Posts Tagged ‘100 best novels’

As I still haven’t got a book on the go, I decided to pick one from my ‘to read’ pile, open it at random, and share a quote.  If it makes me want to read, it’s all for the good, and if not, it’ll save me some time.

I chose Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl. Not sure if I started this once before but I definitely haven’t finished it.

So here goes:

Hannah was wearing a housedress the color of sandpaper, crudely scissored off at the hem so tiny threads hula-danced around her shins when she opened the door.  Her face was as bare as an unpainted wall, but it was obvious she hadn’t been sleeping.

There’s a lot of description and I cut off before the metaphors got too jumbled – I don’t generally appreciate work that is tightly packed with this kind of description.

However, I love, love, love the name of this book, and the synopsis blurb sounds interesting.  So I think I will give it a go.

I should be reading comedies, but for my long weekend this might be a good choice – it’ll keep me occupied anyway.

I will not be working on poetry per se during the break, although if something comes to mind obviously I will note it down – but there will be no pressure to work, only relax and have fun.

500 pages of a possibly YA novel is a start!

Happy reading,



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Another week, another social gathering… I’m not about today as I am visiting family to celebrate my niece’s birthday, so this is a pre-written quick update!

This week, I decided to take up a new work opportunity. It’s something I can fit in with writing and it isn’t too complex, but I’m hoping it’ll give me some inspiration for my notebook – a big part of it will be meeting other people so I’m sure a few character traits will pique my interest!  I have never used a character from ‘real life’ of course, but I have identified common behaviours that have turned up in my writing, and you can’t do that if you don’t observe how people behave.

People watching is a human trait, I think: we all have a level of curiosity (or, if I’m honest about myself, nosiness…) as to what people are doing.  We writers just notice the details more!

I am also looking forward to spending some time out and about with other people. I’ve said before that writing is a solitary thing and to spend more time meeting groups of people will be a pleasant change.  My old job involved meeting new people a lot of the time, so all this time alone really took a while to feel normal.  Luckily I have a big family and a great group of friends to alleviate loneliness but I am still alone a lot more than I ever had been before.

But due to meetings about that, and life stuff that I’ve been working on a lot of the time, the writing is suffering a severe case of neglect this week.  I am not sticking to my timetable, and am going to have to get really strict with myself.  So – I will have finished section one by next weekend.  That’s the target, and that’s that!

In other news – We’ve reached book 37 in the list of the 100 best novels: Hadrian the Seventh, by Frederick Rolfe.  Not sure what to make of this one as I’ve never heard of it or the author, and the reviews are mixed, to say the least!  I will see how long it is before I decide whether to try it or not, I don’t want another Gulliver issue!

And finally – I saw this article about books reminding up of where we have read and re-read them; although I can’t say there are any where I remember the environment to the same degree there are some books that remind me of certain things.  For example, I read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood in the car (not driving!) when my partner and I were on our way back from a holiday, so although I’m no longer sure where we’d been, or what road we were on, I remember sitting in the passenger seat of the car when I think about it.  Another book reminds me of walking home from school through a beautiful old town, because it was given to me by a cousin when she was interested in Chinese things and I bought her a present from a bookshop there.  Books can transport us through time and space, and not just by the words in them – that’s just another reason for me to love the physical books; I relate to them entirely differently from e-books.

And on that note, I’m off to charge the reader so I can read during my travels!

Happy writing,





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Some years ago a writer friend told me he enjoyed reading books written by poets, as the way they use language is different from non-poets.

The conversation came t mind recently, and now I can’t put it aside.  I keep examining the sections I’ve written of my new novel to see signs of this poetic ‘difference’…

There are certain techniques I use which follow from one writing style and medium to another: I can certainly see how my poetry-writing influences my prose, or vice versa.  And, following feedback from my writing group on other work, it seems to be the same in all my prose.

I probably use metaphor and simile more than some writers, and I use a lot of imagery generally.  But to me that’s part of the ‘showing, not telling’ ethos – I want readers to visualise things in a certain way, and for that to happen I need to make sure I’ve given them all the clues they need.

It also comes from literature courses when we examined the structure of books which clearly left me with a sense of the ‘right’ way of writing.  It’s right for me, anyway – and that’s all any novelist can offer.

But I am now forced to consider how accessible that makes my writing: is it too ‘lyrical’, like DH Lawrence (who also wrote poetry), or too ‘complex’ like Henry James?  Is it too wordy?

This is a hold-your-nerve moment.

I have long thought that book one suffers from having a controversial element to its storyline, and that to give it life will be a risk for any agent – and yet I will not change things to make the storyline more agreeable. If that means I self-publish, well, so be it: many people think this is a better option than the traditional model, anyway.

I have to be as bullish about all my writing.  I have to believe in it, and write the story I want to tell in the way I want to tell it, and stop trying to second-guess myself.  My writing style is part of who I am as a writer, whether people enjoy it or not.

So when I go back to writing again tomorrow, I’m going to keep writing my poetic prose and remember that it’s not just about that page, or that line: it’s about who I am as a writer, and the journey I’ve travelled to get here.

And 50% will change when I revise the work, anyway 🙂

In other news – It’s book 36 of the 100 novels list this week – The Golden Bowl by Henry James.  After the painful process of reading The Turn of the Screw, I think I’ll give this one a miss.  Having read the comments and some examples of sentences, I feel it’s only sensible!

And finally – I was pleased to see this snippet about Michael  Morpurgo’s writing room. It’s so old a snippet it pre-dates me giving up work to write but it popped up as a suggested article and has vindicated my position about writing in comfort with a load of pillows behind my head!

Until next time,

Happy writing,




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This week has involved books, poetry, illness, writing rooms and weddings, and it’s been an exhausting mix!

I started the week with book club – we discussed ‘The Book Thief’ and it was a very successful, even though we didn’t get through everything I planned. Sometimes the questions I dredge up on particular books make very little sense in the context of the discussion, and you just have to bin them!

The next thing was a plan for a new ‘set list’ of performance poetry. I haven’t been to an open mike since before Christmas, and I’ve asked my writing group to comment on the ‘Cicero’ poem I wrote last year, so I’m hoping that doing some readings and developing that poem will push me in the right direction.

Then there was illness.  That’s all I’ll say about that, except I am strongly tempted to write health-related poetry.

And on to writing rooms!  A friend is building a room and I went out to see the setting for it. It was utterly perfect – the changing seasons, the weather, the wildlife will all inspire; the quiet and peace will allow him to still his mind and write from the heart.

Finally, I rounded the week off attending a wedding fair. I’ve never been to one before, and it was huge – after three hours I literally lost my voice from talking so much! Marriage is about two people wanting to spend their lives together; weddings are about a whole lot more, and going along made me eager to work on an idea I had for celebration poetry.  It was an environment ripe for writing: the excitement, the people, the shiny jewels and crystals – the chocolate fountain… I can imagine all sorts of stories focussing on a day like that.

But that’s my constant and extremely frustrating problem right now – I have all these ideas, and they keep deflecting me from my work.  I feel I am failing as a writer because I can’t keep focussed on one idea.  My mind flits around all over the place and I pick up ideas that light my mind like fireflies – and then they go out, and I start again.

So it’s target setting time for me once more.  By next Sunday I will finish the reading on paranormal writing and I’ll have revisited the guide to plotting I read last year.  Then I can set a new timetable, and you can all give me a metaphorical prod when I go off on tangents.

You are my writing conscience…!

In other news – It’s book 20 of the best novels this week – Little Women.  I can’t remember reading it, but I watched it – I remember a girl with a peg on her nose!  Maybe I’ll read it in the future but my track record with the list is a bit ropey, so please let me know if it’s worth a read.

Also – on the subject of lists, I found this one about the worst couples in literature.  I’m going to compile a few of my own because some of these are relatively inoffensive to me…

And finally – I read this article about Sappo’s poetry with great excitement – as I’ve said before, the discovery of what is thought lost really inspires and delights me.  Writers are part of a tradition that goes back through time to the first fireside storytellers: we are tied to them.  Articles like this really make that connection sing.

And on that note, I’ll leave you to your own writing connections.  Until next time,

Happy writing,



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