Wise words – JRR Tolkien

I’m currently reading an article in Writing Magazine by a novelist called Paula Coston who exchanged letters with JRR Tolkien when she was a child. He critiqued her work and provided writing advice, such as the following:

Verse is…in many ways like games – a skill that can delight both the player and the onlooker (or reader)…The net is just a nuisance; the white lines are silly and unreasonable: all they do is make some lovely hard hit count as ‘out’. But without them? I suppose you could just swipe the ball where you felt inclined…or you could walk up to your opponent and knock her down with your racket..But actually the most beautiful, graceful and determined strokes are made by those who have learned to obey the rules and still hit the ball with force.

Seems like good advice to me!


Lay off Joanne(s)

I logged in to Twitter today to see a load of abuse being fired at Joanne Harris for allegedly attacking JK Rowling.  Articles such as this one in The Telegraph give the impression that Joanne is jealous of JK Rowling’s wealth and implies JK is to blame for the financial struggles writers face.  A quick Google of this story leads to other articles which lean slightly more in Joanne Harris’s favour, such as this one in The Independent.  Unfortunately, if people have read a negative twisted-the-truth-just-to-sell-papers version of events, they probably won’t look any further.  My take on it is this – Joanne Harris expressed an opinion that I happen to agree with.  She was in no way attacking JK Rowling’s talents or wealth.  She was expressing the opinion that famous authors such as JK Rowling (who make trailer-loads of cash from the their writing) are not the norm.  Most writers will not make £560 million (and counting) from their writing.  This is not a comment arising from jealousy, this is cold, hard truth.  Joanne Harris was urging people to re-assess their thinking.  She was not trying to deter people from writing and she was not bashing JK Rowling – she was basically telling people to get real.  If you want to write, write but don’t think you will necessarily become a millionaire.

I fail to see what is difficult to understand about what she said.  I’m sure that JK Rowling won’t have taken offence at her comments.

Here is Joanne’s take on it.

Here is an eye/ear witness account.

Here is a real article slagging off JK Rowling (not from Joanne Harris)

See the difference?

It seems that the more prominent a writer becomes, the more people see them as a target.  Back off trolls.  Back off hack journalists.  Joanne Harris was attempting to impart advice to people who probably appreciate it because it is coming from a successful writer.  JK Rowling is successful and rich – so what?  She deserves to be.  Both women are hugely talented writers and this should be applauded rather than people trying to pick them apart.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if you don’t like their writing, that’s fine but assassination of character is something different all together.  Well done to Joanne Harris for presenting the facts.  I for one appreciate it.  To everyone that believes the papers to be gospel, remember the saying – never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  At least Joanne Harris admits to writing fiction.

Pseudonym – yes or no?

In the past, female writers considered it necessary to have a pseudonym that gave the impression they were male or at the very least made their gender unknown, for fear that their books wouldn’t sell to male readers.  The Bronte sisters did this, as did Louisa Alcott but perhaps the most famous recent example is J.K Rowling.  Although it’s not technically a pseudonym, she inserted a fictitious initial (K) into her writing name to appear more anonymous, rather than writing as Joanne Rowling who is quite clearly female.  As the books became successful and it was evident that both girls and boys were buying the books, her gender became irrelevant.  Recently, she has adopted a real pseudonym – Robert Galbraith – a man’s name.  In J.K Rowling’s case, she would have no trouble selling books under her own name now but in this instance, she chose a pseudonym for a different reason.  The reason she gave is:

The decision to choose a male pseudonym was driven by a desire to “take my writing persona as far away as possible from me”, Rowling said. By choosing as her hero a military man working in national security – taking a lead from former SAS solider and bestselling author Andy McNab – she created an “excuse not to make personal appearances or to provide a photograph”.

Robert Galbraith’s true identity was kept a secret for 3 months before a lawyer firm representing J.K Rowling leaked the truth.  J.K Rowling said at the time:

‘I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience.

 ‘It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.’

Another high-profile author to write under a pseudonym is Stephen King.  When asked why he wrote as Richard Bachman, he gave the following answer:

I did that because back in the early days of my career there was a feeling in the publishing business that one book a year was all the public would accept but I think that a number of writers have disproved that by now.

There are a variety of reasons why writers have chosen to use a pseudonym or nom de plume.  I would like to think that men/boys would not be put off buying a book written by a woman in this day and age but I could be wrong.  I understand J.K Rowling’s thinking behind becoming Robert Galbraith.  She is in a good financial position, she can write what she likes because she doesn’t need the money.  She wanted to receive feedback as an unknown writer and it was good while it lasted.  She sold 1500 copies before anyone realised JK Rowling wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Stephen King, I suppose, also falls into that category.

Would you use a pseudonym?  If so, why?

I’d love to hear what you think about that or anything else I have said in my post.

Leave a message!

Diane 🙂


Traditional vs self-publishing or a happy medium?

The debate over whether traditional publishing is better than self-publishing has long since rumbled on. As technology continues to improve and opportunities for self-publishing become easier by the day, this debate is not going to go away. Personally, I would love to receive a traditional publishing contract and all the trimmings that go with it. Realistically though, I know that self-publishing (digitally) is a better bet. DIY publishing allows you full control over your work, cover design, pricing etc. On the flip-side, this responsibility means that you are liable for it all. I have read many e-books peppered with incorrect words and erroneous spelling but seldom have I found this with published books. Traditional publishing involves professionals helping you along the way, leading your baby into adulthood, so to speak. What if there was a way to strike a balance?

The article in the link below inspired me to write this post:

A look at traditional publishing

In it, Liesel Schwartz states “It is physically impossible to edit work that you have written yourself to a final standard.”

I hadn’t previously considered the possibility of involving anyone else in my writing/editing process but this article has made me reconsider.

I’d love to hear your opinion.  Get in touch!

Diane 🙂