Showing all posts tagged: writing

Rejected authors finding publishers, film deals, on TikTok

19 August 2022

TikTok is proving to be a fertile ground for new music acts looking for a lucky break, with the video hosting app kick-starting the careers of numerous musicians so far.

And authors are also cashing in. Many writers who struggled to find publishers previously, are sometimes finding themselves at the centre of bidding wars between rival publishing houses, after taking a novel idea to TikTok to gauge interest in the premise.

American writer Alex Aster is an example, and in 2021 signed a lucrative publishing deal, and later film rights, for her YA novel Lightlark.

Aster didn’t expect much, especially when she checked in a few hours later to see that her post had only clocked up about 1,000 views. Maybe the books world was right, she thought. Maybe there wasn’t a market for Lightlark, a young adult story she had been writing and rewriting for years, to no interest from publishers. The next day, however, she woke up to see her video had been viewed more than a million times. A week later, Lightlark had gone to auction and she had a six-figure deal with Amulet Books. Last month, Universal preemptively bought the film rights for, in her words, “more zeros than I’ve seen in my life”.

Aster conceded an element of luck was involved though, describing the TikTok algorithm that eventually propelled her to success as “finicky”. Here’s hoping the algorithm will favour other writers.

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Book plotlines tropes and clichés a publisher may reject

13 August 2022

The world is full of writers and the stories they’d like to write. American author Joseph Epstein, writing for the New York Times, quotes research suggesting eighty-one percent of Americans think they “have a book in them”. That’s a lot. Unfortunately, aspiring writers vastly outnumber book publishers, meaning many manuscripts stand to go unnoticed and unpublished.

It might not seem like much help, but Strange Horizons — a magazine publishing speculative fiction — once put together a list of the types of sci-fi stories that they’ve seen submitted too often, and subsequently did not feature. I suspect they’re not the only publishers seeing such ideas either. Knowing what might be rejected then, might help you write something that won’t be.

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Ann Mossop new Sydney Writers Festival artistic director

1 August 2022

Ann Mossop has been appointed as the new artistic director of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Mossop, who has been behind a string of events in Sydney, has a long association with the writers’ festival:

Festival Chair Mark Scott said, “Ann Mossop comes to Sydney Writers’ Festival with a career programing cutting-edge public conversations at the Sydney Opera House for the Ideas at the House series, Festival of Dangerous Ideas, All About Women and recently as the Director of the Centre for Ideas at UNSW Sydney. Ann also has a long association with the Festival, sitting on the board from 1995–2000 and was part of the committee that established Sydney Writers’ Festival as an independent entity in 1998.”

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2022 Melbourne Writers Festival program

29 July 2022

The 2022 Melbourne Writers Festival program was unveiled last Tuesday by MWF artistic director Michaela McGuire. Between Thursday 8 September 2022, and Sunday 11 September, over two-hundred-and-fifty storytellers from across the world will gather in Melbourne, Australia, and after several years of COVID imposed lockdowns, this year’s event is aptly themed ambition:

Reading is the ultimate act of ambition; the boundless ambition of the curious mind. Ambition to learn, to inhabit another person’s life and experience the world from their point of view. To grasp the limitless possibilities that literature affords us, the solace it has given, the joy it still has to offer.

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Beat writer’s block and meet deadlines with AI writing apps

28 July 2022

Far from usurping writers of fiction, AI writing programs, such as Sudowrite, could aid authors, particularly those bogged down with writer’s block, and facing looming deadlines, says Josh Dzieza, writing for The Verge:

Lepp, who writes under the pen name Leanne Leeds in the “paranormal cozy mystery” subgenre, allots herself precisely 49 days to write and self-edit a book. This pace, she said, is just on the cusp of being unsustainably slow. She once surveyed her mailing list to ask how long readers would wait between books before abandoning her for another writer. The average was four months. Writer’s block is a luxury she can’t afford, which is why as soon as she heard about an artificial intelligence tool designed to break through it, she started beseeching its developers on Twitter for access to the beta test.

In other words, AI writing programs could act as ghostwriters, of a sort, who are paid — in kind at least — but never acknowledged for their contribution.

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Mal Peet’s Beck, a book finished posthumously by another author

6 July 2022
Beck, by Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff, book cover

When late British author Mal Peet died in March 2015, his final novel, Beck, remained unfinished.

In a phone call Peet made to friend and American born, London based writer, Meg Rosoff, shortly before his death, he expressed a desire to finish writing Beck, but didn’t think he’d be able to. At that point Rosoff offered to step in.

At the time of their conversation, Rosoff knew nothing about the novel, or how much progress Peet had made. But this posthumous collaboration paid off. Beck was well received. In August 2016, the Sunday Times named Beck their Book of the Week, describing it as “powerful, shocking, uplifting, funny and beautifully written.”

But this is not the first time one person’s novel has been finished by another, because of death or incapacitation. Realising illness would prevent him finishing works in The Wheel of Time series of fantasy books, late American author Robert Jordan, prepared extensive notes, allowing Brandon Sanderson to conclude the fifteen book series.

British writer Siobhan Dowd died in 2007, before A Monster Calls, which she was working on at the time of her death, was finished, a task that Patrick Ness took on.

In some cases though the quantity of notes written by a deceased author have been enough for another to create books from scratch. The works of British author J. R. R. Tolkien are a case in point. After Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher wrote a number of Tolkien novels including, The Silmarillion and The Fall of Númenor.

Despite the success some have enjoyed, taking over another author’s part-finished manuscript remains a process fraught with difficulty. How exactly can one writer step into the shoes of another? How do the creative visions of two artistic people align? And perhaps, most crucially, how does one author assume the voice of another?

It was a question Rosoff grappled with, when picking up Beck where Peet left off. But the solution soon came to her: “the answer, I discovered, is not to.” It seems then, if an author is sufficiently in synch with the person whose work they are continuing, a book finished posthumously by another author can do well.

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Being inspired, or not, by the struggle to write novels

2 July 2022

Why I am not a writer, by American author, copywriter, and musician John Mancini.

Joyce spent twenty-nine thousand hours writing Ulysses. Vonnegut spent twenty-three years writing Slaughterhouse Five. Hemingway rewrote The Sun Also Rises fifty times. “Really great fun,” Wodehouse said of his time in a German internment camp.

On one hand it’s reassuring — perhaps for writers starting out — to realise that even the giants of literature struggled to write their best known works. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t.

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Why do writers plagiarise the work of other writers?

29 June 2022

Australian book aficionado Stella Glorie spoke to two thousand plagiarists (cripes, I hope they weren’t all Australian…) and asked why they appropriated the work of others. Here, she presents the top ten reasons, presumably meaning there were who knows how many excuses in total.

What’s the big deal? No one complains every Sunday when my priest plagiarises his sermons from the bible.

This is enlightening research, no?

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A history of Australian literary scandals

29 June 2022

The recent John Hughes plagiarism fracas is but one of numerous scandals in Australian literature, some more audacious than others, writes Melbourne based Australian journalist and author Thuy On.

In 1990, Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan was released, purportedly about the journey of a middle-aged, white American woman and her interactions with a group of Indigenous peoples in Australia. Morgan stated the book was inspired by actual experience, however research in central and Western Australia failed to uncover any evidence of her presence in the area or the existence of the tribe in question.

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2022 ASA/Varuna Ray Koppe Young Writers Residency

29 June 2022

Applications for the 2022 ASA/Varuna Ray Koppe Young Writers Residency are open until Friday 29 July 2022. The residency was established in memory of the late Ray Koppe, by her family. Koppe worked for many years assisting with the administration of the Australian Society of Authors.

Each year, the Australian Society of Authors awards a two-week residential fellowship to a writer under the age of 35 who is as yet unpublished.

Danielle Binks and Hannah Bent, are among past winners.

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2022 Melbourne Writers Festival early line-up announcement

29 June 2022

The program for the 2022 Melbourne Writers Festival — which runs from 8 to 11 September 2022 — will be unveiled on Wednesday 27 July.

In the meantime festival organisers have announced American actor, comedian, and author Jenny Slate, Scottish actor Brian Cox, British Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid, and British musician, and former Pulp front-man Jarvis Cocker, will be part of the show.

These four incredible artists are just the beginning of an extraordinary line-up that we can’t wait to bring to Melbourne audiences this year after the pandemic kept us away for so long.

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The Fall of Númenor, Middle-earth’s Second Age explored

28 June 2022
The Fall of Númenor, edited by Brian Sibley, book cover

The Fall of Númenor (published by HarperCollins on 10 November 2022), edited by English writer Brian Sibley, explores the Second Age of Middle-earth, based on what J.R.R. Tolkien — author of the The Lord of the Rings, which, incidentally, is set in the Third Age — wrote of the era.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien published The Silmarillion after his father’s death that a fuller story could be told. Although much of the book’s content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island of Númenor. Raised out of the Great Sea and gifted to the Men of Middle-earth as a reward for aiding the angelic Valar and the Elves in the defeat and capture of the Dark Lord Morgoth, the kingdom became a seat of influence and wealth; but as the Númenóreans’ power increased, the seed of their downfall would inevitably be sown, culminating in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

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Kathy Lette: impale your enemies on the end of your pen

20 June 2022

Australian born London based author Kathy Lette co-wrote her first book, Puberty Blues, a proto-feminist, coming of age novel in 1979, with Gabrielle Carey.

The book sent shockwaves through Australian society at the time, with, among other things, gritty depictions of adolescent sex. Puberty Blues was adapted to film by Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford in 1981, and later in 2012, made into a TV series.

Lette has authored twelve books since Puberty Blues, and in a recent piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote about the joys of putting pen to paper:

So, wannabe authors, if you have a story to tell, pick up your pen and get scribbling. It’s worth it for the poetic justice alone: impaling enemies on the end of your pen is so satisfying. Best of all, most people only get to have the last word on their epitaph. But writers get to have the final say with every novel: The End.

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Upswell: the author publisher relationship is one of trust

18 June 2022

A statement from Terri-ann White of Upswell, publisher of Australian author John Hughes novel The Dogs, made in the wake of additional allegations of plagiarism by Guardian Australia:

I have published many writers who use collage and bricolage and other approaches to weaving in other voices and materials to their own work. All of them have acknowledged their sources within the book, usually in a listing of precisely where these borrowings come from. I should have pushed John Hughes harder on his lack of the standard mode of book acknowledgements where any credits to other writers (with permissions or otherwise), and the thanks to those nearest and dearest, are held. I regret that now, as you might expect.

I think the sympathy of most people lies with Upswell. As White points out, the relationship between writer and publisher is one of trust. A publisher cannot be expected to check every last sentence in a manuscript to ensure there are no duplications between it and another work. It is the author’s obligation to declare such borrowings, and is something just about all do.

On the other hand, it is also unrealistic to expect works to be completely devoid of references to other titles. For example, I could understand how a sentence — perhaps read in a book years ago — might linger in the mind of a writer to the point they come to think of it as theirs. And while I’m not sure many people would expect to see upwards of sixty instances of such borrowings in a single book, authors referencing each other’s work is, and always has been, intrinsic to writing.

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Be sure to read the small print of writing competitions

14 June 2022

Writing contests are a great way for an emerging writer to get their work in front of a wider audience, possibly take home a modest cash prize, and maybe even pick up a publishing deal.

But carefully reading the terms and conditions each time you submit your work to one is essential, as you may end up signing away far more than you realise, when ticking the “I have read and understood the terms and conditions of entry.”

For example, some competitions place restrictions on your ability to submit your entry to other competitions, some require the first option to publish the entries of the winners and runners-up, and some unscrupulous players may even require you to assign your copyright to them.

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Male authors name their favourite woman writers

1 June 2022

Men don’t seem to read too many books written by women. Why this should be, who knows. But if I were to take a guess at it, I’d say men are more likely to be given recommendations for books authored by men, from their male friends. Then there’s also the point that it may not occur to men to read titles written by women in the first place, which is unfortunate.

Some of my recent reads include novels by Sally Rooney, Sophie Hardcastle, Susanna Clarke, Jane Caro, Holly Wainwright, Katherine Brabon, and Madeleine Watts.

British author and journalist Mary Ann Sieghart, writing for The Guardian, notes “studies show men avoid female authors,” while “women read roughly 50:50 books by male and female authors; for men the ratio is 80:20.”

To redress the imbalance, Sieghart spoke to male writers including Ian McEwan (who I’ve read), Salman Rushdie, Richard Curtis, and Lee Child among others, asking them to name their favourite women authors. There’s some solid reading ideas here.

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Poor financial incentives deter emerging Australian writers

18 May 2022

“Artists in this country are used to living one paycheque away from poverty.” With those words, Evelyn Araluen, winner of this year’s Stella Prize, had everyone’s attention. The proceeds from the literary prize mean Araluen will be able to pay down some debt, and work two jobs instead of three.

But that’s not the reality for many other writers — even those who are published — in Australia, if working two jobs, while still focussing on their art, is meant to constitute reality.

Most writers are forced to take other work, because the rewards for writing all those books we like to read are virtually non-existent. It’s a state of affairs, warns Melbourne based literary agent and author Danielle Binks, that will force young and emerging authors to consider other lines of work all together:

“Kids are already hung up on how much money you can make and whether you can do this for a living … I tell them the reason I write – the reason we all engage in books, art, theatre, anything – is that art changes people and people change the world. But I’m convinced there’s a whole generation of artists, and writers in particular, who will not choose this path.”

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Koenji’s Manuscript Writing Cafe, for writers on deadlines

19 April 2022

If you’re a writer with a deadline you simply cannot afford to miss, then the Manuscript Writing Cafe, in Koenji, a district in the Japanese capital Tokyo, is the place for you. Upon arrival writers inform management of their writing goal for the day, be it a five-thousand word article, a couple of chapters of a novel, or a few blog posts.

Everyone in the cafe is working on a manuscript with an imminent deadline. This unique sense of tension like studying for an exam in a library will really stimulate your creative work!

Every hour a staff member will come along and check on your progress, and gently prod you if necessary. But here’s the thing, you will not be allowed to leave the cafe until you’ve finished what you set out to do. I’m not sure exactly how strictly that dictate is enforced, but not being able to go home might be pretty good motivation to meet your deadline.

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#IndieApril and ways to support writers everywhere

7 April 2022

While there may not be a whole lot of Australian government support for authors in this part of the world, as book readers there are things we can do. Jake Uniacke posted a few #IndieApril suggestions on Twitter, but these are ideas that can be acted upon at anytime of the year.

  • Review their work. Goodreads, Amazon, and Google are good places to start.
  • Share their work. Spread the word on your social media channels, Twitter, Facebook, Booktok, and Bookstagram.
  • Buy their books. Through the author’s website if possible, or an indie bookshop, any bookshop really.
  • Interact with their content. Instagram stories, Twitter polls, and Q&A sessions, are a few suggestions.

Joe Walters, writing for Independent Book Review, also offers a number of suggestions.

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Government support for Australian writers declines

7 April 2022

The Australian federal budget was handed down last week, but there was little in it for writers. Funding for the arts sector is being reduced by almost twenty-percent, with the RISE Fund, which was established to support the sector during the pandemic, scheduled to be phased out.

Unlike the performing arts, which benefit from a dedicated funding stream inside the Australia Council, literature has enjoys very little federal support. In 2020-21, the Australia Council gave out just $4.7 million in grant funding to literature – 2.4% of the total funding pool last year. In contrast, the major performing arts organisations received $120 million.

The funding situation serves to draw attention to just how little writers earn. Sydney based author Charlotte Wood, speaking at a recent parliamentary hearing, set things out in pretty blunt terms:

Wood told a House of Representatives inquiry into Australia’s cultural sector that “writers themselves are in absolutely dire economic difficulty”. She cited figures that literary writers’ annual income from their books was just $4,000 a year.

Four thousand dollars a year? What is anyone meant to conclude from that? Writing is indeed poorly looked upon in Australia.

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