Stuff lands on my desk. Sometimes I can’t bear even to look at it. Being ever mindful of how much work it takes to write a book – okay, it’s not like ploughing a field but it does require a certain amount of effort and application – I don’t want to be the one to turn on the cold shower. I hope someone else will do the dirty deed for me.
It’s not that I’m a completely ungenerous person, though one writer, of toe-curlingly bad fiction, did suggest as much when I declined to recommend her to my agent. It’s just that… well, where shall I begin? I am astounded at how little groundwork people put in before they unveil their darling. For instance, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that fifty pages do not a novel make. Nor even a novella. More a pamphlet, really. And it’s probably not a good idea to submit your manuscript bound in a jacket of your own design. It smacks of presumption. Ha ha, so you think we might actually publish this crock?
There are lots of things I might say about writing style and I do accept that there ‘s no accounting for taste, but something I’m rather alert to at the moment is the peril of trying to write in Olde Englishe. My first foray into historical fiction is set in the late 18th, early 19th century so I’ve had plenty of fine contemporary writers to study. Nevertheless I’ve proceeded with the utmost caution. Avoid anachronisms, yes. Freight a story with a load of clunking period indicators, uh-oh. And the further back you go in history the tougher all this gets. The less we know about an era the greater the temptation to cover our ignorance with an arras. Richly woven, natch.
In the self-published 16th century story I have before me there are way too many oaken doors creaking open and quills being dipped and… fingered. Yes folks, it’s a gay romp. Not only that. Sir Francis Walsingham is described as a fat-ass. Which prompted me to wonder if I was misreading the author’s intention. Could it actually be a parody? If only. So can I give any guidance or advice to this writer? No. I already have several full-time jobs, thank you very much. Well can I at least avert this trainwreck before it goes public and people pay good money for it ? Nope. I imagine it will be available on Kindle any day now. Egad. And ‘zounds
Also, have you ever noticed, the only place you find saucy wenches is in bad novels?
And now I’ll hush up for a few days. I’m going to England for our Connie’s first birthday.