Friday, February 27, 2009

How Many Queries Are Too Many?

Very little work has been done on Strachan's Attic, you'll see. I'm moving into the main theme of the book now, and I need to get it right. I'm writing about the 1940s in some detail, and it needs to be spot on. I'm also reconsidering the use of that first person point of view. I feel strongly that Strachan has to be in your face, as it were, and I'm not sure if I can achieve that in the third person. But there are a lot of clever writers out there, including Melissa, who aren't fond of the current approach. I'll mull over it, ask Prof. Ostrom what he thinks - perhaps he'll write something about it to inspire me.

I've been researching more literary agents, which leads to a question that I should be able to find out myself, but thought one of you could answer immediately. How many submissions are too many at one time? I'm aware of the protocol in advising agents how many other queries are out there, but what's the acceptable maximum, if there is one?

I sent off two more queries in the last 48 hours, which brings the total distributed to twelve, and one of those agents wanted fifty pages, which is amazing; that's the most generous submission requirement I've seen so far. I've had no further rejections since the three I told you about on Monday. I am buzzing with adrenaline now, and want to send off more, but will wait to hear back from you.

They take a long time to compose, by the way, these letters, for those of you who aren't quite at that point yet. I have several synopses of from one paragraph up to three pages, and various styles of letters. But each agent is so different, so there's still customizing involved for them, re-reading, tweaking, before I push that Send button. The thing that occurs to me, each time I rearrange the words describing the book, is just how many aspects of the story there are. If you say this in the prescribed word limitation, perhaps you should have said this, instead. A lot of it comes back to your gut reaction to the agent's profile or blog, and the way their own words resonate with you.

I wish I could swing a deal with one of the people I've come to admire. I've wanted to say corny things in my letter like, "Oh, I so get you!", "I love all of Tom Hanks's movies, too!", "You're a Jobim nut!", "I thought I was the only one left who knew who Blossom Dearie was." Stuff like that. But these queries are meant to be business-like, and there's a fine line between that and slipping in fan mail that sounds gushy, taking into account the genre of the book. Well, that's my conclusion. Perhaps it would be fine with YA. If the rejects pile up, perhaps I'll rethink it.

Have a good, relaxing weekend. Be in love with your work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

That Third Chapter of Strachan's Attic and Hafan Deg's Query Status

The third chapter of Strachan's Attic is in the link above. From now on, I can work quietly away on the MS without feeling the Pressure-Of-The-Blog. All you'll see, if you're quick, is the word counter changing. I got goosebumps yesterday, ending the chapter, and shed a tear. When that happens, I always figure I got it right. Of course, it could mean I'm a really bad writer who gets off on her own sentimental slop. Hope it's not that, but I can't picture John Irving getting teary-eyed over some soppy bit in one of his books, can you? It's definitely a girl thing.

As I have no intention of putting up a Query/Rejection Chart gizmo in the side bar or any place else, I'll just fill you in from time to time. As of last night, I've sent out fourteen queries. Of these, I've had a request for one partial, and received three non-personalized form rejections. There was one bounce-back that will be resubmitted in March. So that means there are nine still-viable queries OUT THERE, all alone in the world, waiting, waiting. This information is not here to be assessed or analyzed; it's a simple record that means nothing. Its only value is in letting you know that the Hafan Deg journey is ongoing.

Strachan's Attic now occupies my mind as I'm washing up or vacuuming, and just before I fall asleep. The original MS was only around 85,000 words, so I have the luxury of adding more to the story than the first time, not as mere filler, but to take the plot in its new direction. The hours of sheer slogging on the work are long over, and now I am in this wonderful relaxed state of pruning AND seeding the draft. (I do seem to have Glorious Spring on my mind, you'll notice.)

As a result of the new work, Hafan Deg is no longer uppermost in my mind, and it's such a relief to stop focusing on that one book. Were it my only book, the rejections would sting a little, but I find I'm looking at them with almost a casual eye. I expect to get a lot more before this exercise is over. Like those nasty but colorful stains on Dr Semmelweis's apron, they are the badges of experience.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Prof. Ostrom Cheers Me Up

Chapter Two is now in the link above for those of you following Strachan's Attic adventures. I should have the third one here by Wednesday.

I came across an amazing blog site on the weekend, written by English Professor, Hans Ostrom, who must be a refreshingly fun lecturer. He posted this poem on literary agents' responses, "The Rhetoric of Rejection", that totally cracks me up, and beneath that is an earlier post about a novel leaving home and coming back again, "A Novel Returns To Live With Its Author." Below are extracts from each, but please go to his blog at Red:A Book to read them in their entirety, and also to find a link to his second blog, devoted purely to poetry. I hope he doesn't mind my extracts here (I did mention I was doing this) but I found them so accurate in describing how I've been feeling recently, and we need to lighten up a bit over the whole query experience. Anyway, I had to share them with you and introduce you to a nice new blog site.

"The Rhetoric of Rejection"

Forgive this form-response its sins,
but due to the volume of queries we
quaff, our belched rebuffs must be
uniform. . . . Loved the writing, but
I'm afraid this isn't quite right for us;
indeed, it is quasi-wrong. . . . I can't
imagine anything interesting about
this topic. Indeed, I can't imagine.
. . . . Thank you for sending
us the complete manuscript
we requested; it looked quite promising
a decade ago when we received it, and
we do apologize for the delay, but
we're afraid it (the manuscript, not
the decade or the delay), is not quite
right for us . . . .Your first idea is too
old-fashioned, and your second is too
unusual, and at our agency, the center
is what holds. . . . We can't help you. . . .
Due to the volume, the market, the
predictions of Nostradamus, our
location in Manhattan, London,
Toronto, and Los Angeles, your
being unimportant, our being well
positioned, there being many famous
writers we can cash in on..............."
(See the blog for the rest.)

"A Novel Returns To Live With Its Author."

"In manuscript form, a novel decided to leave its author, see a bit of the world, and attempt to get published. Life out there, the novel discovered, is rough.

To the novel, it seemed like everyone it met wanted it to be not what it was. Longer. Shorter. This story--not that story. Move this there. No, keep it here. Add. Subtract. Faster. Slower. The language is too literary. Not literary enough. More. Less. Don't start here, for heaven's sake. Start there. No, don't start there. Start here. Your characters, novel, are wooden. Your characters are steel. They are real. They feel. I feel nothing for these characters, novel. I couldn't stop reading you, novel. I stopped reading you, in disgust. You're dumb. I hate you. That would never happen. Can they do that?

These are some of the things the novel heard said about and to it.

"I've been to that town," someone told the novel, "and it's not like that there." (The novel had invented the town; the town was a piece of fiction.)

"Less persuasion," said someone, of and to the novel. The person was the most rigid, maniacally opinion person the novel had met so far in its sojourns. The person would not brook disagreement.

"I couldn't finish you," someone else said to the novel. "You bore me." The novel barely heard this because the person was, well, boring.

"I couldn't stop reading you," someone else said, "and I wish this sort of thing were selling, but it's not."

Someone else lectured the novel: "You don't know what you're talking about."

So the novel came back to live with the author for a while."
(See the blog for the rest.)

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this writing. It makes me feel better knowing that Prof. Ostrom is out there saying what we think, when we've been unable to truly express it ourselves. It's nice knowing we aren't alone in our grumpiness (I thought misery was too strong a word...).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chapter One - Strachan's Attic

As more or less promised, the first chapter of Strachan's Attic is in the link just above this post.

It's such a different book to Hafan Deg, that it's a breath of fresh air for me, dealing with a younger protagonist, and the Canadian perspective - the story is partly set in Toronto. North Wales seems far away, and that's helpful, because I needed to let go of Hafan Deg, to let it set sail unhindered for distant agenting shores, so to speak.

I hope you enjoy the chapter from Strachan's Attic. I really would like to hear back from you about it. If you haven't read the brief description, the jacket-style blurb, please see the link above. It's a supernatural tale, but not of the Stephen King variety. It's really more of a love story. Sorry if you expected to be frightened half to death...

How are you feeling about the first person, present tense? A lot of agents don't care for it, will even stipulate not to query them, believing, I guess, that it's going to be just too autobiographical, which most first novels are, after all. However, I am nothing like my Strachan (pronounced 'Strawn', remember?) character. Unless she's my rebellious alter-ego, I have never lived her life, or experienced her kind of world.

No further rejections so far on the query exercise. I tried three times to send off that synopses plus ten pages (double-spaced 12 pt) that some agent required, and had no luck. In the end, I emailed just the briefest of pitches, easily enclosed on one page, and it still bounced back. The problem is with them, not me, I'm sure.

See you on Monday, perhaps with two more chapters. Don't you wish you could write this fast? But I told you, as the book is finished, this involves mainly construction, not completely new words, although some re-writing is bound to take place. I get carried away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sending Out Those Queries

You should all know by now that I've been querying agents for Hafan Deg. Already I've discovered some pitfalls. I don't know if it's a problem with my computer, or what.

Some agents are happy to have a one-page query with a short pitch. This is easy, although you long to include more. Others want extracts included. One page is easy, but ten pages? I tried to do this for one agent who wanted a full synopsis plus ten pages. By the way, the stipulation with ALL agents is that these extras are included in the body of the email, never as an attachment. Well, wouldn't you know it? That one time I tried this with all the extra pages, it bounced back with some technical reference that the email was too long. That can't be right, can it? I will persevere, of course. I hate giving up on anything that's half-tried.

Another odd thing happened. One agent, according to the comments on Query Tracker, is noted for having a full mailbox. I checked the website, and it clearly said it was accepting submissions, so off went my query. It bounced back with "Mailbox Full". Oh, well, I thought, I'll try again later. The very next morning I received a form rejection from them. So they HAD received it. How strange is that?

Needless to say, this was my first rejection. As all that agency saw was my brief "pitch", I'm not concerned; it's foolhardy to expect to knock the socks off everyone who sees it. No doubt this will become a regular thing.

I find it intriguing that my Geo-tracking-whatsit indicates a bunch of New York sites looking at my blog. Most of my queries have gone to New York. Is it possible? Could it be? Are some of them checking me out?

I'm not only using Query Tracker, by the way, although I must say it's a very convenient site. I've googled, checked book acknowledgements, and read lots of blogs. I've become so fond of some of those blogging agents, however, that I'm shy about approaching them now. I mean I've made comments there! Will they see my query and think that was the only reason I commented - just to get my name in front of them? So I haven't queried one of them yet. Me and my big mouth...

Basically, I don't mind this work. It IS work, though. I'd much rather be working on Strachan's Attic.

Oh, has anyone taken a look at the summary of that yet? I wondered if it had grabbed you in any way. I'd like to hear from you if it did, one way or the other.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Strachan's Attic - New/Old Revision Work

You'll see that I've now included Strachan's Attic on this site. I didn't have to change the layout as I'd thought, but simply included the new title in my Preface to the Blog and in the header, along with a link to a short description of the book, just above this posting.

I'm hoping to have the first chapter up here by the end of the week. Strachan's Attic is a working title and could change, by the way.

This is the first paragraph, as I originally wrote it:

'I first noticed the light in August, last year. It was just a dim light in the attic, but I could see into the room, through the pretty maple tree outside, and make out a cupboard on the far wall and some sort of patterned wallpaper, despite so much grime on the little window. I'd been in this apartment at Jarvis and Wellesley for just over a month, and had finally finished unpacking all my boxes. Of course, I'd noticed the house opposite right from the beginning, when I came to check this place out before I signed the lease, and I was impressed then. It's a fine old building, early Victorian, Queen Anne style, three storeys with the attic. It's empty, did I say? The ground floor windows are boarded up, and there's a 'Keep Out' sign nailed to the front door. It's a shame, because it's a charming house and I feel sorry for it, so neglected and sad, with bits of crud lying around in the overgrown front garden. Anyway, my bedroom looks straight across to it and I am exactly level with that attic window. And I've seen this light more than once now - and it intrigues me.'

This is in the first person because my protagonist has a very direct and occasionally earthy style, and I wanted to reflect this. It just didn't work in third person.

If you read an earlier blog of mine, you'll know I am more than a little obsessed with houses, especially old ones. Both my novels feature derelict houses, but the stories are totally different.

Nothing else today. I just wanted to show you that something else is happening, other than just playing the Literary Agent waiting game with Hafan Deg.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The New Old Manuscript

I've started working on my new book. This presents something of a dilemma for me, because this blog has been dedicated to Hafan Deg.

This weekend I am going to redesign this site, to take into account this next work-in-progress. In fact, it's not so new. This is the book that did the rounds some time ago, submitted by my then agent to some of the best New York publishing houses. My agent had cajoled me into re-writing it, and my heart wasn't really in that final manuscript. Needless to say - or I wouldn't be talking about it now - the book wasn't sold. I am going to reconstruct it as it was in its original form.

I'll do the same thing as I've done for Hafan Deg on this blog page - that is, put up the briefest of introductions, and the first three chapters as I'm satisfied with them. This work won't take a huge amount of time, as the book is complete. But that major deconstruct is vital; that's where the work is now.

On Monday, if it all goes well with the messing-about-with-the-page, I'll introduce you to the new work - the old work - whatever.

Check out my art blog today for a fun link. I don't usually advertise here, but it's worth a look.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Writer's Introspective and Unsociable Moods.

Recently I blogged about the fear of publishing, with all the incumbent stresses that could come with doing it too well. I found an interesting article at the National Post about a writer who desperately went after publication for her book - something of a family expose - and then regretted it when it was published; she preferred that no one read it, after all. This is such an odd story, with the old warning, "be careful what you wish for" firmly attached. The article link is here.


I'm still in deep introspection mode. No matter how hard I try to get back to 'real' life, I find myself dwelling on future writing objectives. I probably need a good night out with the girls, or a nice lunch in town, but it's an effort to socialize, to reach out to anyone. A friend up the street was so chatty and warm the other day, but all I could think about was getting back to my work. How boring we writers become! I've noticed a few of you out there voicing much the same thing. I'm hoping my mood is simply exacerbated by the weather and that, as the first days of Glorious Spring arrive, I'll bounce back to my un-writerly self for a bit. I do have another side, really! It's just that it got buried the last few months.

My favorite thing to do, on a nice sunny morning, is wander up to our local charity shop. I love that shop. I get to buy books, unusual things for the house, even nice clothing - and all for a song. It's not that I can't afford new, but getting a bargain, knowing that I'm recycling, is such a pleasure. I have never been a true shopaholic (well, perhaps for a couple of years in the 80s when everyone was doing it) but I could become one at charity shops. There are so many interesting things for sale.

That last paragraph was an attempt to come back to earth. I hope you recognized that. It certainly had nothing to do with writing - and that was the point.

Is it the weather, guys? Or is it just me?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Creative Urge

I've worked so hard on Hafan Deg these past weeks, as you know, and, with the submission stage underway, this is now a waiting time. I have many more queries to process, but I'm staggering them over the coming weeks, or it will just get out of hand.

I've always had a lot of patience. Life has always been spelled out in three-to-five-year plans for me, not deliberately, but that's the way each project came out. I've travelled to other countries to live, and that required patience in accruing enough cash to do it. I've renovated houses on a limited budget, knowing it would be a few years before the work was finished. I've held jobs I didn't care for, because I had a goal at the end of it. By the end of each stage, just as in pregnancy, I start to get a bit antsy - am I ever going to get this show on the road?

Well, this manuscript was the same. I wrote it some years ago, re-wrote it, edited and edited and edited, reduced the word count, and with the query process underway, I can, with my usual patience, put it to one side and wait things out. Although, in a way, the show is already on the road - a long, long winding road...

Which means I need to start another book.

I've several ideas, but it's the one that keeps popping up while I'm washing up, or vacuuming, or whatever, that I'm listening to most carefully; all my best writing is done during these activities - NOT at the keyboard. I've written whole chapters in my head at parties, where nothing much was happening. I write during a movie; when other people in the room are following the action on TV, I'm creating my own in my mind. This is the only way I can write. The sitting down to type is satisfying, of course, seeing it take shape on the screen, but it's not the only point of creativity. I think a lot of you know what I mean.

So today is a reflective, bemused sort of day. Something's coming...

My postings here could get a trifle mystical for the next little while, because the writing daemon's in residence. Oh, and my house is going to be the cleanest it's been in a while.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Publishing On-Line and Vanity Press, and New Writers' Forum

During my research, I've come across many articles, ads, blogs, and websites that talk about the alternative to dealing with agents and/or publishers.

So many frustrated writers out there, weary from rejection, tired of the hype, the rules of submission, and on and on, decide to do it for themselves, like good sisters (and brothers) do. So, publish yourself and not have to deal with all that submission stuff, right? Hence: vanity. You want to see your name on a book jacket. NOW!

If any of you are even vaguely considering this relatively-easy plan for delivering your beautiful, clever words into the hands of your adoring public, think on.

Vanity press companies have always been here; some very well known writers from days of old used them. You write a brilliant book and you know it's word perfect, so why waste time waiting for one of those difficult, remote publishing people to recognize its marketing potential?

Are you really sure your book is so brilliant? Is it really ready? Oh, your Mom and best friend said it was? Your on-line writers' site said it was?

Look, writing rejection can be unfair, we all know that, but we also must accept that - in most cases - it separates the excellent from the mediocre (although trash does get through). Go browse any writing site and you'll immediately see the disparities.

On those sites, poor punctuation, spelling and grammar abound. Some writers even explain that the MS "still needs work". In that case, why is it there? Add weak story line, bad dialogue, unconvincing characters and you have an unpublishable book. No agent would touch it.

Agents Know what they're doing. If they were unnecessary, the profession wouldn't exist. Publishers trust them to offer only the best.

But why is it that even the very best writers get rejected, possibly through no fault of their own, but from some wicked circumstance that meant the MS was never seen by the right reader? (Well, that's what they tell themselves.) But, even for them, each time it happens, even without comments on the rejection slip, the good writer will take yet another look at the book. Perhaps there's still something not quite right here, after all, and they do some more polishing.

I could run up to Staples now and have them whip something up for me. I could flog it door-to-door, advertise it on eBay, put a big ad on my blog. But what would that do for my writing? Sure, I'd perhaps get feedback, but considering my belief in the brilliance of my book, I'd ignore bad reviews. I could be picked up by some hot agent who recognized its real potential as a hard cover best seller. Do you really think that's likely? I know you've read stories about self-published authors hitting the big-time. How many?

So, if you believe it's just been dumb luck that no one has picked up your manuscript, start researching print-on-demand or other self-publishing options right away. Oh, and you will need your check book.

I want to be published, not simply printed. I will never pay someone to produce my book; they will pay me. If you believe in your work - and you MUST believe in your work - it will happen exactly this way.



On a less cranky note, Emily Cross has started a writers' forum. We are all at different stages of our writing process, and blog postings can be hit-or-miss with your particular issue. This is a chance for you to talk about things that are important to you at this precise moment in your writing journey. The forum will handle all those questions as they present themselves to you. Here's the link:

http://thewriterschronicle.forumotion.net/forum.htm


See you there!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Literary Agents - Boadicea is Back


I feel so much better today, all ready for battle and holding back an ocean or two with my spear. Or was that Canute?



I spent over an hour this morning tweaking even more query letters. The list of literary agents is long, but I'm gradually working through it, making my notes, giving each a kind of one to ten grading. There's such a mystique about agents. They are so remote from you as you sit at your computer, despite their internet proximity.

When you find a nice one, from reading their blog or a comment by a writer, you want so much to just pick up the phone and chat, because they seem so approachable. I'd start off with, "You must get so many emails, so I thought I'd just call you to make things easier. Perhaps we could grab a coffee and I could show you my..."

- Of course, no chance of that, but it would be nice.

Anyway, from my rating system so far, here's a bit of a summary, in no particular order of relevance:

They are all a bit bossy - the writer must do this, and mustn't do that, redolent of school. I hated school - except for Art, English, and History.

They can be so dogmatic about their realms of interest or preferred genres, usually with some form of qualifier, so that you come away from that bit of research wondering where on earth your work fits in.

They all seem to have different submission requirements. Couldn't this be standardized throughout the industry, in some way? Why are they not expected to conform to norms?

Some are sweet, others are surly, judging by their blog tone; some seem to enjoy their reputation for prickliness.

Some are famous for responding speedily, and there are more with the 'I'll-probably-never-get-back-to-you-because-my-daily-inbox-is-SO-HUGE' attitude. How would that play for us mere mortals at our jobs?

They have funny blogs, terribly serious blogs, and downright impatient, unkind blogs.

They are revered everywhere and probably get good restaurant tables.

They have posh offices and crappy ones.

They can be gushingly-friendly, or overly-formal.

They all appear to enjoy a wonderful kind of love/hate relationship with one another.

There are rather a lot of women agents; I wondered at the significance of that.

Finally, writers hang onto their every word, and lose sight of the fact that the agent is there to provide them with a service.

It's unscientific, this little research of mine. But I have come away from it with names of people (all women) to whom I think I can trust my work. Dare I say, my heart?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Avoidance and Submission

I stole this from Jenaveve at August Street, who stole it from Hokey, who probably stole it from... oh, look - you could steal it too.


I don't usually blog on Tuesdays. I'm meant to be working on my agent submissions. So this morning I spent a couple of hours on my art blog, another couple researching for future art postings, and messed around with three of four long emails. I moved a cat bed to the top of the desk where Baby can look out of the window, made sure she was comfortable, and then I watched a bit of CNN and the BBC. In all, I've successfully dilly-dallied (like that one, Lapillus?) away five hours, because I started at 8:oo am.

So I want to talk a bit about avoidance.

I'm a very spontaneous person and not always particularly responsible. When I get the urge to go for something, I throw myself into it fully, bravely, and - yes - obsessively, if the idea is a passion. I should be at a stage in my life where I am settled, but at any moment - when the whim strikes - I could be off phoning shipping companies again, preparing to take off for another country. So one must conclude that I am adventurous and a risk-taker.

But this novel thing, this submission process, is a puzzle. Here it is, at last, the chance to go forward with the manuscript, and I hesitate; I rarely hesitate about anything.

I believe it's a mixture of fears. Here are the two obvious ones:

1) I could fail; after years of thinking of myself as a relatively good writer, I could be horribly misguided, on the wrong track. This would be somewhat of a tragedy. I've thought of myself as a writer since I was six.

2) I could succeed, finding fame and glory; this would be terrible for me because I would hate to live in the limelight. In fact, I can't think of anything worse than to be scrutinized by the media or the public. I enjoy anonymity (blogging is a safe way to connect with people without falling under their direct gaze). I so get what happened to J.D. Salinger.

In my perfect world, I would publish my book, never have to go on the road to market it, never have to give an interview, but receive thousands of letters from loving readers who can't wait for the next one. No one would recognize me at the store, but I would earn enough from royalties to own homes in three countries. You know where.

Not selling the book guarantees anonymity, right? (Huge sigh) Do we quiet little writers, who enjoy being locked away in our rooms creating our characters, who avoid social gatherings except to observe with our writer's eye, want to be out there? And the very word, 'submission', means surrender, doesn't it?

I wonder how you feel about it all. Perhaps you can re-motivate me... I would like to feel brave again in the morning.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pernickety, Humorless, and Stony-faced

For those of you who were thinking of entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2009, just a reminder that today is the day. You have from now until next Monday 9th to submit. The link is under Contests in the left side bar.


During the cutting of Hafan Deg, I really felt like I was spring-cleaning. You know how it feels when you clean out cupboards - you don't much like doing it but it's satisfying when you've finished? - well, that was the feeling. It didn't involve the daemon's hot-breath flow writing; it was impersonal, cold-blooded analysis. The bit of the brain that was responsible for the bulk of the work seemed to take a little nap, just checking in now and then. It sort of stirred for a moment, took a look, said, "Guess that's all right," and went back to sleep while I worked on the next chunk.

I wore a different hat - a pragmatic, hawk-eyed editor's hat - during the demolition stage. Oh, I'm sorry - I keep using negative words to describe this last couple of weeks' work. I can't help it. It still hurts, even as I grudgingly admit that it was necessary for a first novel. As the editor, and not the writer, I was less fun. Even my cats noticed. I was all pernickety, humorless, stony-faced and frowning as I worked. When I'm writing, I often chuckle out loud, because I'm normally a light-hearted old broad. Ask anyone. I don't like that other me much. This week I have to don my Marketing Maven outfit because I'm starting the Query Process. She smiles a lot, that one, not necessarily involving the eyes. I don't care for her much, either.

After all this work, it especially hurts when you pick up a book by some famous writer who's been around for years, who turns out literary tomes that you could use as a door stop - not that I would, of course - well...perhaps once. He is established, revered, and now gets to write whatever he wants, waffling on - yes, waffling! - throwing in adverbs and adjectives and dialogue as if paper grew on trees. And the jacket blurb marvels at the brilliance of his prose, with never a word about being over-written or a trifle long.

So, of late, full of sour grapes, I've become acutely aware of this inequity. I am awed by the thickness of the particular book I'm reading - over 600 pages, filled with many, many words. What freedom! What licence!

Oh, to be wordily-established...