Tuesday, 16 March 2010

On being stupid - Anne Rooney


OK, I posted my blog post on Sunday when I should have posted it today. This was pretty stupid as it means there will be no post today - except this one!

Being stupid is no barrier to success as a writer (luckily), as long as you are stupid in the right ways. So I thought I'd share some of the ways in which I am stupid that don't seem to have a detrimental effect on my career.


1. Counting double-page spreads. Now, this should be really easy. The number of working double-page spreads in a picture book or illustrated non-fiction book is simple to calculate if you know the page extent (usually 32 or 48pp) and what will go in the prelims/end matter. I have an 'A' level in maths - why am I perenially incapable of sending the right number of spreads? There's always one too many or one too few. My editors are very patient, so this hasn't done me any harm so far. I think it's a bit like not being able to tell left from right - it should be really easy, there are only two. But I just have a mental block about it (except when it relates to double-page spreads.... how strange - verso and recto are really easy to tell apart).

2. Leaving things until the very last minute. I know how long it takes to write a book, I know when the deadline is, I know I never miss deadlines - so why can't I ever start writing early enough to finish without a last-minute panic?

3. Being completely incapable of writing an outline (fiction) in advance of writing the book. If a publisher insists on an outline, I write the book first and then extract an outline. Then I pretend I haven't written the book and sit on it for months. (I do edit it a bit in that time :-) Once, I wrote the book, extracted the outline and the book was rejected because it was too similar to something else in the series. I had to write another book and do another outline...

4. Being too honest. As in 'Can you suggest some cover images for your book on XXX?' 'No, I know f*** all about XXX.' Or 'Can you write this series for me?' 'Yes, but it will be a bit late. My life is in ruins.' 'Your life is in ruins? Is there something I missed?' [For some reason, neither editor took the books away from me, so I am assuming this is not career-wrecking stupidity even though I would have assumed it should be.]

5. Being too informal. As in ''ere - have you read that story yet?' which is not the approved method of following up a submission.

6. Making stupidly bad decisions. As in, I have no time, no powers of concentration, too many other things to do, and am struggling to write anything - so why have I just agreed to do something insanely hard in a short space of time for practically no money? Because I can't turn down a challenge...

And, of course, there is having to write a second blog post when I have no time, no powers of concentration, bla bla...

Ways in which writers should not be stupid are many and varied and most have been treated at length in other places, particularly by my fellow stroppy/crabbit colleague Nicola Morgan at Help! I need a publisher. So if you are thinking of becoming stupid, take care picking the areas of stupidity you wish to explore.

3 comments:

hilary said...

I'm glad it's not just me!

kathryn evans said...

Laughing, laughing, clearly I HAVE chosen the correct career path.....

Gillian Philip said...

LOL, and me too - especially number 2 and number 6!