Introduction Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four
The second of four of eight professional writer modules that will be published here on a weekly basis. Between them the entire workshop should only take 90 minutes to read and, hopefully, to understand. Please feel free to post, repost, tweet, facebook or use any other anti-social media network you belong to and spread the word. Albert Jack – December 2013
Chapter 2 – Universal Thinking – How to form and develop ideas.
To begin with it is a good time to remind ourselves that professional writers always have at least four or five ideas for new books developing at any one time. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction writers and should be true of every feature article writer or journalist too. Although it can be distracting, especially for novel writers, it is also worth remembering that in many cases two ideas could be developed into one, strong storyline. Two or even three non-fiction books could come together as one good book and often do, if the writer can find a way of connecting the subjects. So to be thinking about, or even researching, a handful of subjects at any one time does not necessarily have to be confusing and, instead, this discipline often improves an idea. Think of this as development.
So, how to come up with strong saleable ideas? The first thing to understand is that you do not need to be an expert in a subject that you feel would be a saleable book with universal appeal. The most important thing is that you have a strong saleable idea with universal appeal; it doesn’t matter what your experience is but, and I promise you this, you will be something of an expert by the time you have finished and that is all that matters. Teaching yourself about a subject is not difficult, it is called research. What you don’t know you go and find out from others. Now, free from the limitation of personal experience we are ready to start looking at the wider picture for strong subject matter, which is anything at all that is already selling.
Obviously a writer can and should begin with their own personal experiences, what interests them and what they have a knowledge of, but that is not preventing you from other ideas, if there is a market for it. And the best way to do that is to be aware of what you want to achieve and are constantly considering the world around you and what the majority of people are taking an interest in, even if that doesn’t particularly interest you, for now. I call it ‘tuning in’ or ‘having your radar on.’ For example, television is a good place to start.
In the past the successful writers have learnt their craft from life itself, by observing the world in which they exist, listening to debate and reading books and newspapers. Over recent years there has been a change in this and the most successful writers, especially the younger ones, are learning their trade from modern media, specifically television and even the internet. Television is an especially good place to learn the craft of dialogue and story lines for fiction writers but will also provide non-fiction writers with ideas, facts.
For example, I was watching a documentary about a Romanian Prince called Wallachia (1431-1476) who made quite an impression during the 15th century. Vlad the Impaler, as he was known at the time, had the nasty habit of impaling rivals on spiked wooden poles and planting them in the ground as a warning to others. Tens of thousands suffered this fate. In his own country Vlad the Impaler was also known as ‘The Son of the Devil,’ and the Romanian word for ‘devil,’ is ‘dracul.’
Now, straight away I could see that if Bram Stoker based the great novel Dracula on a Romanian Prince called Wallachia and, that there is a true story to be told, then how many of literature’s other great figures were also based upon the lives of others, and what was their story? Scrooge, for example. Who was the old miser Charles Dickens met and was he well known in his day? Wouldn’t it be great to discover had Dickens modelled Scrooge entirely upon somebody famous, a historic figure, Cecil Rhodes, for example.
I realise that is unlikely, but can you see my point here? What if Mary Poppins was a real person or Harry Potter was inspired by someone who is now famous in their own right, although unknown when Harry Potter was first written. Wouldn’t Harry Potter fans like to know about him? (that particular example would be one for the book jacket and press release). Another good example comes, again, from Charles Dickens. How many people realise that one of his most famous and enduring characters, David Copperfield, was himself. It was an autobiography (virtually).
Now, I am not suggesting, that at first glance this is a strong idea for a book about the origins of literary characters, but if the examples that can be uncovered are good stories, then the idea will become stronger. And, for the fiction writers, how many of the other great characters from history have not yet inspired a novel? Has the extraordinary story of Genghis Khan been fictionalised yet or Joan of Arc? And when I say fictionalised, what I mean is you only need the actual story. A writer can change names, dates, countries and anything else if they wish. But it is still a good story. William Shakespeare did this all the time.
Yesterday I was reading about the Mayan Prophecy that is predicting the end of the world, again, in (at the time of editing this) 17 days. I actually know some people who have packed their bags and travelled to South America for the spectacle. I am still laughing that they bought return tickets. ‘A return ticket to the end of the word please.’ (That could be a book title) And then I stared thinking about all the other prophecies throughout history and how they damaged the lives of those involved. The Jones Town Massacre, The Branch Davidian in Waco, the Middle Ages and even the old African tribal leader who claimed that God had told his tribe, during the mid 1800’s, that if they killed all of their livestock and burned their crops then the white man would be driven into the sea and leave them all in peace. The outcome of this prophecy? 60,000 people staved to death. This could easily be the subject of a non fiction book called ‘Beware False Prophets.’ Now, I am not claiming it is but it is certainly worth looking into and is the perfect example of how modern media, in this case the news, can inspire book ideas
Good strong book ideas can come from anywhere and if a writer has their radar switched on, ears, eyes and mind open. Television, magazines and radio. What are the popular subjects, what are the masses tuning into? Is there either a non-fiction book or novel to be written about the universal phenomenon of X Factor and a generation’s thirst for instant fame, perhaps called Pop Tarts. And that provides a neat link into another technique for forming ideas. The entertainment business, that we are either in or trying to join, is cyclical. Very little is new. X Factor has been done before. During the 1970s there was a massively successful Saturday evening television programme called New Faces.
Completely unknown entertainers would do their best to get themselves onto this prime time TV show and those who did often became very successful. Lenny Henry and Jim Davidson are two good examples of this. Although there was a difference in that New Faces only recorded the very best of the talent that was applying, nobody ever saw the failures and rejections, which appears to be the focus of its modern day offspring. So whilst X Factor is almost an exact replica of New Faces, they do it slightly differently. But the idea is the same. New Faces had a rival show called Opportunity Knocks that relied on the votes of the television audience. Does this sound familiar? And preceding television talent shows were a regular feature of the theatres.
In the book world, many suggest the Harry Potter stories resemble The Chronicles of Narnia that was first published during the 1950s and others claim that J.M. Coetzee’s novel Disgrace is simply a rewrite of Lolita, also from the 1950s. You can find a subject for your own novel by checking the bestseller lists from thirty or forty years ago. Could The Invisible Man make a comeback or is there a new generation waiting for Happy Days and The Fonze or, at least, a modern day equivalent. How about The Six Billion Dollar Man or a novel that has a killer shark as the central theme? Only last week I was remembering a cult film of the 1970s called Rollerball and wondering if something like that may re-appear in some form or another. Then, a few days later, I noticed an internet message encouraging Londoners to form their own ‘Rollerball team’ and ‘join our league.’ Perhaps these are not the best examples but it does encourage a writer to look to the past for inspiration and ‘new’ ideas.
Going back through history is a good way to develop new ideas. To be a writer one has to be a reader or, in modern times, a television viewer or film fan. Films and books about pirates in the Caribbean have been done time and time again although none as successful as the most recent re-write, Pirates of the Caribbean. For the observant writer there are ideas all around us all of the time. The trick is to tune into them and not to limit your options to areas of your own expertise. Magazine shelves provide very good market research for writers because that is a tough business and magazines are soon withdrawn if they are not selling. See for yourself what is selling and which subjects have the most choice available. Health & Fitness, Gardening, Cookery, Travel and Mother & Baby are all subjects with a huge international audience. There are many more. On the other hand stamp collecting, steam trains and ballooning do not have a big market, and there are also many more like that.
Would a book about the fifty best African game reserves do well in America? A quick investigation of Amazon, Borders or Barnes and Noble websites (the biggest US book store chains) will reveal if there already is one and how it is selling. But there is another technique to developing your wonderful, mass market appeal book idea. That is to remember who you are writing for. For example, there is probably a microwave oven in every house in the western world, meaning there are a large numbers of people who have gone out and bought one. But I doubt they even read the instruction book and will never buy a book on the subject of microwaves.
The point being, just because a person is familiar with a subject and that it is part of their lives, doesn’t mean they buy books about it. The same is true of DVD players, TVs and cell phones but not the case when it comes to camera buyers. There have been some very successful books about cameras in the past and this is because photography is a hobby, using a microwave isn’t. Everybody buys cars and Top Gear is watched by three hundred and fifty million people worldwide but do people buy books about cars. The answer is no, unless it is written by one of the Top Gear presenters. Having an open mind and looking for a big audience is all very well, but identifying the buying habits of the audience is equally important. This is easy to do by browsing Amazon for similar books and checking the Amazon Bestseller Rank which appears on every page. Any book inside the top 100,000 is doing very well and anything in the top 10,000 is selling consistently well. Have a look at the current top one hundred.
Other ideas could come from a writer’s own experiences, either past or present. Were you particularly active in the Boy Scouts and is there a children’s adventure story there? Or, for a non-fiction book, an experience could lead to a travel book. Something like The Fifty Best Cities in the World to Visit. The travel industry is probably one of the biggest in the world and the subject would be familiar to everybody. Even if they have never been there everybody has heard of New York, Cape Town, Moscow and Rome. Then find a new way to write about it. Bill Bryson used humour and sold millions of copies. How about 1500 words on each of the fifty funniest cities in the world? Or most artistic cities, who do we know who was born there or lived there etc? It’s just an idea that needs further thought, development and work, but it is an idea and this is what we are looking for at this stage. Find a unique angle and imagine what a great gift book it could be for anybody in the world to dip into and enjoy, including the people who live in the towns covered. Or perhaps the fifty worst cities? That could be made to be very funny.
At this stage of forming an idea a writer will start doing a little research by visiting a library or book shop and checking the competition. An online check will reveal similar books from previous years that are no longer on the shelves and this act alone can throw up all sorts of new ideas. Re-writing a successful book from the 1970s can prove to be very lucrative. I did it myself with Red Herrings and White Elephants. The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms was first published in 1986 but it is neither funny nor illustrated. Red Herrings is both and has sold over 250,000 copies so far. Penguin Books, by the way, were far from irritated; instead they offered me a contract to write the follow up. Ideas for a good book are everywhere you look, if you are looking properly. A quick internet check reveals the following list compiled by the Sunday Telegraph of the one hundred books that defined the last decade.
I have taken out the sportsmen, politicians, shabby celebrities and mad royal butlers as they serve no purpose at all. Left are all the good ideas that sold well, including biographies of Samuel Pepys and Winston Churchill, that have been done many times before, an old Victorian murder that was re-visited and re-told (now that was a good idea) and the true memoirs of a call girl. Another great idea, as it is a lifestyle few of us encounter and is usually kept very quite. Do you have a lifestyle few people encounter, a big secret that would interest the masses? Study this list and then check the bestseller lists for the 1970s and 1980s looking for ideas and then read the outlines and reviews of the books on the publisher’s website. There will be dozens of great ideas there that can be revisited.
99 Letters of Ted Hughes – ed by Christopher Reid
Faber & Faber, 2007 £12.99
Mesmerising account of Hughes, from hedgehogs to the zodiac, via Plath and Eliot.
98 Persepolis: the Story of an Iranian Childhood – by Marjane Satrapi
Jonathan Cape, 2003 £11.99
Graphic novel about a young woman who copes with Iranian life by listening to punk.
97 Sleepyhead – by Mark Billingham
Little, Brown, 2001 £6.99
DI Tom Thorne’s first outing, in which a serial killer puts his victims into a coma.
96 The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl – by Belle de Jour
Phoenix, 2005 £7.99
Revelations of a high-class hooker. Started as a blog; rumoured to be concocted by a middle-aged male journalist.
95 A Short History of Nearly Everything – by Bill Bryson
Black Swan, 2003 £9.99
Travel writer explains Big Bang, black holes and time.
94 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – by Kate Summerscale
Bloomsbury, 2008 £7.99
Victorian child murder history that could be sensationalist, but isn’t. Won Samuel Johnson prize.
93 Cloud Atlas – by David Mitchell
Hodder, 2004 £7.99
Clones, apocalypses, gay musicians, nuclear power plants and vanity publishers make up the plot of this brilliant postmodern novel.
92 Bad Blood – by Lorna Sage
Fourth Estate, 2001 £7.99
Late critic’s moving memoir of a dysfunctional family in post-war Wales.
91 The Crimson Petal and the White – by Michel Faber
Canongate, 2002 £9.99
Bawdy, Victoriana a-go-go, Faber romps his way through London with his novel-writing prostitute heroine.
90 No Expenses Spared – by Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner
Bantam, 2009 £14.99
Moat-cleaning and house-flipping: the story of the scoop that changed British politics.
89 Appetite – by Nigel Slater
Fourth Estate, 2000 £17.99
The chef’s marvellously poetic writing urges the nation to cook with its senses.
88 The Damned Utd – by David Peace
Faber & Faber, 2006 £7.99
The farce and tragedy of Brian Clough’s 44 days as manager of Leeds United is brilliantly fictionalised.
87 Suite Française – by Irène Némirovsky
Chatto & Windus, 2006 £7.99
A poignant fragmentary masterpiece which depicts life in France after 1940.
86 Stuart: a Life Backwards – by Alexander Masters
Fourth Estate, 2005 £7.99
Innovative biography of a homeless ex-junkie. “It’s bollocks boring,” Stuart objected. Not so; it’s brilliant.
85 The Little Friend – by Donna Tartt
Bloomsbury, 2002 £7.99
Rich, languid and absorbing Southern Gothic mystery.
84 Eats, Shoots and Leaves – by Lynne Truss
Profile, 2003 £8.99
Bossy, humorous punctuation primer that taught us to love the semicolon.
83 The Life of Kingsley Amis – by Zachary Leader
Jonathan Cape, 2006 £10.99
One of the finest comic novelists of his generation is given the full treatment in a boozy, warts-and-all biography.
82 Speech! Speech! – by Geoffrey Hill
Counterpoint, 2000 £6
“Erudition. Pain. Light.” Continues the poet Geoffrey Hill’s late flowering.
81 The Island – by Victoria Hislop
Headline Review, 2005 £7.99
This first novel set on a Greek island was a Richard & Judy favourite.
80 Austerlitz – by WG Sebald
2002, Penguin £9.99
An experimental and haunting fictional investigation of the Holocaust.
79 Feminine Gospels – by Carol Ann Duffy
Picador, 2003 £8.99
A witty and lucid collection from a future poet laureate that eulogises the female experience.
78 The Night Watch – by Sarah Waters
Virago, 2006 £7.99
The stories of three lesbian women in the Second World War, this Man Booker-shortlisted novel cemented Waters’ reputation.
77 Labyrinth – by Kate Mosse
Orion, 2005 £7.99
Two skeletons and buried secrets on an archaeological dig in the south of France made this the thinking woman’s Da Vinci Code.
76 The Time Traveler’s Wife – by Audrey Niffenegger
Jonathan Cape, 2004 £7.99
Tear-jerking high-end chick-lit with a time-travelling device.
74 The Fifth Woman – by Henning Mankell,
Harvill Secker, 2001 £7.99
Introduced a public hungry for crime to the world-weary, alcoholic Inspector Wallander.
73 The Islamist – by Ed Husain
Penguin, 2007 £9.99
Husain details his teenage years as a fanatic in a book that politicians love to quote.
72 The Lovely Bones – by Alice Sebold
Little, Brown, 2002 £7.99
Grim, grim grim: teenage girl is raped and murdered, and watches her family from heaven. Everyone loved it, bizarrely.
71 District and Circle – by Seamus Heaney
Faber & Faber, 2006 £9.99
Another bestselling collection from our favourite poet. This is as witty and in love with language as ever.
70 Bad Science – by Ben Goldacre
Fourth Estate, 2008 £8.99
A highly influential book from a doctor debunking dodgy science stories in the media.
69 Shantaram – by Gregory David Roberts
Abacus, 2005 £9.99
A former bank robber and heroin addict, Roberts’s novel about India was based on personal experience and became a favourite with gap-year students.
68 Never Let Me Go – by Kazuo Ishiguro
Faber & Faber, 2005 £7.99
A tale of clones kept alive for their organs. A subtle and deeply moving novel about what awaits us all – death.
67 Imperial Life in the Emerald City – by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Bloomsbury, 2006 £8.99
A critique of the US reconstruction project in Iraq, chronicling the transfer of power to the Iraqis against a background of insurgency.
65 The Blind Assassin – by Margaret Atwood
Virago, 2000 £8.99
A novel within a novel within a novel, this Booker winner set the tone for a decade of literary experimentation.
64 The Google Story – by David Vise
Macmillan, 2005 n/a
The geeks who made good: from their glass tower they control the world’s information.
63 The Dangerous Books for Boys – by Conn and Hal Iggulden
HarperCollins, 2006 £17.99
Highlights the decade’s hunger for whimsy and the supposed pleasures of the past.
62 Half of a Yellow Sun – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fourth Estate, 2006 £7.99
The ugly side of Nigeria is turned into a touching novel.
61 Dissolution – by CJ Samson
Viking, 2003 £7.99
Combined the decade’s two favourites: crime and Tudors.
60 Peeling the Onion – by Günter Grass,
Harvill Secker, 2007 £9.99
Revealed the novelist was enlisted into the Waffen SS.
58 The Line of Beauty – by Alan Hollinghurst
Picador, 2004 £7.99
Brought gay writing into the mainstream while snorting its way through Thatcherite Britain.
57 Kafka on the Shore – by Haruki Murakami
Harvill Secker, 2005 £7.99
Talking cats, giant evil slugs, UFOs, mythical hinterlands and ambiguous sexuality: readers rejoiced.
56 Descent into Chaos – by Ahmed Rashid
Allen Lane, 2008 £10.99
Definitive insight into Afghanistan post-9/11.
55 Wolf Hall – by Hilary Mantel
Fourth Estate, 2009 £16.99
Bringing historical fiction into the literary limelight, this was a magical Tudor saga.
54 The Plot Against America – by Philip Roth
Jonathan Cape, 2004 £7.99
Roth’s sweeping fiction with modern resonances imagines Nazi-sympathiser Charles Lindbergh as US president.
53 White Heat: a History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties – by Dominic Sandbrook: Little, Brown, 2006 £11.99
A leader in the history books covering single decades.
52 The Road – by Cormac McCarthy
Picador, 2006 £7.99
A post-apocalyptic novel, set in a destroyed world, that defined the decade’s fears and hunger for hope.
50 Matisse the Master – by Hilary Spurling
Hamish Hamilton, 2005 £12.99
The second volume of an astounding exploration of the artist. Spurling’s biography is a milestone in the art.
49 Experience – by Martin Amis
Jonathan Cape, 2000 £9.99
The raw materials of Martin Amis’s life – including his relationship with his father.
48 Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord – by Max Hastings
HarperPress, 2009 £22.99
The cigar-chomper is presented as a hero and saviour of Britain.
47 I Can Make You Think – by Paul McKenna
Bantam, 2006 £7.99
If we needed proof that we are obsessed with dieting, here it is.
44 We Need to Talk About Kevin – by Lionel Shriver
Serpent’s Tail, 2003 £7.99
Controversial, Orange Prize-winning novel about a woman whose son commits a massacre at his school.
43 The Amber Spyglass – by Philip Pullman
Scholastic, 2001 £8.99
Barn-storming final part of His Dark Materials trilogy, this made us take children’s books seriously.
42 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: ed by HCG Matthew and Brian Harrison OUP, 2004 n/a
Sixty volumes, 50,000 biographies, 60 million words. A monument against oblivion.
41 The Music Room – by William Fiennes
Picador, 2009 £12.99
Beautiful and humbling memoir about the author’s childhood with his epileptic brother in Broughton Castle.
40 Fool’s Gold – by Gillian Tett
Little, Brown, 2009 £16.99
Tett argued that it was bankers’ greed, not derivatives, that caused the credit crunch.
38 A Million Little Pieces – by James Frey
John Murray, 2004 £7.99
Forced to confess on Oprah that his memoir was all lies, Frey epitomises the misery memoir’s problem with truth.
37 Somewhere Towards the End – by Diana Athill
Granta, 2008 £7.99
Unsentimental book about old age. Its candid and clear prose marked what was best about the decade’s memoirs.
36 Miracles of Life – by JG Ballard
Fourth Estate, 2008 £7.99
Intense and shocking, this memoir showed how Ballard’s extraordinary life informed his work and psychology.
35 The Insider – by Piers Morgan
Ebury, 2005 £7.99
Celebrity-spotter Morgan before he became a celeb himself: this is an enjoyable behind the scenes gape.
34 Elizabeth – by David Starkey
Chatto & Windus, 2000 £8.99
The turbulent early years of the princess who would become Gloriana, given new life in this biography.
33 Second Lives – by Tim Guest
Hutchinson, 2007 £7.99
This incisive study by the late Tim Guest explores the freedoms of virtual worlds.
32 Twilight – by Stephenie Meyer
Atom, 2005 £6.99
Astonishing, mainly for the ineptitude of her prose. Teen vampire schlock that has the nation’s youth in thrall.
31 Platform – by Michel Houellebecq
Vintage, 2003 £7.99
This novel about sex tourism made controversial remarks about Islam and encapsulated the moral torpor of our age.
30 Notes on a Scandal – by Zoë Heller
Viking, 2003 £8.99
The unreliable narrator is given new vigour in this gripping novel about female obsession, underage sex and repression.
29 A Life’s Work – by Rachel Cusk
Faber & Faber, 2001 £8.99
This bleakly honest account of motherhood ushered in a new genre of family writing.
28 Berlin – by Antony Beevor
Penguin, 2002 £9.99
Compassionate history of the city’s fall at the end of the Second World War.
27 Brick Lane – by Monica Ali
Doubleday, 2003 £7.99
Novel about a Bangladeshi woman’s life in East London. Ali was lauded briefly as the new Zadie Smith.
26 Homage to Gaia – by James Lovelock
OUP, 2000 £10.99
The Earth as sentient, organised being: the first in a wave of doom-mongering books on the environment.
25 Homicide – by David Simon
Canongate, 2008 £8.99
From the creator of The Wire, this is reportage of the highest order as he travels with police in crime-ridden Baltimore.
24 The Corrections – by Jonathan Franzen
Fourth Estate, 2001 £8.99
Generation-defining, controversial family saga about a Midwestern couple and their three adult children.
22 The Ghost – by Robert Harris
Hutchinson, 2007 £7.99
A page-turning thriller about a prime minister’s ghost writer.
21 Freakonomics – by Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner
Allen Lane, 2005 £9.99
A book that applied the “dismal science” to the questions that affect us all and made economics fun.
20 Schott’s Original Miscellany – by Ben Schott
Bloomsbury, 2002 £10.99
This compendium of useless and amusing information had its origins in the Weekend section of the Telegraph.
19 Snow by Orhan Pamuk
Faber & Faber, 2004 £8.99
A political exile returns to Turkey and finds a country wasting away.
18 The Kite Runner – by Khaled Hosseini
Bloomsbury, 2004 £7.99
Clunky writing but a poignant tale, this timely novel about an Afghan boy became a bestseller.
17 Madoff: the Man Who Stole $65 billion – by Erin Arvedlund
Penguin, 2009 £9.99
A gripping investigation into the fraudster by the whistle-blower who had been ignored.
16 The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – by Alexander McCall Smith
Abacus, 1998 £7.99
If you could condense charm into a paperback, this is what would result. Mma Precious Ramotswe appeared in 1998 but dominated the 2000s.
15 Samuel Pepys – by Claire Tomalin
Viking, 2002 £10.99
Magisterial biography of everyone’s favourite maid-tupping Restoration diarist.
14 Boyhood (1997), Youth (2002), Summertime (2009) – by JM Coetzee
Harvill Secker £7.99 each
A beautifully written trilogy of fictionalised memoirs that challenged genre conventions.
13 9/11 Commission Report – by WW Norton, 2004 £6.99
Praised for its literary qualities as well as its findings.
11 The Tipping Point – by Malcolm Gladwell
Abacus, 2000 £7.99
A rip-roaring account of how cultural events happen. The title entered the language.
10 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – by Stieg Larsson
Maclehose Press, 2008 £6.99
A journalist hooks up with a girl punk to form detective fiction’s unlikeliest pair, wading through the murky depths of Swedish society.
9 Atonement – by Ian McEwan
Jonathan Cape, 2001 £7.99
Briony Tallis tells a lie and regrets it for the rest of her life. Metafictional country house war novel that became a literary bestseller.
8 White Teeth – by Zadie Smith
Hamish Hamilton, 2000 £7.99
Smith was feted for her incisive, funny account of two friends whose lives intertwine in London. The dilemmas of immigration are confronted with satire and sympathy.
7 The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
Picador, 2007 £8.99
This mesmerising novel features a quest for the founder of the “visceral realists”, and showcases the magical quality of Bolaño’s writing. He called it “a love letter to my generation”.
5 The God Delusion – by Richard Dawkins
Bantam, 2006 £8.99
Belief in God is not only totally irrational, but actively harmful to society, says Richard Dawkins. Whether you agree with him or not, his book was a popular demolition job of the world’s great faiths.
4 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – by Dave Eggers
Picador, 2000 £7.99
One of the first of the “creative” memoirs, this chronicled Eggers’s life with his younger siblings after the death of their parents from cancer. Bold, dazzling and fantastical, it launched a new style of writing.
3 The Da Vinci Code – by Dan Brown
Corgi, 2003 £7.99
Dan Brown may not be able to write, but he sure can pull in the punters. A mad mishmash of conspiracy theories about Jesus built around the most basic elements of a thriller, this has sold almost as many copies as the Bible and has made the world’s pulse beat faster.
2 Dreams from My Father – by Barack Obama
Canongate, 2007 £8.99
Originally published in 1995 in the US, this was launched in Britain to enormous acclaim before the first black president took to the world stage. Candid and sensitively written, the memoir is a search for his father (who left when Obama was two) and his racial identity. A touchstone for future politicians.
1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – by JK Rowling
Bloomsbury, 2007 £8.99
If you don’t know what a muggle is by now, you’re either Rip van Winkle or enormously stubborn. This is the seventh and final instalment in Rowling’s record-breaking series about Harry Potter, the world’s most famous lightning-scarred boy wizard and his tribulations with Lord Voldemort.
There it is then, the post popular books of the last decade and many of them by first time authors…Read the reviews, try to understand why they were so successful and perhaps you could be on this list in ten years time.
For this assignment we will be working on developing new book ideas by using any of the examples I have given above. Put some thought into it, do some research and list four brand new ideas with a short outline. The whole thing should be written on a single sheet of A4 (it may only need to be half a page) You do not need to show anybody if you do not want to but it is a good idea to talk to friends and other writers by saying, ‘what about this for an idea for a new book?’ Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas, it very rarely happens and besides, you are the professional writer. If it turns out that it is a good idea then you are the most likely to actually do the work. Besides, what would a friend do with a good idea anyway? They will not know how to write a proposal or how to submit one. By the time you have finished reading this book, you will.
The top selling fiction genres are; Thrillers – Romance – Detective/crime – Children’s – Chick lit – Horror – Military – Humour
The top selling non-fiction genres are: Cookery – Autobiography – Humour – History – Self Help – Religion – Politics
Albert Jack books available for download here
By Dr Johnson C. Philip (author of over 100 books)
I have been a committed writer now for four decades, and it all started when noticing my interest in writing I joined a course in journalism. One of the first things my mentor advised me was to keep reading books on writing. Thus I picked up this book with great expectation to find something new, in spite of me having read a hundred other books. I was not disappointed.The author of this books has substantial experience in writing, editing, and publishing and he is in a good position to explain the art of writing from three different angles — from that of a writer, and editor, and a publisher. That is what makes this book unique.He introduces the art of writing, and then a lot more. If want to be a writer and if you have never read any book on this topic, I suggest that you read this one. If you have read many, I suggest that you read this book in spite of that. The book has to offer something to every writer, whatever his level and experience might be.Highly Recommended!!
By Mary Crocco (Book Reviewer – Las Vegas)
Discovering Albert Jack’s book of advice for new writers came too late for my first book, but perfectly timed for my second. Packed with information and guidance, I took copious amounts of notes before concluding I needed the book in print, so I ordered a paperback.I found the most appreciated recommendation about writing narrative: to get the plot and ideas down first, and then add the dialogue. This relieves my current struggle of interrupting the flow of ideas while trying to write dialogue, the simple fact to write first and add dialogue later, works. I’ll try a chapter at a time, but the way my mind works, I’m confident in success.Unaware all submissions should be presented with 1.5 line spacing surprised me, I thought 2.0, double spacing.Consider reading, Want to be a Writer? Then Do It Properly by Albert Jack, because it includes easy and significant approaches for writers to develop their skill.
By Stephanie Millar (Australia)
If you want to read ONE book that has EVERYTHING you need to know before you turn on your computer and start the first chapter, then this is the book you need…so much information from this brilliant writer, you can’t go wrong.
Johann David Renner (Australia)
If I had come across this book years ago it would have saved me a lot of time and pain. In this book you find the knowledge and the wisdom many writers work out for themselves over a number of years. Of course, some never do, because they give up. This book starts with the basics, moves on to the really challenging stuff and provides answers to important questions: Why do you write? What about market research? What makes a book a good book? How do you find a publisher? So, ask yourself: Do you want to be a writer or do you just want to write? If you want to be a writer, reading this book can save you a lot of time and pain.
By Eamonn Kelly
This is a very useful book and I found it very informative. This is a useful book in focusing the mind on the whys and wherefores of creative writing and the publishing world.
If you want to read ONE book that has EVERYTHING you need to know before you turn on your computer and start the first chapter, then this is the book you need…so much information from this brilliant writer, you can’t go wrong.
I’m not a writer but I want to learn enough to have a good blog.
Reading this book by Albert Jack gave me lots of good tips.
Now I’m anxious to start using his suggestions.
D Jones (Boston)
Book is very down to Earth, and inspiring for armature writers. I would recommend this book to anyone that is still in closet about being a writer.
This book was not what I had expected at all. If you’re looking for a book that makes fun of the craft, then this your book, but if you are looking for an instruction on how to be a writer, look for another of the zillions of other titles that gives more substance.
There are so many writers out there. Some read books and their new books are not more than summaries of what they read elsewhere.
Albert Jack is different. What impressed me most here was that a writer who is able to live by the income of his books gives advise. Albert Jack is not a dreamer. He writes every day and he states and gives hope to the millions out there who want to be a successful writer, too: Everybody can become a good writer. Talent is good but regular practice and daily writing makes the difference between a nobody and a popular writer.
The first look at the cover did not attract my attention. It looked like the design effort of a child. This book needs no professional design. Its content is enough to make it a “must read”.
It is interesting to see and understand how publishing houses work. The way they choose a book to be publish out of thousands of manuscripts. But I will not quote too much. Read and learn yourself.