Monday, 24 January 2011


My old pal - though she doesn't know it - Maggie O'Farrell is interviewed in the Irish Times today. Touching on themes I brought up when I blogged about her here. Including the un-named interviewer trying to claim her as Irish.

A couple of quotes:
'O’Farrell says that having children has had a beneficial effect on her work. “With young children, you write when you have half an hour. Time at my desk feels like an indulgence, a treat. I find the whole process of writing hugely enjoyable. It’s satisfying, like a puzzle that needs to be solved.'

'“Children are good editors. I don’t mean they get out the red pen, just that I have less time to follow up every whim, and I cut less from my books than I used to.”'

Maggie's three tips for aspiring novelists are included at the end of the interview. They are:

Read. Keep reading. Don’t stop. And don’t worry too much about starting your novel at the beginning. A blank page can be terrifying, and nothing will give you writer’s block faster.

Start in the middle, or wherever you want. Build up a solid word count – keep going, and don’t look back. It gives you something to work with.

Take advice. Give the manuscript to as many people as you can. You might not always like what you hear, but you need someone to be honest.

I love the first two tips. Not sure about that last one - unless the people you give it to are writers, professionals in the book world or very good, critical readers, you might end up with some pretty useless advice...just saying...


Jane Holland said...

I agree - I try never to let people see my manuscripts either, except the actual agent or editor whose job it is to look after it on the way to publication. You just get a load of conflicting advice otherwise and your head explodes trying to work out who's right and who's wrong. If I'm told by someone whose job it is to tell me to change something, then I change it (unless it's a REALLY bad decision).

But I know many writers swear by sending their work to other people, especially poets. I guess I'm the secretive type!

At the TS Eliot Prize readings last night, I was in a box - and the lady next to me was reading a novel by Maggie O'Farrell. I couldn't see which one - it was dark - but caught the name on the cover. Looked blueish. Didn't like to peer too hard in case she thought I was odd.

Which I am, of course. But in a nice way. ;-)


Yes, me too Jane. I don't like other people dabbling with my fiction. It seems pointless and conterproductive to me. I do know others love it, though!

I reckon the MOF book she was reading was her Costa winning one - The Hand That First Held Mine.

Nicely odd - yes, let's hope that's me too. Not just 'odd' ;)

Coirí Filíochta said...

Stephen King, in On Writing, informs the readers of his own, amazingly interesting process of churning out his mind.

He creates two books going at once; spending a few months splurging out a first draft, and after that, returning to the first draft he wrote immediately prior, casting a cold clinical eye on what he'd made four months earlier.

When he thinks it's ready to hit the selves, he sends it to several or so people who are, and have always been (I think) the first Reader of his books. He values their comments because he trusts them to be honest with him. If they think something is rubbish, they will say it, in such a way I suppose as been honed over decades, King understands. A few honest responses, all you need to know, a few, select, trusted readers whose honesty is worth more than a team of ones paid to be a 'professional'; a word denoting finance, cash, money, fee, guerdon; collective gift from satisfied audience, for whom we write, or do not, depending on our life, poetry, dán (pron. dawn) - D A foda N - what's written in the stars, ground from earth our cosmic mill within, Segais Well the source of our fate, destiny as a unitary concept, 'one can't drown whose dán (poetry, fate, destiny) is to be hung'.

Rachel Fenton said...

That interview really zooms - a great read.

Well, ladies, I am odd, but it's only as I'm leaving and catch the expression of the person whose book I've been nebbing at that I realise where on the scale of oddity I peaked!


CF - I love King's On Writing. It's a great book. I imagine his trusted readers are excellent readers in their own right. His wife is a writer so no doubt she is one of those trusted readers.
Each to his own. I have a Peer Group of profesional writers but I still don't feel the need to bring fiction to that group, just poetry.
I am happier editing my own work and have become a good self editor, which I think every writer should aim for.


Rachel - ditto! I also fidget, which I'm sure drives people mad. I drive myself mad! I have a low boredom threshold. It's a family trait.

Neezes said...

I find it easier to share poetry or flash fiction - anything longer and I wouldn't really want comments until it reached a stage when I was pretty happy with it.


Hi Neezes,
Welcome! Yes, my feelings exactly. It's easier to look at a poem as a whole in a workshop situ. Fiction is so involved.

Neezes said...

Yes! Well mine is too involved really - more sort of tangled and unfinished :D

Hope your novel does well,