Monday, 30 August 2010


And that, my pretties, is what a completely edited and revised manuscript looks like. If you're thinking ' kinda looks like Hell': Why, yes, I do believe you're right. And so did I by the time I finished it (I tried taking a picture but...I believe some people under the age of eighteen read this blog, and I wouldn't want to traumatise them. Besides, I write fantasy, not horror). Many thanks to the amazing Furtive Scribbler's Club for their revision suggestions, especially Rachel, for being willing to have all my characters hate her forever more, in order to make the book better.

I pressed the send button on Friday evening and now it is with Yasmin, my agent. Fingers crossed that she likes it - then it will go to Annalie, my editor and we'll cross our fingers again, not just that she likes it, but also that she feels it is a complete book, so that my Two Book Series Plan can go ahead.

Anyway, after a glorious weekend of baking (mmmm, plum and pecan crumble) and reading (got through all Kelley Armstrong's The Summoning books and all Claudia Gray's Evernight books, plus half of Beautiful Creatures) I'm back hard at work today on what I hope will be the second book of the two book series - but which might actually end up being the second half of the book I just submitted, in which case, my ass needs to be in gear. Mrgh.

Did anyone fail to hear about the Clockwork Angel Giveaway? Go enter now! It ends this Thursday!

Friday, 27 August 2010


First of all - did you enter the Clockwork Angel Giveaway yet? If not: go, go my child! Click here and comment, before it's too late and the bitter ashes of regret sting your tongue forever!

All right, now what was I going to post about today? Oh, right. I've seen this feature on a few blogs where authors post teasers from the book they're working on now, on the understanding that of course these fragments might not end up in the final version and it's all just for fun, etc. etc. If I knew who invented the meme I would give credit, but I don't so...sorry!

Anyway, here's a teaser, which is from the first page of FrostFire (which might not be called that much longer, but I need to talk to my editor about it). Let me know what you think.

In my dreams, the wolves come for me. I hear their voices, echoing from the far off mountains and frost bright stars. They sing of the hunt, and hot fresh blood spilled on snow, and the scent of fear on the wind. Their prey’s fear.

I am running. Always running. Shadowy fields blur past my eyes, the jagged skeletons of trees, frozen rivers, marked in stark black by the unforgiving light of the moon. My bare feet sink into the snow, and the cold burns them. Breath crystallises in the air before me, and my heartbeat throbs through my body. I can taste my own blood on my tongue.

But no matter how swiftly I flee, they are always just behind me.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Hello, hello Dear Readers! Guess what I've got in my happy little hands right now? That's right, an advanced copy of Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel. Woohoo!

Right now I am greedily devouring the adventures of Will, Tessa and Jem (my editor has a crush on Will, but I'm Team Jem at this point. He reminds me of a blonde Kyoya Ootori from Ouran High School Host Club) but I'm well aware of the suffering of the rest of you Cassandra Clare fans out there, and I want to help!

So I'm going to give away my one and only copy of this Steampunk gem to one of you. That's right: Clockwork Angel is up for grabs. The competition starts now and will close Thursday the 2nd of September. I will send the book to the winner on Friday the 3rd. Which means, post willing, you could get your hands on this as early as the 4th, two days before the official release date in the UK.

The giveaway is open to everyone, whether you live in London or Uzbekistan, and to enter you need to do the following:

1) Leave a comment on THIS POST for 1 point.

2) Are you a blog follower? Leave a separate comment for 1 point. YouTube subscriber? If so you get another 1 point, but again, you need to leave a separate comment.

3) 1 point for linking back to this post on Twitter, Facebook or any other social networking site. I do need to see those links, my pretties and remember - SEPARATE COMMENTS FOR EACH ONE.

I will use a random number generator to pick the winner on the morning of Friday the 3rd and I will send the book to you the same day. No names out of hats this time. This is why it's very important you leave a separate comment for each point, or you won't be fairly represented in the draw.

The winner may also receive random extras: books, magnets, postcards, bookplates. Whatever I have on hand at the time. I'll surprise you (ooh, surprises!).

Happy commenting.

ETA: You guys! Stop being funny and interesting in your comments, dammit! If I reply I'll mess the random number generator thingie up! So I'm not ignoring you - but I *can't* reply in the comments. Curses! Email me if you have questions, okay?

ETA2: Someone's noted in the comment trail that they saw this in a bookshop yesterday. It's not officially released until next week and it's kind of naughty for any shops to stock it before then, but this does inevitably happen with books that are going to be bestsellers; the shops get impatient and put a few copies out early. I don't really see that it makes the giveaway any less valid though, just because Waterstone's are putting out early copies. Waterstone's are not giving away FREE early copies, after all.

Monday, 23 August 2010


Recently the YA Rebels (whose vlogs I highly recommend for helpful hilarity) have been vlogging about plot and structure. I've enjoyed their videos, but no one's really touched on anything LIKE the method I use (and one of my favourite rebels, Leah Clifford, even stunned me by asking 'What is structure?').

It seems I am an unusually structure-focused writer. Not that I always called it that. For a long time I just talked about the 'shape' of a story. That's still how stories feel to me; like something solid, which has a shape, with bulgy bits and thin bits, that I need to sort of pat and squash into place. I can remember struggling with a scene for days, and then adding two or three lines to the beginning which changed the 'shape' of it for me, so that I was able to move forward.

While I was in the middle of writing Shadows on the Moon I read Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. I wasn't convinced by all of it, but one thing that did strike me was the way that Mr Vogler illustrated the three act structure. He used a diamond shape, which actually looks more like a four act structure to me. Not that I cared about 'acts'. What I cared about was the fact that I could see how my own story fitted onto that diagram.

There were, of course, four points on the diamond. Each point had a major event on it. The sides were filled in by the smaller events leading to each major event. I realised I could adapt the diamond shaped diagram to keep track of time elasping in my story world, how old my heroine was at each event, and to make sure that the pacing of the story was even, with a certain amount of smaller events building in momentum until a major event erupted, and then the drama flowed back down to smaller events again.

These plot diagrams aren't set in stone for me. For Shadows I think I drew out three our four of them. Working on FrostFire, I think I've already hit three. But this process of evolution itself is helpful.

I was going to take a picture of the last plot diagram for Shadows, but then I realised it was (as you would expect) basically the most spoilerific thing EVER. So I made up a plot diagram, which doesn't make that much sense, but which gives you an idea how I use one of these.

My real plot diagrams show a lot more detail. I draw them by hand, and use highlighters and lots of different coloured pens, and put arrows pointing from one event to another to show how they relate, as well as notes on how old the protagonist and other main characters are at each event and anything else significant (for example, if the location has changed).

I've never been able to use the index card method. I love the idea of having different cards that signify a certain subplot, but for me each event is such a tangle of different developing plots that I can't separate them out. And, as most writers would agree, synopses, while good for giving people a general idea how your story plays out, don't help much at all. But if you, like me, tend to have trouble with pacing and structure, the Diamond Plot Diagram might be for you.

Anyone else want to chip in here? How do you plot?

Friday, 20 August 2010


I had some really exciting news last week, but I kept it to myself because I wanted a little time to digest it. Back when my editor sent me a preliminary version of the Shadows on the Moon cover art (ssoooo pretty! Can't wait to share it with you guys), she also told me that they were going to be printing a small number of proof copies, otherwise known as Advanced Reader Copies, or ARCS, this September.

Now, for those of you who are scratching your heads over why this is exciting: let me 'splain.

In the US, pretty much every new book that comes out (especially in the YA field) will have thousands of ARCS printed as a matter of course. These get handed out like candy at book conventions (for example BEA), showered among book reviewing journals (like The Horn Book) and book bloggers (like The Story Siren), and sent to teachers and librarians. The author themselves might be given a up to a hundred copies to distribute to friends and family and for any publicity efforts of their own. Unless a book is 'embargoed' like the last Harry Potter books, or like Cassandra Clare's upcoming City of Fallen Angels, ARCS for it are everywhere.

Not so in the UK.

I've often seen mini (and not so mini) debates spring up about why the UK and US book blogging scenes are so different. There are very few blogs dedicated to reviewing only YA books in the UK, and even fewer young adults running their own blogs, while there is a vibrant and thriving young book reviewing community in the US. I believe the main reason for this is that hardly any YA books in the UK get an ARC printing before publication. I mean, hardly ANY. If UK bloggers do manage to get hold of an ARC of something, normally it's from a US publisher.

There are many reasons for this, including the fact that in the UK librarians don't get nearly the recognition or budgets they deserve (so no one bothers to try and woo them with ARCs) that most schools don't have their own libraries or a specialised children's librarian (so that what is a lucrative market in the US is more or less nonexistent in the UK, and again, publishers don't need to woo teachers and librarians), and that most YA books come out straight into paperback here anyway.

So take it from me that for a book being published in the UK in a paperback edition, as mine is, ARCS are rare and special. They only print a few - so few that I can expect to get maybe two or three copies, just as a courtesy - and these are distributed not to reviewing journals or bloggers or librarians but to 'movers and shakers' in the industry, foreign publishing companies, people who can create that all important 'buzz' that authors would chew their own arms off for. And because the smaller a print run is, the more expensive it is, taking this step is a Big Deal in terms of the publisher's investment in your book.

The Swan Kingdom didn't get an ARC run. Neither did Daughter of the Flames. That Shadows on the Moon is being treated differently says that my publisher has a lot of faith in it - that they believe in the story, and believe that getting the book out there really WILL create the all-important buzz.

Thinking about this makes me feel a little bit sick, a lot nervous, and very excited. I always knew in my heart of hearts that Shadows was a Big Deal for me as a writer - that it changed me and challenged me like nothing else I've ever written. Then it won the Sasakawa Prize before it was even finished, and I started to think that it might be a Big Deal in other ways, and for other people. I'm sending out daily prayers to the Writing Gods that I'm right, not just because, you know, it's nice to be able to eat, but also because I want to share this story. I want to invite people into the Moonlit Lands and show them my heroine, Suzume's world. I want them to love it - or even hate it - so long as it moves them.

Ah, well. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Wordle: FrostFire

Wordle: Is a pretty darn good way to waste time for a writer! Anyway, this word cloud is from the synopsis for the first FrostFire book and gives you what I think is a really fascinating insight into the characters and plot.

The second one below is from the synopsis of the second book. Again, it rather eerily conveys the shape of the story and even some character developments. This gave me a shiver when I looked at it. Seriously.

Wordle: FrostFire Book 2

HOW DID THE PROGRAMME KNOW TO PUT LUCA THERE??? Psychic computers - the zombies of the future.

Oh, well. Back to this interogation scene...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


In more ways than one.

I've just finished re-writing Chapter One (and a tiny bit of Chapter Two) from scratch. Which wasn't that painful, I must admit. I'm pretty happy with the new version. However, what IS painful is my neck. And my shoulder. And my back, generally.

This is because when I re-write I like to write on paper, but because my eyes are defective (seriously, I can't even hold a UK driving licence) I have to sort of crane over the page, leaning one elbow on the table, or wherever I'm working, to support my chin. And the inevitable result of this? PAAAAAAIN.

It took me a long time to realise that this method of writing was what caused my habitual back pain. I tried all kinds of cures, like taking glucosomine (is that how you spell it? Ah, whatever, my neck hurts), changing to an orthopedic mattress and giving up massive shoulder bags (how are you supposed to carry three books, a notepad, a diary and an appropriate number of pens in a tiny bag, dammit?) before I finally figured out that I was only crippled with the pain and forced to shuffle along like the Hunchback of Notre Damme after long writing sessions.

It was a blow, let me tell you. Writing on paper with a pencil has always been my favourite way, especially when drafting. I can produce words much faster that way, and I feel freer and happier about my work. When I was getting to the end of the first draft of Shadows, I was putting out 8,000 words per writing day in handwritten notes. I've never managed more than a couple of thousand per day when I was typing. But I couldn't live all hunched over and 'ow, ow, ow'ing every time I needed to reach for a pan on a high shelf, and needing to get people to haul me out of chairs because my back seized up if I sat down for more than ten minutes.

So with FrostFire, I switched to using a laptop for drafting, only scribbling occasional notes in my notebook, and making sure I did so in back-friendly position, even if it did mean writing much larger than I normally would. And sure enough, my words per day rate halfed. But since I write full-time now and I can work every day instead of just Wednesdays and Sundays, I found that I was quite happy to produce around 10-12,000 words per week. That adds up to quite a lot of words fairly quickly anyway. And I could, you know, sit in a chair or have a bath without sobbing in agony. Which was a plus.

When I came to revise, of course I needed to print out my manuscript to make my alterations in red pen. Pretty much every author you've ever heard of has to do this; it's like a strange need. Even my terribly professional editor has to work this way when she's line editing. I struggled and strove to keep my back happy as I marked up the pages and did fairly well, so long as I made myself keep shifting position and stretching as I went. You can read and stretch at the same time.

However, what you can't do is write and stretch/move at the same time. Not when you're scribbling furiously to get the ideas pinned down on that page before they slither away. And I *have* to use a pencil and paper when I'm re-writing. Don't ask me why this is. I just DO. It's the only way to break free of the lines you've already written; symbolically throw the printed pages in the bin and then start anew on college lined paper with a mechanical pencil. It's the way I'm made.

Apparently the other way I'm made is to suffer.

Look how much I love you, guys. I'm willing to live with so much pain, all for you. To write this book for you and make it awesome. I'm like some kind of Mother Theresa, only slightly less saintly and with better hair. I'm stunned by my own magnanimity here.



I'm going to get a hot water bottle.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


This is what I am today. So ashamed! There I was, bouncing out of bed, filled with enthusiam and eagerness to start writing new chapters for FrostFire (which...might not be called that anymore, guys, but more about that another day), dashing out to take my dog for an energetic walk in the rain, making myself a huuuge mug of tea and sitting down to GET STARTED RAWR and then...

Nothing happened.

I'm so sorry, FrostFire. It's not you. It's me. This happens to writers sometimes. Maybe I'm tired or too stressed out about other things. You're beautiful, really. I still love you. I just couldn't perform for you today.

But tomorrow! Tomorrow will be different! I promise. Tomorrow I will not get sucked into spending hours reading the archives of authors I love for 'inspiration'. I will not spend way too long updating my book wishlist, following links on YA Highway and laughing at cartoons by Allie of Hyperbole and a Half (warning this link contains baaad language and messed up stuff. Enjoy!).

No. Tomorrow, I will be better. Tomorrow, I will work hard and make you awesome. As awesome as you truly deserve to be.

Tomorrow is another day (thank you Scarlett).

In the meantime...other creative people are feeling my pain (more bad language, kids!).

Monday, 16 August 2010


Hurrah! My first read-through and mark-up of FrostFire is finished! *Releases party streamers, jumps up and down, sprays champagne* I never have to go through that again! With this book, anyway.

Yes, it both sucked and blew. Simultaneously. Yes, I'm going to have to delete the first eight chapters and start again from scratch in order to make them readable by human beings. Yes, my favourite red pen ran out during this process. Yes. I have soooo much work to do. Yes, yes, yes, BUT now I know how to fix it all! Or at least I have a good idea.

I think the first read-through of a newly finished book is a bit like trying to get somewhere in a really, really thick fog. You've an idea where you need to go. But you actually don't know exactly what it looks like. Maybe you could figure it out if you could just see, but you're practically blind here. You keep falling into ditches and tripping over obstacles that you can't even name. You feel tired out and battered and you just want to go home. Why did you ever set out to go somewhere new in the first place? What if your goal doesn't even exist?

But as you walk, gradually, ever so gradually, the fog begins to lighten. You start to be able to point at the obstacles and say 'Rock' or 'Log'. You can make out the ditches and jump over them, and doing so gives you a flush of success. Your steps speed up. Finally, the sun breaks through and you see the thing you meant to find all along - the castle on the hill. You remember why you were so determined to find it. All the bruises and scrapes stop being important. YOU GOT THERE.

The actual process of revising - the cutting, pasting, deleting, the writing new scenes and the re-writing old ones - is more like finding your way back home from the castle. The fog's pretty much gone by now. However, you've used up a lot of strength on the journey out, and now that your initial jubilation over seeing the castle has faded those bruises are starting to ache again. You can see the obstacles instead of blindly blundering into them, but that doesn't mean you always know how to avoid them. Sometimes you misjudge and fall in a ditch anyway and have to climb out. And everything looks subtly different now that you're travelling in this different direction. Turns out you came a lot further than you realised. But there's no chance of you giving up this time. You know home is there and you're going to get to it, no matter what.

So, I start the journey home tomorrow. I'm nervous and eager. Wish me luck.

In other good news - I have skooled the eBay fraudster who tried to rip me off. Despite his blustering and insults and threats, Paypal upheld my claim and I got all my money back. As Nelson Muntz would say: ha ha! Now I can look forward to getting my lovely, free, advanced reader copy of Clockwork Angel from Walker Books without anything to impinge on my pleasure.

Justice prevails!

Friday, 13 August 2010


*Waves from the trenches*

Hi everyone. I've had a week of insane up and downs and I thought I'd share a few with you this wet and windy Friday (I think we've had our chips as far as summer goes, here in the UK).

1) In the downs, take a look at these images for a glimpse of how my revising is going. If it looks like the pages are bleeding to death? That's pretty accurate.

2) In the ups, my new laptop arrived! I call it The Scalpel, because it's thin and silver and shiny.

3) In the downs, I got ripped off trying to buy an ARC of Cassandra Clare's new book, Clockwork Angel, from eBay (I should point out that when I buy an ARC because I can't wait to get my hands on the story, I *always* also buy the official copy later, because otherwise you're depriving the author of sales that could make a big difference to their success). Turns out the guy doesn't have any ARCs. He's just charging £19.99 for a 'pre-order' for the book and conveniently forgetting to leave the fact that he doesn't have any copies yet off the listing page!

4) In the ups, my editor says she can get me an advanced copy of Clockwork Angel anyway (d'oh! I totally forgot that Cassandra Clare has the same British publisher as me. What an idiot).

5) Another up - I've seen a provisional version of the Shadows on the Moon cover and it is SWOONWORTHY. They're still tweaking it and I'm still working on a good tagline for it, so I'm not allowed to show yet, but I will say that I'm very proud to be published by Walker Books, who've kicked that whole RaceFail thing right to the curb and have given me a proud and beautiful Japanese styled cover. Whee! Images as soon as I get clearance, my pretties.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Yeah. I'm curled up in the fetal position clutching chocolate in one hand and my dog with the other at the moment. Not a good time for trying to put together a coherent post. So instead I share this supremely cool video from soon-to-be-superstar Leah Clifford, which just about expresses my mindset, except that she's not sobbing into her dog's ear (I don't think she has a dog).

Anywhere, here you go.

Monday, 9 August 2010



Before moving on in earnest with FrostFire Book Two I decided to print out, re-read and revise Book One, so that a) I'd have a much firmer idea of the choices I needed to make for the second book and b) I can let my editor have a more-or-less completed ms and she can see that there is method in my madness. Chances are that in the writing of the second book things will change anyway - they nearly always do - and I'll still have to go back and tweak Book One a bit to match. But of course my editor will be ripping the ms to pieces anyway, in her own inimitable style, so those extra changes really won't matter.

Seems like a sound idea, doesn't it?

So why am I paralysed with fear? Why I have I wasted my entire day on procrastination so obvious that even my dog is giving me knowing looks? Why, every time I pick up the folder with the print out of FrostFire Book One inside, do I shudder and groan and put it down again and run away?

I can't figure myself out. Normally I *like* revising. However, if I force myself to examine this sudden burst of stage fright with some attempt at objectivity, I can pin down several worries that are sniggering and pointing fingers in my brain.

  1. The traumatic time I had revising Shadows on the Moon, where I had to scrap a huge part of the story and re-write from scratch. I can still remember the sickening realisation of how flat-out BAD my whole opening section was. I'm expecting it to happen again. I'm expecting it to be worse this time. Eeek.
  2. I read some awesome, epic YA books this last week. My stories don't have the larger than life, cast of thousands quality of say, The Mortal Instruments Trilogy, even though I love to read books like that. So I always end up sighing over them and feeling inadequate and intimidated and wondering why all my stories seem so small in comparison.
  3. This is my first book written as a full-time writer, sitting in my Writer's Cave day after day and steadily plugging away, rather than writing in fits and starts and bursts of inspiration. I'm afraid my work will have lost something in consequence.
  4. This is the first book of a series. All my books have been standalone before. Even if it is only a two book series, I'm unsure how to handle revising a story that is, in essence, incomplete.
I can probably come up with three or four more, but you get the idea. Writer: thy name is neurosis.

The Folder of Doom is beside me now. It's looking at me. I can't tell whether the look is pleading or mocking but in the end it doesn't really matter. Yes, I may have whittered my day away, but I know that I have a job to do here. I cannot allow myself to be defeated by this. I'm going to open that sucker up and I'm going to get out my post-its and my red pen and I'm going to REVISE. just a minute.

Friday, 6 August 2010


Super late posting today! Sorry guys. This is because today I was waaay too busy reading to think about anything else. For twenty-four hours I've been living in my own little blissful reading world and it was amazing. I'm only posting now because I finished the book. Ah, sweet satisfaction. I feel like a cat that swallowed a really fat canary. Two canaries.

I've already told you all about the books on my TBR pile that I was going to read this week. I read a few and reviewed them on Monday for you. Now, I liked them all in different ways but nothing *really* clicked for me. You know what I mean; that sensation that dawns over you as you read the first page and it's awesome, and then the next page, and the next, and it just keeps getting better and you can't put it down what's going to happen next argh I can't believe that happened what's happening now this book is the BEST. BOOK. EVAH!

Actually, I have to admit that it's been quite a long time since a new book effected me that way. I was starting to worry a little bit that I was getting too cynical and writerly, or that book trends were changing and books I could really fall in love with weren't being written anymore or...something. This was a really melancholy thought for me because I love reading and books more than anything.

Wednesday (while frolicking with delightful writer pals) I picked up many, many new books. Even though I already had a bunch of books on my TBR pile still to read and don't even have any ROOM for a huge pile of other new books. I blame the writing pals entirely. They made me. Seriously, they were shoving books into my hands saying 'You must read this. And this! This one's good too, everyone should read this'. I had two bags of books to take home with me by the time we parted. But I've forgiven them for their book-addiction enablement. Because one of those books blew my mind, children. BLEW IT WIDE OPEN!

I love, love, love this book. I want to marry it. In fact, I'd be quite willing to marry the author right now. Because then I could make nutritious meals for this author and do her chores and make sure that she got to bed at a reasonable hour so she could WRITE MOAR BOOKS FASTER. How can I express the depths of my adoration for the skill, the talent, the craft, of this author in mere words? I can't! I can only do it with wild squeeing.

Hence, I am going to post a video review tomorrow, revealing the name of the book and author and squeeing for all the world to see. Stay tuned, faithful readers.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all."

My post title today is a quote from Oscar Wilde (possibly the most quotable writer that ever lived). And I agree with him completely. I'm a dedicated re-reader. Any book that I enjoyed reading will get re-read at least once - books I loved will usually be re-read again and again throughout the rest of my life. No matter how cleverly written a novel is, if I can't imagine myself re-reading it then it has failed for me on a crucial level.

Since I first read it in 2005, I've revisited The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold around once a year, and each time I learn more from LMB's mastery of subtle and complex plotting, and her ability to create bone-deep empathy for her characters. I usually re-read the entire works of Jane Austen once every two years, and, again, each time I learn more from Ms Austen's superb craftmanship and control of language. Despite the fact that I first discovered Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones when I was about eight, when I re-read it again recently (probably for around the twelfth time) it still made me laugh out loud - and stop to think deeply about the puzzles within.

That's how good those books are. And that's one reason to re-read; to learn.

However, when I recently re-read Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy (a favourite of mine from when they were first published) I found myself pulling the books to pieces in a way I never had before. While I still enjoyed them, I realised with some astonishment that my own skills as a critical reader (and possibly a writer) must have grown since the last reading around three years ago, and that knowledge pleased me deeply.

Another reason to re-read; to measure your own growth.

The received wisdom on this topic is that writers ought to read each book twice - once for pleasure, once to learn. Which is fine advice for writers. But I also think that, as a reader, no matter how good your reading comprehension is, how subtle your insight or how quick your grasp of facts, there's just no way anyone can get everything from a book on the first try. Not unless the book is completely one dimensional. You have to realise, as a reader, that the scene you just read in ten minutes may have taken the writer months to craft. Each painstakingly chosen word, each carefully placed punctuation mark, the rhythm of the sentences, the tone, the hidden meanings, the obvious meanings - those consumed the entire mind and imagination of the writer for hours at a time. Their words are telling you more than you realise. If you only read once, you're short-changing yourself out of all those extra layers of meaning.

The third reason to re-read; so that you experience the actual entirety of a book, rather than just its surface.

So why, these days, am I seeing so many young writers saying - nay, boasting - that they don't bother to re-read? I'll be pootling along, reading a fun blog entry about favourite books, and suddenly I'll come to a screeching halt as the writer proudly announces that a certain book was so good that they 'actually considered reading it more than once'. WHAT?

If you love a book, why in the world would you banish yourself from its world and characters forever once you've read it? If you admire the author, how can you imagine that you've managed to grasp the full depth of their creation in only one read?

How can you possibly learn from books if you only read them once?

And it doesn't matter to me if you're a fast reader or a slow reader. It doesn't matter to me if you've got an amazing memory and you can quote whole pages of dialogue three years after reading the book. Because any book that's worth reading once is worth reading twice. Any book that you enjoyed reading twice will probably repay further readings too. So although I normally hate to make sweeping generalisations or judge people, I'm going to go ahead and take a stand here. It is flat out stupid to only read books once.

I want to force these writers to go and pick up that book they blithely listed as a favourite and force them to read it again and see if they even still like it, five or ten years after the original reading. And if they do, can they possibly deny that somehow, since they last entered that author's world, it has magically and inexplicably changed?

This is the fourth and perhaps most important reason why any book worth reading is worth reading twice. Because our interpretation of every line, scene, event, plot twist and character is coloured by who we are. Books are subjective. They come to life in the writer's imagination, but it is the reader's imagination that resurrects them when they open the pages. You cannot read a book without bringing yourself to it, without the spark of life within you transferring to the characters within the story. And if you're human, you're changing all the time. I'm an utterly different person now than I was two years ago, four years ago, eight years ago. If I met twenty year old me now I'd probably want to strangle her. Which means that when I pick up a book I read two years ago, four years ago, eight years ago, I'm not just re-reading it. I'm reading it for the first time as the me I am now. In a very real way, it's a whole new book.

A book I will never get the chance to read if I arrogantly dismiss it as old news, just because I've opened it before.

My plea to you, young writers: re-read. Please. Do it today. Pick a favourite, a book you remember fondly, and give it another chance. You might love it, you might hate it, you might barely recognise or remember it. But you'll never know if you don't pick it up again.

P.S. This blog is actually Wednesday's, posted early because I'm off to frisk and frolic with some awesometastic writer pals tomorrow. Whee!

Monday, 2 August 2010


I read three books from my TBR pile this weekend, and they couldn't have been more different from each other if they tried! For your delectation and delight, I've reviewed all three and put the reviews on my Goodreads page. I wish I could post them here directly, but I tend to ramble when I review (yes, yes, I know - not JUST when I review!) and even a single one of them would be long for a blog post.

So if you want to know what I thought of SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater, you can find out here.

If you'd like to hear my thoughts on PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George you can read them here.

If you're interested in a review of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan, it's here.

I also watched Clash of the Titans - the new version with Gemma Arterton and Sam Worthington - this weekend. Now, friends of mine from primary school might remember my obsession with the Greek myths. I re-read my battered Penguin anthology until it fell to pieces and made about four illustrated manuscripts of my own, retelling my favourites. I've seen each of the Harryhausen films about twelve times. I've never attempted to re-tell any of them as an adult, because I simply don't feel I have the skills yet to do any one of the Greek myths justice. So you might guess that my reaction to a film that pretty much pees on the beautiful purity of the myths I love so much was not...entirely positive. I shan't sully your eyes with it. But I will say: Pegasus was gorgeous, Gemma Arterton was gorgeous and Hades' dark brimstone wings were gorgeous. I'd like to ride one, borrow the face and hair of another, and wear the third for my next costume party. I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which.

Next, I think I'm going to read BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken. Stand by for my review.
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