Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Fear Of Writing - Even Literary Greats Make Mistakes.

By My Den
A recent conversation with a friend, about starting a blog, got me thinking about her unfounded fears of writing and blogging, largely centered on her mistaken beliefs that one has to be supremely articulate or have superb command of the English language in order to write and blog. I do not know how others see it but i felt that blogging is actually something very personal and is an act of self-expression with no need to justify for one's perceived inarticulateness.

As writing is the most common means of communication and necessary in the sharing of information and knowledge, i believed we sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves when we write, thus causing unnecessary apprehension and anxiety. My advice is to just go ahead and write, enjoy the experience and i am sure, along the writing journey, one will pick up the necessary skills to be an effective writer. Besides, there is actually a certain joy in rawness, reading unclinical views and opinions that comes out straight from the heart.

With no intention of demeaning the importance of grammar in the English language, i felt that we sometimes get so worked up about it that we stumble over our apprehensions and fall into error. While we should be mindful about correct usage, we must also not be so fearful of committing errors when speaking or writing English as consciousness of grammar should actually facilitate clear speech and precise writing instead of shutting us up.

It is also interesting to note that even literary greats make mistakes and there is not a single great writer in all of English literature who has not committed grammatical mistakes. Here are some highlighted by F.G.Fowler's The King's English, a standard guide to grammar:

- "The most pompous monument of Egyptian greatness, and one of the most bulky works of manual industry, are the pyramids" (Samuel Johnson).
Subject-verb agreement (or disagreement).

- "..neither of which are very amiable motives for religious gratitude" (William Thackeray).
Neither and either should always take singular verbs.

- "Nataly promised amendment, with a steely smile, that his lips mimicked fondly" (George Meredith).
That, should not be used to introduce a non-defining clause.

- "All debts are cleared between you and I if I might but see you at my death"? (William Shakespeare).
Usage of wrong pronouns, me instead of I.

One book that greatly influenced me to start writing was Dorothea Brande's "Becoming a Writer". A classic since 1934, her book is very different from the many "how-to-write" guides. Instead of techniques, styles or methods, her book touches on the philosophy, thinking, lifestyle and attitude of a writer. In essence, it was designed to simply help you get over yourself and start writing, just like what i did after reading her book.

So, to all who intends to embark on the writing journey but have unfounded fears, just go ahead and write and experience the joy that writing brings.

*Related Posts :
- The Joy Of Writing
- A Writer's Ernest Assessment

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Man Booker Prize Contenders 2007.

A Review By MyDen
Book lovers around the world should now be eagerly awaiting the outcome of this year's winner of the Man Booker Prize. The Booker Prize, now known as Man Booker Prize since it's sponsorship by investment company Man Group in 2002, is a prestigious literary award started in 1969. It is awarded to the best novel of the year by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and is judged by a five-person panel of critics, writers and academics.

With a prize pot of $50,000 pounds, there are a total of six authors and their shortlisted books vying for the prestigious prize this year, with Ian McEwan, the winner in 1998 for his novel Amsterdam, again in the running. If McEwan wins again in Oct 16, he will be only the third person in the prize's history to have won more than once. Australian author, J.M. Coetzee was the first to win on two occasions, in 1983 and 1999, while Peter Carey, another Australian author, won in 1988 and 2001.

Unlike the uproar last year when the shortlist comprised largely of unknown authors (Indian writer Kiran Desai won for The Inheritance of Loss), this year's list, all first time nominees except for McEwan, are reasonably well known in literary circles.

Besides international glory, winning the prize usually translates into increase book sales worldwide. After her win last year, Desai's The Inheritance of Loss rocketed into the bestsellers list in Singapore and remained there for 23 weeks. All the six shortlisted books except for Nicola Barker's Darkmans, are available here together with short reviews, author bios and just for the fun of it, the odds at Ladbrokes of the six authors.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.
Set in 1962, the book delves into the psyches of a young English couple to explain their disastrous wedding night.
About Ian McEwan.
Born in 1948 in Aldershot, Hampshire, McEwan followed his army officer father to postings in East Asia, Germany and North Africa. A graduate of the University of Sussex, he lives in Oxford. This is his 10th novel and fifth Booker prize nomination.
Stranger than fiction.
He discovered a long-lost elder brother, a bricklayer, in 2002, who had been given up for adoption during World War II, the result of an extra-marital affair between his parents when his mother was married to someone else at that time.
Ladbrokes Odds.
His odds of 5/2 are second only to Lloyd Jones but the general consensus in literary circles is that the slim novel is not one of his most profound works. Then again, his Booker prize winning Amsterdam was also considered one of his lesser novels.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.
The story of an American-educated Pakistani man who became disillusioned with the United States after Sept 11 and his doomed relationship with an American girl.
About Mohsin Hamid.
Born in 1971 in Lahore, Pakistan and a graduate of Harvard Law School and Princeton University, Hamid worked as a management consultant in New York before moving to London in 2001. This is his second novel and his debut work, Moth Smoke, won a Betty Trask Award in 2001. The award is given to first-time writers from the Commonwealth under the age of 35. He is also the youngest among the shortlisted authors.
Stranger than fiction.
Given the pivotal date in the novel, he actually started writing The Reluctant Fundamentalist in 2000, well before the cataclysmic Sept 11 event and had already relocated to London when the World Trade Center was attacked.
Ladbrokes Odds. This elegant novel was much talked about when first published but with odds of 6/1, Hamid is currently, not one of the front runners.

The Gathering by Anne Enright.
An Irish tale about a middle-aged woman who discovers the seeds of her alcoholic brother's doom, who committed suicide by drowning, in the history of her sprawling family.
About Anne Enright.
Born in Dublin in 1962, the former television producer and director studied English at Trinity College in Dublin and creative writing at the University of East Anglia. The Gathering is her fourth novel and her second book in 2000, What Are You Like?, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and won the Encore Award. Her collection of short stories, The Portable Virgin in 1991, also won the Rooney prize for Irish Literature.
Stranger than fiction.
She has written extensively about the discomforts of breast-feeding and that "amniotic fluids" smells like tea with regards to her being pregnant with and raising her two young children.
Ladbrokes odds.
Though critics like the book's blend of cynicism and sympathy, there are some who dislike it for it's cliches about Irish families. It is currently a dark horse with odds of 9/1.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.
Set in the 1990s', the story is about the only white man on the South Pacific island of Bougainville and his attempts to re-open the school in a small village to teach the children Charles Dickens' Great Expectations against a backdrop of the ongoing civil war to secede from Papua New Guinea.
About Lloyd Jones.
The former journalist was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1955, where he still lives. He is a graduate of Victoria University. This is his seven novel and it has already clinched the Commonwealth Writers' Overall Prize for Best Book. His fifth book, The Book of Fame, won the Deutz Medal for Fiction in the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize in 2003.
Stranger than fiction.
As a journalist, Jones visited the island of Bougainville and even stayed with Sam Kauona, the military leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
Ladbrokes odds.
With odds of 2/1, Jones is currently the front runner for the award. However, being the bookies' favorite does not guarantee the prize and the book has been criticised for its unconvincing ending.

Animal's People by Indra Sinha.
About a community quest for justice, the novel is set in the fictional Indian city of Khaufpur, which was ravaged by a leak from an American chemical factory. The narrator is Animal, a teenager who walks on all fours due to his chemically damaged spine.
About Indra Sinha.
Born in Mumbai, India, in 1950, Sinha studied English at Cambridge University before working as an advertising copywriter. Now a full-time author, he lives in France. Although he is the least well known among the nominees, his debut novel, The Death Of Mr. Love in 2002, garnered critical acclaim. Animal's People is his second book.
Stranger than fiction.
An award-winning star copywriter at top agency Collett Dickenson Pearce, he has used his design savy to set up a website about the fictional city of Khaufpur at
Ladbrokes odds.
Though an outsider with 9/1 odds, his epic novel has all the the ingredients - globalisation, politics, culture clashes and an idiosyncratic narrator - to pull him to the head of the pack.

Darkmans by Nicola Barker (Image not available).
A complex narrative about an estranged father and son dwelling in Kent, England and their shenanigans while being occasionally possessed by the spirit of John Scogin, one of King Edward IV's court jesters.
About Nicola Barker.
Born in 1966 in Ely, Cambridgeshire and raised in South Africa, she return to Britain when she was 14. She studied English and philosophy at Cambridge University and lives in London. Her third book, Wide Open in 1998, won the International Impac Dubin Literary Award. This is her seventh novel.
Stranger than fiction.
She is a self-confessed addict of of popular reality series Big Brother and property programme, A Place In The Sun.
Ladbrokes odds.
Her current odds are 4/1. While Darkmans has been praised for it's ambitious scope, it might be a little to offbeat to win a mainstream prize.

*Related post :
- Winner Of The Man Booker Prize 2007

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Monetizing Your Hobby - About PayPerPost.

Almost everyone is looking towards increasing their incomes with catch phrases like "multiple streams of income” and “alternative streams of income” common in books on personal money management. It basically means that you get additional income from other sources besides your regular job.

Other than working two jobs, which will be extremely taxing, one of the best way to increase one's income is by monetizing your hobbies. Since you enjoy doing it, you might as well get paid for it thus turning it into an "alternative stream of income." With that in mind, especially since writing and reading are my hobbies, i recently signed up for PayPerPost, a blog marketing network that pays you to blog about things that interests you.

Being new with PayPerPost, i am not entirely familiar with the mechanics of the network but looking at their website, i get the impression that there are plenty of opportunities available for you to blog about and also a general sense that it pays better, between $5 to $20 per opportunity, than Google Adsense. Of course, it correspondingly requires more effort as it is not just a contextual ads network like Adsense. The best part is that you get to choose the opportunities that interest you and are relevant to your blog content. Nifty tools like PayPerPost Direct are also available where you can negotiate directly with advertisers who like your blog and want you to blog about their products or services.

The requirements of getting your blog accepted into PayPerPost network are minimal with your blog at least 90 days old and have 20 posts. Payment is through Paypal and with their disclosure
policy, sponsored posts are declared so that there are no deception to readers. As a matter of fact, my first assignment is to write about PayPerPost itself and i believe that i will be paid US$20 for it. Not too bad for doing something that i enjoyed and for those who are interested, check out PayPerPost, as a means of monetizing your hobbies.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Robert Ludlum And The Business Of Ghost Writing.

I have always wonder whether i had my facts mixed up about Robert Ludlum, the best selling author of thrillers and international intrigue, as i remembered reading that he had passed away a few years back. Yet, i kept seeing his latest books in the book stores that i frequented, like his latest - The Bourne Betrayal.

It was an article in the local newspaper recently, that got this puzzle of mine straightened out and apparently, the estate of Robert Ludlum had allowed ghost writers to preserve and continue Ludlum's literary tradition, resulting in a total of 12 books since his death.

Excerpts from The Sunday Times Aug 26 2007 :
"Writer Robert Ludlum died six years ago, but that had done nothing to slow the release of books published under the name of the actor-turned-novelist who specialised in thrillers built on a foundation of paranoia.

Twelve Ludlum books have been released since his death, with a 13th due out next month. The business is deployed now as a kind of film studio, presenting books completed by others or new ones written using his name. Since early last year there have been three : The Moscow Vector, the sixth in the Covert-One series of paperback originals; The Bancroft Strategy and Ludlum's The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader.

Ludlum did not want to be forgotten or leave behind only an enormous backlist that started with The Scarlati Inheritance in 1971. He had little reason to worry : He is now a brand extended far into his afterlife. His estate has borrowed from the examples of V.C. Andrews, dead since 1986, but selling well thanks to novels in her name written by an uncredited author, and Ernest Hemingway, whose estate issued several books after his suicide.

Mr. Jeffrey Weiner, the executor of Ludlum's estate, says : "People expect something from a Robert Ludlum book, and if we can publish Ludlum books for the next 50 years and satisfy readers, we will." The estate's post-mortem publishing game plan is reminiscent of licensing and other deals for dead stars such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, and the film industry's comfort with familiar franchises.

Whether it is fair to readers to publish Ludlum books posthumously - in the form of spruced-up old manuscripts or new novels written by others - is not a serious concern to the estate or to the publisher, Grand Central Publishing. "I don't think anyone objects as long as you maintain the quality of the books," says Mr. Morrison, the late writer's agent....."

I am not so sure how others see it but i believe it will be extremely difficult to replicate the works of another author given that each author has his or her own unique style of writing, choice and usage of words, methods of characterisation, rhythm, tenor and so forth. The reading experience would also be...different. As to whether it is fair to readers, i will leave that judgement to fans of Robert Ludlum. Well anyway, at least it solved one of my puzzles.

*For fans of Robert Ludlum, follow the adventures of Jason Bourne :
- The Bourne Identity
- The Bourne Supremacy
- The Bourne Ultimatum
- The Bourne Legacy ( by Eric Van Lustbader )
- The Bourne Betrayal ( by Eric Van Lustbader )

*Related post :
- A Vampiric Thrill With Anne Rice
- My Journey With Stephen King
- In Memory Of Gary Jennings
- The World's Most Published Author