How do you choose a book? Are you seduced by a gorgeous cover, do you clip out great reviews? Or is it word of mouth, or a random pick up in a book shop or library? Maybe you've heard of the fey idea of 'library angels' who help you find just the book you need. I can't remember whether in Wim Wender's original version 'Wings of Desire' the angels hung out in the library so much, but in the 'City of Angels' remake Nicolas Cage and his dark coated friends drifted among the stacks when they weren't at the beach. If I ever make it upstairs, I can't think of a better way to split the time.
Perhaps you go by the first, or last line in deciding whether a book is for you. Remember how in 'When Harry Met Sally' Billy Crystal always read the end of the book first so that in case he died, he'd know the ending? There's even a new book out called something like 'Page 63' (sorry it's Sunday - my brain is working slowly) - because if the author likes that certain page, he's bound to like the rest of the book. One book I've been meaning to read for ages is Janet Frame's 'An Angel at My Table'. We were in the library changing the children's books on Friday, when suddenly there was a copy on the sale shelf. My usual method is to flick randomly through the book and see if a phrase jumps out and hooks me in. Every page I stopped at had something fresh and dazzling. Personally I don't always want to agree with the author - I want to be provoked, inspired, to think 'I never noticed that' or 'I never thought of it like that, but of course ...'
A new reader of the blog, Susie, has asked if we can recommend any books about how to write. I haven't heard of Rob Parnell's work, but I agree there's certainly a bewildering array of advice out there. Maybe some of you have books you can recommend? When I started writing I read everything I could get my hands on - rather like when you are expecting your first child! I don't think I picked up a single book with number two. Of writing books, there are some in the Amazon sidebar on the blog that are very good. Stephen King's 'On Writing' is the single most readable book about the journey to becoming a professional writer. If you want something with writing prompts and suggestions 'Writing Down the Bones' is excellent. If you are tempted by the idea of writing a novel in a month NaNoWriMo is a long established month long writing scheme - they have a website. Maybe some of you have tried it? If any of you have any suggestions for Susie, do pass them along via the comments. (By the way sorry they are now being checked before posting - we seem to have attracted a few 'off topic' shall we say ...) The single best piece of advice I was ever given is just to write, every single day, and read as much as you can. Joining your local writer's group is also a great idea for moral support, but if you're at home with family just read, read, read! I read once 'if you are around talented people, you become talented.' The same applies to the osmosis that happens with great books I think.
TODAY'S PROMPT: What's the best first line you've ever come across? 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...' (Dickens) is one that's regularly trotted out. Why not have a search for the 'best first lines of novels' and see if something inspires you to read a classic you've been meaning to get around to. Or perhaps you can get creative with Photoshop or good old paper and glue, and mock up a cover for your novel. How would you love it to look? Can you picture it on the stacks in the library, the 3 for 2 table in Borders - or (more often than not now) at the end of the freezer aisle in the supermarket?