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Writing Fiction – encouragement from the best.

If you want to improve your fiction writing, there are plenty of guide books out there to help you. So many, in fact, that you could spend all your available time reading them and never get round to putting pen to paper yourself.

I don’t think that two of my favourite novelists read such books. If they did, they certainly didn’t mention it. But both, in their own way, managed to include words of encouragement for other authors into their manuscripts. It was a craft they were both truly proud of, and recognised the hard work that goes into writing good fiction. Here’s Jane Austen addressing fellow writers in Northanger Abbey.

Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost so many as our readers. …

“And what are you reading Miss –?” “Oh, it is only a novel,” replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. …

Or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.

And here is George Eliot, in Adam Bede, proffering her thoughts on fiction writing.

Ignore prototypes of good, evil, beauty, ugliness and describe real humans: flawed yet admirable. Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. The pencil is conscious of a delightful fallacy in drawing a griffin – the longer the claws, and the larger the wings, the better.

But that marvellous facility, which we mistook for genius is apt to forsake us when we want to draw a real, unexaggerated lion.

[Its} a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings – much harder than to say something fine about them which is NOT the exact truth.

Both saw writing novels as a noble cause. Demanding, hard to get right, but something to be proud of, not embarrassed about. None of your ‘Oh, it’s only a novel’ false modesty for them!

And now from the sublime to the ridiculous (Stop it Margaret, stop being so diffident!) here are the links to my books and social media


Quote of the Week – June 19
Beth Bolden – Impossible Things