Traditional Publishing

Writing is a ‘questionable business’, but what to make of John Hughes, one of the most prolific plagiarists in literary history? – Thursday March 2, 2023

In June of last year, the Guardian revealed that John Hughes’ Miles Franklin-longlisted novel The Dogs contained material lifted from The Unwomanly Face of War, a book by Nobel Prize-winning Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich. When approached about this, Hughes apologised for the transgression, describing the plagiarism as unintentional.

Before long, it was found that The Dogs contained material taken from numerous other texts, including widely read classics The Great Gatsby and All Quiet on the Western Front.

Hughes responded to these further revelations not with an apology, but with a spirited self-defence. He compared himself, rather incongruously, to Jorge Luis Borges’ Pierre Menard – a fictional character who sets out to rewrite Don Quixote line for line (the absurdity of the endeavour being the point) – and Jean Rhys, whose novel Wide Sargasso Sea does not hide the fact that it is a prequel to and reframing of Jane Eyre that exposes the original’s colonialist underpinnings.

Hughes was, he claimed, creating “a kind of literary palimpsest”. He insisted he had “always spoken through the voices of others”.

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Roald Dahl once said he would set an ‘enormous crocodile’ on publishers if they changed his work – Monday February 27, 2023

Roald Dahl's comments from 40 years ago about "setting an enormous crocodile" on his publishers if they changed his work have shed light on what the late author would have thought of attempts to censor him.

Dahl was recorded specifically saying that he would be outraged by the idea of censorship after his death, and joked that he would send the title character from his book The Enormous Crocodile to deal with his publishers.

The Daily Telegraph had reported that recent versions of children's favourites by Dahl, who died in 1990, had been changed by publisher Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, to remove descriptions of characters as "fat" and "ugly" in books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.

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ChatGPT showed me just how far it is from writing a blockbuster – Sunday February 26, 2023

10,000 hours. That’s how long, at least according to author Malcolm Gladwell, it’s supposed to take to master a craft. Or, if you’re an AI a matter of months, weeks, or days.

When I read that ChatGPT is now such an adept writer it’s already authored hundreds of books on Amazon’s self-publishing service, I experienced a mini freakout. To be clear, OpenAI’s groundbreaking chatbot is not publishing these tomes on its own. People are working with ChatGPT to develop themes, stories, and chapters for their books.

My immediate reaction was, “I’m doomed.” But as the icy chill of that cold reality receded, I considered something else. Anyone can write and publish a book, and most of them won’t be very good.

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Thrillers, Yes—Join the Genre

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach – Sunday February 26, 2023

5 Ideas for Finally Making BIG Money

Don’t say I told you this, but Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide is listed by Amazon as one of its big sellers already this year. It’s also a thriller. The book is from Simon and Schuster.

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3 Common Writing Mistakes New Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors Make – Friday February 17, 2023

Ioften get two responses when I tell people that I write books. The first is, "Oh, I don't think I could ever do that!" The second is just the opposite. "You know, I had an idea for a book myself."

The truth lies somewhere in between those two thoughts. It's certainly not impossible to write a book, but it takes more than a single good idea. You can write a great scene in a day, but a novel is often a labor of deliberate love. It takes time, planning, and revisions.

As a writer and an editor, I have seen many first-time authors (myself especially) struggle with the same few problems. This article highlights one issue I often see at the beginning, middle, and end of new authors' works—and how you can fix them.

If you are writing your first book, these tips can improve your manuscript and help you actually finish.

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Want to be a writer? This bleak but buoyant guide says to get used to rejection – Wednesday February 15, 2023

"No whining."

That's one of Stephen Marche's refrains throughout his provocative essay called On Writing and Failure. As a writer himself, Marche would never deny that writing is hard work: He well knows that writing for a living is fatiguing to the brain and tough on the ego and that the financial payoff is overwhelmingly dismal. But, by repeatedly saying, "No whining," Marche is telling aspiring writers, in particular, to "get used to it."

His aim in this little book is to talk about "what it takes to live as a writer, in air clear from the fumes of pompous incense." And what it takes, in Marche's view, is to have no illusions about the certainty of failure. Even beyond talent or luck, Marche argues, the one thing a writer needs to get used to is failing, again and again.

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AI is better at writing poems than you’d expect. But that’s fine. – Tuesday February 14, 2023

In 1950, computer scientist Alan Turing famously proposed what we now call the Turing test of artificial intelligence, which says that a machine might be “thinking” if it can pass as human in a typewritten chat. Even if you’re familiar with this story, you might not know that Turing imagined starting his test with a literary request: “Please write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge.” He predicted an evasive but very human response from some future computer: “Count me out on this one. I never could write poetry.” That’s just what my dad would say.

Last week, I sent the same request to ChatGPT, the latest artificial-intelligence chatbot from OpenAI. “Upon the Firth of Forth, a bridge doth stand,” it began. In less than a minute, the program had created in full a rhyming Shakespearean sonnet. With the exception of offensive or controversial topics that its content filters block, ChatGPT will compose original verse on any theme: lost love, lost socks, jobs lost to automation. Tools like ChatGPT seem poised to change the world of poetry — and so much else — but poets also have a lot to teach us about artificial intelligence. If algorithms are getting good at writing poetry, it’s partially because poetry was always an algorithmic business.

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Tips and Resources for Writing Your First Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel – Sunday February 12, 2023

These books helped me learn about story structure, characterization, and the most important aspect of writing: persistence.

Like many writers, my very first attempt to write a novel began with one scene. I saw dust motes floating through sunbeams, framing a woman sitting at a bar made of antique wood. Over the years, I’d wonder about that woman. Who was she? Why was she sitting at a bar all alone with nothing but trickles of sunlight to keep her company? 

These are the kinds of questions and images that set authors on the journey of writing. But the more I tried to figure out who she was, what the story was, the more elusive it all became. This woman became the symbol of my creativity. Sitting in isolation, stuck in a liminal backdrop that refused to budge. The encouraging voices telling me I could write and should pursue it were drowned by a much louder, far more formidable force: doubt.

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A.R. Capetta’s Top Ten Tips For Writing Speculative Short Stories – Sunday February 12, 2023

To celebrate the release of their sensational new YA sci-fi anthology, Tasting Light: Ten Science Fiction Stories to Rewire Your Perception, co-editor A.R. Capetta, shares their top ten tips for writing speculative short stories.

1. Write that first draft as quickly as you can get it down—without giving yourself time to judge it. If your story involves worldbuilding or even research, like many of the science and tech-inspired stories in Tasting Light, you can do that beforehand and layer in more afterward. But as you write a first draft try not to interrupt your brainwaves while they’re chasing the single, brilliant beam of light that is your idea.

2. Speaking of light! A great speculative short story is like a beam of light that’s gone through the facet of a prism. It is focused and transforming. As part of your writing process, read some of your favorite SFF stories. Look for the focus. Look for transformation—both in the story itself and in how it changes things for the reader.

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Why publishers are such cowards – Sunday February 12, 2023

After publishing 17 books, I’m no stranger to the publicity campaign. In my no-name days, my publicist would purr that my novel’s release would be ‘review-driven’ – which decodes: ‘We don’t plan to spend a sou on your doomed, inconsequential book.’ By contrast, as we’ve seen writ large with Prince Harry’s Spare, your volume can be cast upon the public waters as not a mere object but an event. The intention is to convince book-buyers that unless they snap up a copy sharpish they’ll be caught up short at cocktail parties.

Thus quite some time ago, some editorial Baldrick at William Collins must have whispered to Nigel Biggar, a newly signed author at the HarperCollins imprint: ‘I have a cunning plan.’ Clearly the concept driving this week’s release of the Oxford professor’s Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning, which before our current Year Zero would never have caused a stir, was to convert misfortune to opportunity, much as manure can convert to fuel.

As I’ve read the story in some ten different articles, interviews and reviews, including in last week’s Spectator, we’ll keep the recap short: Bloomsbury commissions book on British Empire; Bloomsbury loves book on British Empire; Bloomsbury gets the willies about too-hot-to-handle manuscript claiming British Empire did some good things as well as bad and pays off author to go away. Behold, yet another ‘cancellation’ in an industry that once audaciously scandalised genteel sensibilities with the likes of Ulysses or Lady Chatterley’s Lover and is now renowned instead for cravenness, fearfulness and slavish conformity.

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