Wednesday, 11 December 2013

What's in a cover?

Tender Hooks, by Moni Mohsin, is a wonderful, fiendishly clever satire on contemporary Pakistan, but you wouldn't know it from its cover. This is one of those books that committed the terrible crime of not slotting neatly into any genre that could be easily marketed. So it got sent to the chick-lit ghetto and given a cover that the likes of me would normally never pick up in a squillion years.

I did pick it up though, but only because I had heard Mohsin speak at a Bath Literature Festival event on "Politics and Satire" and was so impressed I rushed out to the bookshop to buy it. I love books that take me different worlds I know nothing about and tell me what is really going on there. I hoped Tenderhooks would do that --and it did.

The book is best described as a kind of Diary of Adrian Mole, narrated by a snobbish, poorly educated middle aged Pakistani woman recording her efforts to find her cousin a wife. It is smart and funny and touches on everything from the education system to marriage to terrorism to "fundoos". Best of all it satirises the venality of the elites, their self absorption, snobbery, greed, lack of self awareness and distraction by minutiae while around them chaos and absurdity reign. It may be about Pakistani, but like all good books, it's about everywhere.

The title isn't great either, particularly when you put it into Google looking for pix of the book cover for your blog....Yeeewwwww.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Thank you NaNoWriMo

I've resurfaced after a month at the coal face of NaNoWriMo. That is short for National Novel Writing Month and it does what it says on the tin --a writing challenge to produce £50,000 words of a manuscript from the 1 Nov to the 30 Nov.

It might sound like madness, but having done it for the first time this year, I think it is a little bit of genius. First of all, what better way to spend November, that dark and dank waste of a month, than with fingers glued to the keyboard? But mostly, it was a brilliant way to kickstart my second novel, which I had been avoiding (more like dreading). I had spent a torturous seven years writing the first one (or mostly re-writing the first one...) and could not face starting to climb that mountain again. NaNoWriMo gave me a way to dive straight in and just start swimming, without worrying about the quality of my strokes or whether I looked fat in my bathing suit, etc. Without it, without the impetus to produce close to 2,000 words each day, I would have stalled early on, getting bogged down in detail, backtracking. Instead I was able to write roughshod over my own pedantry and get on with the story.

I managed to write a reasonable draft too. Or maybe it is better described an elaborate outline. Either way I have completed the whole story in 50077 words, with my characters established, plot laid out, themes, symbols and pretty much everything coming together in the way it should. There is even some good writing in there, amidst the dross. I can now use that to write the book properly. And it definitely won't take me seven years.

Thank you NaNoWriMo. You are ace!