Tag Archives: writing

JO NESBO’S GUIDE TO WRITING A BESTSELLER

Jo Nesbo

First it was Swedish chiller Let The Right One In. Then came Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Now there’s a new literary phenomenon burning through Scandinavia and on to the big screen. Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo’s bestselling novels — 11 so far — became a sensation in his frosty homeland. And it’s easy to see why.Headhunters, the first film adaptation of his work, tells the story of Roger Brown, a headhunter who supplements his income with art theft before running into trouble. With killers, thieves, twists and tension, has the 52-year-old cracked the secret formula for writing a bestselling crime novel? Can he teach us? This is the advice he gave us…

1. WRITE FOR YOURSELF

“When I’m writing, I’m imagining an audience of one — myself. To me, writing is not about visiting people, it’s about inviting people to where you are. And that means you must know where you are. When you reach a crossroads, if you think, ‘Where would the reader like me to go?’ then you’re lost. You have to ask yourself, ‘What would make me want to get up tomorrow and finish this story?’ Sometimes the story will point the direction all by itself. Of course, it’s you as the writer who decides, but sometimes you feel like there’s a sort of gravity in the book.”

2. USE YOUR LIFE

“It’s good to draw on real-life experiences. When I’m writing a book like Headhunters, I use the crime genre but I also use myself. I’ve done a lot of different things. I was an officer in the air force. I make music. I worked as a stockbroker for many years. That’s how I had the inspiration for Headhunters. When I worked as a financial analyst, I was interviewed by headhunters. What helps my books is that I have a life, therefore I can relate to people’s lives.”

3. PULL LITERARY HEISTS

“Do I steal from other books? Definitely. And if I’m a thief, I can tell you I’m stealing but I can’t tell you who I have robbed. Well, OK, Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn — those were great books. For me, writing is a reaction to reading. It’s the same reflex you have around a table of friends. Somebody will tell a story, then the next person will tell a story, then the next. Then you have to bring something new to the table. I grew up in a home where I had so many great experiences being the listener or the reader. Now it’s my turn.”

4. HAVE A PERFECT PLAN

“If you have a good story to begin with, it will be great no matter how you write it. I like to have confidence that I know the story — that when I start writing, I have worked it over and over, so I don’t have the feeling after page one that I’m a story-maker. I’m a storyteller. The story is already there, I’m not making it up as I go along. That’s when you have the confidence to tell your readers, ‘Come and sit closer, because I have this great story. So just relax, lean back and trust me.’ That’s the way I feel when I’m reading work by the great storytellers.”

5. GO IN STRONG

“Americans are best at introducing their stories. In the first pages of a book they have a shameless way of hyping their own tale. It’s a tradition. John Irving does it, and Frank Miller, the graphic novelist, has the same way of manipulating you into turning the page. I love that. And it could be anything that makes your readers want to keep going — you can’t think in terms of rules. Just go with gut feeling. If the idea of an opening fascinates you and it sounds challenging, you’re on the right track.”

6. WORK WHEREVER YOU ARE

“I write everywhere, but the best place is in airports and on trains. When you’re sitting on a train or waiting for a plane, you only have a limited time to write. It makes you feel that time is precious. If you wake up in the morning and say, ‘OK, today I’m going to write for 12 hours,’ you don’t feel that. I like to know I’m going to do as much as I can in just one or two hours.”

7. WATCH CRIME FILMS

“My generation of writers has probably seen more movies than read books. In one of his books on screenwriting, Syd Field says, ‘Action is character.’ And you can adapt that in novels: it’s all about show, don’t tell. And to do that, you need action. People doing things, like in Seven, for example, the crime scenes tell a story. These tableaux are intensely effective in movies and in novels. If you consider No Country For Old Men, I can’t see anything in the book that’s not in the film. The language of the novel works perfectly when translated to film. Novels are borrowing the language of films, and novels are essentially doing what films do.”

8. LET THE TITLE CHOOSE ITSELF

“There are no rules when it comes to the title of a novel. Ideas come in all different ways. With The Snowman, the novel started with the title. I thought, ‘That sounds like a great title!’ And then I started thinking about what the title implied in terms of the story. So that was the start. In other cases, it’s the last thing I do. Sometimes it comes midway through the book. Like I said, no rules. Headhunters was obvious, because of the double meaning. That came quite quickly — it was a no-brainer.”

9. BE THE PSYCHOPATH

“Writers work similarly to actors; you have to be able to identify with a character. Even if you’re writing a psychopath, you have to find that little piece of psychopath that you have within yourself, and then you have to enlarge them a bit. Scary? Well, that’s what you have to do. Most humans are complex — we’re so full of different ingredients that we’ll be able to find most things within ourselves. Just use your imagination. Crime writing can be a dark universe, so, mentally, it’s tiring to write. I’m writing children’s books at the moment, my first was called Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder. It makes me feel better.”

10. WRITE WHAT’S THERE

“It’s not a matter of trying to write a bestseller. It’s writing what you have. And if you are lucky, you may share your taste of storytelling with a broad audience. I had no idea my stories would reach a wide audience. I thought they were more for a small audience. So I was surprised when I realised that I had so many people in my home.”

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Qatar to Launch $200K Arabic-novel Award in March

Holy Cow! $200,000 award for a novel!

Arabic Literature (in English)

The Katara Cultural Village has announced that the organization is set to launch a $200,000 award for Arabic novel.

imagesThis is about the same amount awarded by the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards (750,000AED) and comparable to the al-Owais Award ($100,000), but considerably more than the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), which awards $50,000 to each year’s winner and $10,000 to others on the shortlist. It is also much larger than other pan-Arab novel prizes, such as the Mohamed Zafzaf Prize ($10,000) and the Naguib Mahfouz medal ($1,000).

But the new Katara prize attempts to make not just a monetary splash. It promises to include “translating the winning novel into English and turning it into a play or film.”

The Katara isn’t the only prize to support translation: The Naguib Mahfouz medal also includes translation into English, and the IPAF supports translation into a number of languages. But the Katara…

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Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck.

John Steinbeck, the author of masterpieces such as Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden… shares with people 6 tips on writing from Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review.

  1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.4

  2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

  3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

  4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

  5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

  6. If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

And he adds finally:

  • If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”

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عن الكتابة #1

كم أخشي كتاباتي.

فالكلمات كيان مستقل بذاته لها شكل وصوت وصورة، شبح أو خيال. و كذلك كلماتي. كل ما أكتب يراقبني.. يحدق في.. يتربصني وأتربص به.. يستجوبني وأنكر.. أقامر معه وبه.. ويساومني.

فالكلمات مرآة.. وأنا أخشى المرايا،

لا أعلم كيف يمكن ألا نخشى المرايا. كيف يمكن أن ننظر لأنفسنا مطولاً دون أن تسري القشعريرة فينا. فالمرايا دائماً ما تستفز فينا إدراكنا بوجودنا، وهذا الإدراك.. خطير ومُرعب فهو يأتي محملاً بتالساؤلات، تساؤلات نعيش بالهرب وللهرب منها، لأننا في الحقيقة لا نملك إجابات.

وربما لن نملك الإجابات أبداً.

و الكلمات مرايا،،،

و بقدر ما تطيح بي دائماً رغبة في الكتابة توازيها رغبة في الهرب منها.. بعيداً عنها.. بعيد عن الإختبار ولحظة الحسم، لحظة الكشف.. لحظة تسجيل الوجود.

أنا أستطيع أن أميز الصوت الذي يكتب الكلمات. هل هو رخيم؟  متعجب؟ على عجالة أم هاديء؟ هل هو مريض.. هل هو موضوعي وصادق أم.. هل هو كاذب و مدع!

إن كنت لا تستطيع أن ترى وتسمع ما وراء الكلمات فأعذرني أن تمارس الكتابة والقراءة بشكل خاطيء.

لماذا أكتب في الأساس؟

 للمال؟ لأثير إعجاب الناس؟ أم لنفسي؟ لأغير العالم وأنشر الحقيقة و أكشف الظلمات؟ لأخرج كل ما بداخلي في النص.. لأني أرغب في الكتابة؟
من المنطقي أن يكون دوافع الكتابة مزيج من الكل لكن غالباً ما يتغلب دافع أو اثنان على الآخرين.

و لكني لا أعرف أي دافع منهم يتغلب علي.. و ربما لهذا فأنا كل يوم بمزاج غير المزاج تجاه الكتابة.. و كل يوم أكتب شيء جديد لا يكتمل.. و كل يوماً هنالك فكرة أو مشروع مختلف نهائياً عن الآخر.

لكن

لن أخفيك سراً أن من يثابر.. من يستطيع أن يتحمل صدمات الكتابة و في الغالب ينجح في النهاية (ماذا أقصد بينجح؟) هو الذي يكتب لأنه يحب أن يكتب وهذا بالتأكيد ليس بجديد.. فأن كنت تكتب لنفسك.. لترضي رغبتك و حبك في الكتابة.

فغالباً لن تتوقف أبداً.

لكن ما هو النجاح هنا إن كنت تكتب لنفسك؟ أن تكون أستاذ.. أن تكون الكلمات والصفحات. اللغة، كإنها إمتداد لأطرافك.. تلوح بها في أي اتجاه أردت و بأي شكل. و أن تعلم إنك كذلك… عندما تكون كذلك!

و لكن قبلما تكون كذلك؟

ربما يكون هذا هو الجحيم. فأنت تكتب وتكتب لأنك تحب أن تكتب و لكن لا يرضيك في كتاباتك شيئاً فتحتقر نفسك و كتاباتك وتحدق فيك في أسى و قلة حيلة وأنت تشعل فيها النيران.

و تسألك في بؤس و شك: ” أليس فيا ما يرضيك أم إنك لا ترضى؟”

فتكرر السؤال على نفسك وتفتش عن إجابة تؤمن حينها إنك لن تجدها أبداً فتلعنها وتلعن الكلمات.

لكني أكتب

و أحاول دائماً أن أكتب لنفسي.. فأنا بحاجة دائماً أن يكون هذا هو الدافع الوحيد حتى إن خالف رغبتي. فإن تعلقي بالدوافع الآخرى لن يؤدي إلى شيء إلا هشاشة تحملي لما أكتب. فأن كتبت لنفسي.. صارت معركتي مع مع أكتب فقط.. و ما أكتب هو امتداد لذاتي. و ليس فقط حتى يسهل الرضا.. بل حتى يسهل الصدق.

و تدور في دائرة مفرغة

تدفعك رغبة للكتابة.. فتخرج ما بداخلك فيلفظه الورق في وجهك مرة أخرى، فترتبك وتشك وتأتي النيران.

ثم تبدأ في الكتابة مرة أخرى..

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