Wonderful stories, fascinating people, interesting places

“A love of writing books should spring from a love of reading them but as I waded on through the submissions I wanted to engrave one sentence on all their hearts - read more, write less.”

This is what Susan Hill said in her article in Guardian a few days back about the writers who submitted their manuscripts to her publishing firm Long Barn Books – 3,741 submissions in all. And she only picked out 7 worthy enough of her attention, for wholesale reading.

Why? Because the remaining 3741 writers minus those lucky 7 appeared to have written the same book – and a bad one at that. These people all desired to write, which she understood perfectly, as for 50-odd years, she said, she still felt the same way as them, but “. . . a longing to write, even accompanied by dedication, really is not enough. Ability/talent and some sense of what makes a novel appeal to readers are essential too.”

She said this because most of those writings were fiction-as-therapy types, all recognizable within reading the first few lines even, as most of them were in first-person and in the present tense.

Her advice was to read the great novels, and she named Atonement as one of the present ones, and for the past ones, I’m happy to see her name To the Lighthouse. She said, “all of [those great novels] tell wonderful stories about fascinating people set in a variety of interesting places.”

We here in Malaysia have “fascinating people set in a variety of interesting places”. But do we have the writers to tell “wonderful stories” ?

I think we do – soon.


  1. bibliobibuli says

    You are one of them!

    Leon Wing says

    And you too!

    XMOCHA! says

    hi Leon,

    Cheers, I am so glad and envious to see you blogging religiously.

    Look forward to read ur novel..

    Come NaNoWriMo with us.

    Leon Wing says

    I happen to have more time to blog this week, so have to use the opportunity.

    You r nano-ing! I'm impressed. I see if I have at least 1 week to spare in Nov (like this week), in which I won't have any other work to take care of, I will consider.

    bibliobibuli says

    Mutual fan club, leon! (You are Nanoing with us, c'mon.)

    I'm glad you blogged this. I think she's right but I also am a little sceptical of Ms Hill's motives for taking on the whole venture. (It cost her v. little (a thousand quid), she got tons of free publicity for herself and her company, she got publishers and agents to send her their best manuscripts without her having to make an effort look for them.

    Am I too cynical??

    Is she actually helping anybody?

    We all know that not many make it. We know where we fall short when we read better writers and compare our sad selves.

    But how would she have coped with thousands of wonderful stories of fascinating people set in interesting places.

    Leon Wing says

    I don't think Hill actually reads past the first couple of pages of the 3 thou odd manuscripts. Probably if the first few pages of any grab her, like she said, she would go on reading.

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