The writer’s going for 50,000 words at least, the copywriter is programmed to autoedit after 100. The writer wants to tell a story, the copywriter wants to know about marketability, feasibility, liability and who the target audience is. The writer knows that it takes as long as it takes, the copywriter sets impossible deadlines and worries about them. The writer wants to write a novel, the copywriter wants to write the blurb.
Between them, they’re ruining my book. And as if they were not bad enough, I now have the horrible fate of Kavya Viswanathan knocking on my window at night.
I had a momentous flash of insight yesterday, almost an epiphany – one of the reasons my book reads like shit is that I’m “channelling” whatever I’m reading. So, not only does the style drift from chapter to chapter like a homeless person, so does the plot. Worse, I can’t tell if I’m just borrowing styles or whole sentences.
John Grisham has nothing in common with Wodehouse, Sophie Kinsella is not exactly Georgette Heyer and Naipaul is emphatically different from Rushdie, but they mingle freely in my work, with the indiscriminate camaraderie exhibited on the shelves of Dubai’s bookshops.
If I have to finish my damned book, I will have to stop reading for a year. Or, at least, it will have to be restricted to certain kinds of non-fiction. I especially have to ditch my oldest and dearest friends – authors that I have read and re-read for years. I hope it’s only for a while.
Timid Frieda, Jacques Brel
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