Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Monkeys with Typewriters

Monkeys with Typewriters by Scarlett Thomas

This is by far the most inspirational book about writing I have ever read. The subtitle is How to write fiction and unlock the secret power of stories.

The author is a CW lecturer, and the book is more in depth than any other How To Write books I've read, but wasn't too academic. I found it very readable, and many times I stopped and stared into space, trying to apply what I'd just read to my current WIPs. I had two Epiphanies about my novel from reading this book. 

First epiphany - early on in the book she talks about Aristotle's story arcs - tragedies vs comedies. I realised the historical story in my novel is a tragedy, and the contemporary story needed to follow the comedy story arc to balance it. (Comedy as in happy ending, not funny ha-ha.) Currently my contemporary story wibbles along, but doesn't quite follow the arc. I can put that right now I've recognised it.

Second epiphany - near the end she talks about the 3 things you need when writing your novel. 1. Narrative questions - what's going to keep the reader turning the pages. There needs to be one main one and several smaller ones. Tick. Got those. 2. Thematic question - what's the novel really about, what does it make the reader sit and ponder? Tick. Got that.3. The 'seed' word. You think of all the single words which describe what your novel's about (usually abstract nouns) and try to find the one which encompasses all the others. Then write with that idea in mind at all times. She said once you realise what the seed word is for your novel, it'll make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. I had a think, and realised for my novel the seed word is 'identity'. Ping, went my neck hairs! 

I bought this book after reading a review of it on Cally Taylor's blog. I am very glad I did. I feel like I've just taken a CW course! Definitely recommend it.


  1. Sounds great Kath- I'm going to get it as the first download on my Kobo e-reader (if I can work out how the hell to do it!!)

  2. P.S: how do you manage to read so much??! And write - and all the other stuff? I'm impressed!