A few years ago I taught a writing workshop with a graduate of the UEA creative writing course, who offered very firm advice, such as ĎAlways keep the active part of the sentence for the end so that the reader will find it easy to want to read on to the next one.í It hadnít occurred to me that this was the main job of a writer. In fact I donít know how to teach someone to write, although I can make suggestions for improvements to those who can. On another occasion I heard of a novelist who had submitted each chapter of her novel as it was written to a focus group set up by her publisher. She amended her work according to their response. I think this is not all that uncommon. In Ďthe real worldí, writing to a focus group, or making it a priority to keep it easy for the reader, would be seen as best practice. But Iím stuck on the notion that writers write and readers keep up. Or they donít. If they keep up they have all manner of opinions, thoughts and discussions about the work; if they donít keep up, or choose not to, they can stop reading and never bother with that writer again. At the reading end, Iím pretty liberal, do what you like, itís your book now. But reading comes after writing, and, Iíd have said until recently, writing also comes before publishing.
LRB 5 January 2012 | PDF Download