Thursday, 18 December 2008


"There wasn't a lot of room to work, but that didn't bother me. Of all the human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin - the desk's too big, the desk's too small, there's too much noise, there's too much quiet, it's too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I had learned over the years to ignore them all, and simply to start. I plugged in my laptop, switched on the Anglepoise, and contemplated the blank screen and its pulsing cursor.

A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and immediately it becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it's halfway to being just like every other bloody book that's ever been written. But the best must never be allowed to drive out the good. In the absence of genius there is always craftsmanship. One can at least try to write something which will arrest the reader's attention - which will encourage them, after reading the first paragraph, to take a look at the second, and then the third. I picked up McAra's manuscript to remind myself of how not to begin a ten-million-dollar autobiography."

Above is a snippet from THE GHOST by Robert Harris, and I thought it would resonate with any writer! I found the story entertaining as a thriller, and recognise that a likeness between the hero Adam Lang and Tony Blair could be claimed by many readers. Leaving that to one side, I enjoyed the discoveries made by the ghostwriter drafted in to take over the hero's memoirs when the first ghostwriter dies in mysterious circumstances. I liked the idea of the sat nav taking the reluctant "ghost" to the last place his predecessor visited, thereby moving the plot several blocks forward almost as much as I enjoyed reading about the life and skills of a ghostwriter.

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