Sunday, 6 June 2010

The First Highlight Of My Holidays

I had a great time hanging out with my family in the sunshine last week, and there were two real highlights. The first was the amazing bookshop in Carnforth, with new books on the ground floor and over 100,000 second-hand books on the first and second floors. The second-hand books are housed in a warren of small rooms with uneven floors and labels like Poetry; Railways And Transport; Religion And Spirituality; Science Fiction, Fantasy And Crime. They even have a section for sheet music. I can't believe my family have lived in the area for almost 30 years and I've never been to this bookshop before.

I browsed for a while, going 'ooh!' and 'aah!', as you would, then I thought about my addiction to how-to books. I couldn't work out where they might be, so I asked the gentle, bearded, bespectacled man at the desk. He led me through several rooms to a dusty shelf by a window. There were several books I recognised from my collection and, whoop-de-whoop, a few that were new to me. Among these I found two gems.

The first has a garish colour, with the title How to Write a Mi££ion in big gold writing, then subtitle The Complete Guide To Becoming A Successful Author in red and a banner proclaiming 'Methods that Really work! Yeah, what a load of crapola, I thought, but couldn't resist having a look anyway. Inside were three separate books: Plot by Ansen Dibell, Characters And Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, and Dialogue by Lewis Turco. Attentive readers of this blog will remember that Orson Scott Card is a writer for whom I have huge respect, but what excited me most, even though I'd never heard of the other two authors, was the 163 pages on Plot.

I find plotting one of the most difficult aspects of writing. It seems many other people do too, even experienced writers, even writing tutors: the thousands of pages in my how-to collection only contain a handful on plot. I'm reading my new book avidly, and it's fascinating and instructive. It's also available for 1p on Amazon if anyone's interested (plus the £2.75 postage charge, of course). I paid £3, so was 24p down on the deal, but I don't care because (a) it's important to support independent bookshops and (b), oh wait, you need the backstory for (b) so here goes.

The second book I bought is even more fabulous. It's The Short Story by Sean O'Faolain. For those who haven't come across him, Mr O'Faolain (1900-1991) was a marvellous exponent of the literary short story, with a terrific command of language, a great sense of humour and a wonderful narrative voice. I had no idea he'd written a how-to book. His writing style seems old-fashioned, but in a charming, gentlemanly way which, for me, is a pleasure to read. I have a couple of recent how-to books on short stories, both of which are useful but they concentrate more on the commercial than the literary story. That's fine, because I see myself more as a commercial than a literary writer, but I'm sure Sean O'Faolain has a great deal to teach me.

This book was priced at £3.50, but when I got to the desk with my two books, the lovely beardy man said 'We'll call that six quid then.' Apparently this is their usual practice. Which brings us back to (c), because The Short Story is available used on Amazon from £17.96 (plus postage of course). So not only did I find two books that I'm very pleased to have in my collection, but my newly-acquired mathematical skills enable me to work out that I've beaten Amazon Marketplace by £17.47!

Details of the second highlight will come in the next post and, for the first time in ages, there will be photos.

16 comments:

HelenMHunt said...

That does sound like an amazing place.

JJ Beattie said...

I lurve bookshops like that. I lurve how to books too but now I have to buy them in secret because my family abuse me for the number of how to write books I've got as against how many books I've written!

Talli Roland said...

That bookshop sounds amazing!

I too find plotting the most difficult aspect of writing. I constantly want to bang my head against the desk when I'm trying to do it!

Debs said...

Now that sounds like my kind of shopping. Well done for getting such bargains.

LilyS said...

Bargain!! I love shops like that - you never know what you're gonna find!

L-Plate Author said...

I have that book how to make a mi££ion! Must go and route it out...again.

That book shop sounds amazing x

Jen said...

Wow this place sounds amazing!!!! I found your blog over at Talli's place and I'm glad I did, I always love learning about new books!

KarenG said...

Sounds like the book shop of my dreams. I could get lost in a place like that.

Carol said...

I adore book shops like that!! It's not just all the nooks and crannies but they have a distinctive smell too!! I just know that I would have spent hours in there!!

Congrats on your bargains (and your new found maths skills!)

C x

Lane said...

Score!

What a wonderful shop and equally wonderful finds.

Yes, plot - the most difficult of all writerly difficult things. I hope your new finds help move things along for you and add lots of lovely well plotted words to your draft.

Captain Black said...

I'm afraid of how-to books, they might tell me what I'm doing wrong. I can do plots though, even though I say it myself.

Debi said...

If E books became the norm, bookshops like this would disappear. How hideous would that be???

Re plotting. I think it's an organic process if you let it flow. ie you have your characters, you give them a situation to react to, the way in which they react leads directly to the next situation for them to deal with and so on. The jeopardy keeps increasing and what they want/need is unstable as the story moves on.

As the meerkats would say, 'Simples!'

Pat said...

I know Carnforth is pleasantly in my past somewhere. Is it near Silverdale? I must get my map out of the car.
I trust we shall reap the benefits of your book hunting. Amazon can never replace the fun of browsing round bookshops but it is a boon for such as me who find going out shopping more and more of a palaver.
I was amazed the other day to see a record of what I have bought over the last few months.

Bernadette said...

Ooh, I love a good furtle in a nice old bookshop.

Sounds like you made some useful finds - and got a well-calculated bargain too!

SpiralSkies said...

I'm super-impressed that you escaped the literary labyrinth with only two books - I'd have had to order a fork lift to get them all home!

Looking forward to the next highlight...

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

I want to know what the second highlight was!