Going Postal

I like snail mail. I like opening envelopes to find out what’s inside. Even the post at work. I’m nosy like that.

I watched Going Postal several years ago – I think it was a TV movie, possibly by ITV, like the adaptation of The Hogfather. I’ve been trying to work my way through Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series ever since. Slowly, though. As I find them in charity shops or the library. And find the moment to read them.

This week, finally, I found the time to read Going Postal, which concerns a con-man’s attempts to resurrect the state mail service in Ankh-Morpork alongside the much faster, almost mafia-controlled clacks (think telegrams).

Come hell or high water, the mail must get through. And there’s a lot of hell for Moist von Lipwig, the new Postmaster. It wasn’t his first choice of career, but Lord Vetinari made it clear: Postmaster (with a golem for a probation officer), or be hanged for his various con-man crimes.

I remember greatly enjoying the film back then, and now I greatly enjoyed the book. It is, I feel, one of the better Discworld novels of the half dozen or so which I’ve read.

Advice for Writers about Reading

Advice for aspiring writers is that they should read. Read often, read widely. Fiction, non-fiction, picture-books. Whatever, whenever, as long as you read.

I had a conversation a month or so ago with my mother on the subject of reading How-to-Raise-a-Baby books. There was something in the paper, and I idly asked her if she’d read them before my siblings and I were born, fully expecting her to say no. She’s not that sort of a person. To my surprise, she said yes, she’d got them from the library. The thing was, though, with those sorts of things, that you pick the ones which agree with your own prejudices. So really what you’re doing is finding an ‘expert’ to justify your own ideas on how to raise Baby.

The same, I suspect, applies to seeking advice for all walks of life. Whatever you want to find out How-to, chances are you can find a book which tells you How-to in the way you were going to do it anyway.

Including writing. So I’m probably going to expose my own prejudices on the subject of Writing, by talking about Advice from the Greats (ie, already published).

On the subject of reading, the late great Sir Terry Pratchett said something along the lines of writers needing to read everything but the genre they write – in case of unconsciously recycling what you read.

And this, of course, simply justifies me in my faith of my ability to write fantasy, when I don’t tend to read fantasy as a rule. A version of the advice was given to me years ago by my sister, when I was first attempting a novel. Of the comments she gave me, the one which stood out was “Stop playing Warcraft”, probably because I had stuffed the land with every mythical creature you can think of, including leprechauns, and everyone was a terrible stereotype. I subsequently stopped playing Warcraft and there isn’t even a whiff of gold at the end of a rainbow in my current WIP. Whether this makes it better is entirely subjective. I know there are people out there who happen to like cheesey, cliche novels. Must admit, I’d like it if Regency-romance writers would stop nicking Heyer’s characters and story-lines.

But writing, like raising a baby, is very subjective, and what works for one novel might not work for the next. So read, or not read, the genre you write. Presumably you write it because you enjoy it, and you should enjoy writing because it takes so long to create a good novel.

But you should remember this piece of wisdom from my mother-in-law, who read all the baby-books:

You might have read the books, but Baby hasn’t.

Soul Music

One of my reading aims, over the next few years, is to read the entire Discworld collection. I’ve read a handful before – I had this intention in college, only then it was to read them in order, and I became distracted about five books in. And the first one I ever actually read was The Hogfather, because I’d just seen the film version.

Anyway.

Then, I had access to my sister’s up-to-date collection. Now, I have to gather my own. So I’m going to read them as I find them, in whichever random order that happens to be.

And the first is Soul Music, when Susan finds out about her family, and Music With Rocks In becomes an issue.

I’m not going to lie, I don’t think this is going to be my favourite Discworld novel. But that’s okay, because it’s not going to stop me from continuing to collect and read the rest – I already have The Colour of Magic lined up for in a-pile-of-books’ time. That, and I know I enjoy others in the series, so I’m not going to write off the ones I haven’t yet read on the basis of one so-so one.

It’s a shame, really, that I find Soul Music so-so, because I do actually like the characters. I just didn’t particularly like the story. However. There’s always one in a series, and hopefully it’ll just be this one. Which means that the Discworld can only get better.