It’s our two year anniversary today. Two years of getting submissions, reading through them, emailing, advertising, compiling, arguing over who gets to go in the issue, deciding on everything from website layout, fonts and front covers. It has been great. All of the editors are wonderful to work with, and we are all really proud of our achievements.
The next few months are going to see Indigo Rising UK bloom from just a magazine to a news source and site full of literary ephemera.
For now, here’s China Miéville on novel writing for beginners.
You’re talking about writing a novel, right? I think it’s kind of like…do you know Kurt Schwitters, the artist? He was an experimental artist in the 1940s who made these very strange cut up collages and so on and very strange abstract paintings. And I was just seeing an exhibition of his, and one of the things that is really noticeable is he is known for these wild collages, and then interspersing these are these really beautiful, very formally traditional oil paintings, portraits, and landscapes and so on.
And this is that old—I mean it’s a bit of a cliché–but the old thing about knowing the rules and being able to obey them before you can break them. Now I think that that is quite useful in terms of structure for novels because one of the things that stops people writing is kind of this panic at the scale of the thing, you know? So I would say, I would encourage anyone that’s writing a novel to be as out there as they possibly can. But as a way of getting yourself kick-started, why not go completely traditional?
Think three-act structure, you know. Think rising action at the beginning of the journey and then some sort of cliff-hanger at the end of act one. Continuing up to the end of act two, followed by a big crisis at the end of act three, followed by a little dénouement. Think 30,000 words, 40,000 words, 30,000 words, so what’s that, around 100,000 words. Divide that up into 5,000 word chapters so you’re going 6/8/6. I realise this sounds incredibly sort of drab, and kind of mechanical. But my feeling is that the more you can kind of formalise and bureaucratise those aspects of things. It actually paradoxically liberates you creatively because you don’t need to worry about that stuff.
If you front load that stuff, plant all that out in advance and you know the rough outline of each chapter in advance, then when you come to each day’s writing, you’re able to go off in all kinds of directions because you know what you have to do in that day. You have to walk this character from this point to this point and you can do that in the strangest way possible. Whereas if you’re looking at a blank piece of paper and saying where do you I go from here you get kind of frozen. The unwritten novel has a basilisk’s stare, and so I would say do it behind your own back by just formally structuring it in that traditional way. And then when you have confidence and you’ve gained confidence in that, you can play more odder games with it. But it’s really not a bad way to get started.
Female writers have been at it just as long as men, yet often have been overlooked by history as unimportant. Male pan names have been used, and even JK Rowling only used her initials for fear of being rejected a s a female author.
Here are some more female authors that you’ve probably never heard of.
1. Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935):
Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson was an American poet, journalist and political activist. Born in New Orleans, she as one of the great African Americans at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. Moore graduated in 1892 and worked as a teacher. Her diary provides insight into the harsh lives of black women at the time facing many difficulties was published.
2. Zitkala-Sa (1876-1938):
Zitkala-Sa was a Native American Sioux writer, teacher and political activist. She wrote about the struggles that she faced in her youth trying to live somewhere between American culture and her Native American heritage. American Indian Stories is one of her more famous works and showcases her writing as well as her strident political views.
3. Ann Petry (1908-1997):
The first woman to sell a million copies of her book in America, Anne Petry won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship for her novel. the book was Inspired by her experiences as a poor Black woman and what she saw around her, including the neglected children in Harlem.
4. Nathalia Crane (1913-1998):
Just nine years old when she was published, Crane wrote The Janitor’s Boy and her novel The Sunken Garden. When she got older, she became a professor of English at San Diego State University.
5. Jean Stafford (1915-1975):
The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford in 1970 won the Pulitzer Prize. Her first novel, Boston Adventure, was a best seller. She wrote many short stories too, which were published in The New Yorker and various literary magazines.