Why Writers should read ‘The Evening and the Morning’ by Ken Follett #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Ken Follett has just released his latest novel, ‘The Evening and the Morning’, which is already in bestseller lists all over the world.

The Evening and the Morning is an epic journey which ends some time before The Pillars of the Earth begins. It is set in 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is experiencing politically turbulent times without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns. The lives of three characters; Edgar, a young boatbuilder, Ragna a Norman noblewoman and Aldred, an English monk become entwined in a fascinating tale of love and passion, as well as cruelty and ambition.

My Review

Ken Follett is one of my favourite living authors, so I downloaded his book on my kindle and my as an audio book on Audible on the 15th September, the very day it was released.

I read and listened alternately, and I can say it is as brilliantly written and carefully plotted as his previous novels in the Knightsbridge series. It also includes the compelling characters and fabulous stories which his delighted readers enjoy so much.

Ken Follett makes his stories come to life in such a way that millions of readers all over the world are suddenly finding events set in the middle ages, in pre-Norman England and Normandy, fascinating.

It’s exciting, romantic, dramatic, tragic, hopeful, and ultimately a joy to read. So, if you read or listen to one book this autumn, make sure it’s The Evening and the Morning’.

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 Why Writers should read Ken Follett’s Novels  

It is a well known fact that anyone who wants to be a writer should read a lot, but it’s not enough to be a normal or passive reader. William Falukner summarised it in this quote:

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad; see how they do it. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does so by observing. Read!”

Writers are a special type of reader. We dissect other writers’ work and in order to learn their craft. Every book I read is a Masterclass on writing. Many hours and months of hard work have gone into producing a novel, three years, in fact, if you’re Ken Follett, so it’s worth analysing their craft with a view to improving my own writing.

I strongly urge anyone who wants to write a good novel to read Ken Follett’s novels, all of them, if you haven’t started yet, his latest novel, The Evening and the Morning, is one of my favourites, so far.

I also suggest you watch or read his interviews and advice for writers to learn from one of the contemporary masters of literature. Here’s some advice based on his own writing process 

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Seven things I’ve learnt from reading about Ken Follett’s writing process.

  1. Write your outline: Plan, plot and research carefully before you start your first draft, including plot and character arcs.
  2. Style: Write clear, transparent prose.
  3. Push your characters: Continuously raise the stakes.
  4. Think about your readers, you’re writing for them. Make every scene as compelling as possible.
  5. Check pacing: Make sure there’s one turn or twist every 4-6 pages, but not more than one.  
  6. Write your first draft and get feedback from readers, such as friends, experts, an editor, agent, etc.
  7. Rewrite your novel, yes, the whole thing all over again! Incorporating any changes or suggestions you decide would improve your novel.

Seven things I’ve learnt from reading Ken Follett’s novels.

  1. Hook your readers with a jaw-dropping beginning.
  2. Set the pace, the setting, themes and introduce at least one of the main characters on page one.
  3. Write every chapter, page, paragraph, sentence and word, thinking of improving your readers’ enjoyment and understanding of the novel they’re reading.
  4. Keep the action coming. Add a twist or turn every few pages to keep readers invested in your story.
  5. Create engaging characters who are honest, passionate, and proactive.
  6. Make sure there are plenty of adversities and villains to make life hell for your main characters.
  7. Make sure your characters are resilient and resourceful enough to finally overcome all the adversities life throws at them.

Finally, here’s an extra one for encouragement, never give up, keep writing and improving your craft. Ken Follett wrote ten novels before his eleventh, The Eye of the Needle, became a bestseller.

Who is your favourite author and what has he/she taught you about writing?

#AtoZChallenge 2019 #Audiobooks ‘F’ is for Ken Follett @KMFollett @Audible ‘The Century Trilogy’

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

I’m thrilled to continue my AtoZ Blogging challenge with one of my favourite authors, the masterful writer of thrillers and historical fiction, Ken Follett, who has been writing engaging, literary fiction for over forty years.   

Ken Follett

If I had to save a trilogy from the last library in the world which was on fire, I’d save The Century Trilogy, and if I had to save just one book, it would be The Winter of the World.

 

The Century Trilogy (3 Book Series) by  Ken Follett

Fall of Giants, Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity, make up the Century Trilogy. This Trilogy, is a tour de force, which narrates the main events of the 20th century, following the lives of five families in – America, Germany, Russia, England and Wales, who will gradually become interrelated, as the original characters and their descendents experience the First World War, the Russian Revolution, the struggle for Women’s Suffrage, the Second World War, The Cold War, The Civil Rights Movement, The Race to Space, and finally the reunification of Germany.

I loved every word of The Fall of Giants. Every single sentence, paragraph and page is engaging. The characterisation is extraordinary. Every character, and there are plenty of them, has a unique appearance and personality. The plot is thrilling with plenty of drama and historical detail that make it an unforgettable read.

Winter of the World, my favourite, is a brutal and honest fictional account of WWII. It should be compulsory reading at High Schools, because the historical events portrayed affect the reader, much more than a set of facts in a history book or lesson. Let’s not forget what happened in order to be alert and compassionate and never let it happen again. Ken Follett illustrates the horrors of war as well as the goodness and self-sacrifice that we are capable of.

Although the writing is brilliant, I’m really glad I listened to the trilogy as an audiobook, because John Lee is the best audiobook narrator I’ve heard.

Lee does all the voices so perfectly that you know at once who is speaking, and there are five nationalities, with their own accents and different social classes, as well as male, female and children’s voices. The novels are lively and authentic due to the great deal of dialogue included, yet it’s no easy feat for the narrator. Chapeau!

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The Century Trilogy, is especially for readers who enjoy historical novels and dramatic family sagas, which explore political, social and personal issues through various generations.

Ken Follett’s Audible Author Page 

By the way, Ken Follet has a fabulous Author Webpage, which has ‘Writing Advice’. I’ve found it very inspiring and thought-provoking.

What? You’ve never read an Audiobook? Here are my 34 reasons why you should be reading audiobooks! 

I’ll be reviewing an audiobook a day throughout April, so come back on Monday! There will be a round-up tomorrow!

Would you like to read about the other authors and audiobooks I’ve posted about during the challenge, which started on 1st April? Here they are!

Find out more about this blogging challenge here!

 

#IWSG Writers as Readers @TheIWSG #amreading #amwriting

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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Every month there’s an optional question to discuss.

February 1 Question: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I prefer reading to writing. I’ve said this before. I spend more hours reading than writing most of the time, except when I’m in the final stages of drafting, rereading and editing my latest novel, and I become almost exclusively obsessed with finishing it and doing nothing else.

I was/am a reader first.

I loved being just a reader, but that didn’t last very long. I soon started writing poems, short stories, anything to let my imagination fly and invent people, places and plots.

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However, at first, I didn’t take my writer’s life very seriously. It was just an enjoyable, almost secret, hobby, until I owned up to it and decided I was going to pursue my life long dream.

That was four years ago, in June 2013, when I decided I was going to write the sequel to Jane Eyre, by July, I realised I needed to write more than one novel, because the characters had so much to say and do, and the plot kept growing in several directions, so The Eyre Hall Trilogy was born and written over the next four years.

I didn’t feel like a ‘real’ writer immediately, but four years and three novels later, I shamelessly admit I’m an author. Not everybody likes what I write, and that’s fine, I don’t like everything I read either, but I’m an author. I can write, I enjoy writing, and many readers are reading my books, so I feel part of this wonderful profession. I also have many insecurities, which is why I’m part of this blog hop!

Going back to the original question, I still read a lot. I read and reviewed 19 novels in January, but I definitely do not read in the same way I read before.

I read more critically for two reasons, firstly to improve as a writer, and secondly to help other readers find books they might like.

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I never used to review books on social media before I started writing. I had the idea that reviews were written by experts only. Since I started writing, I review almost all of the books I read, because I’ve realised that anyone who reads a book can and should give an opinion to help other readers decide if it’s a book for them, and of course as an act of solidarity and support to other authors like myself.

I don’t review books I dislike. I don’t like to think I’m discouraging writers or pointing out negative aspects of their work publicly, which may be partial and subjective in any case. I carry this philosophy to the rest of my life. I’m a parent, a grandparent and a teacher, and I make an effort to point out people’s strong points, while I also encourage them to improve. I’ve never seen the point in being negative, and it generally builds an even more negative response.

Every single book I read teaches me something about writing, and it’s not always a positive lesson. It often shows me what I shouldn’t be doing and it helps me understand why.

For example, I’ve learned how important secondary characters are for the reader. I feel dissatisfied as a reader with books where the main characters are engaging and the rest of the characters are wooden. It’s like watching a film with only two good actors, the rest are extras reading their lines.

I’ve also learned that less is more. Trusting readers and enticing them to reach their own conclusions is more effective than spelling it all out constantly.

When I read a book I wish I’d written, that’s the greatest moment of all. I have a role model, someone to aspire to follow, and I don’t mean copy. Great books are an inspiration for readers and writers.

The books I wish I’d written are well-crafted, with tight and twisting plots, believable, engaging and varied characters, a moving story, and a pleasure to read, because the language flows easily, and it all comes together perfectly.

This is what happens in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, which I started reading last year, I’m in the middle of the final book in the trilogy, The Edge of Eternity right now, and loving every minute.

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I’m learning so much by reading these books and reading Ken Follett’s Masterclass on his webpage.

These are some other great books I read last year. Some extraordinary books I read in 2016 are reviewed here. 

So, do I read in the same way now as I did before I started writing professionally?

The answer is no, I don’t read in the same way since I’ve become a writer. I read more critically, and I enjoy it much more, because I try to squeeze out, every ounce of knowledge and craft the author I’m reading has learned.

What about you?

 

#IWSG Plotting & Pantsing #amwriting

This post is written in response to the insecure writers support group’s monthly prompt.

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I’ve been thinking hard about this question all day, and I can’t think of an answer. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a writing rule which has influenced me so strongly and negatively that I wish I’d never heard it.

I’m not aware of following rules when I write. I do listen to other author’s advice and opinions, and I’ve read many books on writing, but I’m aware I have to adapt this information to my own way of writing, my story and my characters. I’ve always trusted myself to write on my own gut feeling. I write because I have great fun recreating imaginary worlds, characters and stories. I’m mainly concerned with pleasing myself, although I also worry about not boring or annoying potential readers. What’s the point of that?

The single most useless piece of advice was probably don’t plot, just write and go with the flow. I’m not sure exactly who said it first, but I’ve heard it a lot. It might work for some people, although I doubt it, but if I did that I’d end up with a disjointed mess, not a publishable novel. Writing, plotting, planning, editing, re-writing, re-editing, re-plotting are a constant cycle in my writing process.

Some people attribute this idea of not plotting to Stephen King, but he never actually said he didn’t plot, he said he didn’t use ‘written outlines’. He said he starts writing and lets the ‘patterns’ develop later.

“I start a book knowing just two things: the basic situation and that the story will create its own patterns naturally and organically if I follow it fairly…and by fairly I mean never forcing characters to do things they wouldn’t do in real life…For me, the first draft is all about story. I trust that some other part of me—an undermind—will create certain patterns.”

On the other hand, other authors, such as J. K. Rowling or Ken Follett , don’t start writing their novels until they’ve worked out a detailed plot outline.

It seems that both approaches work, as they’re used by successful authors who write excellent novels.

This is how I’ve done it in my first five novels (three published and two in process).

My first phase approaches King’s advice (pantsing).

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1- I start with some characters, usually one or two at first, and an idea or situation, which I explore.

In order to explore, I start writing my story, not knowing where it will go yet.

I don’t start serious planning until the idea itself has developed into a complete story with more characters, scenes, places, etc and I’ve convinced myself I’m interested in pursuing the idea and telling the whole story.

This is a crazily creative period which usually takes about one month to write 20,000-30,000 words.

2- At this point, I start outlining my plot. I divide it into the basic three-part dramatic arc; exposition, climax and denouement, which are subdivided into about 30 chapters and 40-50 scenes.

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Perhaps Follett’s approach relies too heavily on outline, but I can see that it helps, especially if your novel is a complex web of characters and events spanning various decades.

More about my writing process here.

Although plotting versus pantsing is an interesting debate, I wouldn’t say it’s very helpful for authors, except that it helps us reflect upon our writing process. We each have to find out what works best for us and our type of novel.

However, if you’re very intersted in this debate, this article is enlightening and Ken Follett’s Mastercalss on his blog is priceless advice on outlining.

More about Insecure Writers Group Here

Happy New Year to all fellow Insecure Writers!