Pen to Paper: A Novelist’s Notebook

Pamela Frankau’s disjointed and sloppy 1961 book that intends to impart words of wisdom around writing but then veers off into autobiographical details beyond the craft. She was apparently a prolific writer who struggled to make ends meet despite churning out several books. Part of her persona seems to have been forged in the conflict of living in England vs. America, she reluctantly moves here but then secretly finds herself writing more and more like an American. She falls in love with San Francisco and writes “Life in California is very beautiful, very hygienic, very tiring and very expensive.” Her editor killed the “beautiful” and she became infamous for her description (which is still oddly apt nearly 70 years later). If you turn a blind eye to the horribly off-kilter and unnecessary autobiographical bits, you do get a few gems about writing and reading.

A cautionary note for my reviews on LLL:

After a very few weeks, I was saddened to find myself slipping into the traditional reviewer’s idiom, the de-haut-en-bas idiom that I find so poisonous. Even in praising a novel, I discovered, I was beginning to make myself sound as though I could have written it as well- or better. I pressed on for a year, but it was a relief, once I had resigned, to be free of the mysterious disease, Critic’s Sniff.

Her insistence that characters trump plot, then trying to define plot:

After much musing, we would eventually decide that a plot was a linked series of actions and reactions; that its pattern of stresses must provide a beginning, a middle, and an end… the man who defined a plot as ‘the thing that keeps you reading’ probably said it all.