Between the Covers 01/09/2013

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books
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What do writers do when they are supposed to be writing? Pretty much the same as the rest of us when we're supposed to be working, according to the latest survey by Mslexia – the magazine for women who write. Some 2,827 women were questioned and the results were reassuring for the procrastinators among us, if not entirely surprising. The most popular form of procrastination was housework, with 61 per cent admitting that they often feel an urgent need to dust the bookshelves when a deadline looms. Other favourite techniques were: reading (51 per cent); social media (42 per cent); watching television (33 per cent); "unrelated admin"' (33 per cent); "inessential research", such as watching cat videos on YouTube (25 per cent); preparing beverages and going to the loo as a result (23 per cent); staring out of the window (23 per cent); and "wandering about aimlessly" (13 per cent).

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But who doesn't love a good wander when there's work to be done? "I felt embarrassed by how many procrastination techniques I was able to tick," said one woman. "I feel I should print out the list and put it prominently in every room – especially the kitchen where it would (hopefully) stop me cleaning the fridge so regularly." The questionnaire distinguished between distractions (imposed by external factors) and procrastinations (generated by the writer). The main distraction (69 per cent) was loved ones demanding attention. By the way, this week's Covers has been brought to you today with the help (or hindrance) of three cups of tea, the photos of someone's wedding, and an imminent desk move demanding the re-archiving of 14 years' worth of material. It's a miracle some people get any work done at all.

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In a revealing interview with The New York Times, the novelist James Patterson was asked what he makes of movie adaptations of his novels. Not much, he said. "When [the 1993 novel] Along Came a Spider was in galleys, I got a large offer from a studio. All I had to do was change [the forensic psychologist hero] Alex Cross into a white man." Of course, the book spawned 18 sequels and several films, two of them starring Morgan Freeman (who seemed to do OK).

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Bookshops are going to have to start getting along with each other a lot better before the launch of the Books Are My Bag campaign on 14 September. (See The Blagger's Guide, page 58.) Recently, a Twitter spat broke out between some of our finest and best-known bookstores. It started with what appeared to be a joke from Waterstones Oxford Street, above: "Fire alarm. Safely evacuated the store. Did I see someone in a @Foyles uniform running away and laughing?" Foyles apparently didn't take too kindly to the jibe. "Foyles 'uniform'?" it replied. "Real booksellers don't wear uniforms." Then Blackwell's Charing Cross piped up: "Ouch!" Pretty soon, Big Green Bookshop and Kirkdale Bookshop chipped in ("You have to wear a uniform because you can't be trusted to behave outside your bookshop"… "We make do with a shared weary demeanour…") Watch this space for more in When Bookshops Go Wild.

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