Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Fairy Story

After yesterday's post causing so much confusion, I thought I'd clarify a few things before I start.
I'm not sure about where you are, but in the UK, Christmas trees can be topped with either a star, or a fairy.
Yes, a fairy.  One of those little mythical things with wings that Peter Pan hung around with.

This is the story about why we have a fairy on the top of a Christmas tree.
(The above part of this entry is true, the rest…. Well, I'll let you make your mind up for yourselves.)

It all started during the build up to Christmas.  Santa was in an incredibly foul mood.  One of the reindeer had gone lame, and the runners on his sleigh had a couple of untreatable patches of rust.  To add to his misery, he could feel the beginning symptoms of 'Man Flu' creeping up on him.
To top things off, just when he was thinking that things couldn't get any worse, the head of the Elf Union passed him a note advising that he Elves would be going on strike as from Midnight.  This sent him into new unexplored depths of rage.
Just then, a fairy came in the room.  "Hey Santa, what should I do with this tree?"

Monday, 19 December 2011

A load of...

Last night I was following a lorry when it started to shed it's load. 
I couldn't believe it!  Surely he must know that the load wasn't secure.  I started flashing him, tooting my hooter, and pointing at the back of of the lorry.
Eventually, he pulled up, and I jumped out and ran up to the cab. 
"You're losing your load mate.  It's going all over the road!"
He looked me up and down, gave a 'tut' and shook his head.  "I'm gritting the road you fool!"

Friday, 16 December 2011


My local bookshop is doing a pre-Christmas sale.  There's a massive sign up in the window:
One third off all titles!
How could I resist?  I rushed in and bought…

The Lion, The Witch, and

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sky's the limit

Last night, I was asked to give a talk at my daughter's Rangers group (the next level up from Girl Guides) about astronomy.
So far, we've tried to do this three times, but it's either snowed, or been raining, which as you might have guessed, isn't ideal.  Last night, however, looked promising.  There was patchy cloud, but the gaps in the clouds revealed some very clear skies.
I'm pleased to say that the talk went very well.  We covered things from the basics, like naming the planets, looking at the relative sizes of planets/stars, to black holes and comets.  The questions they asked were well thought out, and not asked for the sake of asking questions.  It was a fun evening.
The highlight was when we went outside, and through the gaps in the clouds, they saw a handful of shooting stars (luckily it was the peak of the Geminiid meteorite shower), and we also saw (with the aidof my telesocpe) Jupiter and three of it's moons.
Originally, when I decided to write this post, I had an incredibly clever idea to link this back to writing.  Unfortunately I've had lunch since then, and the idea has slipped away.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Probably more stupid than I look.

 Last week, I nearly threw the towel in on this whole writing lark.  It's not that I'm disillusioned, or  struggling for ideas.  I'm feeling quite the opposite.  The problem was that I didn't think that I had enough talent.
The thing that set the train of though into motion was that I'd picked up my MS and started to read through it.  It's been through some serious revisions, and I felt that it should be at the stage where I'm going to need to look at the flow, and characters, more than whether the narrative was active or passive.  BUT, I started to read the first chapter, and there was shedloads wrong with it.  How could I have missed all of this?  If this was the results of two carefully thought out edits, then it was going to take about a hundred attempts to make it barely readable.  What was the point of having half a dozen well formed stories floating around my head if I could never do them justice when I committed them to paper?
Of course, the packing it in thought was fleeting.  I don't really have a choice on whether I write.  It's either do it, or my head will explode.  And I'm sure I'd have to clear up the mess after :o|
That was last week.  Today is a new week, and it dawned on me that in my last two rounds of revisions, I've cut out the start of the story, and made it begin later into the adventure.  I've had to write the start of the first chapter from scratch, and reason it reads like it's not been edited, is because it hasn't!!  The first page is currently a mass of editing scribbles (again), but I have found that by the time I've reached the end of the chapter today, there's just the odd tweak.  It looks like I'm not quite as bad as I feared, but I quite sure that I'm a bit more stupid than I look. :o)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Room with a view

I'm struggling a little bit today for inspiration.  So instead of the usual drivel, I have decided to tell you about the window behind me in my profile picture.
Yes, that really is me working hard!
The building is the old Royal Mint in London, and the view out of the window is a very impressive one of The Tower of London.  I would post a picture, but sadly, I no longer work in that building.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


For someone who thinks he's quite savvy with the ways of commercial enterprises, I can't believe how naive I've been on the writing business.

The last nine months have been a bit of a wake up call.  I always thought that my writing was competent, that the plots to my stories were good, and that it was only case of knocking out a MS, and someone would snap me up.

I also had the misguided view that if I read a 'How to' book, then I would be doing it someone else's way, and compromising my own style.

If you are sitting there, pointing at the screen and laughing at me, then I really don't blame you.  I think I'd be doing the same.

I think that all I really want to say in this post is that I'm grateful to my blogging friends who comment, and the ReviMo gang for their wisdom.  I've finally realised that it's not a race, and that I need to make my work the best I can possibly make it before I start sending it to the people who have the power to make my dreams come true.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

To write, or not to write? That is the question.

For those of you who don't know, I'm part of an amateur dramatic group.  Our dramatic year tends to be split into two halves.  The main event of the year is the Pantomime, which we perform every January.  It all gets a bit surreal around this time, with men playing the parts of Dames, women playing the lead Male hero roles, as well as women playing the heroine.

The summer production is a much more sober affair.  The Youth section enter the local drama festival, and the adults do a small production.  In the past we've done 'Allo 'allo, The importance of being Ernest, and a few radio plays.

Tonight we are dropping scripts, so it's probably going to end up being lots of blank looks followed by giggles.

In case you are wondering what the writing connection to this entry is, it's that the Panto is always written in house.  There are some very talented people there who have produced some incredible scripts.  The odd thing is, that none of them have any aspirations to write a book!

Recently, there's been growing pressure from some of those involved, for me to throw my hat in the ring when they're looking for someone to write the next Panto.  So far I've resisted, as I don't want to be distracted from my WIP.  The problem is, that I keep thinking about the formula that Pantos fall under, and how it would be structured.  Maybe when the time comes, I should just go with the madness!

Monday, 5 December 2011

It's a mystery

The other week, we went to a murder mystery dinner.  Not the sort that you host yourself and invite your mates round to (although these are great fun), but one in a restored 17th Century country house and actors.
The evening progressed through the usual stages of champagne in the Library, where we met the characters and they sowed the seeds for the coming events of the evening. 
We then went into the dining hall and progressed with the meal. After the first course, there was the reading of the Will, with various (expected) upsets with people storming off, and the sound of shots being fired.  One of the characters then came running in exclaiming that there had been a murder!

Having been assured that the police were on the way, and that the cook would be upset if we didn't carry on, we progressed with the second course.
While we were waiting for the third course, the cast came back in and wandered from table to table where we could question them about the events, rumours we'd heard, where they were, etc.
After the questioning, we filled in a form saying who we thought the murderer was, and had to give three reasons why.
At the end of the evening, they announced the top three tables in reverse order. And…
Yes, you guessed it…
We were the only ones who got all three clues correct!  Our cleverness was rewarded with a bottle of champagne.

The odd thing about the evening was that, although the evening was incredibly enjoyable when taking it at face value, a part of me was analysing the event from a writing point of view.  Studying the characters, the back story that they gradually revealed, the setting of the plot by announcing of the reading of the Will, etc.
Maybe that’s how we spotted the clues.  Maybe I'm barking mad!  Who knows.
And yes, these pictures are of Danson House where the meal was held.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Last lines Part 2

This is the second half of the last lines I edited during NaNoRevMo.

The details just said 'Professional Services' and totalled £15,000.

Sid waved the radio about.  "I'm going up to the edge to let the bomb squad know that we've found it, and what its layout is."

There was a knock on the door and a guard entered.  "Sorry to disturb you, but we've just got word that the plane with the girl on, has disappeared."

In his world of blinding light and agony, the darkness robbed him of his consciousness.

In his haste to get the job done, he'd forgotten he'd need a security card to give him acess to the other parts of the building.

His head turned sharply as an invisible punch landed on his jaw.  He sank to the floor, his eyes rolling up in their sockets.

"They are looking to ship us back home, but I've said that we all need a break, so I'll be driving us there.  It'll give us time to track down Maz's movements, and fix the mess that they've landed us in."

“Pleasant trip?”  The sarcastic voice gave T.D. a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.  Mr. Large was driving.

Steve appeared in the dooray, quickly followed by Sid and Holly.

They think that the plane was probably hit by lightning.

Who knew what menial tasks they would be set once they went back to London.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Last lines

One of the fun things about NaNoRevMo was putting the last line edited.
Here are a few of the lines I finished on during the month:

The Crimson Hide were making a lot of headlines recently with their animal liberation activities, and this one looked like it was going to be the biggest one yet.

T.D. watched the little tendrils of electricity snaking over her unconscious body, before earthing into the floor, seconds later.

The key rattled in the door as he locked it, and then he disappeared.

He frowned at the contents.Initially, it looked like a wet suit, but on closer inspection, the material was wrong.

He waited for the guard to patrol to the far end of the gate, and using the drain pipe, scaled the gate in seconds, dropping silently onto the far side.

With a quick swipe of the stolen card, the magnetic door lock gave a muted 'thunk' as it released.  He was through to the main entrance hall of the Embassy.

"Get off me!  I'm innocent, someone set me up!"  He looked at Steve, searching his face for a hint that he knew T.D. was innocent.  "You gotta believe me, it wasn't me."

The smile returned.  "You too, huh?"

They cowered down low, winceing as the pieces of lead zipped past, close to their heads.

He flipped open the folder and pushed it towards T.D.

A car was already waiting for them at the bottom of the plane's steps.

"Go! Go! Go!"  Large crashed through the door, and the press of bodies behind him,surged fowards, making the most of the surprise raid.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Month end.

I‘m sure you are all aware, today is the end of NaNo month.  I didn’t do the Writing one, I opted for Peggy’s lesser know Revision month.  I have to admit, it was a brilliant idea of hers. 
WriMo doesn’t really call to me.  It tends to lurk in the shadows and make rude gestures at me when it thinks I’m not looking.  I just don’t have the spare capacity to drop everything and write, no matter how much I would love to.
My goals for RevMo were quite modest compared to a lot of the gang who signed up:
* Do a complete revision of my MS
* Type up the changes (I have to edit on a printed copy, otherwise I can’t keep track.  What can I say, I’m a bloke.)
* Write a synopsis.
Thanks to the support of everyone taking part, I achieved my goals on the 29th.  A day early.  I also found that I needed to insert a chapter, which when I wrote it, turned into two chapters.  I also managed to get these completed by the 29th.
One of the great things with the RevMo gang was that we put the last line we edited for the day into our update mails.  It was so cool, (and sometimes a bit intimidating when you read the awesome lines) and for me, added a little extra to the whole thing.
I just want to say a massive heartfelt THANKYOU to everyone who played along.  You helped me do a hell of a lot more than I would have done without you, and you made me realise that I’m not alone in this writing game!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Writing group update.

I survived my writing group again last week.
Once again, I was expecting a bit of a mauling over the piece that I submitted.  The title had been very uninspiring, and I had struggled to come up with anything vaguely interesting after 2 weeks.
When I did eventually come up with something, the story was soooooo weak, I doubt that it could have fought its way out of a wet paper bag!  I concentrated on giving the character as much depth as possible, and the internal conflict he experienced when he knew that his actions were wrong.
There are 3 people in the group that we all seek a positive responses from.  They are very clever people, and know their stuff.  They aren't nasty, and anything they say is always with the aim of helping you improve, but you still want them to say it was good.
One of them hadn't made it to the meeting, but she did mail a good critique to me.  This left the 2 others.  To my amazement, the first one said that they liked it, and couldn't find anything to fault.  I was beaming quite a lot at this point.  They went around the room, saying that the tension was good etc, it was all positive.
Then I came to the other person I was waiting to hear from.  And..... she liked it too!  She had a few minor comments about his motives, but that was all.
After a month of ripping my WIP to pieces, it was very heartening to be told that I can actually write something half decent :o)

Monday, 28 November 2011

Use it or lose it!

I've been concentrating so hard on revisions for the last month that I've hardly written a word.  Up until now, I've either solely written, or I've done a mix of revising and writing during the day.  I have written every day for the last two years, and the two years before then, I wrote nearly every day.  It's part of my routine, and when I settle down to write, it flows quite easily.
About a week ago, I realised that I needed to add a chapter to my WIP.  I could see the piece of story very clearly, but when I sat down to write it, nothing came out.  It seemed to be a mix of being overly critical of every word I typed, rather than letting it flow, and the words not being there for me to type.  Even my ability to write a blog entry had dried up. 
It's taken over a week to get my head back into the place where it needs to be for things to start to flow.  All the ideas were there, so, I'm guessing that I was lucky that my head didn't explode.
I can only conclude from this, that I need to write every day.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The moment of truth (again)

Tonight is my writing groups monthly meeting.  I have to admit, I'm a lot less nervous about this evening than I was on the previous one.  Obviously, I've submitted a new piece of work to be critiqued, but I don't feel the same anxiety about this piece of work.
I think that it's because I wasn't inspired by the task set:  It's lunch time, and you have no lunch.
It took me a couple of weeks to come up with a suitable story line, which is unusual for me, they are usually queuing up.
Having finally arrived at a story, I mostly concentrated on the weaker areas of my writing.  Namely, making the story active, the structure of the story, and the emotions of the characters. (Basically, everything except the plot.)  It'll be interesting to see how well I actually did in these areas.

This has got me thinking about my writing abilities in general.  I know I've mapped out the next book in the series I have planned, but I'm wondering now, once I've finished polishing the current MS, whether I shouldn't try entering a few competitions instead of launching into the new MS.  It would give me a chance to practice on the weaker areas in smaller doses, and then in the new year, start with the new MS.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A new direction?

When I started this blog, the idea was that it would follow the various stages of my progress (or lack of) in getting my work into print.
The problem with this, it's not really of much interest to many people.  I'm either writing, or editing.  There's an awful lot of this before I get to a stage where I can send out queries.  Lots of entries saying I've written a little bit more, or I've edited a few pages becomes repetitive, and won't hold your attention for very long.

Maybe it's time for me to reveal a bit about me, and my thought processes.
Watch this space!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Plot dilemma

I have a bit of a dilemma with my plot.  In the third book, it will be revealed that someone is a mole.  This isn't the dilemma by the way, it's just background information.  This is the dilemma bit:
In the first book, the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead of the heroes.  My MC suspects that there's a leak in the system allowing them to find out what the heroes are up to.  Should I let him voice this?  I know it's not ideal for books to finish with loose ends, as they are supposed to be able to stand alone - even when they are part of a series.

While I've been typing this, an answer seems to have popped up.  I could have him voice the doubts, but have the boss tell him that he's being paranoid.

What do you think?  A good solution? Or should I just play down the whole thing until the third book?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

What is it?

It occurred to me earlier that I don't actually know what genre my MS falls under.  Maybe I'm being a bit dense, but although I think I know, I'm not certain.
I know it's a YA contemporary adventure, but the characters have special powers, like invisibility.  Does this make it fantasy as well?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Edit update

There is a bit in my MS (one of many) where I wasn't overly happy with the event that occurred.  The actions weren't fully explained and as it stood, they couldn't be explained.  This morning, I realised that it didn't have to be this way, and when I re-wrote it, I managed to add an innocent seeming cause for the event that will become sharply apparent in the third book I'm planning.  I have to admit, that I'm feeling rather smug at the moment.

Friday, 11 November 2011

You lot are brilliant!

I just wanted to say thank you to all my blogging pals.
This revision game we're all playing has been incredibly inspirational, and without knowing it, you've helped me make mine better.
I realised that there's a plot flaw. 
Well, actually, there isn't a flaw.  And that's the flaw. It's too linear.  No dead ends, or false trails.  My hero works out where the trail leads, and they follow the clues.
I've now got a whole new chapter to write, and probably 2.
THANK YOU!!! :o)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

It's taking over my life!

It's just dawned on me that I think that writing is taking over my life completely.  I seem to be looking at things in two ways:

1) Can it help/inspire my writing?
2) Is it getting in the way of my writing?

When the answer is the second one, I start looking at ways of stopping it from hindering me. 
Is this behaviour a bit too obsessive?

Write it, then fix it.

I'm on a Java Programming course all this week, and although it's given me some extra time to edit my MS, due to the additional journey time, it's meant that any idea I get for a blog post has evaporated by the time I get a chance to write it.  Hence the lack of posts this week.
One of the comments the tutor made today hit a chord with me.  He said that when writing code, you should just write it, and then fix it after.  My immediate thought was it's just like writing. 
But, you guys know this already!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Maybe I am a People Person after all.

In the past week, I've had four strangers start conversations with me.
With London tending to be a very insular place, and people tending to keep to themselves, I initially thought that it must be one of the following:
1) They were mad.
2) I looked so miserable that they felt sorry for me.
3) They were mad.
4) They were friendly sociable people
5) They were barking mad!

In the end, I opted for number 5.  Although number 4 was a close second.
These encounters have set me thinking.  When I was younger, I was well disposed to everyone.  I would pass the time of day with anyone who vaguely looked in my direction.  Unfortunately, I've become a bit too wrapped up in my head these days, and was beginning to think that people were there just to annoy me.  In short, I was well on the way to becoming the original Grumpy Old Man.

But now...

If these people are willing to take a risk and chat to me, then maybe I should be doing the same thing.  How can I write characters with depth, if I stick to the same few close friends, and scowl at everyone else who comes near?

Is it too late in the year to start a New Years Resolution?  From now on, I am a People Person again!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


I signed up for Peggy's NaNoReviMo, and seeing how everyone has responded to the challenge has been fantastic to see.
Some of us have not had the best of starts, while others have exceeded their targets. 
Me?  Well, I'm somewhere in the middle.  I found that getting my head into Editing Mode was a bit of a struggle to start with, but once I got going, it went really well.

Last line edited: T.D. watched the little tendrils of electricity snaking over her unconscious body, before earthing into the floor, seconds later.

Keep up the good work everyone :o)

P.S. Thank you E.D. for the Liebster Award.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

First draft typed up

After a mammoth effort last night, I managed to get the first draft revisions typed up last night.
This means that I can start NaNoReviMo on the 1st after all.
I sat down lunch time, with a freshly printed MS, and decided to give it a read through before I started hacking at it.
I've been feeling very good about the last edit. I saw loads of areas for improvements, and most pages were a mass of scribbles.
Surely this time, it's just be a case of tidying up the odd line here and there.
How wrong was I?
I'm shocked at how much I seemed to have missed the first time.  It's like I haven't done any revisions at all.

After putting the kettle on, and having a large mug of perspective (called tea), I have calmed down a bit.  That's the point of doing multiple revisions isn't it?  So that you keep making it better with each draft.  I think that I may have got carried away in the excitement of finding lots of things to change the first time round.

I know the above sounds quite negative, but I'm actually spurred on by realising that I've learnt some new things in the editing process:
* I can't fix it in one go.
* I need to be patient.  It will be ready when it's ready.  I can't push it out before it's ready, otherwise it'll never get published.
* Even though I've read countless times that it will take several edits before it reaches a passable standard, I never attached it to my own circumstances.
* I can still see improvements, or find better ways of writing lines that will hopefully draw the reader in.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Typing like crazy

I've been frantically typing up the first set of revisions to my MS in time for Peggy's NaNoReviMo but I fear I'm on a losing battle.
I'm close to finishing them, and this time I've done it in record time, but I will probably be a day late.
And, that bugs me.  I'll be a day behind even before I've started!
Then again, I haven't set a target yet.
Maybe I can use that as my first day's work.  Set a target of what I want to achieve. :o)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Second opinion

My son injured his wrist seven weeks ago in the first footy match of the season.  We spent 3 hours up at Casualty before they decided that he'd pulled the ligaments.  Being the goalkeeper, this meant that he couldn't play for six weeks.  He finally got to play again last weekend.
Yesterday, we got a call from the hospital.  They'd had another look at his x-ray and decided that he had a fracture, and could we bring him back, so that they could have another check, and make sure that it had healed properly.
Two hours later, they decided that it had healed as expected, and he is fine.

What I want to know, is why can't Lit Agencies behave like this.  How good would it be if they called me and said that they had made a mistake, and could they see my manuscript again, as they now realise that it's really good.

Well.... I can dream can't I?

Monday, 24 October 2011

New motivation

I now have 13 pages left to hack at (erm.. Edit) to complete my first revision of Odd Squad.
It's quite exciting getting this close, and knowing that I've made massive improvements already.
The problem is that they are just a mass of scribbles and crossings out on a hard copy.  I need to get them fed back into the pc, which is usually very slow and laborious.
This will no longer be a drudge after today.  Peggy has set up a NaNoReviMo.  Now I can't sit there and look at the piles of pages and think that I really should be doing something with them. :o)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Signs of improvement

I'm about two thirds of the way through my first edit of Odd Squad.
When I first started writing it, my main concern was to get the ideas down onto paper (ok, into Word), before they escaped from me.  I knew that it was going to be far from perfect.  That's what editing is for.
In between the writing, I was also doing a major re-write/edit on the previous MS (Ghost School). ((This will become relevant, I promise))
When I reached the halfway mark in my edit of Odd Squad, I started to notice that the text had been written in a more active style than the earlier bits.  It seems that the work on Ghost School to make it more 'Show not tell' had influenced the new project.  (See!  I told you it would be relevant.)  It still has many flaws, but it's rather nice to find evidence that I'm growing as a writer :o)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


My second writing group meeting went really well.  It seems that I didn't need to worry as much as I did.
The critiquing of their work was welcomed with smiles.  I noticed a few things in a couple of the pieces that had been missed by the others, and they commented on me being a fresh pair of eyes, and that as they knew each other's styles, it was easy to miss things.  One of the comments I raised opened up a whole new area of debate for five minutes.  It was quite a nice feeling, knowing that I was contributing to the group.
Another thing that eased my concerns about my comments on their work, was that even though I was very mindful that I was talking about something that was personal to them, it was face to face, and I could explain my comments without fear of them being misinterpreted.  It turned out to be fun, knowing that I was helping.
Then it came for my piece to be critiqued.
Bracing myself for a bit of a beating, they went round the table with their comments.
To my delight, it turned out to be nearly all good.  The ending left a few of them feeling cheated, and that they were expecting more, although, they understood that the word count restriction was responsible for the abrupt ending.  Next time, I should ignore the word count and let the full story come out.

Other comments (unprompted by me) touched on all of the elements of the story that I had tried to achieve.
The layout/structure of the test was good.
The start put the MC in the heart of the story, and pulled the reader in.
The dialogue was snappy.
The underlying tension slowly built through the story.
The internal conflict was strong enough.
The story was active, not passive, and they could see the emotions being played out.

The really good thing that I'm taking away from last night is that these are people, that when they received my copy of the homework, had only met me once for a couple of hours.  They were reading/reacting to my story on it's merit.  As I'm employing the same style to the edit on my MS, it appears that I am on the right track to producing something half decent.
If I smile gets any wider, it'll join at the back, and the top of my head will fall off.
It seems that I do have a small bit of writing ability after all.  :oD

Monday, 17 October 2011

Maybe I'm just mean.

During the past month, a handful of members of the writing group that I joined have been submitting their attempts at the homework.  I don't know how other groups work, and being new to this whole thing, I think that this group's aim aim is to critique the work that's been submitted so that the author can see the weaker areas, and going forwards, learn how to strengthen them.
Last month was the first meeting that I'd been to.  It was very friendly, and they seemed to take the critiques well.  I thought tthe task of critiquing would be fun.  You know, looking at their work, suggesting where it could be improved, and telling them where I thought it was strong.  It turns out to be a lot tougher than I realised!

The problem that I have, is that the work is personal.  They have obviously submitted their best efforts.  I found the stories entertaining, but could see where they needed work, and have penned a few notes to highlight this.

I'm now dreading tonight's meeting.  Am I being too harsh?  Did I not point out enough (or any) positives? Will they take it personally, seing as they don't really know me?

I am under no illusion that I will probably get a slating for my attempt at the homework, but I'm expecting that.  I know that I can use it to tighten my skillsets.  Hopefully they are of the same mind.

If I'm honest, I'm seriously considering saying that I didn't get time to review them.  :os

Friday, 14 October 2011

People watching

I know I still have to do a post for the Blog on Fire award that Abby so kindly gave me.  It's coming, honestly, I'm just struggling to find 7 interesting facts about me, other than I can't think of any facts :o|

In the mean time, here's this thought.

I've been doing a lot of people watching recently, and making notes, in the hope of improving my characterisations.
The main thing that I've noticed, is how much I took for granted how people behave, and how unobservant I was.  I can honestly say that this new past time as really opened my eyes.
Looking at people and asking hypothetical questions.
Why has that lady checked her hair and makeup for the fifth time in as many minutes?  Is she meeting someone?  If so, is it for the first time?  Just how nervous is she?
The guy two desks down from me who keeps nodding off.  What has he been doing to be that tired?  Do his colleagues know his secret, and that's why he gets away with it?  Or does he have a double life, and he's struggling to cope.

I know that all of you are streets ahead of me in this writing game, and will have already been doing this for ages.  Are there any observations that have stood out for you?

P.S. I just wanted to say congratulations to Peggy for getting her Agent representation.  It couldn't have happened to a nicer person :oD

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Just the tonic

You guys are amazing.  Every time I start having doubts about whether I'm cut out to be a proper author, or the task ahead seems too daunting, you always manage to offer words of encouragement that makes me realise that I'm not the only one who gets this mindset.

I've had another look at my MS today with fresh eyes, and now, it all seems clear.  I can still see the issues, but I can see that the changes are making it tighter.
I think that part of the cause was that when I write, it floods out, and I don't really concentrate too hard on it as it all seems to be formed and waiting to be typed.  I can see the progress very clearly.  The problem with editing, is that you are scrutinising every word, sentence, and paragraph.  It's slow going, and I lose sight of any reference points to what reads well.
Like I said.  You guys help me re-gain some perspective. :o)
I also received the Blog on Fire award from Abby.  I'll put the entry up for this tomorrow, it's a bit mad at the moment, and I can't think of 7 facts that are even remotely interesting.

Monday, 10 October 2011

An up hill struggle

For once, I found that I had some free time this weekend.  If you're like me, then free time is more rare than a rare thing that's really rare. (or something like that)
What to do with this spare time was a no brainer.  It's uninterrupted editing time. 
There were still things that cropped up which managed to interrupt the flow, but I managed to side step majority of these.  The main problem I had while editing, was that I could see the faults, but didn't really know if the changes I was making were making it any better.
Am I just re-writing the sentence in another passive way?  Is the story any stronger with the amendments?  The more I thought about this, the more the doubts crept in. 
In the end, I had to stop.
Maybe I just need to make the changes, and then look at them afterwards, and see how it reads then. 
Maybe I'll surprise myself.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Mental Credit Crunch?

I was in a conversation with a friend the other day, and he referred to someone as being 'intellectually bankrupt'.  Liking the phrase, I noted it down for future reference.
I can't seem to find a sensible plot path for the middle of my new book idea.  (Yes, I know that this appears to be a change in subject matter, but bear with me, the relevant bit is just coming up.) I have come to the conclusion that I must currently be Intellectually overdrawn. :o|

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Shocked and stunned.

I feel very honoured (and slightly mystified) to have been given a Blog Award by Erin.  Thank you!!!
I've only been blogging for a little over a month, and thought that these things were for the seasoned blogger who's 'been around the blog' a couple of times.
Looks like I'm going to have to find a virtual DIY shop so that I can get a virtual shelf to place it on :o)
The award rules are:
1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me. (Done. But think I'll do it again.  It's Erin Summerill)
2. Share seven random facts about myself.
3. Pass the award along to 5 newfound blogging buddies
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
Oh blimey!  Seven facts… Ok, here goes:
1) I belong to an Amateur Drama Group.  We've just finished a small tour of  'Allo 'Allo. 
It's a wartime spoof set in France.  I played Herr Flick of the Gestapo.
2) I used to do trampolining competitions.  I can still do double somersaults with twists but I ache like hell the next day!
4) I received confirmation last week that I have a place in next years London Marathon.  Initially I was excited, but then I realised that I'll have to start training. (Where was number three?)
5) I first met my best friend when I was five years old on the first day of school.  I had an argument with the teacher about adding up numbers. ( I said I could do it, she said I couldn't and wanted me to add up pictures.)  The end result was that I was sent out of the classroom.  Bill was already out there, having been kicked out for some other offense.  We've been firm friends for the subsequent forty two years!
3) (Ah! Here it is!) I once made a crop circle in my friends lawn with his sit-on lawn mower.  It took two years to grow out.
6) I can say the longest place name in the world: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu
It was used in a song called The Lone Ranger, and it charted in the UK in the late seventies.  There was an interview with the singer, and he said it slowly.  I taped it, and learnt it.  My kids never tire of me saying it to their friends.  No, really!!
In case you are wondering, it's in New Zealand, and means: The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one.
7) I'm afraid of heights.  I mean really afraid.  It's a big relief that I'm not that tall, as I don't think I would cope very well.  Driving over bridges gives me the willies, and if I'm up a hill and I can't see the ground running all the way down (because of the brow of the hill gets in the way), then I get very cranky.
Now for the Five newfound blogging buddies (in no particular order):

1) So You're A Writer - I love Carrie's take on things.  She always does great posts.

2) Something To Write About - A fellow chocoholic.  Go check her site out. 

3) Get Bust Writing - Emily has some brilliant guest posts on Mondays.

4) Alexi Bass Writes About Writing - A great blog.  The Friday Five's are worth looking out for.

5) Will Write For Cookies - Peggy's posts always make me re-think things.  I always feel inspired after reading her latest posts.

I just want to say thank you all for making me feel very welcome and a part of the Blogsphere :o)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Editing order?

I’m always unsure what areas to tackle first when I start to editing my MS.  If I get it wrong, I’m probably going to be making more work for myself in the long run.
Do I tackle the obvious issues like perspective?  Should I tweak the plot? Look at the Active/passive sentence structure?
Maybe there isn’t a right way.  They are all going to have to be addressed at some point.
It feels like I should address any plot issues first, as this will involve re-writing portions of the story.  It seems daft to polish the prose, only to bin them for a piece that tightens the plot.
Do you have a way that works for you?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Reality Vs Iain: The fight back

You may recall my run in with reality, where it decided to make a point by showing that falling satellites don’t leave half a mile wide craters, and therefore can’t be used as a means of creating terror.
This left me with a problem with the plot of the new MS I was about to start.  You can imagine the scenario:-
Bad Guys : Do what we say, or we’ll crash satellites into your cities.
World Governments: No!  We’re issuing our townsfolk with hard hats, so there!
Bad Guys: Damn!
As you can see, it’d be a rather short story.
Reality 1 – Iain 0
Now for the good news, where I tell Reality to stop mucking me about, and go and pick on someone else’s plot. 
There are anti-satellite satellites.  Various military parties have looked into being able to take out satellites by parking their own satellite, which is packed full of explosives, next to their target and then blowing it up.  If the bad guys were to cause these to crash into a city, then I’m sure that there would be a mile wide crater. 
Reality 1 – Iain 1
The good bit is, that Reality can’t contradict me, as these are all top secret satellites, and officially don’t exist.
Reality 1 – Iain 2
After Reality had stuck its nose into my story and told me that I couldn’t use this idea, I was forced to start dreaming up a new idea.  I started brainstorming (ok, it was just storming) and I came up with a new outline for a book.  This means that I now have a sequel, and a follow on from that.
Reality 1 – Iain 3
I think it’s time to quit giving Reality a hard time now, before it decides to get its own back.
P.S. I apologise if it’s your plot that Reality has picked on instead.

Monday, 3 October 2011

It's good and bad.

I’m suffering from mixed emotions at the moment. 
I’ve started re-reading the first draft of Odd Squad that I completed the other week,
So far, barring a few minor tweaks, the plot is standing up to scrutinisation.  The peaks and troughs of the tension and emotional journeys are clear enough that the reader is being carried along the path.  So far there doesn’t seem to be too much that needs to be chopped out as being superfluous (with the exception of the first chapter, which starts in the wrong place.) 
The quality of writing, however, needs some major work.  There’s far too much passive text, and the perspective jumps from character to character like a moth in a room full of candles.
This is where the mixed emotions fit in:
The work required to tidy up the text is going to be long, slow and arduous.  It’s made me realise how far I still need to go to be able to turn out something that’s half decent.
On the other hand, I can see what needs to be done.  I’ve obviously learnt how to spot the issues, and have some idea what is required to improve it.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Homework - Part 2

Here's my attempt at the homework.  I'd be interested in what you think.  (and please don't hold back :o) )

A Modern Genie Tale

The acrid smoke slowly cleared.
“Good afternoon Sir.”
“Who the hell are you?   Was it you who booby trapped that lamp with a smoke bomb?”
“Apologies about the smoke, Sir, I’ve been meaning to get that fixed for the last millennia.  I’m the Genie, Sir. “
“Yeah, right!  So, Genies are coming in pin striped suits now are they?”
The Genie flicked an imaginary speck of dust of his crisp, well pressed jacket.  “Yes, Sir.  Modern times and all that.”
“Next you’ll be telling me that I get three wishes.”
“Naturally, Sir.  It’s what we Genies do.”
“OK.  For argument’s sake, say I believe you.  I’m guessing that there are limitations.  You know the drill.”  Jon waved his hand distractedly, “No wishing for extra wishes, wanting people back from the dead, and stuff.”
“No, Sir.”
“No?  And can you please stop calling me ‘Sir’.”
“As you wish, Sir.”
“Hey!  Don’t try that one.  I didn’t wish it.  It was a request.”
“I know, Sir.”  He shrugged.  “Figure of speech.”
“So, no limitations then?”
“No, Sir.  We decided that, in these tough economic times, that there should be a price for each wish.  It made the Wishee more accountable for their usage.”
“I see.  So, what’s the going rate for a wish?   A ton?”
“I think that Sir may have misunderstood.  It’s not a monetary value.  It’s the life of a family member.”
“You what?”  He pointed at the discarded lamp.  “You can sod off back into your lamp mate if you think I’m going to go killing off my family.”
“Yes, Sir.”
Genie slowly picked up the lamp, flipped the lid back on its hinges.  He peered inside, and screwed his eyes shut.
“Hold on a sec.”
Genie looked at Jon and raised an eye brow. “Sir?”
“Do I get to choose who?”
“If it make is easier for you, then yes, Sir.”
“In that case, I’d like it to be my Uncle Ned.  I’ve never liked him.” Jon shuddered involuntarily.  “In fact, I’m sure he’s a perv, or something worse.”
Genie smiled.  “Your Uncle Ned will do nicely.” 
 Jon hesitated.  There was no humour in Genie’s smile.  In fact, it was so cold, it was virtually frozen in place.
“If you would care to make your wish now, Sir.”
“My wish.  Yeah.”  He frowned, and ran a hand through his foppish hair.  “But it’s still a life being taken.”
“As you said, Sir, he’s probably a pervert.  Or worse.”
“And if he isn’t, it’d serve him right for being so creepy.  OK, I’ll do it.”
“Glad to hear it sir.”  He fixed Jon in his cold gaze, and leaned forward slightly, stroking his neatly trimmed goatee.
“Right then. “ His brow creased, and he paced back and forth.  “I wish... I wish...” 
The world wobbled before his eyes as a ripple spread out from Genie. 
“Woah!  What was that?”
“Your wish, Sir.  One of the easiest ones I’ve done in a while.”  Jon gave him a blank look.  “You wished you could wish, Sir.  Simple.”
“You utter bastard.”  He snatched the lamp from Genie’s grasp, hurled it to the floor and drove the heel of his boot into the pliable metal.   “Try getting into your house now!”
Genie took half step a backwards, holding up his hands.  “Please calm down, Sir.  If I could just direct your attention to ---“
“No you bloody well can’t.”  He took a step towards Genie, clenching his fists.  “And I hope you can do wishes on yourself, ‘cos you’re gonna wish you never messed with me.”
Genie dropped to the floor, holding his hands over his head.  “If you’d just look at that van over there, you’ll see the hidden camera crew!  You’re on ‘You’ve been framed’.”

Thursday, 29 September 2011


At the end of my writing group's meeting the other week, they set some homework for us all to have a go at.
Well... I say homework, but it's not like when I was at school.  If I don't do it, I won't get detention, or 200 lines or anything even more draconian.  It's so that the others in the group can critique it and help us improve.
I have been struggling with it since it was set.  I kept kidding myself that I had to get my MS finished, and continue with the edit on the other book.  I couldn't get distracted by this.  But, if I'm honest, it’s because I couldn't think of anything to write.

The task was:
Imagine you have summoned the genii by rubbing Aladdin's lamp.
You have been granted three wishes.
Which three wishes would you choose and why?  500 words max.

This morning, I had a germ of an idea, and on my way home, I blurted out the whole thing.  530 words.  It didn't quite match the task, and I think I need to trim it a bit. 
At the moment, I'm just taking in the positive that I've written something to order.
If you guys are unlucky, once it's edited, I may just post it on here.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Reality gets in the way of a good story.

I’m going to have to re-think the plot for my sequel to the YA book that I finished the first draft of this week.
The plot was, that the secret organisation planning to cause world chaos were going to be able to take control of satellites, and bring them out of orbit, with the intention of trying to hit major cities around the globe. Obviously, the heroes were going to track them and stop them at the last minute.
The problem I have is, that the idea of a couple of near misses as a huge chunk of space debris ploughs into the landscape, leaving a massive crater, and scaring the local governments, has been kicked into touch by real life.
A satellite fell to earth over the weekend. Even if it had landed on dry land, it wouldn’t have caused the devastation that I had imagined. It’s not something that would bring terror to nations.
Looks like the bad guys will have to go back to the drawing board. I’m sure they will come up with a new dastardly plan, and give me a nudge when they do.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Book 4 - First draft complete.

Woohoo!  I’ve finished the first draft.
I’m thinking that I should have a week or two away from it, so that I can start the edit with fresh eyes, but I think that’s going to be quite hard.
When I wrote it, the sole aim was to get the story written.  I know that there were bits where I couldn’t quite think of the word or phasing that was needed, but in order to keep the momentum going, I put down the first thing that came to mind.  I’m probably going to cringe when I read it back. 
I can already hear the suspect bits calling me.  It’s like they don’t like being second rate.  I would stick my fingers in my ears and go ‘lalalalalalala’ to blot them out, but there are quite a lot of people around me at the moment.  I doubt that they would understand.
I couldn’t quite remember when I started this book, so I looked at the document properties.
The outline document was started on the 12th Jan 2011.  I last updated it on the 18th Feb.  So, it took just over a month to outline the key points of the plot.
I didn’t start to break down of the plot into chapters until the 15th March.  I was doing, for what I thought was the final time, an edit on the current book.  I also started the first draft on the 15th.  This means that it’s taken me just over nine months to get the idea written from scratch, and six months to actually write the book.  I have to admit, I’m quite pleased with that.

Monday, 26 September 2011

On the finishing straight

For the last week, I've been concentrating on finishing my fourth book.  It's been coming along steadily for the past few months, and it's been pouring out of me in a barely controlled flood.  At times I've struggled to keep up.
My journey home usually takes just over an hour, and with my past books, by the time I've re-read the previous day's writing, and got my head back into the story, I foujnd that I'd usually managed to produce 300 - 350 words.  This probably isn't that fast a rate, but it seems to be the speed that it would flow out of me.
With this book, after I was a third of the way into it, I appear to have stepped up a gear.  I didn't have to think about what was coming out. It's like the sentences were already formed, and all I needed to do was type them.  Now, I found that every evening I was churning out 500 - 600 words.  Additional conflicts, and emotions were turning up where I didn't expect them, and as the story developed, I became more excited and half wondered if I was going to be able to stick to the original plot line. (I did, but sometimes I arrived at the key plot points from a different angle).
On Friday, I reached the start of the last chapter.  All I needed to do was tie up the loose ends. 
Even though I knew what I needed to write, I couldn't find the words.  I found that I typed a sentence, and then deleted it.  Repeatedly.
The chapter has been screaming at me all weekend.  It needs to be written, and won't give me any peace until I commit it to paper (ok... my laptop).
I took the drastic action of going out lunch time with my laptop to see if I could break the ice, and at least get the first sentence written.  I sat there, looking at the screen, and was amazed to find that it was all there, queued up, waiting for my fingers to start moving on the keyboard. 
750 words later, I had to reluctantly stop.  It was time to return to the office. 
I know I'm on the finishing straight for getting the story told.  But, it's also the starting line for the first edit.  I have to confess, I'm really excited about tightening this one up.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Suddenly, I needed to write.

An entry by Peggy in her blog inspired me to make this post.
How old was I when knew I wanted to be a writer?
From an early age, I always had the imagination to come up with some really off beat ideas, but being a typical boy, I didn’t have the patience.  There was always far too much going inside my head, that I couldn’t get it down on paper quick enough.  My mind would go streaming ahead, and re-visiting what had already whizzed past in a flash, so that I could get it written, was too much effort.  Writing at school was too much like hard work.  It wasn’t for me.
The only thing that I did write creatively, from the age of 14 was letters.  I had a couple of pen friends the other side of the country, and I used to write some very imaginative yarns to amuse them.  It never occurred to me that I could write anything with more depth.
A little over ten years after I had left school, I had a friend who went to Hong Kong.  I used to write her letters filled with anything that popped into my head.  I use to show friends before I popped it in the post, so that I could gauge the reaction.  Two of my friends reckoned that I should write a book. (They were married, so I think that it was really only one of them.)   I didn’t take them seriously for quite a time, there was no way that I could come up with anything as clever as the books lining the shelves in the shops, even though they mentioned it at quite regular intervals.
Not long after this, I woke up one morning with a full book in my head.  I had dreamt the whole plot, from start to finish.  That day I bought myself a notepad, and started writing.  I remember being surprised at how easy the story flowed, and that it just seemed to be sitting there waiting to be put onto paper.
I did try to get it published, but I knew so little about the whole publishing industry, that there was no realistic chance of ever seeing it in print.  It took me another ten years before I could think up a suitable plot for a second book. 
Now, I can’t stop finding plots and ideas for books.  I now have eight fully formed ideas waiting to be written, and at least another half a dozen that I have ideas for, that are waiting for their turn to come out into the light.
So, there you have it.  I was just turned thirty.   Probably a late developer, but I’m trying to make up for lost time now.
P.S.  Go and check Peggy’s blog out.  If you are struggling with your work, you can’t help being lifted, and fired up to tackle that difficult chapter, or edit that paragraph with the dodgy phrasing in it.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Writing Groups - Updated

The 19th arrived, and I made my way to a tiny village in the middle of no where in search of the Writing Group that I'd unearthed.
My head was full of a myriad of worries queuing up, waiting to be answered.
Would I be able to contribute anything to the group, or would I just sit there out of my depth?
I knew that some of them were published, but published where and how?  For all I knew, they could be patting themselves on the back for spending a small fortune on a vanity press run, and had tried flogging them to any one who gave them the time of day.
The guy that I'd spoken to on the phone was in his 70's.  He said that I would be one of the youngest there.  Would they take kindly to someone whose head is bursting with stories to be written, and who gets very passionate and animated about his projects?
And these were just the tip of the iceberg.
I walked into the room, and there was a chorus of surprised exclamations at having a new face turn up.  I was made to feel very welcome as they invited me to join them.
They quizzed me on what I was currently working on, and what my goals were, and seemed genuinely enthusiastic.  It was a strange feeling to have an audience who understood my passion, and knew where I was heading.
Then it was their turn to tell me about themselves.  Some of them had been published, had agents, and their books are the shops shelves.  Others wrote for pleasure and had no intentions of getting into print, and there were some who were in the same boat as me, working towards getting their manuscripts accepted by agents and publishers.  It also became clear that some of these people were incredibly talented, and had a tremendous command of the intricacies of the English Language.
We then discussed/critiqued some of the work that they had been working on, and before I knew it, the meeting was over.
The final verdict is:  I think I'll fit in perfectly.  I also think that I will be able learn a great deal from these guys.  Roll on next month's meeting.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wobble over - New plan in the planning.

It's a new day.  It's a time for a new approach.
I read a few blogs yesterday, and realised that I'm not alone in this writing game.  Every one seems to have been through doubt and uncertainty about their projects at some point.  And, from this I have taken away the fact that they all pushed through the hard times and came out the other side a lot richer for the experience.
Let's face it.  We all right because we need to.  Yes, there's a fun element to it, as the wonder of your creation unfolds in front of your eyes into something far more dazzling than you ever thought you were capable of.  But at the end of the day, we also know that there will be a lot of hard work involved to get it to a state where we feel that we have produced something that actually reflects our abilities and dreams.
Thank you to all of you who write these amazing blogs.  They are truly inspirational, and have given me the kick up the bum that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and to mull over a few scraps of ideas to see what I can develop into a new plan.

Monday, 19 September 2011

One step forwards... Two steps back.

I seem to be having a bit of a directional wobble this morning.
I re-read the Cornerstones critique of the novel that I’ve been working on to see how I was progressing on the plot fixes, before I launch into the rest of the edit.
Unfortunately, I now realise that I have missed one of the major things that needs to be addressed.  My main character doesn’t have a goal.  The reader doesn’t experience any underlying tension, because they don’t know where the story is heading.
The reason for this is because I wrote the story before I knew the ‘rules’.  Before I fully understood what drives a story forward.  In the past, I avoided writing magazines, and ‘How to…’ books, as I thought that they would influence the way I wrote, and then it would no longer be my work, but someone else’s work with my ideas veneered on top.  The last six months have been a real eye opener, and I have wasted so much time.
The critique, and the editing process so far has taught me a lot, and I now wonder whether I would have written the book differently if I’d known what I know now.
The thing’s that making me wobble is: What do I do now? 
Do I have another hack at the plot, and try to shoe horn in a goal?  At the moment, no clear path on how to do this has presented itself to me.
Do I take the idea of the book, draft out a new stronger plot, and start writing from scratch? This time, making sure that it’s a lot stronger than it would be if I poked around with the existing plot?
Or, should I give this one up as a learning experience, put it on the shelf for a later date and focus my attentions on the new book that I’m writing, that is incorporating all that I’ve learnt so far?
The problem is not that I don’t believe in my ability to produce something that’s publishable, it’s more a case of knowing how much I’ve already poured into the book, and the amount of work ahead to either bring the book up to the next level, or re-writing it from scratch, is very overwhelming.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A place for the silly stuff

As you have probably gathered, I need a place for the silly stuff.
This blog is for the serious part, and hopefully will track my writing career, but if you feel like you need a smile, have a look at Super Iaino World.
I hope you like it.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Note to self: STOP THINKING!

It's happened again.
I thought I'd stopped trying to tighten up the plot, and had started typing up the changes so that I could use the revised manuscript to start looking at the other parts that need some attention.
The writing part of my mind has decided otherwise.
It had been suggested in the Cornerstones review that I look at if it was possible to change the perspective, of the last part of the first chapter, to be seen from the hero's viewpoint.  They had acknowledged that this would be difficult, as it's currently written to give the reader the impression that he's been killed in an explosion.  Having giving this a great deal of thought, I couldn't see a way that I could keep the same impact if the event wasn't seen from the outside, so I decided to stick with what I had already, and moved on to other parts of the book.
This morning, I wasn't even thinking about the book, when a whole idea on how to approach the problem, and the start of the re-draft just filled my head.  And I do mean filled.  All thoughts of anything else just evaporated, and working out the intricacies becomes my only focus.
All I need to do now is get it down on paper.
It just amazes me that when I try to force an idea, I come up with an OK version that is passable, but doesn't blow me away, and when I stop thinking, the really juicy bits leap out at me.
It's probably nature's way of saying: Stop thinking!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

My writing day

It's odd that I find different aspects of my writing easier at certain times of the day.
I find it easier to do the re-write of my manuscript 'Ghost School' during the day.  For lunch, I take myself off somewhere out of the way so that I can shut the world out and immerse myself into the story.  I find that in no time, I know where I am in the book, and what needs to be changed.  My pen seems to find a life of its own, and before I know it, I've scribbled away, and it's time to return back to the office.
I find that when it comes to my journey home, my head seems to gravitate towards the new book that I'm writing, 'The Odd Squad'.  I think that it's partially because typing onto a netbook is easier than trying to scribble changes down when the coach is bouncing about everywhere, but I also think that it's a complete switch off from the office and I can escape into something new that needs to t be released.
In the evenings, I return back to 'Ghost School', and try to type up the changes I've made during the day.  It seems to help add a sense of completion to the changes.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Writing Groups

Most of the interviews with authors that I have read, seem to all have the following advice for unpublished authors:
Join a local writing group.
Having scoured the internet, local library, and any other source I could think of, I came to the conclusion that the people of North Kent either don't aspire to become published authors, Aren't capable of writing, or are too apathetic to set up a writing group.

My hopes did rise when I read an article where an author who lives in the same town as me said that she joined a local writing group when she was trying to get published.  With my hopes of finally finding a local writing group soaring, I looked up the author's website, and discovered that she had joined a woman's writing group.  I was gutted!
Since then I have finally found an obscure entry on a website referring to a group not too far away.  Not knowing how old the entry was, or whether the group still existed, I made some enquiries.
After two calls, I have found out that they still meet, are a mixture of published and unpublished writers, and have invited me to go along to their next meeting.
Roll on the 19th September.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Lonely fun.

I have to admit, I'm loving editing my book. 
I used to find this a real chore.  Getting the story out, and watching the plot flow from my head into hard copy, was the part that gave me a real buzz.  I used to read about how people loved editing their work. That they loved the chopping bits out, re-writing whole sections, etc,  and I used to think that I couldn't think of anything more arduous. 
But now, I have a whole new view of editing.  I understand the need for it now.  That it's about making the book a 'page turner', rather than an just a series of events that are written in some kind of order.  I am now questioning every event.  Is it necessary?  Does it drive the plot forwards?  Is it in the right place?  Is it the best way of showing what the hero is experiencing?
Every time I come up with an answer to a bit that I'm unsure about, I want to jump up and down and tell anyone who will listen.
And this in itself is a new problem.  At this stage in my writing career, no one cares that the plot has been strengthened with the addition of a new chapter, or that I've just solved a problem that I didn't think had a solution.
I've now taken telling myself, which makes me feel that this is going to be a much improved book.
Writing truly is a lonely profession.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Transfer complete

The below entries have been transferred from a different blog site.
It was a site that I used for a while about five years ago, and when it was suggested that I keep a blog as a writer, I went back to that site.  Unfortunately, the site has been completely revamped since then, and although it now has some rather handy functionality, it no longer seems to let people discovering your blog, or let you know who has been looking at it, or how many people.
I've noticed that majority of the writer's blogs that I follow are on blogspot, so I thought I'd give it a go.
The dates for the previous posts are from June 2011 until now.

Major edit - Update

The re-write is going well.  The plan that I cobbled together seems to have been the right approach and I’ve managed to tackle the different plot areas that needed attention quite successfully.
There were three areas whereI’ve found that a solution hasn’t come very easily.  They all have a similar problem in that it would be better for the hero to find out the information being revealed, rather than being told it by someone else.
For two of these, I was completely stumped on how I could achieve this, but for the third issue, I had an initial idea on how to improve it.  Instead of him being told, he could be knocked over by someone fleeing the authorities.  When he gathers up his belongings, he accidentally picks up a book that belongs to the fugitive, and discovers the information this way.
Feeling rather pleased with myself, I started on the new version.  About two thirds of the way through, it occurred to me that he was still being told the information, by a book rather than a man.  Even if I tried to make it less of a narative by the hero reading snippets as he flicke through the book, it still didn’t feel right.  Was I being overly critical of the fix, or were my new concerns right?  I mailed Cornerstones asking for their advice, and they came back with confirmation that my suspicions were right.  Ideally, he should experience the information, and that it shouldn’t be easy.  Stumped by how I could do this, I completed the re-write, thinking that it was better than before, and that an improvement was better than nothing.
As I completed it, a solution to one of the other issues jumped into my head.  It’s odd the way that work arounds or new paths seem to come up when I put it to the back of my mind.  And just to prove a point, while I’m writing this new solution, a better idea has come up for the original fix with the book problem.  This time it wil allow the hero to discover things for himself.
This leaves me with one problem left to resolve.  Who knows, maybe the fix will come  for this when I least expect it.

The plan of action

Having read the review several times, I now have a plan of action:
Addressing the weak areas in the story line.  I’ve listed all of the areas that need some work.  Some of then are just clarification of things that are in my head that didn’t make it onto paper, others are complete rewrites.
The re-writes have taken quite a lot of planning and most of them I’m happy with, but there are still one or two that I need to iron out the details on.
Personal Journey:
I need to shore up the journey that my hero takes.  Make sure that the reader understand his motivation, and why he needs to do what he does, and what drives him.
Although I now know what I need to do, this is still quite patchy.  I think that once the plot phase has been fixed, I can drill into this a little bit more.
The perspective currently jumps about a bit from character to character.  I need to look at this once the plot is fixed and re-write anything that’s not consistent
Show Not Tell:
Again, once the above fixed are in place, I can re-write the weaker bits of the story to draw the reader deeper into the experience.
It’s taken me a while to work out how I am going to do the re-write.  Using the PC is ok, but it’s keeping track of what I’ve changed where.  There’s quite a lot of changes that need to be made.  In the end, I’ve got a copy of the manuscript, and a note pad.  I’ve made notes on the manuscript referencing pages on the notepad, and done the re-writes in there.  So far it’s working, but it does mean  that I’ll have to copy it all into the PC once I’m done.

The Comprehensive Report

The response time for my comprehensive report from Cornerstones was between three and five weeks.  At exactly four weeks, it arrived.
Since my meeting with Eva, I was now aware that I needed to employ show not tell in my manuscript, and after some reflection, I knew that I should be ending my chapters on page turners, rather than round off each chapter.
Knowing that it’s very difficult to take criticsim from someone about work that you’ve poured a lot of yourself into, I braced myself for a bit of a kicking.
It turns out that I didn’t need to.
The report said I “have an intriguing, original idea at the heart of your novel, Iain, and you clearly have a good imagination. I enjoyed reading your story and think it shows potential although, as mentioned, there are some ways in which you could enhance your writing so that your work will stand out amongst the many submissions, which agents and publishers receive each day”
The report was very structured, and offered explanations on areas that needed improvement along with suggested ideas to assist me in heading in the right direction.  I can honestly say that the service I have received has been top class, and I am now fired up to re-tackle my manuscript with a new insight into what I hope will make it a gripping read.

Spread The Word

Following my chat with Jane, I gave Spread The Word a call to see if they could help.
Still under the msitaken belief that my work was good enough to eget published, I made an appointment with their Writer Development Manager, Eva Lewin.  She would be able to help me with my synopsis and cover letter so that I stood the best chance possible of getting noticed when I sent my manuscript out, and to help her prepare for the meeting, she asked me to send a sample of my cover letter, synopsis and the first chapter of my manuscript.
With a growing excitement, and a hint of trepidation, I met with Eva.
The best way I can describe the meeting is… WOW!  She gave me pointers on both the Synopsis and Cover letter, and they will help tremendously.  Then came the bonus.  Although it wasn’t part of the meeting, or what I had paid for, she had read the first chapter, and gave me some pointers on it.
Show, don’t tell.  A concept that I wasn’t really aware of.  A whole new way of drawing in the reader, and allowing them to experience the story in a more intimate way.  What an eye opener.  I could see the potential in what she was suggesting, and that my work lacked it.  Her final suggestion was that I should consider geting my work professionally edited, and suggested a couple of people who could help.
After a lot of weighing up, I decided to bite the bullet and give Cornerstones a call.  I’ll fill you in on what happened in my next post.

A chance encounter that changed everything.

I had thought that my writing was of a publishable quality, and that from this point forward it would be luck that would get me an agent. You know the saying, right place at the right time.
This was before I met Jane. I only had the one conversation, but it opened up a whole new world for me, and now I know that there is a lot of work to be done before I stand a chance of getting that illusive book deal.
I had done my usual lunch time escape from the office to get some fresh air, and was sitting on a bench in a quiet out of the way area when I looked at the woman sitting next to me. She had a pile of printed pages, and was scribbling out bits and writing in the gaps between the lines. Having done this myself, it was obvious that she was editing a manuscript.
I passed a comment that I’d been there as well, editing manuscripts, and this led to a brief chat about writing, and getting published. It turned out that she has had two books published, and recommended an agency called Spread the Word who had helped her with her work.
It was this ten minute chat that that set the wheels in motion and has changed the way I write and edit my books. It also showed me just how far I still have to go before my work is ready.