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.