Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Late to the Party

I’m a bit late to the party with this years NanoReviMo. 

For those of you who aren’t aware, last year, a bunch of us decided that we weren’t in a position to do the NanoWriMo, as we were knee deep in revisions.   This prompted Peggy to spearhead the Revision month as an alternative.

To have everyone giving inspiring updates, and posting the last lines that they edited, it spurred me (and hopefully the rest of the group) on to work harder than I probably would have at the time.

This year, Jessie has volunteered to put her head above the parapet and lead us all in our revision quests.  At the start of the month, I was already testing the water with querying my MS, and had started the first draft of a new project, and decided to be a fly on the wall and be inspired by everyone else.

This morning, I re-read the first page of Odd Squad, the MS I’ve been sending out. And didn’t feel draw into the story.  It felt like it was a series of statements than a story.

So... I’m throwing myself into the revisions group as a participant after all.  My goal is to make the story flow more smoothly before the end of the month.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Surprise progress

I've felt for the last six to nine months that I've struggled with my writing.  That the mucked up routine, and general 'ups and down' that life threw at me, slowed me down.

Last night, I caught up with a friend whom I hadn't seen for ages.  I mentioned that I had an MS out with a handful of Lit Agencies, and she asked if it was a couple of chapters, or a whole book.  I explained that the book had been through 8 revision/edits, and was as polished as I could get it.

I then remembered that so far this year I've written a pantomime (including two revisions), a radio play, and I'm a quarter of the way through the first draft of my new book.

It turns out that I'm doing a lot better than I originally thought.

How are you guys doing with your projects?

Monday, 1 October 2012

A change of perspective

I've always struggled with articles I've read where a successful author is being interviewed and they've been asked the question:
What is more important, Character or plot?
They always answer: Character. (With a mention that plot is also important,)

How could they not see that without a plot, then nothing happens? 
If character was more important, then why can't I get it? 
And, if I can't get it, then am I destined to be a wannabe author, never managing to produce anything of a publishable quality?  (That's the insecure writer coming out there.  I have managed to put in the emotional arc into the books, but it's always been added after the story has been written - but the doubts still remain, have I done it well enough?)

When I say always struggled, what I actually meant, was until this week.  I finally settled on the notion that I should write something new.  I dug out my copy of Save the Cat, and started to map out the beats for a vague idea that keeps rising to the surface on odd occasions.

I know it's a bit cliched, but I have to say, it's like someone has turned on a light and now I can see exactly what they mean.  In filling out the beats, it draws out the characters emotional journey that they embark on as well as the physical journey.

It looks like I'm finally getting closer to catching up with the rest of you guys.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Where next?

So far, I've not received any rejections from the agencies.  I'm viewing this as a positive thing, and hoping I've managed to pass the first hurdle and had my work added to the "To be read" pile.  The thought that it's still sitting in the "Not yet looked at in the first place" pile hasn't even entered my head.  No, really!

Now that I've (finally) been brave enough to send Odd Squad out into the the world, it's left me with the dilemma of where to go next.  At the moment, there are 4 options crying out to me:

1) Carry on with the sequel.  The next two books are already outlined, and I have already written about a third of the first draft of Odd Squad 2.  The problem I have, is that the doubts are creeping in on whether the first book is strong enough.  What if I never get a deal for the first one?  Am I going down a road where the results are never going to see the light of day?

2) Write something new.  There are several ideas for different stories queued up waiting for me to breathe life into them and be captured on paper (or, at least on the screen of my laptop).  I'm thinking of using the Save The Cat framework to map one of them out and see how it develops.  The problem is knowing which one is going to have the strongest plot lines.

3) Go and try and fix Ghost School.  I know that Ghost School has an original and strong story, but I also know that there are some big problems with it.  Should re-visit it?  Wade through the issues using the things that I've learnt while writing Odd Squad and try and make it a viable project?  Some of the areas that need attention, I now know that I have the tools to be able to address their short comings.  But others..?  I get the feeling that maybe I'm not quite there yet.

4)  Go back to bed.  Ok, so this isn't really an option.  Then again, if enough people suggest it then I may give it a try ;o)

What do you guys do when you reach the end of a project?

Monday, 17 September 2012

Taking the plunge

After a month of putting off the inevitable, kidding myself that one more edit was needed, I finally sent my MS, Odd Squad, off to three agencies.
This was one of the oddest experiences I've had in a long time.  In the past I've never had had a problem submitting my work, but that was because I had absolute faith in myself, and massive gaps in my knowledge of what turns a good story into a page turner.
This time, I have invested a great deal of extra time and effort into making it the best I can.  I've applied everything I've learnt, and polished it until it shines. 
In putting the extra effort into my MS, it's made me aware of how far I still have to go in improving my craft, and the doubts have started to creep in on whether my best is good enough to get me onto the first rung of the ladder.  I guess that only time will tell.
The new challenge for me, is to let this one go (for now) and start on the next project.  Do I continue with the sequel to Odd Squad, re-pick up Ghost School, now I've learnt to fix the issues I had with it, or start on one of the half a dozen other ideas that are knocking on the door?
I'll let you know what I choose next week.
Now that I've finished rambling, what about you guys?  Where are you with your current projects?

Monday, 10 September 2012

Cover Reveal: Strength by Carrie Butler

I'm sure you all know Carrie Butler and her amazing blog So You're A Writer.  But, if you don't, you should really pop over and check her blog out.

Today I'm excited to be able to play a small part in helping with her cover reveal of her awesome debut novel: Strength which is released on the 7th March 2013.  (I know it's awesome, because I was lucky to be one of her Crit Partners.)

Well, enough of me rambling on, here's all of the important details, including the all important cover (which I saved 'til last) :o)

Title: Strength
Series: Mark of Nexus – Book 1
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing   
Category: New Adult (NA)
Genre: Paranormal Romance (PNR)
Release Date: March 07, 2013

When college student Rena Collins finds herself nose-to-chest with the campus outcast, her rumor-laced notions are shattered. Handsome, considerate, and seemingly sane, Wallace Blake doesn’t look like he spends his nights alone, screaming and banging on the walls of his dorm room. Hell, he doesn’t look like he spends his nights alone, period.

Too curious for her own good, Rena vows to uncover the truth behind Wallace’s madman reputation—and how two seconds of contact had left her with bruises. Of course, there are a few minor setbacks along the way: guilt, admiration, feelings of the warm and fuzzy variety…

Not to mention the unwanted attention of Wallace's powerful, supernaturally-gifted family.

They’re a bloodline divided by opposing ideals, two soon-to-be warring factions that live in secret among us. When Rena ends up caught in their crossfire, Wallace has no choice but to save her by using his powers. Now they’re really in trouble. With war on the horizon and Rena’s life in the balance, he needs to put some distance between them. But Rena won’t let go. If fighting is what it takes to prove her own strength and keep Wallace in her life, then that’s what she’ll do—even if it means risking a whole lot more than her heart.

Where to find Carrie:

Where to find Strength:

Monday, 13 August 2012

Pleasantly Surprised

The British can have a tendency to be a bit cynical about large events, and have in the past made some half arsed attempts at things, with the end result being rather naff.

With the Olympics, I fully expected the same kind of half arsed performance and finding myself slightly embarrassed when we failed to step up to the mark.  However, for the past two weeks, I have been pleasantly surprised at the incredible show that we've put on.  From the typically British opening ceremony, to the fantastic venues, the organisation, the enthusiastic Games Makers (volunteers), to the closing ceremony, it has shown that when we make a bit of an effort, we can be up there with the best in the world.

I've also been blown away by the Herculean efforts of all of the athletes.  There are some awesome role models among them, that have achieved their status by hard graft.  It's so refreshing to have real hero's rather than the recent idiots we seem to get who are famous for being famous.

I'm very proud to be British :o)

Monday, 6 August 2012

A Self Help Book Tale

As you may already know, I'm getting close to finishing my revisions for Odd Squad, and teetering on the edge of making my first round of submissions.  The closer I get, the more nervous I'm becoming about sending it off. 
So, in an attempt to make sure I don't miss something critical, I've been reading a book that I picked up recently called: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

The book covers a wide range of areas to look at, and provides a good selections of examples to back up the lesson.  On a personal note, I was quite pleased and re-assured that I knew most of the things mentioned, but it also helped sharpen and remind me of things to check on my (hopefully) final round of revisions.  It's been a great help.

What about you guys?  Have you found something that has helped you edit your work?

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

An Imaginary Problem?

I'm hoping that this post doesn't come over as a whingeing entry.

You see, I'm struggling with the latest rounds of edits.  The first few rounds were quite straight forward.  The repeated words, the glaringly obvious telling rather than showing.  You know the drill.  The next phase was made simple by my fantastic Crit Partners who pointed out things I'd missed, or suggesting neater and cleverer ways of putting something across.

It's now, with what I'm hoping are the final rounds, that I'm having problems.  I'm trying to concentrate on one specific area at a time and weed out the last few remaining bits, that when fixed, should make my MS shine brighter than a shiny thing that really shines.  You know the thing, making sure that the showing is done in the best way, that the perspective is close to the protagonist when it needs to be close, and steps back a bit when required, etc...

I know what to do.  It's just that when I start reading, it starts off good, I notice a bit here, make a change there, and then...I've read five or six pages and haven;t even noticed that I'm turning the pages. 
I'm immersed in the story.
I keep trying to kid myself that I'm turning the pages because it's good, and carrying me along, but there's another voice just under the surface who keeps reminding me that I know the story so well that I'm reading what I want to read and not seeing any problems.

So... the big question of the day is...

How do you guys get past this?  Or, do you even have this problem?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Who are you? And what have you done with my WIP?

I'm coming to the end of yet another round of revisions on my WIP, and it's interesting to look back and see how my attitude has changed towards this process.

Initially, it was a chore. 

With previous WIP's, the thrill of getting the idea out of my head into something tangible is always an enjoyable part.  The way that the details present themselves as you expand on an idea and the story starts to run away from you as it gains momentum, gives me a really good buzz.  But the revisions...?  These always seemed to be a long slog. 

This book, however, has changed everything.  It's probably because I've learnt so much while writing and editing it, but the revisions have been fun, and every change has made me feel like I'm getting closer to making this piece a viable candidate for publication.  It's also because I have some great Crit partners who have made the process so enjoyable.  Being able to discuss some of the changes to find the best way of wording something or the most impact has helped considerably.

This morning, it struck me that I'm going to reach a point where I feel the book is where I want it to be.  Obviously, that's when I'll be trying to get someone else to think the same.  So, for arguments sake, if I do manage to get a book deal and the editor starts to suggest changes, will they be taking my book to somewhere new that isn't where I left it?

The big question is..... do authors who get their work published still feel as connected with their work, or do they feel it's been hi-jacked to make it as commercially successful as possible?

Monday, 16 July 2012

New and frightening places

I find myself in a very strange place.  Not physically, but emotionally.  It's not somewhere I ever expected to visit, and not a place that I've even skirted around the edges of.

Where am I?  I'm extremely close to sending off  a batch of submissions to some agencies, and I'm having doubts about whether my MS is good enough.

I'm aware that a lot of people have been here before me, but it's a bit of a shock finding myself here.  About 18 months ago, before I learnt all of the stuff that would help make my book into a potentially publishable piece of work, I just thought that it was a numbers game.  That it would resonate with someone, and we'd move forwards from there.  At the time, I'd avoided the 'how to' books, as I was under the misapprehension that they were a 'painting by numbers' approach.  When I think back to then, I'm surprised at just how naive I was, and how embarrassing it is to think that I didn't need any help. 

Sorry, I seem to have wandered off track a bit.  Where was I?  Oh yes. Submissions. 

Like I said, over confidence in believing that I could write ran rife through my head back then, but now... now I can't help thinking that maybe I could give it one more going through.  Buff and polish it one more time, just in case.  And then I find myself wondering; When will I know that it's finished and ready to send?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Carry on regardless?

I was in the final stages of my revisions of my WIP, when I came across a book that used the same major plot point for it's central theme as I had.

I couldn't believe it!  All those months of work, and someone had beat me to it. 

So, what should I do?  Carry on and hope that no one notices?  Start the sequel, but write it as the first book?  Give the whole thing up as a bad job and write something new?

In the end, I decide to carry on with the WIP.  I was aiming at the YA market, and the existing book was for adults.  Having made the decision, I finished the revisions, but the knowledge that this book was out there kept niggling away at me.

Yesterday, I read an article in Writing Magazine that put the nagging doubts in their place.  Apparently, what happened to me is not uncommon. For example, how many stories are there about the Titanic?  We all know how the story is going to end, but it still doesn't stop new books being published about it.  That's because it's about the characters, and the different angles that the event is approached, that makes the books so different, and therefore unique.  Providing your work isn't a facsimile of the published work, then it will be of interest to third parties. 

Having read the published book, I can categorically state that other than the main event, it's nothing like my book.  (Cue big sighs of relief!)  Realising this has lifted a weight of my mind, and restored my misguided belief that I can get my work published.

Have any of you guys found yourself in this situation?

(Thank you Carrie for the awards.  I'll tackle them during the week)

Monday, 25 June 2012

Feeling a little bit smug

Last week, I had one of those days where I realised that I have developed as a writer. 

I’ve been struggling with my synopsis for Odd Squad for a few weeks now.  I’d managed to get the story down to one page, kept all of the key plot points in, but there was something else missing. 

That morning, I started again from scratch.  Ran the whole of the story through my head, listing out the key points, and then it struck me.  There was no mention of his emotional journey. 

One of the things that I'd finally managed to get my head around this year, was that it wasn’t just about the plot.  There had to be trials and tribulations for the protagonist.  (You can all stop rolling your eyes now, and screaming at the screen “Finally, he gets it!”)  What can I say?  I’m a bit slow at times.  I’ve now managed to weave the emotional arc into the synopsis, and I’m a lot happier with the result.  I’'ve put it aside for a few days, and I'll see what it looks like with fresh(ish) eyes.

Are there any parts of a synopsis that you find troublesome?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

More drama in my life than I expected.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a radio play.  The plan was for our drama group to perform and record it in front of a live audience.

Unfortunately, this was the year when the volcano in Iceland threw up a shedload of volcanic ash, and grounded most of the planes over Europe.  This resulted in some of the key people being stranded abroad, and combining this with other bits of life that got in the way, the idea had to be shelved. 

To be honest, I wasn’t too upset that the project didn’t go ahead. it would have been great to see the reaction from the audience, but the experience of writing for a different media had been a big eye opener, and good fun.

A few years have passed since then, and the momentum to record the radio play has started to gather pace.  The initial plans are for us to do it in September/October.  The only problem is, that the play is quite short and only lasts for about twenty minutes.  Let’s face it, we can’t expect the audience to turn up, sit through the play and then go home again.  We need at least one more play to perform.

Luckily, I have a couple of ideas that I’ve been mulling around for a while.  It looks like I am now writing a couple more plays, with a deadline of September.

As they tend to say: Watch this space!

Monday, 11 June 2012

A little more thought required?

My writing group meets once a month.  At the end of each meeting we set homework to be written and sent to the group for review at the next meet.  We mail the completed pieces out to each other in advance so that we can give our critiques at the get together. 

This month, it fell upon me to set something. 

What should I suggest?  Obviously, it had to be something inspiring, not too restrictive, and hopefully challenging.  Here's what I came up with:

This won't be much fun, thought Jessica, as she opened the door.
This is the first line to your story. I've decided to set the word count at 1000 words.
So, tell me:  Who is Jessica?  Is she going in or out?  What isn't going to be fun?  

I have to admit, I was feeling quite pleased with myself.  That was until I realised that I had to write something as well.  It's taken three weeks to come up with an idea, let alone actually write it.  I just hope that once I've written it, it doesn't come over as a shoddy piece of work with a feel that it's been thrown together to meet the deadline.

I'll let you know the outcome.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Are distractions the answer?

I thought I'd finally discovered the art of being patient. Unfortunately, it seems that it's only in some areas, like making sure my WiP is as good as I can make it.  It most definitely doesn't go as far as waiting for my Betas to read it and offer their comments.

It is so hard not to keep asking them every five minutes what they are doing, and if it's not reading my book, then WHY aren't they reading it?

Fortunately, we've had the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations going on to distract me.

What do you guys do to prevent yourself from hassling your Betas?

Monday, 28 May 2012

In with the old and out with the new?

One of the differences that stands out the most between querying agents here in the UK, and over in the States is that for the majority of UK agents, we still have to send hard copies.  To be honest, I don’t think that this is a bad thing.  Ok, so it means that process is probably quite a bit slower, and there’s the additional effort of making the presentation is just right, but there are some plusses in doing it this way.

A typical submission package consists of a cover letter, a synopsis, and the first three chapters of your MS, and if you want the work back, then an SAE.  There’s something very satisfying about physically preparing the package, going down to the Post Office and sending it. 

One of the other positives is that if your cover letter does manage to pique the interest of an agent, they have the first three chapters to hand already. 

What do you think?  Is the submission process in the States the way that they should be going over here?  Or do you long for a return back to hard copies?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Playing patience?

What do you know?  I finally seem to have learnt how to be patient.

I have just finished my 6th round of revisions on my WIP, and finally believe that it’s ready.  A large part of me is screaming at me to shove it in an envelope and to get it ‘out there’ as fast as possible. 


A smaller part, which I’m finding is being a lot more assertive, is saying hold on.... if it’s as good as I believe it is, then a few more days or weeks isn’t going to make any difference.  Let’s get it right this time.  Let’s make sure that the synopsis is spot on,   Why not have a couple of Beta readers take a look and confirm what you think.  In the mean time, I can check that my agents list is still up to date, and hone that covering letter so that the agent has no choice but to look at my accompanying chapters.

The small voice is winning so far.  And I have to tell you, that if I wasn’t already sitting down, I’d have to go and sit down before the surprise makes my legs give way.

Are you guys already there with the patient thing?  Is this yet another thing I’m playing catch up with? Let me know :o)

Monday, 14 May 2012

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky.

I have always considered myself as a lucky person.  I seem to blunder through life with probably far too little thought about what I am doing, and where I am going, and still seem to end up landing on my feet, and finding that I have arrived at the best possible outcome.

I know that this could just be the result of me looking at the word through rose tinted spectacles, (and if that is the case, please don’t tell me – I like the view), but, yet again, I seem to have had a stroke of luck that has saved me a fair bit of work on my WIP that I would have had to do later, if I ever manage to get representation.

I tried to do some research on our nuclear defence in the UK.  For obvious reasons, the information is virtually nonexistent.  So, undeterred by the lack of information, I decided to make some logical deductions based on what I had managed to find.  My reasoning went that my YA readers would be unable to find out any more information than I had, and for the purpose of the story, it seemed credible enough. 

So far, so good, you might think.  I was feeling quite pleased with the story.  I passed a synopsis to my writing group, and it turned out that one of the members has written military articles about this subject!  I had been completely off track with my assumptions.  Luckily, he gave me a few pointers, and I now have a credible part to my story.

The question that I’m left with is...

Do you think that I was lucky that he knew exactly what I needed to know?  Or do you think I am finding things that aren’t there?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

NOT a drunk in a ditch post!

I know I've been conspicuous by my absence, but rest assured, I've not been lying in a ditch somewhere with a bottle in my hand.
(Well... there was that one time, but I'm claiming that it was in the name of research, and I'm sticking to that story no matter how insistent you might be that it wasn't)
 I've been spending my time writing like crazy, finishing the Pantomime.  (for those of you who are unsure what a Pantomime is, see this earlier post.)  From start to finish, it's taken exactly two months!  I'm shocked at how quickly it happened.  This now gives me about a year to spell check it and get some beta readers to give it the once over.

Hopefully, I've got a few new ideas for some posts, so I'll probably be posting a bit more regularly again. (Not that I've found a new routine yet)

Friday, 30 March 2012

Vague routine related post.

It's surprising how routine can set us up for tasks ahead. 

I had a routine for when I would try and write, or at least think of an idea for my next post, when I would write the next part of my MS.  Unfortunately, circumstances have meant that my routine has been turned on it's head, and now I'm finding it a bit difficult to find a new one. 

Luckily, I had already mapped out the scenes for the Panto, so I'm still able to do a little bit on that, but where as before, when I sat down to write, I knew that this was writing time, and it just seemed to flow out of me.  Now, I find that even when I am sitting down to write, that other things are competing for my attention, and inspiration for blog posts are not appearing. 

Looks like I need to get a new routine in place as soon as I can.

(I've just found out something that amused me.  The spell checker in Blogger doesn't recognise the word blog)

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Life imitating art?

I've decided that I should read Hunger Games before I go and see the film. 
Yes, I know I'm a bit behind the times, I've no excuses. Well, I've plenty of excuses, but none of them would hold up to close scrutiny.
I'm unsure whether seeing the film straight after reading the book will be a good idea, but my hand is kind of forced on this one. 
On the subject of the film, I've so far managed to avoid any reviews and comments about it, other than it's worth seeing, and some advice to sit at the back of the theatre do to the shaky camera work. (Thank you friends) :o)
The one thing that did strike me when I started to read the book, was how shaky the print was.  It seemed that the movie was filmed in line with the text.

Then it dawned on me.  It was me shaking with anticipation of reading an exciting book.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Just one more read through, and then...

I can’t believe how nervous I am about the next step I need to take with my MS.  I’m about to use the C-Word.
No, not that c-word, the other one: Critique.
I’ve been through some hefty revisions over the past year, and hacked a lot of words out, added a whole load more when I realised that I’d missed out entire chunks of the MC’s development arc, and finished with a few minor plot tidying tweaks.  And now, (after one more read through), I have to take the next step. 
I think that the main issue for me is that my CP's know what they are lookin for, and what makes a good story.  My Crit Team have probably volunteered because they think that they are going to get a good read.  What happens if it’s not one?  The fear of letting them down is quite tangible, and it's hovering there, waiting to say:  I told you they’d be disappointed.
Then again, if I don’t let them read it, then I’ll never know how much work I’ll need to do to make it the best I can.
I guess I’d better start that final read through now...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Team Crit

A friend asked me the other day if I'd got my Crit team assembled yet.
A simple question, you might think, BUT, I didn't even know that they came in kit form!

Now I have extra worries...
Can I get them ready made?
Do I have to paint the pieces before I glue them together?  I hope not, they will all have axe wielding maniac smiles if I do.
Will I have to file off the little plastic knobbly bits before I glue them together?
What if I glue the wrong bit in the wrong place?  If I do, will they end up as Evil Crit Partners and try to take over the world?

I knew getting your work critted was a tough experience, but I wasn't prepared for this!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Unexpected differences.

It turns out that writing a stage play is quite a different kettle of fish to writing a book.  It's probably easier if I list the the differences that I've experienced so far:

1) There's a deadline.  Yes, I know that once you get a publishing deal that deadlines start to appear, but for me this is a new thing. I know it's a year away, and that I should have the first draft in place well before then, but it's still there, popping it's head up over the horizon, shouting "Cooee", giving a little finger waggling wave and then dipping back down again.  He's an odd little thing, and I'm sure there's a more menacing side to him that will become apparent as he gets nearer.

2) The pressure of high expectations. I'm actually writing this for people that I know.  The whole of the cast will received their copy of the script and then be judging it against previous productions to see how good (and funny) it is.  When I write a book, I try and make it the best I can, but it will be someone who doesn't know me who will deciding whether it has publishing potential.
To add to the pressure, several people have told me that they are more excited about this script than any previous Panto script.  It seems that they think that I'm funnier than I really am.

4)  Where's number 3?

5)  Being funny on demand is not easy.  When I'm with friends, feeling relaxed, and with no expectations for me to make them laugh, (I like to think that) I can be quite amusing.  I can make jokes about incidents, or a comment that someone makes, and run with a theme.  If something doesn't work, I'll get a small amount of humorous abuse, but it's forgotten quite quickly.  
This, however, is a bit more clinical.  I can't just write a load of jokes, and hope for the best.  I have to make the characters funny, and everything needs to work.

6)  The characters are a lot different.  They are all a bit shallower, but the traits that they have are larger than life.  There are about ten main characters in my story.  The cast of actors is around twenty five!  This means that I have to find a further fifteen characters, give them lines, and make them interesting.  They have to pop up a few times, so that they feel a part of the whole production.

3)  Ahh, here it is.

7)  Writing for an audience reaction.  When I'm writing a novel, I find that I can build up the story line as I go along.  With Panto, the characters have to illicit cheers or boos from the audience, and interact directly with them.  It's odd writing something to get an instant reaction.

Have you tried writing for different mediums?  Was it odd for you too?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Commission! (of sorts)

Before I start, I fear that this post is going to be a little bit long winded.  Can I ask that you try to bare with me while I ramble on, and eventually get to the point.  Hopefully, it will be worth trawling through the waffle to hear the news at the end.  (For those of you who can't wait for the news, or can't cope with me bleating on, then I won't hold it against you if you just scroll down.)  Now that I've cleared that up, here's the post:

Some of you may know from earlier posts, that I belong to an Amateur Dramatic Group.  The productions that we put on over the year follow the same pattern.  In the summer (June/July) we put on a sensible(ish) play, and in the winter (January), we put on the annual pantomime.
The Pantomime is one of the more surreal British traditions that hasn't really made it past our shores.
Knowing that a fair few of you guys are not in the UK, I feel that an explanation (with the assistance of Wikipedia) of what a pantomime consists of is required:

Pantomime story lines and scripts are almost always based on traditional children's stories, like Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Cinderella.

While the familiarity of the audience with the original story is generally assumed, plot lines are almost always 'adapted' for comic or satirical effect, it being common for characters and situations from other stories to be interpolated into the plot. Certain familiar scenes tend to recur, regardless of plot relevance, and highly unlikely resolution of the plot is common. Straight re-tellings of the original stories are rare in the extreme

There are a number of traditions that a Pantomime follows.  Here are a few (with pictures from some of our past performances.):

The leading male juvenile character (the principal boy) - is traditionally played by a young woman, usually in tight-fitting male garments (such as breeches) that make her female charms evident.

An older woman (the pantomime dame - often the hero's mother) is usually played by a man in drag.

Risqué double entendre, often wringing innuendo out of perfectly innocent phrases. This is, in theory, over the heads of the children in the audience.

Audience participation, including calls of "He's behind you!" (or "Look behind you!"), and "Oh, yes it is!" and "Oh, no it isn't!" The audience is always encouraged to boo the villain and "awwwww" the poor victims, such as the rejected dame, who usually fancies the prince.

Music may be original but is more likely to combine well-known tunes with re-written lyrics. At least one "audience participation" song is traditional: one half of the audience may be challenged to sing 'their' chorus louder than the other half.

The good fairy enters from stage right (from the audience's point of view this is on the left) and the villain enters from stage left (right from the point of view of the audience). This convention goes back to the medieval mystery plays, where the right side of the stage symbolised Heaven and the left side symbolised Hell.

Sometimes the story villain will squirt members of the audience with water guns or pretend to throw a bucket of 'water' at the audience that is actually full of streamers.

A slapstick comedy routine may be performed, often a decorating or baking scene, with humour based on throwing messy substances.

The Chorus, who can be considered extras on-stage, and often appear in multiple scenes (but as different characters) and who perform a variety of songs and dances throughout the show. Due to their multiple roles they may have as much stage-time as the lead characters themselves.

Are you still with me?  Phew!  So, why am I telling you all of this?  Well... last week, we decided the title of the January 2014 panto.
We then looked for volunteers to write the script.  Yes, you guessed it.  I got the gig.  I now have a year to produce the first draft of a full length (minimum 90 minutes) pantomime, and a polished script by May/June when we start auditions.
At the moment, my head is full of plot lines, one liner jokes, and silly situations.  Excited isn't the word!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Gone visiting...

I'm sure most of you already know what a fantastic blog Leigh Covington has.  Well, today, she's invited me over for an interview..
Can you vbelieve it?  My first interview!
If you've got five minutes, pop over there and see what brilliant questions she been asking.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Group nouns, anyone?

I’m have to admit, I’m fascinated by collective nouns.  The way that they don’t really make any sense, but are somehow fitting.  Personally, I think that these could probably all fall under the catagory of  ‘lots’, or ‘many’ as part of my new counting idea (see previous post).

A couple of examples that amuse me are:

A murder of crows.
A gaggle of geese.
(Sorry, I’m going to have to do the joke:
Q. What’s the collective noun for Cattle?
A. Herd of cows?
Reply. Of course I’ve heard of cows, that’s what I’m asking about!)

Right, back to the original idea…
It’s got me thinking whether there are collective nouns for the writing world.  From what I can gather, there aren’t, so here’s my stab at a few:

A Pen of Authors.
A Disappointment of rejection letters.
A Forest of Manuscripts.
An Elusive of Agents.

Please feel to add your own.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Is my number up?

Is it just me, or are numbers becoming more meaningless these days?
£22 Billion of Government borrowing
The nearest star with an exo-planet is 63 trillion miles away
I have a 2 terabyte hard drive
When I dropped a cup the other day, it smashed into hundreds of pieces.
Do you read these numbers and immediately have a clear picture of the exact amount involved?  (This is where I’m hoping that you say no.)
With this in mind, I have decided to use a new numbering system:

One, two, three, lots, many.

Seriously, this is all you need.
When you come back from the shops, and realise that you’ve spent far too much, you don’t need to tell people exactly how much you spent, you just say that you’ve spent lots of money.  They’ll know exactly what you mean.
When arrive somewhere after being stuck in a traffic jam, all you need to say is that you spent many hours sitting in a jam.
Now we come to the point where you'll really appreciate the versatility of this new system.  When you feel that Lots or Many doesn’t quite do the values you are trying to convey, you can combine them:
For Christmas, I received lots and lots of presents!
There are many many reasons why I won’t visit Uncle Betty :o|

Now, I’m off to write lots of many words in my new MS.
Have a funfilled day.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Feeling like I've received more than I gave

I’ve been (probably far too slowly) critiquing a friend’s YA MS over the past few weeks.  The experience has been incredibly rewarding for me.  Apart from my own MS, I think that this is the most in depth analysis I’ve ever done on a book.  This is probably because when I’ve read a book I’ve bought, I’ve looked for the major things like Plot, characters, style and how they’ve made the story active as opposed to passive.  Invariably, I’ve been drawn along by the story and not looked as deeply as I should.  But, from the next book I read I know that I will be delving a lot deeper into it.
Sorry, I seem to have gone off plot and started rambling.
Ahem… Right, now where was I?  Oh yes. My critiquing...
Because I needed to provide some (hopefully) good feedback, it made me look a lot deeper into this book.  (I can honestly say that the story blew me away.  If she doesn’t get a deal, then there really is no justice in the world.) and it’s made me wonder whether my MS is really a YA book.  It’s probably at the bottom end of YA, bordering on MG.  Looks like I’ve got a bit of working out on where this fits in.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Does this mean I'm growing up at last?

In all the time I’ve been writing, I’ve always struggled with revising/editing part.  I’ve understood the need for it, but just couldn’t get enthused about trudging through the text looking for issues and faults.
I think that I’ve tended to find myself immersed in the world in my head, and became carried away with exploring the story as the details flooded out.  Re-visiting something that was no longer fresh and exciting felt like treading water, and was holding up all the new plots and ideas queuing up and banging on the door for attention.

That was until I started on my current WIP.

This story has been different.  Although I know that it probably  falls well short of what makes it a ‘page turner’, I’ve felt compelled to keep re-working it to make it shine.  I don’t know if it’s the culmination of everything I’ve learnt over the past year, or whether it’s that the previous stories weren’t quite right, but with every little change I make, I get excited.  When I find a big improvement, I have to refrain myself from jumping up and down.
I still have the little voices whispering away in the darker corners, pointing out that the characters are probably not deep enough, or that the twists and rug pulling moment aren’t twisty and turny enough, but I’m going to ignore them and let my Crit pals confirm if that really is the case.

For the moment, I’m just going to enjoy the feeling that when someone else finally reads my MS, it’ll be the best I could get it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Nothing is as fixed as I thought it was

I thought I was quite flexible when it came to converting my plotted outlines into a WIP. In the process of writing it, the details of the tale unfolded, and I could adjust the story accordingly, ending up with a fairly tight story. It turns out that I'm not as flexible as I thought. I seemed to have been of the mindset that the major points in the story lead on to the next major point in a chain of events, and that they were all unchangeable. The story would fall apart if I tried to tinker with them. The realisation that I can move the final conflict's location, and increase the tension in the process, has caught me completely by surprise. My head is buzzing with excitement at the new and improved ending, and I can't get it written fast enough! I'm now thinking that I need to review the other 'fixed' points and see if they can be tweaked. And that is a very weird feeling. The knowledge that I'm not as close as I originally thought I was in getting my MS out to Crit partners is a little bit disappointing, but the renewed excitement I'm feeling for the story is more than compensating for it. Is it just me who sometimes he's better than he really is?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

My new 'friends' - Paula and Lance

When I received my acceptance letter for this years London Marathon, the first thing I did was run out (no pun intended) ((Well, maybe just a little bit)) and buy a Nike Plus.  It's a little unit that fits in your running shoes and syncs with your iPod.  It records your run, and then when you connect it to your pc, it uploads a record of your run onto your personal space on the Nike Plus site.  This allows you to track your improvement, pace, etc.
The cool thing is that it talks to you while you're jogging along.  It gives regular distance updates, and then counts down the last 400 meters.  The really cool thing is that if you do a personal best, at the end of the run a top sports person tells pops into your ears and congratulates you.  So far, Lance Armstrong has mostly been visiting, and Paula Radcliffe stuck her head round the corner once.
The down side to getting little accolades from Lance and Paula is that when the training isn't going so well, they are very conspicuous by their absence.  It's like they are whispering behind your back, saying "Look at Iain.  What a slowcoach, I don't want to be associated with him."  Fair weather friends - Who needs them?

All this monitoring stuff made me think.  Wouldn't it be great if you could get a Nike Plus for Authors.  You set a target of a thousand words, and it tells you how far you've got, counts down the last twenty words, and allows you to see a graphic representation of what your writing pace was, and when you've done a personal best, J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King pops up and congratulates you for doing so well.
Then again, maybe not.  Let's face it, when I'm writing, it just pours out.  It's more of a case of how much time I have available to write in rather than word count.  And if I'm honest, the Revision Group that sprang up from the RevMo last November are far more motivating than getting platitudes from someone that I've never had any interaction with.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Round Three Revisions update

At the end of last week, I (kind of) finished my 3rd round of edits on Odd Squad.  I say 'kind of', because I'm probably going to change the end slightly.  I think that the arc dip when they realise that that they haven't defeated the bad guys and saved the day, needs to be extended.  I've mapped the new piece out, I just need to start writing it.
The thing that's stopping me from diving in head first, is that I suddenly feel that my writing isn't strong enough.  The story is at the shorter end of the acceptable length that a YA book should be, and I have a problem seeing how I can make it longer (other than putting in stuff that doesn’t drive the plot forwards).  At the same time, thouh, it feels that there is something missing.  Maybe I'm confusing developing the characters and their relationships with unnecessary padding.
Maybe I should just bite the bullet and give the MS to a couple of Crit partners and see if they feel the same.

The really odd thing is, that in typing this, I think I've managed to work out what is wrong, and what I need to do.  Thanks for listening, and pulling the sympathetic faces at the right moments.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

History Lesson?

It's just occurred to me that they probably have sniffer engines connected to Google that look for combinations of keywords, and when they find a match, the searcher ends up on a watch list or something.
In the course of researching my two books, I have looked up some dubious things.  Off the top of my head, I can recall that I have Google mapped Faslane Naval Base (where the UK's nuclear subs are docked), tried to establish where the nuclear missiles are re-conditioned, enquired about killer satellites, and researched satellite earth stations and the surrounding areas.  I'm sure there's more that I've forgotten about that should be added to the list.
Maybe I should start doing my research on public wi-fi from now on.

Interestingly, there are two men in trench coats and dark glasses coming this way.  I wonder what they want...

Friday, 6 January 2012

Awesome Presents

I'm usually quite reserved when it comes to describing thing as amazing, or fantastic, or awesome, as I feel that if I over use the word, it becomes the norm, and loses it’s impact.
With this in mind, I have to say that there are two writing presents that I received at Christmas, that I feel compelled to describe as AWESOME!
The first is a digital pen from my wife.  For those of you who haven't encountered these, they consist of a pen, and a small receiver that you clip to the top of your pad.  Then you write!  When you are done, you connect the receiver to your pc, and upload the file that it's created, and… taadaaa! Your handwriting or drawing is displayed on the screen, ready for you.  Now comes the really cool bit.  You can now convert the handwriting into typed text.  I know!  It blew me away when I first did this.  It will make note taking, or scribbling out new bits for my WIP so much easier now that I don't have to type them up later.  And, at 3:30 in the morning, any notes of inspiration that I make can be uploaded in the morning!

The second item that I'm well chuffed about is a notebook that my daughter got me from

It's just a lined notepad, but the cover is just wicked!

Did you guys get anything that you just have to jump up and down and tell people about?

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I've finally narrowed down my New Years resolutions/Goals.  They're not world shattering, but hopefully they will give me some focus over the first part of the year.

1) Finish current round of revisions of Odd Squad: Now you see me... and review to see if it can be sent to Critters, or whether it needs a new round of revision

2) Once revisions of Odd Squad: NYSM have allowed me to polish it to the best I can get it, start sending out to agents. (Majority of the agents in the UK still want printed copies sent via snail mail, which appears to be different to the process in the States.)

3) Finish drafting Odd Squad: Rain of Fire.
4) Complete the London Marathon in April in less than 4 hours.

5) Take my new notepad with me everywhere I go.

6) Talk to anyone and everyone, and generally be a more open person.

7)  Decide whether I should throw my hat in the ring (at the end of January) when they are looking for volunteers to write the next Pantomime for my Drama Group.

And that's about it.  So, what have you guys set yourselves?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Still positive

This new positive thinking lark is going quite well.
In a conversation today, I mentioned that 'Every cloud has a silver lining.'
On reflection, I then realised that where I live, the sliver lining had probably been stolen and sold as scrap metal.  Then, on further reflection, I realised that this would create job opportunities for silver lining makers, and silver lining fitters.  Thus proving to myself that even negative things can have a positive spin.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Back from the Back of Beyond!

Think of the most remote, distant place you can possibly imagine.  Can you see it? Good.  Now drive a further half a mile down the road, and that is where we stayed for the New Year.
The whole of my wife's side of the family descended on a clump of small cottages in Sticksville (ok, it wasn't really called Sticksville, but it does sum up the isolated nature of the village) for my Brother-In-law's 40th birthday on new years eve.
It was an incredibly manic time, with an excessive amount of laughter, and I have come away from there with a renewed insight on life and the way forward.
If ever I'm asked to describe myself, I usually come up with something along the lines of being an optimistic optimist.  That I believe that everything will always work out right, no matter how bleak things may look.  I also like to think that I'm a lucky, and that always see the positive in things. (no body ever actually asks me this, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.)
Over the last couple of years, I have to admit, I haven't fitted that description.  There's been dark clouds on the horizon, and I've tended to look towards the negative side of things, and not taken opportunities that have come my way.
Usually at this time of year, my only resolution is not to make one.  This year, however, I did some navel gazing, and realised just how lucky I am, and that the good things in my life far outweigh the not so good.  I've realised that I have an incredible family, and that I'm lucky that my kids who are in their late teens, still choose to hang out with me.  I have learnt a tremendous amount about the art of crafting a piece of work to get it near ( or hopefully up to) a publishable state.  I've also found a whole new bunch of writing friends who rock and offer the most amazing support and inspiration at a level I never dreamt was possible.  Like I said, the pluses greatly swamp the minuses.
With these thoughts in mind, I'm going to break with my tradition of traditionally not making resolutions, and I'm working on a set for this year.  When I've reached a handful that I'm pleased with, I'll let you know.
I hope you all have a prosperous and exciting New Year.