The thing about writing is that ideas come from everywhere and anywhere – that’s why all writing advice ever advised suggests carrying a notebook everywhere you go. I personally have two or three different ideas for different stories, novels and comics bubbling in my brain at any one time. I probably write down around 80%, and get round to executing less than half. I don’t have the time to focus on all of them, so I have to pick and choose the ones that will work best – or sometimes, the ones that will fit in with a specific brief or theme. Continue reading “Making Submission Themes Work For You”
Yesterday was the busiest I’ve ever had on the 12 books blog, which is lovely, so I hope people liked it enough to come back. If you are visiting for the first time and would like to know what on earth is going on, you can read a quick overview on IdeasTap or a slightly longer evaluation of the journey so far on Mslexia.
Meanwhile here is a reading from book seven, which you may remember is aimed at kids and is about a grumpy wizard called Snooky Jim, a slightly batty cat lady called Amelia Trousers, and a young lad called Chris who is well brung up and usually eats his greens. I wrote this yesterday and have just done one take, so it’s literally just me reading off a bit of paper. But it’s pretty short, so that’s a bonus… And anyway if you don’t like it you can’t be mean cause it’s my birthday, so there.
As regular readers are hopefully aware, I am trying to write a book every month with a vague future aim of publication and possible literary stardom.
One question I am asked on an occasional basis (by two people, but they have asked multiple times so I deem it pertinent) is “HAVE YOU GOT AN AGENT YET?”
The answer to this is no, and I can tell you for why.
I think I’ve probably saved the biggest and most important question until last. It’s a divisive question that splits the opinions of many. I’ve seen it cause full on brawls; I’ve seen it ruin friendships and shake empires. There is without doubt no single question that carries such great weight, especially in the arena of writing. So:
What is your chosen fuel when it comes to writing?
Ah, the age old question.
I have to come down on the side of tea, although I do have a coffee first thing. And I try to drink loads of water when I’m working as well, mainly just due to a vague notion that it’s probably a good thing to do. But plain old breakfast tea with a bit of milk is very much the beverage of choice for me.
I came across an article a while ago which I linked to in a previous post, about the different rituals of various authors. It claims that Balzac drank between 50 and 300 cups of coffee a day, which seems incredible. Maybe I’ll try following his example when I write my shockingly realistic book about the French Revolution…
It’s the third day of questions courtesy of Elaine from the Dreams and Whispers Blog, and she asks something I’ve never really thought about before… to choose which of my children I love the most!
Today’s question is about the characters in your books. For me as a reader, I find that interesting characters can really make a book brilliant. With you being on your fifth book now, you must have invented and thought about a fair few people, so which of them stand out the most – which two have been your favourite and least favourite so far?
I agree with you that characterisation can make or break a book. Good characters stay with you and you want to find out more about them – this is presumably why so many authors write in series. Whereas bad ones can make it difficult to carry on reading (although I’m pretty tenacious – it’s rare that I don’t drag my way kicking and screaming to the end of a book).
So far my favourite character is probably Caligula, if I can legitimately claim him as a character! I enjoyed trying to get into his mind and second guessing why he did the crazy things that he was meant to have done – that’s the revisionist historian in me trying to come out, I think. The sources on Caligula are fantastically biased but it makes for interesting reading.
I have a lot of affection for Victor McGlynn as well – he was the main character in the Western and I gave him quite a rough time of it with a pretty sad back story and a not amazing here and now, but he coped with dignity! I am also really looking forward to writing the main characters in my kids’ book in July, because I’ve been developing them in my head for about two years.
There aren’t any characters I haven’t enjoyed writing at all, but I suppose my least favourite is Jennifer, the protagonist of the last book. This is partly because I swithered an awful lot over how to write her – this has been the most difficult book so far.
I was trying to write her as a stroppy teenager but I think I may have gone a bit overboard with her lack of empathy and self involvement, so I’ll have to sort that out when I go back to edit it! Think I should make her a bit more likeable! Although having said that, Stephanie Meyer didn’t bother making Bella likeable and she did alright. Maybe I’ll just leave it….
First thousand-ish words of my Western. To tell the story I’ve decided to try using the inner monologue of main character, Victor, an old man in a schemey bit of town who has trouble with a local gang of miscreants. He reads a lot of Westerns and watches a lot of old movies, and gradually starts to equate his daily life to a fictionalised Wild West more and more, culminating in a face off between him and the gang leader. He is a lot more eloquent in his thoughts than when he speaks out loud.
“Any trouble, laddie?” I asked impressively, stepping out onto my front porch with purpose.
Sykes, my dog, followed close behind in case the stranger tried anything. I scratched him reassuringly behind the ear. I didn’t think this one was going to cause us too much bother.
The boy stopped what he was doing – raking about in my hedge – and stared at me suspiciously.
He was short, but his face suggested to me that he was small for his age, rather than young. I’d put his age at maybe ten or eleven. He had a pointy chin and sharp nose, very dark eyes, and brown hair with a blush of pink running through the side. Experience told me that made him a member of one of the local gangs, even though ten seemed young to be part of all that. He was probably the wee brother of one of the main players, I thought. They drag them into it from about eight or nine. Train them up.
He was dressed in a grey tracksuit, with grubby neon green socks hauled up over the top of the trousers to just below the knee. His trainers were sparkling white and very new, but I couldn’t put an age on the rest of the gear. Older, though. I reckoned those trainers had been obtained in a manner that wasn’t entirely above board.
“Well?” I said. “Anything I can help you wi’?”
“Ah wiz just lookin fur ma baw,” he explained squeakily, eyeing Sykes with trepidation. Maybe he was afraid of dogs.
“Don’t mind him,” I said reassuringly, “he dusnae bite. No often, onywye.”
I laughed loudly at my own joke.
The boy said nothing.
“Whit’s your name?” I asked conversationally.
The boy still didn’t respond.
“I’m Victor,” I informed him. “Victor McGlynn.”
“Ah ken who you are,” the boy squeaked, “awbiddy roon here kens you.”
‘So,’ I said to myself, standing a little straighter at the thought – ‘I’m famous! A local hero, nae doot.’
Didn’t say it out loud, though. I didn’t want the young lad to think I wiz tooting ma ain trumpet. Folk dinnae like it when ye dae that.
“This here is Sykes,” I said.
The boy rolled his eyes.
“Ma dug,” I added, somewhat unnecessarily.
The boy tutted and returned to raking about in my front garden.
There clearly wasn’t a ball there, I’d have seen it land. It so happened that I had been gazing out of the window for most of the morning as I waited for the local library to open, and nobody had even been past my low garden wall, never mind kicked a ball over it.
Still, I wanted to resolve the matter without causing a stink. Sure, the boy was trespassing, but he’d probably made an honest mistake. It wasn’t as if he was ruining my garden on purpose.
“Will you stop lookin’ at me?” the boy said suddenly. “What are you, a perve?”
All of a sudden, I knew this wouldn’t be resolved in a civilized manner.
I readjusted my hat, and took a few steps forward, looking as menacing as I could manage, given it was such a lovely day and part of me quite liked having the company.
“D’ye want tae get oot ma gairden?” I said in a gently threatening tone. It was phrased as a question, but intended as an instruction.
Sykes growled, obligingly.
The boy cracked what looked almost like a grin, but I think in actual fact it was a sneer of derision.
“Nut,” he replied, “no really.”
Rocking back and forth on his feet, he leaned forward and – with some effort – yanked one of my rose bushes clean out of the ground.
“What are you gonnae dae aboot it?”
He threw the mass of branches and soil carelessly over his shoulder. It landed on the pavement, bounced once, and rolled into the road to obstruct any oncoming traffic.
I considered the question.
What was I gonnae dae aboot it?
The logical thing would be to get in touch with the boy’s parents and tell them about his behaviour, but I wasn’t really sure how to go about doing that. I didn’t even know the kid’s name, and chances were they’d side with him anyway. The other option was probably to ring the polis, but that seemed a little melodramatic. They’re busy folk.
“Looks like I’ll have to take the law into my own hands,” I told Sykes under my breath.
Then I jumped back as something hit me square in the forehead.
Blinking, I rubbed the affected spot and looked around to see where it had come from. There was no-one to be seen except for me and the kid, but I thought I could hear sniggering from somewhere.
I bent down for a closer look at the missile. It was a small white stone, like a piece of harling from the outside of a house.
As I straightened up, I was hit again, this time on the cheek. Then again, on the back. Then all at once, a barrage of small stones came at me from all directions.
Throwing up my arms to protect myself, I whirled around in a circle to locate my attackers, Sykes barking angrily all the while.
“WEE… TOERAGS!” I decided, remembering that my neighbour had toddlers who might be playing outside at that time who would not want to be subjected to any of the expletives I wanted to use.
The kid in the garden had retreated to the relative safety of the other side of the road, where he was doubled over in laughter.
He must have been bait, I realised. They knew I’d come out and ask what he was doing in my garden, and he just had to keep me outside long enough for them to attack.
“Ow,” I yelped, as a particularly large stone smashed off my earlobe.
“Bullseye!” Whooped a voice from somewhere to my left.
“Come on Sykes,” I muttered, as it became clear they had more ammo still, “retreat.”
I moved back towards my front door, with one last look around for any faces I recognized. The only kid I could see was leaning around a wheelie bin at the end of my neighbour’s drive, but he had a scarf pulled over his nose and mouth and a hood up that obscured his hair and cast his eyes in shadow.
Hell, he could’ve been a she for all I know. Some of those gangs have girls in them, these days.
“You haven’t heard the last of this,” I railed at nobody in particular, although I sounded more confident about that than I actually was.
These kids had been terrorizing the street for months, and nobody had bothered to do anything about it. At that point, it didn’t seem to me as though there was an end in sight.