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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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characterisation

Poisonous Mushrooms

Cats = Comedy

Lol. This post isn’t really about poisonous mushrooms, that was a cunning ruse to get you attention. It’s really about book 9 and why I’ve been finding it hard to write. I believe it’s a question of genre.

With specific genres, plots tend to come fairly easily once I have a character in mind.  The story grows up around the characterisation and dialogue – probably because those are the bits I like playing with most.  To give you a for instance, when I was doing fantasy in May I was given two character suggestions and knew immediately what I was going to do with them, so I sat and wrote it. 

Humour is not a very specific genre, and to be honest I don’t have a specific character in mind.  My vague plan was to write about the experiences of recent graduates living in the city in a sort of bubbly, chick lit way – Sex and the City but with real people who have real relationships, money issues, terrible flats, identity crises, whatever.  Not just any old real people, but real Scottish people. 

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All Made Up – Janice Galloway

This morning I trumped along to Charlotte Square once more to see Janice Galloway talk about her new book.  Following on from her anti-memoir about her childhood, This Is Not About Me, volume 2 is about her teenage years in Ayrshire and is called All Made Up.  I sense a theme.

The event was held in the RBS Main Theatre, and it was rammed.  The girl sitting next to me, who was writing about it for Three Weeks, had seen Galloway before and didn’t find this remotely surprising.  I sense I have been missing out – I came because the programme blurb looked interesting.

As the lights go down and everyone settles in, event chair Ruth Wishart introduces All Made Up as a book “where sex and music jostle for priority status.”

“And Latin,” Galloway chimes in.

This sets the tone, and leads the author into an explanation as to why she doesn’t see the book as a straight memoir.

Continue reading “All Made Up – Janice Galloway”

A Progress Report

Today being the 27th of the month, I am remarkably close to the half way point of the whole 12 books in 12 months fiasco (unless you count book 13, I suppose, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

Unfortunately this happens to be the point where progress has slowed down an embarrassing amount.  I ought to be basically done with book six by now, yet I’ve only written about 10,000 words.  Almost all of which is background and characterisation that I foresee myself editing down to maybe a few paragraphs in the final book.  It’s the type of stuff that it makes sense to know as an author, but probably feels a bit long winded and boring to the reader.  Pottermore, rather than the material a gripping plot is crafted from.

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Book Six Excerpt

This is an excerpt from what I’ve written for book six, but it’s really just background characterisation and I don’t think I’ll end up using much of it in the final draft.  Still, thought I should point out I’ve written something…

Nicola woke up with her face stuck to the cheap plastic keyboard of her work PC.  She rubbed her cheek to get rid of the indentations, but knew from experience it would take a while to return to normal.

The monitor in front of her stopped playing its screensaver, revealing a too-white document that was a mess of m’s and 8’s and ‘hn’s.

Still, at least she’d saved her story this time.

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What I Did On My Weekend (by Ali, age 25)

Given that I’ve just had a long weekend off work, you might be forgiven for thinking that I would have caught up on book six.

Sorry to disappoint, but I huvnae.  I wrote about 5000 words, so wasn’t completely bone idle, but given that I’m supposed to be covering the Edinburgh International Film Festival for The Edinburgh Reporter over the next couple of weeks on top of work (and blogging, job applications, etc – you know the drill by now) it probably wasn’t the best way to go.

Continue reading “What I Did On My Weekend (by Ali, age 25)”

Journalists Wanted

Are you a journalist?  Have you ever known or worked with journalists?

Then I need your help.

My sixth book this year is about the staff of a recently shut down local newspaper deciding to start up a zeitgeisty current affairs stroke gossip website, probably called something like ‘Michty!’ (the genre for this one is Scottish), and getting it terribly wrong.  With hilarious consequences, of course.

I am hoping to gather some anecdotal research, which is where you come in.

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#WIP: Chapter Three

It’s pretty rare that a human has the courage to face a monster as fearsome as a dragon.  Bearing that in mind, it’s almost unthinkable that a mere sheep might be brave enough to do it.  In actual fact, this was very probably the first time in the history of everything.  So naturally there had to be a meeting.

Continue reading “#WIP: Chapter Three”

#WIP: Book Five Excerpt

He hated the cousins.  They weren’t even first cousins, he muttered to himself indignantly, they were his mum’s cousin’s daughters.  Hardly even relations at all, really.

They were two sets of identical twins.  The oldest pair were Violet and Daisy, who were 9 and a half and enjoyed ballet, horse riding, and ‘accidentally’ setting things on fire.  The younger two were Jasmine and Lily, who were aged 7 and three quarters and mainly liked digging holes.  They looked exactly the same as their older sisters but for being a tiny bit shorter, and all four of them were the spitting image of their father – mum’s cousin Simon.  What this meant in practice was that they were broad shouldered, ginger haired, and decidedly abrasive.  They also liked to dress in various shades of shocking pink, which meant you could always see them coming.

Eric thought this was probably because they liked to give you a bit of time to start properly dreading their arrival.  When you saw the wall of pink tulle ahead in the distance, your stomach turned to lead and you wanted to run as fast as you could in the opposite direction.

“No wonder their mum works abroad,” he thought gloomily, lowering his head into his hands as they took it in turns to hurl insults through the door, “I’d leave the country too if they were my kids.”

Which One Will You Choose..?

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….

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