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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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fantasy

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. 

Continue reading “Poisonous Mushrooms”

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Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation

Last night at around 11.15pm I decided that it was time to call it quits on book five and get myself some sleep.  I battered out a few paragraphs to remind myself what I wanted the last couple of chapters to entail, and set about organising my packed lunch for work.  Tuna salad, for those who are nosey about such things…

The word count stands at 30323, and I think it’ll end end up around 36,000 by the time the first draft is finished.  This means that overall this year, I’ve written 165,585 words of fiction across 151 days.  That averages out at 1096.6 words per day, although there have been days when I haven’t written anything at all, and a few when I’ve done 10k in one go.  Averages, dear reader, are relative.

Continue reading “Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation”

#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”

Chapter One

If you click below, you can listen to me reading chapter One of book 5, which you may remember is about a wizard sheep called Ovid.  And a small boy called Eric.  And an as-yet unnamed dragon.

I wanted to do the whole first chapter but am apparently limited to 5 minutes, but it’ll give you the general idea.

Let it… penetrate.

Writing Style

This week I’m answering questions from Ian Collings, a writer based in Shropshire who blogs at Take One Step Back and tweets as @ibc4

Of the twelve books you’re writing which falls into your natural writing style the most? Which do you find the easiest to pick up?

My natural style tends towards the silly, often by accident, and even though I haven’t written a kids’ book yet, I’ve harboured ambitions to be a children’s author for about ten years… Essentially I forsee July’s book as being the best – or at least the most enjoyable to do!  That or fantasy, actually.  I’ve written a bunch of short stories that fall across both of those fields and have probably read a lot more of those than any other type of book.

I would love to strike a balance between well written, engrossing but often humorous fantasy written by Neil Gaiman / China Mieville and the silliness of Spike Milligan (whose picture book for little kids, Sir Nobonk, is one of my favourite books ever), with an element of the dark or unexpected twists that you get in Roald Dahl.  And I think May and July’s fantasy and kids’ books are the ones where I’ll be able to give that a proper try.

How To Name A Character

I often come up with character names ahead of their personalities.  Not always, but often.

But when someone else comes  up with your character for you, it’s a little bit harder to name them.  I am in the process of writing book five, and before I started I had a suggestion from the lovely Arielle Bosworth (click her name to go to her blog) that “your protagonist should be a talking sheep who is also a wizard. It could be amazing.”

She went on to explain, quite rightly, that “sheep are entirely unrepresented in the fantasy genre.”  And if I don’t rectify this glaring omission, who will?

However, I had to then come up with a name for this character.  So I thought about it a bit, and decided perhaps I would gain some insight from looking up ‘sheep’ and ‘wizard’ in other languages.  This is what transpired:


I googled the Latin first.  Dead languages are pretty fantastical, after all.

In amongst all the adverts I found my answer – ‘Ovis Aries’.  Naturally the first two names that came to mind that sound a bit like these were ‘Ovid’ and ‘Archie’ – both of which could work.  Ovid, Roman poet who was very popular in the middle ages, unusual first name which could mark him out as special; and Archie, short for Archibald, a fairly old fashioned name meaning ‘brave’ which this sheep will have to be in order to complete his quest.  Whatever that is.

There was only one thing for it – I had to appeal to the internet for help.

And Twitter spake unto me saying:

And I thought ‘hm, the ideas I have for this are less mystical and aloof and probably more suitable for ten year olds.’  So I went on the facebook page to see whether they were in agreement.

And although the writing was rather small you could see that the Ovid tally rose ever further.

So, for the time being at least, that is what my wizard sheep is called – Ovid Archibald McHaggis.  One wonders how characters were named before the days of the internet.

How do you name your characters, other writers?  Do you have a set process, or is it a bit ad hoc, like me?  And do you ever change a character name half way through writing and then have to go back and check them all?

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