Moment

There is that sweet moment of the day when silence seems to descend and time holds still and even the bustle of a packed café remains unnoticed as you let your mind wander, take a turn down a path, untrodden, overgrown with branches forming a canopy of green, and as you wander you begin to notice the magical figures that flitter between the leaves, darting from flower to flower to add a sparkle of colour, and just ahead you glimpse a white steed, a unicorn, drinking from a brook as an elf plays a lullaby on a panpipe, an it is at these moments you paint a scene, craft a character and place them, give them words to say and a task to do, a quest to strive after, to reach for like the words you seek to place on a page, a phrase of imagination, and then you pause for a moment, look around, and realise where you are, in that café, surrounded by people.

This came about when wondering what to write. It had been a while since I wrote something new as I had been spending my time editing a book of mine ready for submission so the creative muscle was rusty. And whilst sat there in the open with a coffee nearby, it reminded me of all those times when time stood still as I wrote, how it could take you places and how a good piece of writing could also take its reader places. So I wrote about that moment.

It’s all in a book

Let me talk about the importance of books and reading. You might think the book in your bag is not all that but let me try to change your mind.
When I was at Primary School, i was not the most avid reader. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have seen me with a book. It wasn’t something I did for pleasure. Maybe it was having learnt to read through the Peter and Jane reading scheme meant that reading did not equal enjoyment for me.

5b OUT IN THE SUN Vintage Ladybird Book Keywords Matt Hardback Peter and  Jane Circa 1968

So come Year Six most of my writing was underlined in red pen by the teacher due to the poor spelling. At Parents’ Evening, my teacher (Mr Patchett) told my mother I needed to read more to help my spelling. My mother promptly passed the message onto me, with strong emphasis. So the next day, I searched the classroom bookshelf for a book until I chanced on The Otterbury Incident by Cecil Day-Lewis.

The Otterbury Incident - Wikipedia

It was about two gangs of boys who team up to help raise money for a friend. There were cunning tricks and battles with crooks. It was brilliant. So I read it again. And again. And again. After that, I thought “I’ll try something else,” and the reading bug was born within me. That book changed my life.

Governments need to celebrate the power of books. Libraries should be given all the funds they need. Schools given grants for author visits. WORLD BOOK DAY should be everyday.

Write-30 No.52

Write 30

Free Choice.

Write about anything you want. It could be about your day, about a TV programme, a computer game, in fact anything you want.

STUCK?   Try this starter: If I were to protest about anything it would be…

What is Write – 30?
Write – 30 is a daily activity where you write non-stop for twenty minutes then check and edit your work for 10 minutes. You will be asked to write about different subjects and in different forms.

The writing should be done on lined paper in pencil if possible. Edit and check the work in pen. If you don’t have paper and pencil, use what you can. Even a computer.

Finding it difficult? What you can do to help:

  • Always sit/work in the same place
  • Always use the same writing tools
  • Always turn the TV off
  • No talking – it distracts thinking
  • Always listen to the same piece of classical music when writing.
  • Always set yourself a goal: count the number of words. Try to beat that number the following day.

Pulling A Blank

 

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You will have noticed I haven’t written an entry for my blog for a while. There is no great mystery behind it. I was not kidnapped, transported to another planet or plummeted into a mystical realm like the children of Narnia. No. It is quite simple. I was going through what many writers go through at various points when writing: writer’s block.  I just couldn’t think of anything to write for my blog.

Maybe it was because my creative energies were being sapped by two other things: submitting my second book to Literary Agents (time consuming and somewhat soul destroying) and compiling the notes on my third book before settling down to editing proper. I’m still at both of these and they have become my obsessions.

This meant I had less time to just let my wander and play in the quiet moments. This is an essential part of writing. If you are told to ‘just write,’ often you’re mind goes immediately blank.

That’s why writing at school can be really hard. The blank page and your teacher asking you to come out with some great story just like that. And there are all the things you are told to remember: fronted adverbials, alliteration for effect, a simile or metaphor or two. No wonder you mind just freezes. How can anyone write under such pressure?

Take a moment and put your pencil down. Stare out the window. Watch the trees in the breeze, traffic passing or the rain fall. Take some calming breaths. Think about what you are interested in: A TV programme you watched; a computer game you play; a song you like; a pet you cuddle… Make that your story.

There are no rules when writing stories. You can have happen whatever you want. You are the magical master. If you want a tap-dancing zebra as a class teacher, so be it! You want to be skiing on the skin of a bowl of custard, go on! It is your world. Rule it.

How To Write Badly…

 

So you have finally decided to write that story or book.  Let me tell you all the things you need to do to not get to the end and fail at your task.

1) Keep re-working that first chapter. That’s write. Why go on to the next part of the story when you can spend all your time endlessly re-writing the first part so it becomes perfect. After all, it’s not like most writers end up cutting the first chapter/part anyway as they started the story in the wrong place, is it?

2) Make sure you have access to Twitter, Facebook, Messenger or any other social media. You need to be constantly updated on the latest cake picture and cat video. You need to lose yourself down the rabbit hole of messages. Social media is catnip to writers and should be engaged at every opportunity rather than actually doing any writing on your story.

3) Surround yourself with lots of noise. Why not put the TV on as well or a playlist with good vocals? Nothing works better to help you lose your train of thought when you are being constantly…

4) Make sure you drink loads. Have lots of tea, coffee or fizzy drinks. It easily breaks the flow if you’re constantly sipping and having to run to the loo. Also, adds a sense of urgency.

5) Play a video game. You know you want to. Just get to the end of the level and then you’ll stop. Well, maybe, just one more level. Oh, is that the time. I’ll do some writing tomorrow, I promise.

6) Keep re-drafting your plan. In fact, invest in lots of colour pens and sticky labels to add a bit of colour to it all. What about a character spreadsheet mapping out all the history and interests of all the characters? I know you won’t use any of it but preparation is key.

7) Read a few books about writing. Better safe than sorry. Best to learn the craft from a book rather than actually doing a bit of writing. Maybe attend another writing course. Better still, re-read this blog post until you have memorised it.

8) Stare at the page. Fill yourself with nagging doubt and hesitate. Tell yourself it won’t be as good on the page as it is in your head. Whatever you do, don’t begin. Don’t put words down. You’re only setting yourself up to fail.

 

 

 

Writing Goals for 2019

So it is a new year and with every new year it is time to set some writing goals for the next 12 months (their like resolutions for writers). So here are mine.

  1. Finish submitting elf book to literary agents. It would be easy for me to let this aspect of writing to slip. I’ve had positive responses but need to follow up and send some more out. It is the process I find most frustrating as it takes so much time to get a response and I want to be pushing forward. A year can go by easily as you wait for replies from agents. And some don’t even use email!
  2. Complete work in progress and a rewrite. This is currently going a bit slow for me. It is mainly due to me: I’m writing out of my comfort zone; I have the most characters I’ve ever dealt with; I’m dealing with a multi-layered plot. This one is hard.
  3. Write lesson plans to go with Wishbone Billy. This is an. idea I’ve had for a while. I have a background of working in schools and I’m sure teachers would be grateful of any materials to make their planning easier. This would also tie in nicely with me offering free school visits.
  4. Complete exciting school visits and visit to Cub Scout group. I have again been invited to schools for World Book Day  this year and also a local Cub Scout group to help them with their book badge. I always love meeting readers and writers, and discussing what excites them. I want to do more!
  5. Not to worry if I don’t complete my goals. Writing books and everything that goes with writing can easily lead you to be overly worried, especially when things are not going well. Writing should be fun and you should not worry if you don’t do everything you set out to do. Keep your cool, take a breath and be happy with what you do get done.

Well, those are my goals for the year. I think they are quite challenging as I can easily get distracted at times from the task in hand. But this year, I’m going to be a new me. (so I lie to myself).

Writing Spaces


Tangled FX 2.1 (4 May 2018, 11:34:49) Swirls preset

Most writers have a favourite writing space where they like to write and I am no exception.  It is a place where we find it easier to switch into writing mode and concentrate  on the worlds we are creating. They are part of our routine and without them we can writing frustrating, full of distractions, a basic non-starter.

Where writers choose to write can be varied depending on finances, personality or necessity. Stephen King, the famous horror writer, in the early days of his career found himself strapped for cash and the only place he could go to was the cramped laundry room of his house next to the washing machine. Perhaps it was the whine of the spin cycle that helped him produce his book Carrie.

Mark Twain, the writer of children’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, didn’t have that problem due to the fame and fortune his books brought him. He had a private study built away from his house in the garden where he used to go after a good breakfast to write during the day. If he was wanted by his family, they would blow a horn to fetch him. I can just dream of having such a writing place.

Roald Dahl, the writer of so many great children’s book (and my favourite kid’s author) was more modest in his writing space. He used a shed in his garden with a favourite armchair and a space littered with objects to inspire.

Charles Dickens also had favoured pieces of furniture: a desk and chair. It was so important to his writing that he would often get it shipped with him if he was going to be away from his home for a while.

I don’t have the garden size or finances for a shed or study but do have a ‘work room’ where I have a computer desk and swivel chair. This was where I typed up Wishbone Billy from my notes every evening in 2012 but it wasn’t where I created the first draft. Here, is where JK Rowling and I are similar. Her early drafts of Harry Potter were written in a cafe, for, as she put it, ‘You don’t have to make your own coffee, and you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement.’

I equally have to be with an easy supply of coffee and the gentle bustle of people as they come in and out of the pub I work in. I sit at my favourite table, slightly apart from the main part of the pub, under dim lights, with free coffee refills aplenty tapping away on my Bluetooth keyboard connected to my iPad mini whilst listening to the gentle notes of The Poet by Bruno Sanfilippo  (my go to writing music that always gets me in the zone). It is my writing place as I’m away from the distraction of daytime TV or easy access to the Internet – the internet at the pub is quirky at best so stops me from going down the wormhole of Twitter. Besides, it has the bonus that I can reward myself with a pint after a few productive hours of writing.

What’s your writing space?

POEM: Teacher says…

Image by Midnight Frog

Teacher says
my writing is not very good
But I dream of slaying serpents
with a dappled sword of light

Teacher says
I should use more connectives
But I search the fathoms of Hades
for the last souls of the unforgiven

Teacher says
it would be better with subordinate clauses
But I dance with moonlight maidens
on an ocean of stardust from Mars

Teacher says
my work lacks imagination
But I journey home, sword broken
and the beast of burden victorious

This poem came about because I was getting increasingly concerned with the emphasis on acquiring the knowledge of grammar, spelling and handwriting skills or rules. Often, it seemed writing in schools was becoming an exercise to tick off a rule that was learnt rather than a focus on the quality of the writing.

Becoming A Time Lord

 

Lately, I have been spending a lot of my energy attempting to be a Lord of Time and, like any possible Timelord, I have been getting to grips with time and their relative dimensions in space. Now, you might think this is a quite straight forward thing to do as a writer but you would be wrong.

1)TIME is always the BIGGEST problem. You may have a job, family (particularly the young lively sort), pets, clubs, homework or household chores that always seem to demand your attention at the moment you settle down to write. It is very difficult to get to write with any or many of these in your life. Some may call these excuses but I challenge them to write anything with a three year old vomiting on their pencil. So, like myself, you may find it better not to schedule a particular time but rather take advantage of the odd 1/2 hour – hour that may arise throughout the day. Instead of watching that TV, reading a magazine  or book (yes, I did say that), write. Being a Timelord demands sacrifice.
Even snippets of 5 or 10 minutes can be effectively used. Not for writing great reams but for imagining, asking what ifs, or as I have recently done, to jot down a key piece of exposition that you may forget.

2)RELATIVE – best avoided. They tend to take over your life when they visit or fill your imaginative quiet with noise. At worst, they are vocal critics. If you get yourself a useful, trained one, they might be of use as a cheap editor.

3)DIMENSIONS can be important. You are probably best going for ample room for paper, pen, laptop/tablet (if needed). Most important, leave plenty of room for snacks and coffee. Sacrifice personal comfort if necessary for the sake of coffee. It is the fuel that drives a Lord of Time. With enough, you will become transcendental in your writing and won’t notice the cramped space in the cupboard you are working in. If space is at a premium, I suggest something stronger than coffee.

4)SPACE can be a problem. Unless you are extremely well paid or fortunate to live in a relatively empty house, finding a quiet place to lock yourself away can be a problem. Sometimes you just have to make do even if it is a breakfast encrusted dinner table or on an unmade bed or in a cafe or on the back of the trained relative. A useful tactic is to choose a location without a tv or wifi, or if this isn’t possible, one with an annoyingly poor connection that makes you go through ridiculous procedural form filling to get just 2 minutes online. You will then soon no longer be tempted by such diversions. Remember, being a Timelord demands sacrifice.

So there you have my secrets of becoming a Timelord and going onto future success at getting something down on paper (using the toilet doesn’t count).