Write-30 No.2

Man in black coat sitting on brown wooden chair

The Wish.

What if you were granted a wish. Just one wish from a genie. What would you wish for? Be careful – things can go wrong. Write the story about what happens.

STUCK? Try this story starter: The great green genie stood before me. His bald head shining in the sun and his red beard blowing in a breeze.
“I will grant you one wish. What will it be?”  he demanded.

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.

 

Lockdown Activity:Write-30 No.1

What is Write – 30?

Write – 30 is a daily activity  aimed at kids 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.

The whole family/household could do it and then share the results afterwards!

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.

WRITE -3o for 27/03/20:

The Spaghetti Dinosaur.

You walk into the staff  room at your school. There is a dinosaur sat at a table eating tinned spaghetti. What happens next?

STUCK?  Try this story starter: I entered the staffroom looking for Mr Fitzsimons but instead saw a great big dinosaur sat in Ms Hillard’s  favourite chair eating tinned spaghetti (with tomato sauce). The dinosaur was…

 

 

WRITING TIP 7: Story Pieces

story parts

I’ve been asked many times by children when visiting schools: “Hey, mister, what makes up a story?”
Stories are made up of different kinds of parts which help you tell the whole thing. This explains some of the DRAD.

DESCRIPTION: This is the part of the story where you use lots of adjectives and longer sentences to describe the setting or characters. You might use descriptive writing devices like power-of-3, simile, metaphor, personification. Generally, it is better not to do all your description in one large chunk and have none any where else. Usually writers drop in some description through out their story.
Example: The old house stood at the end of the winding street on top of a grey hill. It loomed over the area like a dark, foreboding presence waiting for the unwise to enter.

REFLECTION: This is when the characters think about what is happening or what has happened to them or what will happen to them. It gives insight into the characters and their motivation.
Example: Why did I ever come here? This was the biggest mistake of my life! Kevin is dancing with Sarah and they’re dancing real close.

ACTION: These are fast paced sections where your character is doing something exciting. It should have lots of exciting verbs (action words) with little or no description and short sentences.
Example: He pulled the gun. He let off a shot. One. two. They flew over the bandit’s heads. He dived behind a rock. 

DIALOGUE: This is when two or more people are talking to each other in a story. Try to avoid using lots of words instead of SAID. Usually SAID is the bet word to use. What is said is the important thing. It should be important, interesting and move the story forward.
Example: I was like, ‘What do you want?’
He shuffled his feet. ‘I wanted to ask you out.’
‘YOU!’

How much of each part you have depends on the type of story you’re writing and what form it is taking. An adventure story like James Bond will have more action but a historical drama will have more description. A story told through diary entries will contain more reflection, dialogue but less descritption and action.

Get a copy of the Story Parts to print for display here: story parts

 

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.

The Writer’s Life

Writing and pen

When I visit schools, children often ask me questions about being a writer and what it is really like so I thought I would attempt to answer some of the most common questions I am asked here.

Are you rich?
The answer is no. Most writers are not rich. The average yearly wages for a writer is £10,500 so that means most writers have another job as well, like me. Unless, you are super succesful like JK Rowling. Then you can write all the time. I’m afraid to say I don’t live in a big house and have twenty-eight cats. I have two and a goldfish.

Are you famous?
No. Very few writers get recognised on the street. The ones that do tend to have been celebrities before they became writers, like David Walliams. They were famous for something else first. Of course, there are a few exceptions like Michael Rosen, Roger McGough or Anthony Horowitz who have also been on TV after their books became well-known. I’ve only been recognised in the street once by a girl whose school I had visited. She yelled, “Look, there’s that writer who came to my school. He’s going into that house!” Otherwise, I walk about never noticed. I could be sat by you and you wouldn’t know.

What do you do when you write? What’s it like?
When I write, I take myself out of the house away from distractions like the TV, cats, fish, reliable internet and go to a place I call ‘the office.’ There I can get endless cups of coffee for just £1.25.
I settle down at the table, look at the outline of my book I’m currently working on, open up my tablet and keyboard and begin writing. I write using a programme called Scrivener which was specially made for writers. While I write, I usually listen to music without voices to cut out any background noise that may distract me and put me off. I might write non-stop for an hour or three. It depends how easily the writing is coming. As I write, I talk to nobody except my characters and imagined audience. They are my only concern.
Writing can be lonely. You sit by yourself, not speaking, not knowing if your writing is any good or worth reading. You just hope it is and carry on. That is why I am also a member of two Writing Groups. There, I share my work, find out what people think of it, if my jokes work, and talk about writing issues such as the best way to solve a problem with point of view.
Sometimes things are different. Sometimes I get to meet my readers when I am invited to a school to do a talk or run writing workshops. Then I get to share my love of writing and talk about books and we do some writing together. It’s great fun.

Have you written any other books?
Yes. Three others but they’re not published yet. One is for grown-ups, one is a kind of Tolkien adventure, and another is about an elf which I’m sending to Literary Agents. I am also working on another one at the moment.

I hope all this helps clear up the things I’m most asked. If you’ve any other questions, just ask in the comment’s box below.

POEM: Pages


We’re going on an adventure
Through tall trees and over mountains
Pass great creatures in fields
And in taverns littered with gold

We’re going on an adventure
Across wide rivers with sea serpents
Through boggy lands where monsters hide
Two brave heroes with armour of foil

We’re going on an adventure
Across plains of racing dinosaurs
Pass cavemen crouching over fires
With our jam sandwiches in our packs

We’re going on an adventure
Under the three moons of Mars
Zooming across the planet on jets
Eating protein pills for energy.

Writing Spaces


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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?

WRITING TIP 6: Getting Started

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Stories can start in a number of different ways. I’ll talk you through a few and you can pick the one you want to try or you could try them all!

DESCRIPTION: You’re probably familiar with this one. It’s when you begin your story describing the setting or main character.
EG: The house stood on the hill at the end of the street, looking over all others as it groaned in the wind.

DIALOGUE: You can begin a story with some speech but make sure it’s active and moves the story forward. A conversation about going to the park is not exciting unless there is something sinister waiting.
EG: ‘I hate you. And your mother stinks too!’ she yelled.
‘You just wait. I’ll get my own back on you Mary Jenkins!’ said Pete.

ACTION: You can drop your reader right into the thick of it by starting with some high octane action. But be careful to get the pacing right.
EG: The silver ship soared across the sky, lazers blasting at the saucer. The saucer dived, twisting and turning, engines screaming; it’s rear guns beaming.

NARRATION: This is when the author is setting the scene by speaking directly to the reader.
EG: Everybody knows that when children are asleep, the little popsie-fluffs sneak out from under the carpet and begin.