In My Wildest Dreams: Adventures in Children's Fiction






Back to the future; no time like the present in the post-Trump world!

It's over a year since I last posted to this blog, so long ago that I have been fishing around on the screen looking for the 'New Post' button. The format of Blogger has changed during this period of absence. The world has changed - Brexit, Trump, I am older. Less optimistic? Never!

But I haven't written a word of a book in twelve months. I left my current project for 10+ two thirds of the way through, not because I don't know what is going to happen - well, I do so far as I can foretell the future - but because life just got in the way: things as exciting as family visits from abroad, visits to France & Canada, and other events as mundane as decorating, a new roof, a new garage... Christmas to Christmas in a flash. Writing was squeezed out.

Or was I just exhausted after five and a half years, four books and countless rejections from agents and my old publisher? Time for a rethink.

What have I decided to do with the life I have left? It does come down to that. I am a finisher and a starter. I shall complete the book for 10+, because I have to. I shall trawl back through my list of agents to see whether I have missed any from my submissions list and see if any new faces have appeared on the scene. Concurrently, I shall begin a novel for adults.

I haven't written an adult novel since I completed one when I was 23 years old. It was rejected once and I put it in a drawer. I have learned a lot since I pounded that one out on an Olivetti Lettera 32.
Most of all I have learned not to give up, that writing is a necessary part of me, and  that I probably should have developed a brand in order to be successful commercially, rather than telling the story that discovers me at the time.

Rather than self-publish the books I have written, I shall find someway of conserving them and curating them; i.e putting them up on the web, perhaps with notes, for free.

Time will tell.

So for now, I am winding up this blog. Thanks all of you who have taken time read bits and pieces of it. Rest assured, I #amwriting.




Comments

So may I introduce to you...

I re-drafted the synopsis of The Reaping and it still remains at around 1,200 words, which is better than the 3,000 it became at one point. Who knows whether it is any good? I've kind of lost the plot with the exercise, which is not great when when you are trying to impress someone about your ability to tell a story.

I have now sent off my proposal to five agents, electronically. I am working on the basis of tackling one submission a day. Each agency wants the same sort of thing, but in a slightly different form. Attention to detail is all, requiring the same concentration as a CV or job application. It is not a job to be rushed or for the faint-hearted. The screen is a duplicitous thing. It colludes with your eyes against your best attempts to spell and punctuate, to put each word in the correct order or to put them in at all.

Press SEND and be damned... one hopes not. I am philosophical, not excited. Pleased to be finished... for now.
Comments

It was twenty years ago today...

I am happily ahead of schedule! I finished the final draft of my YA novel, The Reaping on the 3rd November, although every time I read a page on the Kindle I am tempted to change a word here or there and make adjustments to the manuscript in Scrivener. I must draw the line. I have ended up with 70,100 words, a hundred more than my target.

I am not feeling euphoric. Any rapture at finishing has been tempered by the grim task of producing a synopsis to tempt an agent. I spent four hours yesterday producing a chapter by chapter digest; I gave up at the halfway point through the novel. The synopsis had already crept up to 2000 words and it was so dry that it made me soporific just checking the spelling. Hopeless. I abandoned it!

This morning I produced an elegant spidergram of characters, relationships, plot points and themes in Scapple. The chart means a lot to me, but would baffle and annoy an agent. It proved to be a useful aid, leading to the first draft of a 1200 word synopsis, which contains most of what I want to say about the plot etc. Tomorrow I must précis it and give it a little pizzazz. I'd love it to become 850 words, but I don't hold out too much hope. As long as it sings on the page I shall be happy!

After that I must write the letter: So may I introduce to you... if only I was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band!
Comments

Calm but not becalmed

I am little behind schedule, which is most unlike me. That's not a bad thing though; I have been taking my time to get The Reaping right. When I last blogged it was June. I worked through most of the summer. As autumn arrives I have just completed the 5th draft, five minutes ago in fact. No euphoria yet; I have exported my MS from Scrivener in Kindle format, so I can see how it looks from the ereader's point of view. Reviewing it it will mean more note-taking and hopefully only fine tuning of the text. I thought that was what I was going to be doing in this last draft, but I ended up cutting out whole scenes which had slowed the pace of the story and rewriting others.

Am I pleased? I am not sure. The last of the September sunshine beckons. I have not been birding in an age. I shall go to Slimbridge on Friday afternoon, a reward for sitting here and sweating it out between now and then. That is the only way to do it. I shall not finish this project prematurely. My news deadline is the beginning of December.

Nine weeks is not much time.
Comments

I must not go a wandering...


I have not posted anything on the blog for a while, simply because I have been working on revisions to my manuscript, currently standing at 61k words. I have used Scapple to develop a revisions map, and as you can see I am working through it (whilst listening to piano music) and RAG (Red Amber Green) rating my progress.

I started with small details that could easily be changed, but have now moved on to writing new scenes and revising others. Then I shall play around with the structure of the story. Finally I shall look at fleshing out some of the character descriptions (physical) before I re-read the whole thing and begin polishing the text.

So far so good... but I would say that wouldn't I? The sunshine makes working more difficult, but I am sticking at it and hope to finish by end of June 2014








Comments

Reaping the rewards of hard work.

Still ahead of schedule, I have begun my revisions of my YA novel, working title, The Reaping. I have read the whole thing through, looking at structure and continuity, but also picking up irritating typos along the way. I now have a list of scenes I need to add and develop, and descriptions I need to check to make sure I have been consistent throughout. When I have done that, any scenes I need to delete will probably become apparent.

Once the structure is in place, I shall return to character. I certainly need to add one and flesh out the others, then I shall turn my attention to place and atmosphere, not that the book is just sitting there in skeletal form like a boat waiting for planking and fittings.

Am I optimistic? I always am at this stage. Or am I on a fool's errand? I am confident that I am not. My basic premise works. It now has to become something that is real. Unforgettable.

How long will it take? Well, I am in Italy next week. I guess I shall be finished completely, by the end of June. But I have some travelling to do in between.



The tools of the revision business:











Comments

Almost home.

3000 words to go until I finish the first draft of The Reaping. Another thousand words tomorrow, then a five day break. I should be finished by the end of next week. Pleasingly, I shall be well inside my schedule.

I shall then take a break and begin working on the second draft at the beginning of the second week in April and hope to complete the final draft by the beginning of September. The book will have taken 12 months. Time goes quickly when you are writing a book, although paradoxically the process seems slow. Deadlines come around faster than Christmas. So far, so good.

Meanwhile, the world turns as normal.
Comments

When a miss is as good as a smile.

The smiling villains are in politics. I don't think of literary agents as people like that (though I imagine  those in that line of business could probably come up with a name or two). It's not been my experience anyway. Like most people they are doing a difficult job in trying and ever changing circumstances. This is my Wind in the Willows view of the world.

The smile then. Well, yes, an actual personal email from a well-known agent. Alas: "There is an awful lot I like about it." (The book) ....  "I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me."

Well, that's not bad, is it?


a) It's not a pro-forma rejection - death by a thousand cuts.
b) The book is along the right lines - it may be publishable but not in these dark competitive times. It is not a slam-dunk, it is the basketball spinning around the rim of the net.


What would Tiberius Small do? Well he is tall enough to slam-dunk every time & if by some fluke he did miss, I guess he'd use one of his many connections to make sure he stayed on the first team and took all the plaudits in the school newspaper, if not the Sunday Times. But that's another story?


 Me?  I'll go on submitting, (but not in the passive sense) until I find the right fit, either with The Tall Story of Tiberius Small or another book..







Comments

What I learned from the wind in the willows.

I have been working this afternoon though you wouldn't think it from looking at me lounged alternately on the sofa in the conservatory and flopped on the bean bag, half in the house and half out in the sun. If my landscape is like The Wind in the Willows, then spring has come late for this particular myopic observer of the world. I have put on my glasses, picked up my broom, set it down again and made space for myself to think. So I have been working. (I could never convince my late mother that lazing on a bean bag constituted hard labour but that's another story, like spending the early nineteen seventies doing my dancing lying down.)

I have made more  decisions about my work in progress:

The Key to Finlac, overlong and in two halves, is like conjoined but not identical twins. I shall risk an attempt at separation in the optimistic belief that they will both survive. After all they both have a head and a heart. I know what future I would like for them both. It is just a question of nurturing them so they both go on to thrive.

As for The Tall Story of Tiberius Small, if I fail to find an agent, I shall publish it myself as an ebook and have no qualms about it. I might even do it under a pseudonym. At least it will be out there rather than in the way, and I had a good time writing it, a few laughs in the process.

I have no excuses then. I know where my four MSS (now that The Key to Finlac has become two) are heading

Time to get my backside off the bean bag, pick up the broom and sniff the air. ... that way more ideas will come.

Comments

The Tall Story of Tiberius Small

So it is now May. I went to Australia for much of March and April. I meant to look at my final draft while I was away, but I just let it sit, knowing that it was pretty well finished. On my return I read it though once again and made one or two minor changes, sharpened a few sentences and checked it for continuity.

The Tall Story of Tiberius Small is finished and weighs in at 37,000 words, which I hope is about right.  Nine and ten and eleven year olds should be able to read it as long as they are due to hit Level 4 English and have a sense of humour... and still like books. What do I really know? I enjoyed writing it and I am not embarrassed by any of it... so... time will tell. For the moment I am a success.

Tomorrow? Am I heading for a fall? Whatever, I am thick skinned. It is done. I have pressed the Send button. I am right back where I was when I started this blog about three years ago. I am waiting for the joyous Ping! of acceptance arriving in my Inbox.
Comments

New Shoes & Autumn Leaves

Why do I still use school terms for my reference points even though I am no longer involved in education? Like a dutiful school boy I still settle down to work every time a new term begins and kick off my shoes & go barefooted when end of term comes around. I never have been comfortable with the notion of New Year's Day or the beginning of the financial year in April. Spring & the beginning of the Summer Term has more significance.

And then there is September, where it all really starts. New shoes, new uniform, new stationery; looking forward to kicking though the autumn leaves.

Time for me to review the past two years. I have written 100,000 words. I have a couple of children's novels in nearly final draft. I am a "finisher" - the work ethic side of me sees to that - but I also want to start something new. I want to get back to my 1000 words a day habit. I want to kick though the leaves rather than trudge back from town, laden with shopping however interesting my purchases

If a painter can work on several pieces at once, then so can I - as long as there is an end in sight. That is the challenge. The juggling....but not as the mood takes me. It requires more discipline than that.
Comments

Tupperware tells its own story

Does not posting a blog recently mean I have been focusing hard on the book? Mostly.

Writing the first draft of a book is like being a child again, running down the beach on the first day of the holidays to stamp my feet in the water. It's all shrieks and hollering. The second draft is shivering back up from the shore line, feet stabbed by stones. The final draft is being rubbed hard with a sandy towel. Warming, but unpleasantly abrasive.

But there will be a time when the sun breaks through, and I'll sip scalding sweet tea from a Tupperware cup, hot sand between my toes. And I'll dream that dream of never going back to school again.


Comments

When Less is More...More or Less...

This is my morning. Still working on the revisions to The Key to Finlac. Still trying to reduce the first 45,000 words to no more than 10,000. It's a tough call, but I'm, getting there. The question to be asked all the time is: What is essential to the story? If it doesn't move the narrative forward, leave it out.

But it is also important to remember that 35,000 words have not been wasted. They have not been expunged. Not so much evaporation as distillation.

I write this, so I have the heart to go back to the book again tomorrow. It's a reminder to myself as well as a glimpse into the writing process.



Comments

Monarch of the Pen: The Flight of Fancy.

No longer so perplexed about revisions today. In the early hours of the morning came a moment of clarity. What brought it on? Our upcoming flight to Croatia had been changed from a civilised 12.55 p.m. to an unthinkable 6.25 a.m. I was furious. I shall never fly with Monarch again. It prevented me from sleeping. I had to switch off and change the subject.

Out of bad comes good. At 1.00 a.m. I worked out exactly what I have to do with my book. Not the new one, but The Key to Finlac, which I "finished" in August. I now know how to reduce the MS by 40,000 words whilst retaining the heart of the story. That's the theory anyway. I began making notes this morning.

As for the recent book? Can I really revise both stories at once? The human brain is an unfathomable thing.
Comments

Ten things that tell you the novel is done

How do you know when the book you are writing is actually finished?

  1. It tastes like a crisp apple.
  2. It burns in your throat like homemade ginger beer on a summer's day.
  3. It smells like clean cotton sheets.
  4. It preens like a Drake in breeding plumage.
  5. It is like dozing in sunshine.
  6. It is as if you have discovered Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine for the first time.
  7. It is your eleventh birthday.
  8. It is the first day of the summer holidays
  9. For me, it seems like 1964.
  10. ... someone else agrees that it is ok.

If it is all these things and it just feels right, then it is done. You have to stop somewhere.
Sometimes you have to be content with good enough.
Comments