In My Wildest Dreams: Adventures in Children's Fiction

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.

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!

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


I used to love WordPerfect, but is it the Betamax of word processors?

I have spent a large portion of the day trying to correct formatting issues with the ebook version of Badgerman & Bogwitch. The problem has arisen because I imported the original 1992 WordPerfect file into MSWord, then imported it into Scrivener so I could export it as an Amazon .mobi file format. I have been left with a number of unwanted indents and hard return paragraph anomalies.

I have been going through the Scrivener document line by line, adding and deleting hard returns as necessary. It has driven me slightly mad.

There is no problem with formatting for ebooks if you write straight into Scrivener, as I have been doing for the past three years.

WordPerfect has turned out to be the Betamax of Word processors! :(

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.


Back on the road thanks to Cormac McCarthy

What is my impetus to write? I certainly know what the barriers are. That's easy. A glimmer of sunshine in a wet summer, a trip to the coast, the prospect of new birds on a SW gale, sitting in cafes, fiddling with technology - which still seems like magic to me.

I've had a writing lay-off for about two weeks, for all the reasons above in no particular order.


So I'm back to my revisions of The Key to Finlac today and it has gone reasonably well. Up early. A fresh look. New ideas. An impetus. Clarity. For now.

So what was it that brought me back to the desk, apart from the remnants of discipline? I think it is because I believe that fifteen year olds are better off reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, than they are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If you want to read about the human spirit in a dystopian setting, better off taking a journey on The Road, full of challenge and in the end enlightenment about what is of value in this world. And then there is Ray Bradbury. He wrote so much, and if there was ever a cross-over author it is him.

Writing is the thing; literature is what matters. It's worth spending the time. And the effort. Of course it helps to have role-models and a little inspiration.

My Window, the Pencil Sharpener

It isn't the biggest window in the world, but it is possibly the biggest pencil sharpener... unless your study has a bigger, more distracting window with a better view. The sun is shining too. Maybe I should turn my desk around and face the other way.

I am big on BIG this morning too. Truly procrastinating. Back from holiday. Staring at the blue Adriatic last week, the task of finishing The Key to Finlac seemed a very simple one. I could see the light and shape of things. I would be ready to come home and start again.

So here I am, turning the smallest of pencils around and around in the big sharpener. Writing. A window on the world.

Bulldozing and Landscaping the Novel

The restructuring of The Key to Finlac continues:

  • I have killed off a brother even before the story begins.
  • I have abandoned a set of parents.
  • I have demolished two houses, a factory, and a school.
  • I have remodelled a significant landscape.
  • I have scrapped a motley collection of old vehicles.
  • I have put a property developer out of business.
  • I have buried a pensioner-gardener
  • I have removed one mystery and replaced it with another.
  • I have added a new character and developed others.
  • I have written a more engaging back story for my other main protagonist.
  • I have done away with 500 years of history.
  • I have mislaid a brew bin.

I shall begin writing again tomorrow, having rewritten history today.

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.

Revision and the Taming of Two Horses

I always look forward to the task of revision, then immediately long for the carefree days of tapping the keys, meeting the characters listening to their story. But revise I must.

Sometimes it feels like raking up leaves in a high wind or chasing a lottery ticket along the seafront. Other times it seems like the plot is almost there, but it cannot quite be recalled, like waking from a vivid dream the details of which are suddenly lost.

Then inevitably halfway through the first read comes the loss of confidence and the realisation that you are going to have to write much of the novel over again, and that is like straddling pair of wild horses who want to pull in different directions, whilst juggling three flaming torches. It's an unnerving journey.

So I try to proceed methodically:

  • A read through, spotting immediate faults with the plotting and characterisation.
  • Listing the key things that need to be changed.
  • Producing a good plot outline (scene by scene).
  • Re-writing and/or deleting scenes and introducing new characters as necessary.
  • Re-reading and sharpening the plot.
  • Sharpening the prose and checking for typos.
Right now though I am staring at two wild horses.

It's a 1st draft - 373 Words that make all the difference!

An eight o'clock start is always a good sign. Forty-Five minutes and three hundred and seventy-three words later I had finished the first draft of the new book.

I stood up from my desk with the same joyous abandonment as finishing the last paper of my Finals. At that time I took two weeks off to laze around and read. (Why would I do that when I'd been reading five books a week for three years?)

What shall I do now? Well, I won't start my revisions immediately. I shall leave it for a week or two and potter about with a new idea. Maybe start a third book.

As for the first draft being finished, I simply reached the point where I could safely leave it. For now it will do, like an electrician making the wiring safe for the weekend, but needing to come back to do a permanent job on the Monday.

So it weighed in at 53,626 words. Numbers are important. I want the MS to be 48,000. In revising I reckon to lose 25%-30% of the words simply by writing better sentences, which would leave me about 8,000 words short of my target. This difference will be made up by the writing of new scenes and the deletion or revision and development of others.

It may take another two or three drafts - three months' work. But I shall get there in the end.