In My Wildest Dreams: Adventures in Children's Fiction

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!

Tartt's Dilemma

Well, I am not going to buy two copies of Donna Tartt's new book, The Goldfinch, unless I buy one as a present for someone else.

What would you do? Buy the hardback edition (784 pages) for £10.51 from Amazon or the Kindle edition for £9.98, which is all of 53 pence cheaper? In a nutshell, this is Tartt's Dilemma.

So what's the problem? I love books, that's the problem. I love the smell of them, the feel of them, the sight of them lined up on the shelf - all colour and splash. The Goldfinch will be a long read - I am looking forward to it - but in this case the hardback (like most) it is too hefty to tote around and the paperback when it comes out will be no slim volume. Anyway, on this occasion I'm not prepared to hang around for it.

On the other hand I don't have to be the first person in Britain to blog a review so I don't need the download right now. Anyway the initial reviews are already out. I can wait for the post, which will of course be free from Amazon (I think I read somewhere that Amazon actually include a download charge in their Kindle price).

So which to buy? I err on the sumptuousness of the hardback, but then again, there's the convenience of Kindle. But then again, I won't be able to share the book after I've read it. And I hate the thought that when I have read 100 pages, the Kindle will tell me baldly that I have read 13%. On the other hand...

Tartt's Dilemma. And I guess the publisher feels the same. Give the reader a digital download with the hardback and they might only sell one copy instead of two, which takes me back to my top line. No chance.

I am still not sure what to do. This is Tartt's Dilemma.

Then again... I should be supporting my local independent bookshop. That is the author's dilemma.

Lucky 13: Premises that underpin my writing.

  1. It is not a competition. The only person who can defeat you is yourself.
  2. Success is not measured in money; or by being traditionally published.
  3. Don’t expect to make a living out of it; the world doesn't owe you one.
  4. Have a story to tell.
  5. You don’t have to enjoy writing, but it helps if the balance is at least 60/40 in favour of happiness.
  6. Social media is not writing; turn it off when you are working.
  7. Every blank page has a story to tell. Write and it will speak to you.
  8. Read widely and often.
  9. What you have written is your legacy.
  10. A writer who doesn’t write is lazy.
  11. Keep a notebook; you can work on more than one project at a time.
  12. Like food & exercise, little and often is best.
  13. REMEMBER: Everything you write will burn up one day in one sun or another.


Blue! The best and worst of colours.

Probably the most terrifying, but enticing expanse of blue a writer will ever look at.

8.30 a.m. I am about to write the first words of the first sentence on the first page of the first chapter of a new novel.

8.35 a.m. I look at all my favourite web pages and vow not to look at Twitter while I'm writing.

9.00 a.m. I am still taking furtive glances at Twitter.

9.10 a.m. I promise myself I shall not reply to any Tweets today.

9.25 a.m. I have replied to a Tweet.

10.00 a.m. My screen is still blank. I look at my notes on Scapple.

10.15 a.m. I make coffee and bring it upstairs with two slices of toast to my study.

10.20 a.m. I set Project Targets in the Scrivener drop down menu.
                  Deadline for finishing: 1 April 2014.
                 (ha ha that seems a long way off! But realistic)
                  Manuscript target: 60,000 words.
                  Session target: 1000 words.

10.45 a.m. I begin writing.

12.15 p.m. I break for lunch. I have written 349 words (and replied to another Tweet - Bad writer!)

13.45 p.m. I begin again.

14.05 p.m. I finish. 1,160 words (and no looking at Social Media.)

Tomorrow is another day. 59,000 words to go. I fancy April 2014 is nearer than I think.


Age & the wings of migration.

The changing of the seasons. I know that autumn is rolling around, because I have started writing a new book today. That is my routine; a kind of migration. Summer and Spring in one space, and the rest of the year in another.

I have begun a cross-over novel, which I think means a Young Adult novel (YA), which can be read by adults. Or maybe it is New Adult novel, (NA) that new category for 18-25 year olds about rights of passage. I don't really care about categorisation. Perhaps I am writing a novel for adults which can be equally ready by 14 year olds.

It comes down to telling the story in the best way possible. The end result must be spectacular, better than anything I have written before. I am committed to upping my game for this one. That's how a writer should feel on starting out on a new project. But it is more pertinent than ever, as the publishing business has got so tight.

I am sixty years old. In this up and coming book age is no barrier.

A writer is a writer is a writer.

Who am I to make comments about someone else? I don’t know J K Rowling or how she feels about anything, anymore than I know about you who are reading this. So this is not personal. I’m not even going to pass an opinion on her children’s novels. I am not a child so what would I know anyway? I have read the first four Harry Potter books and enjoyed them. As some point I shall read The Cuckoo’s Calling, but probably won’t get round to The Casual Vacancy, because that’s not my cup of tea.

It is not J K Rowling, or her books I am really interested in, it is what her productivity tells us about what it is to be a writer. J K Rowling wrote before she had money (maybe in a dream of making a living). She could have cut and run after the first three Harry Potter books. When the films were done she could have rested on the money & devoted herself to good causes. (She has certainly done her share of that.) But at no stage it appears did J K Rowling stop writing, nor has she shown any desire to churn out more of the same.

Whatever the quality of her work, whether it stands the test of time, or whether she goes out of fashion, she will always be a writer because I imagine she is compelled to do it… and not for the money or fame.

Why do any of us do it? Writing is hard work (though no one makes me do it so I can’t complain) and I doubt that it is any easier if you become wealthy through your writing; you just have more to lose in terms of self-confidence and the self-esteem if your gift deserts you for a while. Best selling novelists are like the rest of us. We all need to have our books recognised for what they are and not because our name is on the cover.

Writing is a compulsion, but not an addiction; a writer always has control. Writing is compelling  - you can take a break from it - but return to it you always will. Being a writer has nothing to do with money or fame. It has everything to do with writing. It is simple.

A writer is a writer is a writer.