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

Diggle's Dilemma (again...)

Diggle’s Dilemma: to write or market? Increasingly, I don’t think I can do both. Find an agent you say? I know that is a good idea… in theory… but let’s not be diverted by that question.

In the past four years I have written four novels for children/young people. I am presently re-writing the second one of these. The other free remain in finished form, but have proved to be unplaceable to date. I think that they are there or thereabouts, certainly interesting, one amusing and another uncomfortable and challenging, verging on the adult.

That is Diggle’s Dilemma. Do I concentrated on finding a home for three or crack on re-writing the second one I started… or start something completely new? Unfortunately, I am a finisher, tenacious by nature and nurture.

Why the dilemma? Time and energy. I’d rather be a writer than a marketing man. Today, you have to be both.

Should I spend time putting my work in order or crack on with the new, even make a change of direction – write for adults – NOW!? I think I may have said before that curation might be the answer. Just put my work up on the web and see how it goes. That seems like a half-way house and doesn’t really resolve anything.


Time will tell, but I can no longer sit here doing nothing. One must dismount with purpose rather than just wait to fall off the horns of a dilemma.
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

A manuscript is a duplicitous beguiling thing

This is where I'm at!

 (Not that I ever really know, but it's a happy sentence if you're an optimist; dark if you are not.)

I have completed the 2nd draft of The Reaping and read the whole thing again. In my head I have sent it off to an editor. Euphoria.

 It is useful to role-play the situation and I have been on the receiving end of tough love about a book before. And now in my head, the book has been returned and the comments are more devastating than I thought.

Misery. Kick the wall. Throw a bottle out of the window and hope it hasn't hurt anyone as it shatters. Regret. Go for a long walk. Have a drink. The first half of the book works, the second half does not quite so well.

I have written myself a stiff and unambiguous note about the problem areas. Time to set another deadline. 2nd draft was due 1st July - I managed that. The next? I haven't decided yet. Summer beckons.

I have to get this book right. I know I shall. It's just going to take a little longer than I thought. There is absolutely no point sending it to an agent before it is ready. I am more than halfway there, but there are some big issues to resolve. I may change the narrative voice. I may not. That is the whole point of a third draft. Some huge decisions to be made.

The RAG rated revisions plan:


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

My book is still a few tiles short of a roof.

A small scare this morning. It is always difficult to start writing again on a Monday. Today I was a little distracted, waiting for a roofer to come to look at a couple of missing tiles and perhaps quote for re-felting and battening the whole thing. I am 9,000 words off finishing the first draft of my YA/crossover novel. The work is painstaking even though I know that in a few weeks I shall tear it all apart again.

Lack of concentration. In my efforts to back up my document file to Dropbox, I placed the file in the wrong area and then deleted it. When I opened Scrivener again, I found that my most recent file was gone. How did that happen? Who ever knows how these things happen? Something I did inadvertently obviously. A morning's work lost....

Not quite. If you have set the Preferences correctly in Scrivener, then it will automatically back up the file you are working on with a different file extension so you can't accidentally over right it.

Salvation.

 I retrieved my work and copied it to the correct folder in Dropbox. I have not lost a single file in the past four years, but it was bound to happen eventually.  The file is now secure, ready for me to take apart at my leisure.

Backup is all in the planning.

Step one:  Save as you go. (I hit Save at the end of every paragraph.)

Step Two: Set up automatic back up in preferences.

Step Three: Back up to an external hard drive.

Step Four: Subscribe to a service like DropBox (It's free up to certain limits.)
Comments

Why writing is all Snakes & Ladders.

I am pleased to say I have just finished adding the final touches to my new book (Title remains a secret). I can now have a break. In just over a month's time I shall have one last look at it and then send it off to agents.

I shall then have to go back and look at the first draft of a book I finished this time last year. (Title remains a secret) When I'll look again at The Key to Finlac, I am not quite sure. I have a long version, and most of a shorter version ready.

Why do titles remain a secret? I guess because until I send a book off, I have not quite settled on it and don't want to give too much away.

So how do I feel about my progress towards being published again? Sanguine I guess. I have written at least 40,000 words a year for the past three, so something might happen in the end. I know I am a good writer. So much depends on the market... and getting past the intern at the door!

In October, I shall start a new project. I know exactly what it is. At least for the moment, I am at the top of another ladder!
Comments

Forensics: Getting to the Truth of the Story

Forensic has popped into my head this morning. Slow, methodical, painstaking work to analyse what has happened. What exactly is the truth of the story I have written? As another person, I have to go back to the scene and find out what really occurred there. What is still to be discovered?

I have begun re-writing, The Key to Finlac, opening the book with an entirely new episode involving a character I knew little about before. And as I'm discovering, I had not properly explored and explained the world she inhabits. I have been looking for clues - trace evidence - and putting a credible scenario together to present to the reader.

It is delicate work, tricky in that I have to tread carefully so as not to destroy or contaminate that which needs to be preserved.

Without all the pieces, those already logged and those freshly seen, the story cannot be rightly told.
Comments

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.
Comments

Truth can't be revised but it can be found through revision.

How do I feel now I've finished re-reading the first draft of my new book? A little perplexed and looking for kind words to deliver myself a difficult message. My then editor Christopher Reid found the words to describe one of my early drafts of Badgerman & Bogwitch:

"I'm afraid, though, I am still quite a long way from being satisfied. The whole thing still gives me the impression of muddled improvisation, and it has grown to an unwieldy size in the process....One of your weaknesses here and elsewhere, may have been the very fertility of your imagination."

And this is true of the new book. Rein in the imagination, find the truth of the characters, discover the real story and set it out in clear terms.

Back in 1990 when Christopher Reid wrote me that letter, I went for a stomp round the woods to vent my anger & despair. Now I am wiser. I keep the letter close by and listen to what it tells me.

You can rewrite a book; it is foolhardy to rewrite history.
Comments