Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

I'm coming to the final chapters of the final draft of my novel and while I'm inserting some new chapters, others simply need to be further polished. This is when I take a long look at my work and say 'is that necessary?' or 'could that be done better?'. I use adverbs incredibly sparingly but sometimes they do creep in there and I have to ask myself if they work or if I can write that section differently.

Janice Hardy's Fiction University discusses this topic in the article Writing Basics: How to Use Adverbs. Have a look.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Researching the Impossible

I write murder mystery plays for a living and often, especially for a customer commissioned play, I have to research certain topics. For instance, this year's three new plays have required me to research aerobics routines, theft from railway lines, secret societies, how to construct a shed, the sex change process, Star Wars merchandise, and literary fairies.

I'm also working on a children's fantasy novel. To a lot of people, the fantasy genre doesn't merit the same need for research and hard facts. How can you possibly research a fantastical world of goblins and magic and flying cars? Isn't it all in the writer's imagination? 

I think research still has a important role to play in this genre. Look at Tolkien, for instance, whose studies in language led to his creation of the Elven tongue in his novels. Ursula  K Le Guin researched real locations, often visiting them, as inspiration for places in her novels, such as the Earthsea trilogy.

Personally, for my own novel, I've found myself researching:
  • the meaning of names,
  • how science can tie in with how my magical devices work (mainly nuclear fission),
  • mythological creatures (for example, harpies and pixies),
  • and real life settings that I've used as inspiration for locations in my novel (Covent Garden tube station and York Minster, to name but two).
This kind of research adds a reality to our fantasy writing, grounding it to make the imagined world of our novel appear more substantial and believable to the reader.

Before I attempt my next chapter, I have to return to the subject of nuclear fission and power plants. Excuse me while I get my goggles and big rubber gloves.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Monday, 21 July 2014

Can you judge a book by its cover?

A friend recently self published for the first time and one of the most interesting (and exciting) elements of what I saw of the process (beyond the actual writing) was choosing a book cover design.

She commissioned several artists, used a 'vote for your favourite' as publicity for her debut novel and went through a lot of previously unconsidered questions as to what she wanted. You can read more about her adventure here.

As writers, we can concentrate so much on the words on the page, creating and honing, that we often forget the importance of book cover design. To a browser in a book store, the look of a book is the thing that will first catch their eye. If they pick up our book, they'll probably turn next to the blurb, but that initial capture is purely visual.

The kind of book covers I like personally are very diverse. I find the covers of the Dark Towers novels by Stephen King to be quite eye catching.

But then I also like the simple design of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind.

And I love the quirkiness of the Pratchett book covers and the artwork of Quentin Blake.

So what would I want on the book cover of my novel, Haven Falling? Well, I'd like something that summed up the setting - futuristic skyscrapers and old, red brick terraces. Magic would have to be signified, perhaps by the use of light orbs and some of the magical creatures that appear in my story. I'm not sure if I want the actual characters to figure, more a suggestion of their personalities.

by Dougal Waters

I daresay I'm getting ahead of myself here but hey, there's no harm in dreaming.

Further reading:

Yes, we really do judge books by their covers - Huffington Post
The importance of book cover design - Good Reads

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

I do my best to end each of the chapters in my novel on a question (even the final chapter). Chuck Wendig includes this method in his article, 25 Ways To Write A Real Page Turner of a Book.  Have a look.

Elmore Leonard on Writing

Monday, 14 July 2014

Something Useful for 2014 - Exercise No. 6

I've just got in from the morning school run. To keep my children on time, I keep to a reasonably strict routine first thing (well, as strict as it can be with two children whose imaginations and mouths are on overdrive). Part of this is our route to school, usually on foot but occasionally in the car and, of course, the route home. I can busy my mind with other things (breakfast, chores to do, arrangements to make) because I know where I'm going.

Life is like that for most of us, most of the time. We know where we're going on the way to work, school or a night out. We automatically take those turns, manoeuvring ourselves through the world in probably quite a blinkered way. There's nothing wrong with knowing where we're going but what if, on occasion, we took a diversion?

On whatever journey you take today or this week, take a moment to think of what might happen if you took the other route. Instead of  turning left to the shops, you turn right. Rather than take one train route, you choose another. What would happen? What could happen? Who might you meet? What would you see?

This month, I won't use my own writing as an example but a poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

The deadline for finishing my novel is fast approaching so I'm striving to write one to two thousand words a day. If I did that for the entire year then I'd have 365-730,000 words on the page (ok, computer) which is an impressive thought. Jamie Todd Rubin shares How I Wrote 400K Words in a Year on The Daily Beast website. Have a look.

Creative Writing Masterclass 3: Plot

Monday, 7 July 2014

Photo Inspiration for July

Do you cloud watch? When I was a child (an only child who regularly got dragged to gatherings where I was the only child), journeys home were often an inspiration. In the winter, the magic of the city lights would keep me entertained. In the summer, I would see islands in the clouds of the setting sun.

I still sometimes stop and look at the clouds. On the school run, a couple of weeks ago, I saw these bird shaped clouds. Do they look like birds to you?

Do you cloud watch? Do the pictures you see in the clouds inspire you? Why not stop today and look up. What do you see?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

Sometimes, you just can't sugar coat things. Advice can't always be 'nice'. On her website, Between Fact and Fiction, Natalie Whipple offers her Too-Practical Maybe-Blunt Advice to Writers. It's well worth a read.

How to finish FINISH that book: Top Tips with Roz Morris