Monday 27 February 2012

Books with the same topic as yours

Hello. First off I'd like to apologise for not being round to comment on everyone's blogs so much last week - I've been immersed in the Platform-Building Campaign and ploughing through the fantastically diverse list of entries, and being a man, I'm naturally no good at multi-tasking. Sorry about that, and I'll be making up for it!

I would say that if you're not involved in the Campaign, then you should definitely consider it for next time round (August, I believe) - apart from being an easy way to meet loads of new people (always a good thing), you get to see a little slice of their talent in their challenge entries. And I always think that the best way to get to know a writer and what makes them tick is through their writing.

I'm coming on to the main thrust of this post (which is not just about bigging up the Campaign - although I'm happy to do so). One entry in particular resonated with me for interesting reasons. You can check it out here. The reason is because it comes from a WIP which deals with the same subject as mine - amnesia. It's naturally fascinating to see how another writer deals with the same topic.

However, I don't think I would want to read the finished book until mine was finished, polished, scrubbed until I could see my face in it. Why? Well, for the simple reason of distraction.

You could see elements in the book that might make you think, "Why didn't I explore that particular avenue?" Then you would go back to your own book and try to change it to the point where it's taken in a totally different direction than what was originally intended, and probably wouldn't even work for your story. You could end up with a major mess on your hands. I also don't think it would be a good idea to be a critique partner with that person, at least for those particular projects. There would be too much confusion and cross-pollination, or even accidental plagiarism on one or both sides.

There are two books on my bookshelves that I'm yet to read - Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, and Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk. They both deal with this same subject too, so I don't want to go near them until my current novel is in my past.

So what about you? Do you avoid novels that deal with a similar subject to yours while you're writing and editing it (even if the plot is very different?) Or do you find them useful for inspiration and alternative perspectives?

Monday 20 February 2012

Platform-Building Campaign - First Challenge

This is my entry for the First Challenge of Rachael Harrie's Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. Many thanks to Rach for such an excellent prompt. I hope you enjoy it - my first short story in over a year, yikes!

Here are Rach's guidelines:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
  • end the story with the words: "everything faded." (also included in the word count)
  • include the word "orange" in the story
  • write in the same genre you normally write
  • make your story 200 words exactly!
I'm pleased to say that I met all the criteria!

The Camping Trip

Shadows crept across the wall. One slightly resembled a rabbit, and the other a shark.

“No! Don’t eat me!”

“This is silly. Rabbits don’t live in the sea. What other ones do you know?”

“Rabbit’s my best one.”

Jamie and Claudia thought they’d got a good deal on this holiday. Their parents were in the caravan, whereas they got to stay up in the tent, eat sweets, and make shadow puppets with their hands. The glow cast by Jamie’s torch made the side of the tent an ideal canvas.

“Hey, that’s a good one, Jamie. How’re you doing that?”

“I’m not doing anything!”
 * * * * *

The Rottweiler was making his nightly patrol of the farmland surrounding the house. Finding intruders made for a change from the usual tedium. He was nonplussed by the impenetrable caravan, but didn’t want to bark – there was a tent too, and he wanted to take the occupants by surprise. He approached slowly, then used his claws to tear through the material.

 * * * * *

Jamie instinctively shielded his sister when he heard the ripping sound. His mind screamed when he saw a dog with orange eyebrows leaping towards him, then there was a split second of pain and everything faded.

Sunday 19 February 2012

I've been tagged

So the lovely Ro at Ro-Always Inspired tagged me to answer a bunch of questions and pass new ones on to other people. There's a lot of these flying around ahead of the Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign, which I'm pleased to say I'm taking part in. Challenges start tomorrow - I wonder what's going to happen! I don't usually work to prompts, so this should be an opportunity to stretch myself a little bit.

1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create ten new questions to ask the people that you have tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4. Let them know you've tagged them!

So here we go:
  1. What is your favorite genre to read?
I'm going to be a bit lame on this one and say I don't really have a favourite. I'll read most things if I like the look of them. At a push, I would say books with an emphasis on character (as opposed to plot or setting).
2. Why do you blog?

This is a question that I ask myself all the time! I think, like a lot of people, I started out with the intention of building up a profile for myself so that I might have some kudos when submitting to agents, and having an opportunity to talk about things that interest me. The latter still applies, but the former doesn't seem so important (I'm considering self-publishing). I'm amazed at the response I've had and now it's the relationships that interest me. There are things I hadn't thought about, such as the possibility of acquiring critique partners. It's such a giving, supportive community.
3. What is your favorite book from childhood?

It's hard to pick one. I would say anything that involves escaping into some sort of magical other world, so for example, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Stig of the Dump, Narnia all stand out.
4. If given the opportunity, which author would you like to meet and why? They can be living or dead.
I've met Terry Pratchett twice (albeit only at signing tours), so I would say Roald Dahl. He just seems like such an entertaining, inspiring character.
5. What was the last book you read that you really loved? What makes it so special?
Room by Emma Donoghue, because it was so unusual and well done. I can't believe she managed to capture the voice of a five-year-old boy so authentically, in such an extreme situation. I've tried writing from the POV of a child and it's not easy to pull off.
6. How many books on average do you read in a month?

It's hard to say an average - sometimes it's very few, depending on the size of book and what else is going on. But so far this year I've averaged 3-4, so I'll try to stick with that!
7. Do you prefer reading e-books or actual books? Why?

There's benefits to both. I recently got a Kindle and I'm really enjoying it, especially as it's easy to read while doing something else (you don't have to hold it open with one hand). But I think ultimately, I prefer the experience of a real book.
8. In your opinion, what is the most overrated book of all time?

I'll get a lot of flak for this, but I've got to say Harry Potter! I read the first two about ten years ago, and to this day I still don't get it. I found the pace very plodding and I wasn't gripped by the perilous situations. Maybe I was the wrong age, but I don't know. I read many books to my stepson that I used to love and still enjoy them. Twilight needs a shout too - I managed the first one and a half while battling to keep my eyelids open. Sorry!
9. What genre do you refuse to read? Why?

I guess it would have to be what used to be called "chick lit". Generally, the characters and their dilemmas don't interest me in the slightest.
10. What is your favorite book to movie adaption?
The only one that jumps out where I know both the movie and book is The Time Traveller's Wife. Not as good as the book, but it was well done.
Here are my questions:
1. Who is your favourite character of all time and why?
2. When is your best time to write? Why?
3. What do you think is the most underrated book of all time?
4. How would you feel if a book of yours was adapted into a massively successful film that far outstripped the popularity of your book?
5. What is your favourite cartoon?
6. What do you do if you get stuck at any point while writing?
7. Toast, cereal or full-fat fry up in the morning?
8. Describe how you feel when you first give someone else a piece of your writing to read (even if only a spouse or friend).
9. If you were able to live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
10. What one thing would you most like to acheive by the end of this year?
Thanks again to Ro for tagging me and for her great questions! I was going to tag eleven people from the Campaign, but I'm struggling to find anyone who hasn't been hit at least once. So if anyone who reads this wants to pick up on it, you're more than welcome. Consider yourself tagged!

By the way, I don't know what happens with spacing when you create posts, and you might be seeing white space around this too. I'm a bit rushed so sorry if it looks a bit of a mess!

Friday 10 February 2012

Les vacances sont ici

This is just a quick note to let you all know that I'll not have a post up on Sunday/Monday, as we're leaving tonight to go to Disneyland Paris, by way of Brighton (it's not on the way, but we like to keep the old parents happy with a visit whenever we can). We will be in the heart of "the magic" on Monday, then on Valentine's Day very romantically waking up in a Paris hotel room. Albeit with a 3-year-old and 11-year-old, but still. The older two will be at their dad's, as they're too cool for this sort of thing.

So I will see you all upon my return! A bientot!

Monday 6 February 2012

To chapter or not to chapter

Yes, I'm talking chapters today. I'm curious as to how important people consider them in terms of novels and the overall structure. If you're submitting a query to an agent, at least in the UK, the overwhelming majority of them ask for the first three chapters along with the synopsis and cover letter. It seems that a new writer won't be accepted if they don't follow this convention.

But why should this be? One of the most popular and successful authors ever produced by this country, Terry Pratchett, rarely writes in chapters. You can read for as long as you like without the narrative being interrupted by an arbitrary break. And for me anyway, I don't tend to read a chapter at a time. I read in short bursts as the opportunity arises, so I often break off mid-paragraph. I'm not really bothered about chapters.

That said, I can see the value of them. Many writers treat each chapter as a mini-novel, with conflict, goals for the characters and some kind of resolution or at least forward movement. Unlike the book as a whole (unless it's part of a series), they often end on a cliffhanger. I don't tend to work in such a regimented way. With my first novel, I wrote the first two chapters, then chapter three was basically the rest of the book (I divided it up afterwards). I felt I should for the benefit of agents, but I don't think it's essential. You could end each section on a cliffhanger, follow it with a row of asterisks, then start up again, and it keeps the action flowing pretty seamlessly. The end of a chapter invites you to stop, take a breath, consider what's just been read. You might not want the reader to pause for breath. I guess it depends how you want to pace things - either way is valid.

For my WIP, I have stuck with chapters so far (I'm on 7 - I think) but they might well get abandoned once the pace picks up. I only have a vague outline of the plot and would never plan each chapter in advance, but I appreciate that works for a lot of people and that's fine.

So what about you? Are you a chapter writer and/or planner, or do they tend to come in editing? Have you written a book without chapters? What do you prefer when it comes to reading?

Friday 3 February 2012

Awards and other news

Hello again. First off, apologies for the lack of any post over the weekend - we had been to see Snow Patrol at the SECC in Glasgow on Saturday (the gig was brilliant, by the way), stayed over and came back to muchas dishes and laundry. Then on Tuesday, my older stepdaughter turned 15, so there was a lot to organise around that. I know, excuses, excuses... At least it's been nice things that have occupied my time. We have a wedding on Saturday, but rest assured normal service will resume thereafter. Apart from the following weekend when we're making a pilgrimage to Disneyland Paris. I think things will settle down after that...

As you may have worked out, I have been fortunate enough to have two more awards bestowed upon me. On to those in a minute, but I thought I'd do a quick progress report while I'm here. My WIP is going pretty swimmingly (by my standards at least), and is at nearly 20k words now. I feel I've got into a much better rhythm and routine since having the weekday mornings to write. How about you, how are all your projects going?

Now the awards. I have been given the Versatile Blogger for a second time, as well as the Kreativ Blogger, from my estimable namesake Nick Hight over at Writing Fire. Thanks, Nick! If you're not already following his blog, it's a must. He's only a teenager, but you would never know it - his posts are amazingly insightful and offer solid advice. Sorry Nick, I probably sound pretty patronising, but I know at that age I wouldn't have had the discipline or wherewithal to do anything like that. Hats off to you.

So, let's see if I can drag up seven more juicy titbits of gossip about myself. Good word, titbits... They're going to be mostly from the realm of childhood again, I reckon.

1. When I was a kid I had an American penpal. The only thing I remember about his letters is that he told me his favourite band were Def Leppard. He also said they were German and that their name translated as "The Leopard". I later found out this was utterly wrong.

2. I once appeared on a French TV chat show when I went to Strasbourg with my French A-level group. With the group, not on my own. Luckily, I didn't say a word.

3. Sticking with the foreign exchange theme, I've got a story that I might well regret sharing. At 14 I went on a German exchange. We went in conjunction with another school in my local area. On the last night of the trip, we were divided into groups comprising of one pupil from our school, one from the other school and our two German counterparts, and each group was taken out for a treat by the German parents. In my group the other English pupil was a girl, and I thought, foolishly, that I might try and impress her - my reasoning being, "Well, she's from a different school, she doesn't know I'm a nerd". I didn't bank on the fact that the parents decided to take us ice skating - the one and only time I have tried this. My attempts at wooing were an epic fail, as I spent the entire night going round the edge very slowly while holding on to the side. The English girl nicknamed me Speedy Gonzales.

4. I have zero aptitude for any sports whatsoever, as I possess no physical co-ordination. (See above.)

5. I can't eat anything with tomatoes, mushrooms, mint or coconut. No dietary reason, I just don't like them. Cooked tomatoes are OK - I can eat pizza, just not one with mushrooms. And I don't know what I'd do on a desert island.

6. My first gig was actually a festival - the Brighton Essential Festival in Stanmer Park, 1996. It was the tail end of Britpop and we saw loads of bands - some still around today, some long forgotten. Ocean Colour Scene, Super Furry Animals, Marion, Echobelly, Menswear... I could have linked all those, but it's pretty late and I'm not even sure the last three would have anything to link to. But feel free to hit Wikipedia if you're feeling driven.

7. I once created my own fantasy role-playing adventure book. You know, the kind where you have to roll a dice to determine your stamina and luck.

And now for the erstwhile individuals who will each receive both of these awards:

1. Shallee McArthur @ Life, the Universe and Writing

2. Paul D Brazill @ You Would Say That, Wouldn't You?

3. Ted Cross

4. Stu Ayris @ Tollesbury Time Forever

5. Kathy McKendry @ Imagine Today

6. Shelley Sly @ Stories in the Ordinary

7. L C Frost @ [sic]

8. Shell Flower @ Tangent Shell

Some of these blogs are pretty new to me, but there is a great variety of content in all of them. I'll be round to notify you all of course, but it will need to be tomorrow as I'm off to bed! Take care.