Monday, 30 September 2013
Over the two years I've been a member of the Word Cloud, I've not missed a single monthly comp. Because of that, I've produced a variety of flash fiction which has been constrained by various parameters. (To be honest - that's part of the fun, giving myself a challenge and writing in ways I couldn't possibly hope to keep up through a novel!) Now - some of the long standing cloudies who drop in here might have seen them before, but I reckon there's a lot of Squidge's Scribbles readers who haven't. So - every other day, purely for your enjoyment, there will be a very short story posted.
Added to that, I'm going to set up another 'Challenge Me!' If you didn't get involved last time, the idea is that you, blog reader, post three objects in the comments box below; I will hand over the list to the rest of my family, who will choose their favourite combination. Then, I'll endeavour to weave those objects into a story. (Please bear in mind that I reserve the right to delete suggestions I deem are unsuitable.) Last time, it ended up with me writing not one, but two stories - you can read them here and here.
I reckon I'll give you until the 15th to post your suggestions, then I'll stick the finished story up on the 31st. How's that?
So...here's to Squidge's Scribbles and an October filled with snippety bits of literaryness!
Sunday, 29 September 2013
Can you believe, it's time for the next blog challenge? The last one was July, which really got me going on this blogging lark - but I didn't realise it ran every quarter!
I'm wondering whether to go for it again; 31 posts in 31 days, over a month which isn't the summer holidays, when I'm writing more on Granny Rainbow and Rurik. Hmm...have I just made life difficult for myself?
Oh, what the heck! Let's go for it!
Anyone else fancy joining me? Let me know if you do - we can cheer each other on!
Friday, 27 September 2013
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Well, I've had a revelation today, about how I can improve things...Come closer, so I can whisper;
I think I know how to change Rurik so I can keep the rings in - but they aren't the main focus of the story!
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Now I have to admit, my notes from this session are not that easy to decipher after the event - though they all made perfect sense on the day. I can remember what hit home the most for me, so that's what I'm going to share!
Okay - so - consider the mechanics of storytelling, as opposed to writing. You can write many things, but storytelling requires controlled information delivery in order to get the reader to invest in your story. Over the course of the story, the writer (hopefully) meets the reader's expectations so they carry on reading, and by the end of the book, they will have had their investment returned with a satisfactory outcome. To achieve this, there has to be continuous movement through the story - a hook in the plot, followed by another and another.
Now, some folk talk about their stories being 'plot-based' or 'character-based'. Jeremy reckoned you can't separate the two - both are essential in a strong story. (I've already blogged about character and structure if you want to read more - they reinforce this point). This makes perfect sense, as characters are the people who experience your plot and are present throughout the story. It'd be a pretty boring story without people/dragons/talking plants.
This meshing together of plot and character was coming over loud and clear as something I needed to work on. The reader has to see the character change. 'Recognition and Reversal', Jeremy called it. Can the character recognise their weakness and reverse the effect of it on their life? If they can, the story ends up a comedy. If they can't, it becomes tragedy. So it can be a major plotting device to give the character what they need - not what they want - and see whether they can adapt to that.
This served to reinforce my dawning realisation that I am probably a 'plot-driven' writer who happens to create good characters. But for a really strong story, I have to entwine the two and show my characters changing as a result of what I put them through.
Otherwise? I'm at risk of writing 'nice' stuff for ever.
Monday, 23 September 2013
Fortunately, Juliet Pickering ran a session at York where she encouraged us to try. Now I have to admit that during this session, I was struggling with a migraine that made my head feel like it was filled with cotton wool and needles. Juliet must've thought I was mad, sitting in a corner with my sunglasses on...either way, it didn't make writing a pitch very easy.
Then we tried it on our own WIP. Boy, did I struggle. In two sentences, I needed to give a clear indication of the genre as well as what happens to the main protagonist. It needed to be hooky, as it'll probably follow the book right through the publishing process. Oh - and I had to try to include the unique selling point too. So...
'When Rurik arrives on Ring Isle as a servant, one of the five rings of power has been hidden to protect it. Rurik's accidental adventure to find it leads him to the ring - and a destiny he never dreamed of.'
Guess what? *sigh* Rings - Juliet picked up on that straightaway.
Now you'll know from an earlier blog that this is a problem with Rurik. They aren't rings for your finger, but because I mention 'rings' quite frequently there's been an assumption that Rurik will be a Tolkien derivative. (It's not - but first impressions count).
So what IS the USP for Rurik if it isn't rings? Mandy, a fellow cloudie sitting in the session, has read Rurik. She suggested an alternative...so I came up with this:
'By the time Rurik realises that the auras he can see are ancient powers of protection, he is already on a quest to save them. When he finds the object in which some of the power is trapped, he also discovers a destiny he never dreamed of.'
Cracked it? Not entirely sure...but it doesn't mention rings. Now to rewrite the synopsis - with the same 'no-rings' treatment.
Sunday, 22 September 2013
(Slightly off-topic - I bought one of Julie's books at York: Girl from Mars. I loved it 'cos it's a great story, but there were proverbial lightbulbs popping all the way through it because as I read, I could see and understand exactly what she'd been covering in her workshops about characterisation and story structure.)
Saturday, 21 September 2013
I am 19 years old and have just completed an Art and Design Foundation course, receiving a Distinction. I have always loved drawing and painting, especially animals and characters. I love books and decorating things (yes that includes doodling) and now am aspiring to be an illustrator.The degree I will be studying is Graphic Design and Illustration at De Montfort University.
I am very thankful for the opportunity of illustrating two books and developing my skills, including using a graphics tablet. A Graphics Tablet is a device that you plug into the computer which enables you to draw using a pen/stylus - a bit like a big cursor pad on a laptop. It makes it so much easier to draw than using a mouse.
Knowing that Laura had illustrated one book already, I thought it would be good to work on the pictures for Granny Rainbow with someone I knew. I do draw sometimes, but I'm not sure I could draw well enough to do the pictures justice. I asked Laura to produce black and white character portraits rather than scenes from the stories, mainly because I like the character style of Chris Riddell, but also to keep printing costs down and make it easier to transfer to ebook format if I decide to publish via paper and digital routes.
As Katherine finished each story, she sent it to me and I sketched out the main character who appeared in it. We promised a sneaky peek - so here are the early stage sketches of Granny Rainbow and the Black Shadow and the characters who appear in the 'Purple Potion' and 'Blue-footed Twitterer' stories: Timmy Tenta and Roger Randoodle.
Friday, 20 September 2013
Next - soldering. This was flippin' hard, and several times I got the solder stuck to my suncatcher! Here's the finished square...
Then we moved onto a bigger piece - I loved the swirlyness of this shape. As you can see, I played with a rainbow, but as I have so many in my house already, decided toplay with colours that are in my bedroom as well.
Here's my final choice - sticking to aqua and lilacs...
Thursday, 19 September 2013
If I'm honest, this made me quite despondent for a while. I've tried so hard with Rurik that I may well have ruined him by working him over too many times. But equally, I know there's a lot of good in him as he stands, especially a flippin' good storyline. Question is, with an MS that’s been rewritten so many times, do I rewrite yet again, or am I better off starting a new project?
Maybe I'll send Rurik out into the world anyway, but try to ensure my next project has a better balance of the elements from the word go...or is that me being too airy?
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Monday, 16 September 2013
The Festival of Writing is an incredible experience, due in a huge way to the fabulous team at Writer's Workshop who organise it. Here are the wonderful Nikki, Laura, Deborah and Lydia, with the 'thank you' bouquets presented to them by Cloudies.
I wouldn't have arrived in style again without my personal chauffeur - Imran (aka Flickimp). He is the king of tweets and the most prolific writer I know - his enthusiasm for writing blows me away. With him is Neil, who kept me smiling all weekend with his Brummie humour.
Another new face - Kieran, who for some reason had the after dinner mints for our table placed directly in front of him. I think he was rather pleased about it.
Folk travel from all over the world to the festival - this is Belinda, (on the left - I'm on the right) who came from Australia! Oh - and while she was here, it seemed only right to celebrate her parent's golden wedding anniversary as well...
There are so many other folk I could mention too, but I don't have their pics and I'm bound to miss someone out if I try to remember names! Suffice it to say that everyone I met added to my experience, but special mention must go to all the cloudies who looked out for me on Saturday, when I was poorly with a migraine (thank goodness it disappeared in time for the gala dinner) and to Susan (Franklin), who mopped me up and sorted me out when I got my 1-2-1 times so muddled, I completely missed the first one and burst into tears at the thought of having to see the agent when I hadn't psyched myself up for it! And of course I can't miss out Harry Bingham - who this year couldn't be with us for two very special reasons - but sent us a video instead. You are the spirit of the cloud, Harry, and we wouldn't be where we are as writers without you and your vision for the community.
For more pics, check out the Twitter feed #fow13 or Debi's blog - and who knows, maybe next year, it'll be you with me on the photos?
Sunday, 15 September 2013
Fabulous weekend - apart from a flippin' migraine on Saturday and missing my first 1-2-1 'cos I got the times of the book doctor and agent muddled up! (The fabulous WW team managed to rearrange it though, for which I am very grateful!)
I've laughed and cried. I've met up with old friends and made lots of new ones. I've also learnt so much about the craft of writing and - more importantly - about myself as a writer.
There will be lots to post over the next few days. No doubt others will blog too, and I'll link to as many as I'm able so you get a flavour of this amazing event for writers. You'll probably get sick of hearing about it! But tonight...
Tonight, I need to sleep on it all.
Saturday, 14 September 2013
One of the folk who left me a challenge was Sarah, the daughter of an old friend from uni days. As Sarah was the only child to suggest three words, I promised to write a story including them, whatever 'won' the challenge. Last Tuesday I mailed it to her; a short story including a snowman, a flying elephant, and a kiwi. This is the reply I received from her mum...
Sarah was really excited to read the story. She was so pleased that you had written one just for her. The story is fab, or in Sarah's words fabulosous ! And Terrific.
Well done getting snowman,kiwi and flying elephant into it.. Exclamations of surprise and awe came from the front room about the snowman and elephant as she read that far..
On reading it to Luke both children thought the description of the little kiwi snowball was cute and wonderful.
Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to do this for Sarah. We will print it out and she will treasure her copy..
She is more than happy for you to share the story.'
A movement among the ferns made Arnie’s heart leap. Was it a stoat, come to eat him up? But the figure that approached the clearing was definitely not a stoat; it was tall and two-legged, and made of swirling whiteness. A man – made of snow.
Friday, 13 September 2013
I'll report back after the weekend in LOTS of detail...but to get your appetite whetted for future blog posts, I'm attending:
- a mini course on 'the Four Elements of Writing', a longer version of a workshop I enjoyed at last year's Festival.
- workshops on character, self-publishing, using Pixar films to aid plotting, honing a pitch and what makes a strong story.
I'll also be having a couple of 1-2-1's (one with a book doctor, one with an agent) to get feedback on the first 3000 words of Rurik.
On top of all that, there's the Friday Night Live to vote on and the winner of the Opening Chapter Competition to listen to (like many others, I didn't make the shortlist for either), and lots of friendships to make and renew. I am really looking forward to it!
In the meantime, make sure you pop back here tomorrow, because I'm posting a short story for your enjoyment while I'm away.
See you next week!
Thursday, 12 September 2013
See, the Festival of Writing 'Friday Night Live' shortlist was announced yesterday...and I'm not on it.
Now some of you may be thinking 'Hang on - didn't Katherine tell us that she'd not been shortlisted for either of the competitions a few days ago?' You're right - I did. I was disappointed then, when I thought the deadline had passed and my inbox remained empty. It's just that I've been disappointed all over again, now that it's definitely definite I'm not shortlisted, because the folk who have been are telling us!
Don't get me wrong - I am utterly, utterly delighted to find that at least four - or it might be five - of my fellow cloudies are shortlisted. I know, having read their work, that the standard is therefore very high; they deserve to have been selected. I am looking forward very much to hearing each of them read their 500 words, cheering from the sidelines and trying to choose my favourite to vote for - if I can decide between them!
But there's still that little green-eyed monster, whispering 'wish it was me instead'. I'm owning up to it because that monster ain't going to be allowed to sit where it is for very long. The last thing I want to become is bitter and twisted about my apparent success or lack thereof, because losing is not the same as failing, something Rachael Dunlop wrote about earlier this year regarding competitions.
So - monster begone! Let me learn instead from all the fabulous pieces I'm going to hear. They're all potential winners after all.
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
The very first guest blogger on Squidge's Scribbles!
I shall be delighted to hand over to Laura Buckland, the artist behind the illustrations for Granny Rainbow. Once Laura's introduced herself, there'll be a sneak preview of some early sketches of various characters who will be appearing in the book - including Granny Rainbow herself!
Monday, 9 September 2013
1. This is going to be AWESOME!
2. This is hard.
3. This is terrible.
4. I'm terrible.
5. Hey...not that bad.
6. That was AWESOME!
Thing is, I reckon as writers, we go round this loop so many times...and depending on where we're at with the WIP, we might loop back at different stages.
So... when I lose faith in a piece of writing, and choose to start something new rather than persist with the original, I'm looping endlessly from number 2 or 3 back to the beginning of the process.
Assuming I actually finish something and ask for feedback... Number 4. Well, if the feedback isn't as positive as I'd hoped and I allow myself to believe that comment, I'll probably loop back to number 2.
But if I get good feedback and worth-affirming comments, I've reached number 5! At that stage, I'll probably loop back to do the final tweaks, bypassing 3 and 4 because by this point, I know they are not as true as I told myself they were back in the early days of the WIP.
And when I see my work published, I've reached number 6 - at last! That really IS awesome!
So for you, fellow writer, at what point do you find yourself looping back most frequently? And what can you do to help yourself get beyond it?
Saturday, 7 September 2013
I decided to remove the 'wannabe' from the sub-heading too. I am not a wannabe any more - I am, after all, a published author. I may not have hit the big time, but my stories are out there to read, in real books.
About time I started to recognise that.
Friday, 6 September 2013
T is back at school (albeit still part-time), the ironing pile has been dealt with at last, the house has at last had a thorough clean, I've sorted through the post and my other half is packing for a weekend away. So now, I have - what? - three or four hours to get back to what I love doing.
And you know what? I am a bit scared to even start.
Not because of all the usual fears that I wrote about the other day, but because my life has experienced such upheaval and uncertainty recently, I can't help wondering whether even more unexpectedness will jump out of the woodwork to immediately demand my attention and thwart my efforts to get the words down?
It must be something in my character - I used to get a similar feeling when the kids were babies. Remember the days when you had to do night feeds, with the first one around midnight? Not enough time to get some decent kip before you have to wake up again - so I didn't use to go to bed until after that first feed. I just didn't see the point. As a result, I ended up even more cream-crackered - entirely through my own fault.
When I finished working at school, I told myself that I would be more disciplined about writing; I have to learn to force myself to write. Whatever my fears about interruptions, I have to keep producing words or risk losing what I've already achieved. And I don't want to become a writer who says "Well, I could have..."
I want to be a writer who says "I did."
PS. I've a little less time now I've got that off my chest...but I am going to do some writing now!
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
His blog today is '25 steps to becoming a self-published author', and if you're a regular reader of Squidge's Scribbles, you know it's something I've been toying with, particularly for Granny Rainbow, but also because of Rurik.
I'm right with Chuck when he says 'get an editor'. No-one - and I really mean no-one - can look at their own writing and see all the mistakes and glitches they've missed. (And I'm not just talking about spelling mistakes here - I'm talking head-hops, plot holes, unnecessary info, strange phrases...) Hopefully, given time and experience, there will be less to spot, but there will always be something. I learnt such a lot from professional editing of my novels - in most cases by the editrix herself, Debi Alper, (via Writer's Workshop) but also through beta readers, my trusted author friends.
Still with Chuck on the subject of book cover design. Make it good, peeps! And make sure the standard of your content matches that of the super-duper cover. But don't be tempted to cobble something together yourself if you don't have the skills - use friends who are graphic designers or pay for concepts. Personally, I like the covers of series where colour or images link the different stories, rather than detailed images. A simple concept, but it can still make the series instantly recognisable. In my dreams, Rurik's story will be published as five separate books; all the covers will have five interlocked silver rings on them, set within a black circle on a different plain coloured background, where the colour represents the region where that particular story takes place...
There was one thing that really got me thinking, especially if I do go ahead and plunge into the murky waters of self-publishing. Chuck wrote (with a couple of tweaks by me to keep it clean!) 'Target readers. They’re your gatekeeper now. Don’t build an audience: earn your audience. Find where they are and talk to them — not above them as if on some platform but among them because you are them. (The best writers are also readers, after all.) Get a website. Let that be your central space. Use social media to talk to people, not at people... Stand out. Be the best version of yourself. Try lots of things. Don’t be a jerk.'
It made me realise that it's not enough just to say 'I write for children' and expect the books to wing their way into eager pre-pubescent hands. (Anyone who's ever been into a school to listen to kids read will know that there are lots of reluctant readers out there - the Wii or PlayStation is a much more appealing prospect for entertainment.)
Children need to be exposed to stories - and the age range I write for, 8-12 years, is possibly in that awkward gap where parents are still buying most of the books for their kids - but the kids are starting to realise what kind of thing they really, REALLY want to read. (I'm not a big fan of action books, for example. My son and daughter were 9 and 11 when they got heavily into young James Bond and the Power of Five etc etc. All my suggestions about trying a nice classic, or a fantasy for a change, went out the window.)
This means I'd have to earn two different audiences: adults and kids. Adults might set a load of store by reviews and recommendations, but kids will want to hear/read the stories for themselves, so that could mean a whole load of school/library visits.
Interesting - and probably the part of the self-pubbing process which needs much more thought on my part. Made me wonder - if you were to self-pub your work, which part would you have to really think about?
Monday, 2 September 2013
Check out Garth Nix - even he has a magic ring! So, I figure, maybe Rurik can have one too.
Sunday, 1 September 2013
For those who don't know Rurik, the story is about a ring of power that is separated from four other rings (to which it is linked) and hidden by its bearer to prevent the baddie taking all their power for himself; it's up to Rurik, the main character, to find the hidden ring and return it to the rightful owner.
But as soon as I mention 'rings', a phantom rises up to haunt me - Tolkien. I have rings in my story, therefore it's too much like LOTR or The Hobbit.
I don't think so.
But the novel seems to be consistently judged against that one idea. Unfair it may seem - but the agent/publisher has to make money out of my words, so they need a unique selling point. Mind you - how many boy wizard stories followed on from Harry Potter? Or vampiric love stories after Twilight? Or diary-type novels after Diary of a Wimpy Kid? What makes rings so untouchable after Tolkien? Apart from the fact he was a genius and his books are classics, of course.
Anyway - the subject has been broached before, several times and by different people, about changing the rings for some other object of power. I have played with a few ideas, but I keep coming back to rings, mainly because they fit the story - and to be honest, the thought of rewriting to fit a new and different object into the novel fills me with despair. I have edited and rewritten this story so many times - to improve the storyline generally so it became entirely stand-alone instead of the first part of a five-stage quest, to include an agent's suggestions (which once included, they decided they didn't want either the story or me after all), and to act on suggestions received via a professional critique.
I still believe in the story. I think it has legs, even if it IS about rings of power. But the commercial world doesn't seem to think the same.
So what do I do? Stick to my guns and hope that someone, somewhere will see beyond the Tolkien connection? Self-publish and be damned? Give it all up and start something totally new and unique and off-the-wall?
I just don't know what to do for the best...