Wednesday, 29 June 2011


There is a post missing. Strike me, that doesn't happen very often.  

What happened to the regular posting schedule?

My eighteen year-old arrived back from Uni last Friday. From the look of her room, the landing and the spare room, she brought the whole of Manchester with her. 

My Minnow is the sloth that lives on the top of whatever is lying around in her room. From a Health and Safety perspective, I didn't want to be handing out crampons to everyone who wanted to negotiate the landing.

I called a breakfast meeting at McDonalds - crafty ;) - once she decided it was her idea to life-launder, we spent the day discussing the relative merits of multiple pairs of black heals and capsule wardrobes.

We noticed the thunder and lightning and the torrential rain - it made the perfect backdrop to endless clothes handling, folding and hanging.

Hours later...

To celebrate the six bags of shoes and clothes that made it to the charity shop we went to Starbucks - sandwiching the miserable day with her two favourite things ;) 


When we arrived at Starbucks some customers were sitting cherishing their mugs of coffee and everything seemed normal but dim.

The cheery assistant informed us they had experienced a powercut... the storm--don't-ya-know.

So we waited. We couldn't leave, we'd taken orders from the family... we would wait.

We chatted.

We couldn't leave because the coffee wouldn't be long.

We couldn't leave because we'd waited too long for the coffee.

We left coffeeless.

I hadn't written the post--blast!

Monday, 27 June 2011


The first ever online literary festival that is taking place 'virtually' over at the Awfully Big Blog Adventure Blog on the 9th and 10th of July.

The posts are always informative and insightful on the Awfully Big Blog Adventure, for two days they are going to be awesome.

The ABBA Litfest is going to be hosted by a raft great authors. Liz Kessler, Lucy Coats, Andrew Strong and Celia Rees are some of the fantastic children's authors who will be posting.

They have a hectic schedule planned: new posts every half hour. 

Vlogs and interviews will be featured during the virtual literary festival. 

There will be GIVEAWAYS too. :D

Click here for more information.

The Twitter hashtag is #ABBAlitfest, follow to keep up with the content.

Friend the Facebook page too.

An open access literary festival on 9th and 10th of July? I know where I'm going to be.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


In a novel, conflict is an essential part of the plot.

There are three varieties of conflict you can inflict on your MC: inherent, external, and internal.

Inherent conflict exists within the novel from the beginning - the environment, social mores within your society, previous experiences.

External conflict is the rub of one character upon the other - the antagonist. The external conflict can also be provided by environmental changes such as extreme weather.

Internal conflicts are driven by fear, doubt or failure and the MC's need to protect themself from physical, mental or emotional pain.

There is a fourth kind of conflict.

I see this as the writer inviting the reader to bring their knowledge, understanding and fear into the plot eg when a character says it's time to go for one last swim, take the short-cut home or how kind it is to help the guy with the broken leg load his shopping into the car, I'm cringing and looking ahead to see if it is safe to read on. ;)

Without conflict, there is no novel.

I have no favourite kind of conflict but pitting an MC against nature leaves me cold ;)

Which kind of conflict do you love to read or write?

Thursday, 23 June 2011


The Independent's 5-minute Interview 

In 2008, Michael Rosen, the Children's Laureate, wrote advice about writing for children for The Guardian’s series entitled How To Write. In his extensive career, Michael Rosen has written 140 books of poetry and fiction for children.

This version is abridged ;)

We've all been children, we all know a parent or parent-figure. This makes us all potential writers of children's books.
I think of children's books as not so much for children, but as the filling that goes between the child world and the adult world. One way or another, all children's books have to negotiate that space, whether it's thinking about how the text of a picture book will sound when read aloud, or how the child views him or herself in a world run by adults.
And of course, more than likely, you're an adult reading this, so the moment you think about writing something for children, you'll be handling something or other from your own childhood. This may be something you read, experiences of being read to, pleasurable or painful experiences from when you were young.
There is also an interesting line between the child you once were and the children you know now. If you want to write a book for children, you will find yourself travelling to and fro along this line, wondering one moment about what kind of child you were, why you had those particular tastes and interests, what depressed or excited you, what you were afraid of, what you yearned for; the next, looking, listening and thinking about the children you know or meet.
Are there big differences, or is there some core child-ness that is unchanged?
Is the culture and background you came from, similar or different to the kinds of children you know and meet now? If so, how does your writing reach them?
The writer Morris Gleitzman told me that he sets himself one golden rule when he writes for children: "Start any scene as 'late' into the action or dialogue as you can."
We also have to spend time in bookshops, libraries, nurseries, schools and with reading children, seeing how the books work with the audiences.
You are of course the first audience for what you write, but you want to make yourself the kind of reader who can pretend to be the reading child. You also need to get that child who is now the age of your target audience into your head too.
A very important part of writing for children is appearing at book festivals, and in libraries and schools. An important part of becoming a writer for children is seeing what published writers do and say when they appear.
Writing children's books may be as lonely as any other kind of writing, but there is a big social element in how the books are taken to the readers. There are thousands of people out there doing this - parents, librarians and teachers mostly - so part of being a writer for children is being among these people at the events they organise. If you get the balance right, this will be part of what motivates you to go back into the cell and write some more!
Michael Rosen 
September 2008

After 20 years of teaching, I have more trouble keeping the target audience out of my head. I learned what interested avid readers but try to write in a way that will engage those who were less keen.

I find the question Michael Rosen asked very interesting:
Are there big differences, or is there some core child-ness that is unchanged?
Developmentally or socially?
If you are not eight, how do you write for eight year-olds?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


MARTINA  on the Children's Publishing Blog wrote a brilliant post about growing great ideas.

I have a strict 250 words only rule on my blog, so this is the condensed version of her advice. I transferred it in to my Notebook.

Starting with an elevator pitch and logline is easier than crafting a pitch for a completed, 80,000 word novel.

The premise itself can be honed until it is as strong, and as unique, as possible.

They say great literature contains:
  • Layers
  • Depth
  • Great characters
  • Beautiful writing
  • Universal appeal
  • Connection

The premise needs: 
·                     At least one fascinating character 
·                     An interesting setting
·                     An inherent conflict
·                     An emotional appeal
·                     A universal or familiar idea
·                     An original twist
·                     A piece of coolness – the envy quotient
·                     A high-impact inciting incident
·                      High stakes
·                     A pithy title

"Hook" doesn’t make it onto that list.

If the premise hits one or two of the following "it" factors, so much the better:

·                     A topical or current subject or event.
·                     A controversial, sensational, or heretical topic or subject.
·                     An alternate view or explanation for a known person, event or potential event.
·                     A mythological connection.
·                     A primal fear. 
Simple ;)

Lastly, the best-selling idea, your best-selling idea, has to make you care. It has to have elements you want to explore, characters you absolutely love, otherwise the heart will be missing from your writing. That's as important as concept, 
and a lot harder to define.


Write the elevator pitch first is the best piece of advice I have learned about making the writing process easier.


Tuesday, 21 June 2011


Today is WT*$*AISTPT Comma Day ;) 

This post is based on a piece of genius I have pinned up over my computer. 

I'm letting Rowland, from from my wip - STARRING - demystify the slippery little tadpoles of punctuation.  


Rowland drew a defensive ward.
One independent clause needs a full stop at the end.

Rowland drew a defensive ward when the forest was pierced by red eyes.
The independent clause is before the dependent clause.
(Punctuation only follows a dependent clause so the full stop is all that is needed.)

When the forest was pierced by red eyes, Rowland drew a defensive ward.
The dependent clause is now at the beginning of the sentence. As punctuation follows a dependent clause, the comma is needed.

Rowland drew a defensive ward; he repelled the danger.
These are two independent clauses; attach them with a semicolon.


Rowland drew a defensive ward, and he repelled the danger. 
There is an alternative form of punctuation, because you can join independent clauses together with a comma and a conjunction. 


Monday, 20 June 2011



 I’m a muggle with wannabe-wizardly tendencies so the countdown clock on JK Rowling’s website is driving me Weasley’s-car high.

Living only ten minutes from the Leavesden Studios, I’ve been excitedly counting down to Spring 2012 since the Studio Tours announcement was made, in March. I can’t wait.

Now I’ve been tantalised by Pottermore.

My guess is that this isn’t a prequel or sequel to the series. I’m with those who believe it may be an interactive site – possibly linked to the studio tours.

I read  – probably in The Guardian on-line – some one ask the question “Are the Potter books worth a second read?”

Do they really need to ask?

Sharing the books with my children, and at school, I have read every book aloud at least twice. Just for pleasure, I’ve read every book again, several times. I’ve made time to re-read them before every movie is released, in the UK.

When we were booking the flights for our holiday to America, we found the price was pounds cheaper if we travelled on Deathly Hollow Release Day. Is this significant? I think so.

I’ll only be fine if the cinema shows the movie at 8am. :( I’m looking for a London early release showing. If I can’t find one I may be found hunting around Times Square for a home-grown movie experience.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


Sunday is my favourite day of the week. 
This Sunday is Fathers' Day so I've been doing the family things. 
Then I made time to read a play a friend has written: Antigone - based on the play by Sophocles. The play is written in verse.  Now I have a 2452 year-old headache ;)
My Six Sentence Sunday is from STARRING
In the calm before..., Lucas' quiet moment at the woodland edge is interrupted by the arrival of the Butterflies... the two girls who sit nearest him in class:
“Sorry, Cate drags me here whenever Dirk Hawkesmore is playing John Bowden."
On the distant tennis court, two older boys were thumping an innocent ball around and grunting like the game was warfare. 
“Who is she watching?” 
 "Either. She can’t decide which is all-that-'n'-more.”
Cate rested her head on one hand holding up her wide smile.
The pace is - finally - picking up. There are always lots of people about and I work best without interruptions.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


Because it is my birthday, I went to check out the long range forecast ;) 

Cafeastrology offered some insights into the year ahead:

If You Were Born Today, June 16:
Your imagination is boundless and you are a true visionary. You possess an endearing youthful quality throughout life, and can be quite persuasive when you want to be. You are given to daydreaming and require frequent periods of rest and solitude in order to renew your spirit. You do thrive on sharing your ideas with others, but you need time alone to refresh. You can be quite ambitious, and at times critical and impatient when feeling restless or unfocused. 

Your Birthday Year Forecast:
A Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in your Solar Return chart marks this as a year of great personal significance, when major new beginnings, endings, and activities occur. This period may be considered the culmination of a stage of personal growth and development in many ways. Events occurring this year may bring various developments in your emotional, psychological, or spiritual life over the past several years to a head. Relationships are especially important this year. There can be increased activity in your professional and public life, causing a conflict with your domestic and personal goals. There is little moderation in your life this year. Connections are made or ended; or your job focus may change as one focus fades to make way for a new direction. The year ahead is certain to be a very busy, dynamic, and significant period in your life.

For the most part, your feet are on the ground. You are able to meet your responsibilities, and you are more willing to make important commitments. Your concern for your future is stronger than usual, and you may find that projects you start, or investments you make, this year will benefit you for years to come. Your elders or authority figures in your life tend to look upon you favorably during this period in your life. Health is usually strong with this aspect. The key to success this year is adopting a realistic, practical, disciplined, and orderly approach to your life.

Certain elements of your social life and financial life are stabilized, secured, and more reliable this year. You may solidify a romantic relationship, or become involved with a mature partner. Circumstances may be such that you need to handle money more carefully this year, or this may simply come naturally to you now. Support from older people or authority figures may come by way of solid advice or more tangible help. Renewed ties to old friends are possible, or a new sense of responsibility in existing friendships, are also highly likely.

Intuition runs high this year. You are more sensitive artistically, your imagination is stirred, and you have an increased appreciation for subtleties. You are inspired and could even inspire others with your words. Some of your hunches could be prophetic. You are thinking more creatively, and express yourself with more sensitivity, compassion, and warmth.

Your ability to express yourself and to solve problems is enhanced this year. You may have opportunities to travel, and matters related to publishing, teaching, and writing should go especially well. You may find that you have the right information at the right time this year. You could also have big ideas and plans. Work, especially in communications, goes well. Relationships with young people may be particularly rewarding and positive. An optimistic attitude serves you very well. The desire to expand your mind is strong, and this is a good year to take up studies or to further your education. It's also excellent for teaching and speaking.

Jupiter in creative aspect to Neptune suggests that making connections with others from a different background is likely to figure in the year ahead. Widening your mind through unusual or different experiences can be part of the picture. Generosity and compassion increases, and your faith is boosted. You more easily make personal sacrifices for what you believe to be the better good.
Your ability to live in the here and now is stronger than usual, and this benefits many life "departments", and yet you are also thinking especially creatively. Your social life is likely to be reliable and steady. Learning and communications are especially favored this year.

I love this forecast. The editing mostly removed Saturn in transit and the Sun in the South Node ;)

Would you like to add to my forecast?

I can think of a few specifics I'd like to have seen included here ;) 

I couldn't find the section where it said that it will be raining literary agents for months after June. Maybe, I need to check out the weather forecast and see if I have any more luck :D

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

READING - IS LIKE BREATHING. I took a lungful of Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences

Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences  ~ Brian Yansky

Jesse survives more than a dull history class when everyone around him falls dead. Within seconds, an uncompromisingly efficient alien race – The Sanginians - destroy earth’s population. Jesse and the other survivors are no more than a useful commodity, as they have the ability to hear telepathic communications.

The remaining humans are slaves. Monitored closely, they are set to work tidying up and making things nice for the new owners. Any indication of disobedience is met with instantaneous finality by their conquerors.

The Sanginians believe themselves to be superior but they fail to notice when some of the humans begin to master the skill of telepathy.

Physically and psychically, the humans are weaker than the Sanginians. They have nowhere to go since the aliens “greened” up the planet and the settlers have begun to arrive. 

With their newly developed telepathic skills, the human product evolves.

The human survivors have hope that the aliens might not be invincible after all.

For the Sanginians, if it becomes known that some humans have the capacity to be more than beasts (if they are skilled in this way,) more than their profit margin will be compromised.

I was hooked from the first word to the last. Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences is the best book I have read, this year.

This novel is more than a book for boys and sci-fi fans.

Have you read a book, this year, that has really stuck in your mind?

Reading is to writing what inhaling is to exhaling. Just as it's impossible to breathe out without first taking a breath in, it's impossible to write well without first taking in deep, gusty, refreshing drafts of the writing of others. All those ideas and ways of using language simmer in your brain, undergoing chemical changes, until--presto!--you have the tools with which to develop your own voice. Never forget to breathe.    Susan Williams Beckhorn

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Less is more?

I like your writing a great deal, and while the narrative is skilfully handled it just didn’t quite get under my skin sufficiently”

“Your manuscript displays strong writing abilities and you've created potentially interesting situations and characters”  

How can I turn "Nearly" into, “Yes, please?”

I get bowled over by details (the images and associations behind every interaction) they make me start and stutter. I know more than the reader needs to be told.
1 When it comes to details, less is more

Even with a plan and character descriptions, I re-think every scene, every day, before I write. Have you ever compared the time it takes to write a section, with how long it takes to read it back? 

2 Just write.

Once a month, I research the library lists, Lovereading4kids and agents’ lists of up-and-coming titles. Is there anything left to write that isn’t already out there? If the supermarket shelves show what was hot, does the car-boot sale show what will come again?

3 Write what you would want to read

I capture note books full of ideas, each one complete with a voice and hook. Shaping a work-in-progress should be a joyful thing. Why do new ideas conspire against old ones? When did ideas become a distraction?
4 Resist temptation, and finish. 
Short sentences are powerful. Long sentences let the writing flow and steer the reader down the page to ever more excitement. Fragments... really?  What do readers need from punctuation, except clarity?

5 You need to mix up the sentence lengths and let each type do their job. There are books and websites burstin' with information. Try to avoid breaking the rules of writing.

Editing, re-editing and revisions, I’ve read all the rules about how to re-master for the perfect manuscript. I chop and change until I mess up the voice. 
     6 Keep the writing simple, the plot controlled and the tension high 

Writing is a personal achievement, but not an insular pursuit.

The art and craft of writing is not all about the writing.

Are you feeling positive about your writing process?