Monday 28 January 2008

Prose Poetry

As I drove back form Blackpool after seeing my second cousin, Liz, I had a piece of prose poetry going around in my head. It was actually three pieces I guess, about the three times I’d been on a beach with her. It kept on nagging at me, and consequently, I’ve had to give it some time over the weekend.
Prose poetry, or at least what I call prose poetry, is very tied to time and place. You almost need to write it whilst you’re in situ, a little like haikus. If you can’t write it whilst you’re there, it’s good to visit it with your imagination and then write with the senses. That always leads to good writing of course. But then you need to get the balance of emotional engagement and grounding in time and space right.
Well, I’ve finished one piece. I suppose I’ll do the other two later today.
I’m building up a collection called Glimpses. I’ve promised myself I’ll finish it by the end of March.
Well, my book tour will be taking me all over the place, at all sorts of times, so I guess I’ll be able to get a lot of time and place writing in.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Book Tour

I’ve sent out a Sprint Mail email shot to all of the schools in the UK. I’m offering a free author visit, though I am claiming travel expenses if the school is over thirty miles away from Salford or Southampton or the journey between the two.
This is all because my book, "The Lombardy Grotto" is out now. It’s published by Butterfly, an imprint of Willow Bank. They do normal publishing and subsidy publishing. Butterfly is their children’s imprint. They’re a small publisher, but growing steadily.
Is The Lombardy Grotto going to be their breakthrough novel? Or mine for that matter? Who knows?
One thing I do know: I’m going to be going all over the country over the next few weeks. I have over twenty visits booked, and requests are still coming in. Suddenly, it’s all happening.

Friday 18 January 2008

Project with Local Primary School

I am working with another school on an anthology of children’s writing. We have a title, “Friends Forever”. I’ve worked on two past occasions on writing and editing with the same school. But the really exciting session is where we have groups of children editing, designing, illustrating and marketing the book.
I think we’re going to end up with a book in the region of 200 pages. I’m now in the process of putting it together. I have to make the final editing decisions and do some copy-editing at the same time. I am astounded at how well crafted some of the work is and how moral and emotionally generous some of these children are. I was amused and touched to read on one piece “Note from editor: these two sections need connecting.” I was also pleased that the editors didn’t pick just the well-presented ones. They went for the ones which had really edgy or deep content. Sadly, I have had to edit a few pieces out as I can’t read them or they are incomplete. Yet the ones which remain are stunning.
The illustrations are fantastic, too. Children really can draw. They lack some techniques, but the content is so uninhibited.
Most of the design group worked on sorting out the order of the sections. I worked with the less focussed, less able students on the book cover design. They were insightful and became very enthusiastic.
The marketing group came up with some incredible ideas – ones that neither I nor Lisa, the teaching assistant who stayed with me, had thought of. And Lisa has a business studies degree!
A fantastic experience all in all.

Sunday 13 January 2008

Killing Off Darlings

We are told to kill off our darlings, to get rid of that one beautiful piece of writing that shows the rest up. We really should edit out anything that doesn’t fit anyway. Every bit of prose should add to the plot, enhance setting or tell us more about the characters. It shouldn’t be there just for its own sake.
That it is there just for its own sake is what makes it a darling in the first place. As we create our darling, we are hung up on the writing itself. We want to show off the best of our skills. We create something which is superb, but sadly which does not fit the rest.
It is really this “not fitting the rest” which is why we have to kill it off. There are two ways to kill off a darling. Take it out, or make everything else match. If everything else becomes equally good, then the darling will not appear as a darling, but will just be part of a very rich text.
Then we may face the next problem. The text may become so rich that it is indigestible.
There is some hope in all of this. If a small piece of one of our works is superbly written and we are rather fond of it, but we need to take it out, we don’t have to get rid of it altogether. We might put it somewhere more appropriate. We might keep it for a rainy day. This is all so possible with modern IT.
Chances are, though, I suspect, that look at that particular darling again in six months time, and we might wonder how we ever managed to write it or become so fond of it in the first place.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Revisiting “Peace Child”

At last I have plucked up the courage to relook at the creative part of my Ph D thesis – this 100,000 word YA novel. One major change – and this was signalled up as being necessary by two of my readers, is to the title. I still keep the three titles for the three parts of the trilogy, but now have them in a different order. The Peace Child concept remains.
I’m now going through, reacting mainly to the comments of my external examiner, though my inner critic is doing a fair amount of work also. So, I’m strengthening two characters, making life harder for my protagonist, changing a major term, making a war look more like a war and addressing one or two anomalies which have crept in within the setting.
Once you’ve made the first cuts, it gets easier. I do have to be rigorous – akin to “Killing off darlings” in fact. I’m also hanging on to what both examiners said: that they do expect to see “Peace Child” published in the future. It is a case of really, “if you do A, B will happen”. The question is, can I do A?

Thursday 3 January 2008

Three resources for Writers

We have primary resources: those things we know. They always say write what you know. We have memories and experiences, and second-hand resources of others – diaries, interviews and people who knew them.
Secondly, we can seek experiences. Ask to be locked in police cell for a few hours. Learn to sail. Take a trip around a racing track.
Thirdly we can explore with our imagination. Of course, even that is based on our own experiences. But we really do need this resource if we are to write fantasy and science fiction. Even using our imagination is working with what we know. We see the scenes and still write with our senses. They relate to what we have already experienced.