Wednesday 29 April 2009

Working with Publishers or Going it Alone

There was a lot of talk at a recent Society of Authors event of how self-publishing and print-on-demand is gaining respectability. If you self-publish, using print on demand, you can have control. You can offer respectable discounts. You can feature in bestseller lists. You never go out of print. You can appear on that evener of playing field, Amazon.
However, do people actually buy print-on-demand titles other than from people they know or if they are in a very specialised area?
On the other hand, what do you do when your publisher never answers the phone, delays and delays your publication date and seems to have done very little marketing? Take the control back yourself?
There has also been great excitement recently about the Expresso machine where you put a computer programme in one end of the machine and the book comes out of the other. We really do need to think of a new way of publishing.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Struggle with a Character

I’m struggling with one of my main characters at the moment. He bores me excessively. I ‘m desperate to get two novels finished by the end of 2009 and I’m nearly at the end of the first of the two. They’re actually the two second parts of a trilogy and have to be finished so that the whole trilogy can be published. Every time I spend some time on this novel I get very yawny and the time passes very slowly. Maybe it is just that particular point where I am – just coming to the brow of the hill.

I am indeed at a tricky scene which is the beginning of the resolution and of course that is the one part that absolutely has to be right. It is in fact the most difficult part of a story to get right.

I’ve also had a funny week where I’ve not had much time to write. It makes me feel uneasy. It’s like not eating enough fruit or not getting enough exercise. But that coupled with being at that awkward spot …. Not helping!

It is good to be writing today, though.

Sunday 12 April 2009


I came across a story yesterday that I had forgotten I’d written. In fact, at first, I’d been convinced that someone else had written it and I’d just got it stored on my computer. Partly because I couldn’t remember a thing about it. And partly because it was very good.

Then I recognised a couple of lines from it. And I sort of remembered writing it. One year on holiday, I think.

I believe, though, I abandoned it because I didn’t see much chance of publication. Young Adult had only just been invented then. This is suitable for the lower end of that. And you just don’t write short stories for Young Adult. Well, of course at Bridge House, we’re changing all that.

I’m considering putting it on Triond. I’m not earning much from that yet, but I am earning something. It was whilst I was looking for a piece I wanted to put on there I came across “Weight Watching”.

I like Triond, even though you earn a pittance. Work is vetted. It usually takes about 24 hours for them to approve a piece. However, there was another surprise yesterday. I submitted “For peanuts”, a short comic sketch with characters also YA to their “off-beat” site yesterday. By the time I’d changed emial accounts it had been accepted for publication. In other words, within seconds.

Life is full of surprises.

Thursday 9 April 2009

More News from Bridge House Publishing

We soldier on. I have now picked all the stories for the “Two Sides to Every Story” anthology. It takes a finite amount of time to email everyone with the results. I have to put my academic and my own writing work ahead of that, but actually, in a bizarre way, all of it relates to the academic work anyway.
There were a couple if interesting points about the submissions: possibly the very best one of all was one we can’t possibly use. It gives the point of view of Michael in the Peter Pan story and has brilliantly conceived ending. Alas, I don’t think we dare touch it with a barge pole. The copyright issues are so complex. Another submission failed to have the contact details in the footer as requested. It was a shame, but I felt we had to stick to our guns. It was just too much extra work.
We are now getting more submissions than I can comfortably handle. Our administrator is now going to edit one of the books. It will be great once the other two partners are working full time.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Judy Waite’s "Game Girls"

This is an excellent read. It tells the story of three girls who go on the game. One is poor, one is over-sexed and one has been abused. These may be reasons not excuses. The surface reason, though, seems to be that they need money – or at least Alix, the ring-leader does and the other two need her friendship. It all becomes complex and dangerous very quickly.
Judy Waite uses a third person present tense narrative and does move though the view points of the three girls. She provides a strong sense of time and place. This with the strong narrative voice gives the reader an emotional closeness to the three main characters. We are able to see them as human and understand why they do what they do.
Waite certainly pushed boundaries with this novel but at least she gives us an honest and open glimpse of something which is of concern for many young women. As well as taking on this very big issue, the author also explores the frequent Young Adult themes of sexuality, relationships, risk-taking and peer pressure.
I personally read this book very quickly and couldn’t put it down.

Monday 6 April 2009

Plans at the Angel Centre

I’ve just had a long lunchtime meeting over the road. Scott Darraugh, the manager, called representatives of all groups together who might be interested in using the café or other Angel Centre space.
I met some interesting people. We were a slightly crazy mixture of creative practitioners and health care workers. It seems there is now a recognised link between mental, emotional and possibly physical health and creativity. One of the healthcare workers approached me about doing reading to do with emotional health. We signalled out The Lombardy Grotto for junior age emotional health, Scum-Bag for 14+ self-esteem and Nick’s Gallery for grief counselling. An interesting contact.
I also met some people who are working on local radio programmes about the earlier lives of older Salford residents. They are looking at the idea of having their word interpreted by younger people. This would be a way of bridging the gape between the generations. Getting some of our students to do this would also help bridge the gap between students and townspeople.
There’s going to be an open day on 30th April There will be a market, live music, and so much more. But they may have to postpone it for a week. I hope they do. I have a long-standing school visit arranged for that day and I really don’t want to miss the open day.
A very useful meeting indeed.

Friday 3 April 2009

Synopses and Plots

I’m currently marking some of my students’ work. They have had to plot a Young Adult novel and then write a synopsis of it. This is slightly artificial as one normally writer the synopsis after the novel is finished. Yet the plot can be key.
Different writers of course spend different amounts of time planning. Some hardly plan at all. Others go into tremendous detail. It is useful to have the bare bones of the plot always visible – it can stop the characters running away with the story. It is remarkable how many of my students have commented that they have realised that.
I’m looking for two things as I mark this work: a well crafted plot and the successful condensing of that plot into a synopsis. I’m seeing two major difficulties: the resolutions in some of the plots come too easily; the plot as presented in the synopsis loses its balance.
Other common problems with the plot have been:
· Too much set-up time
· Inciting incident coming too far in.
· Over-complexity so that we do not know to whom the story belongs.
Pleasingly, all the submissions have been fast-paced and have had a feasible Young Adult protagonist.
Problems in the synopsis have been:
· Going over word length
· Spending too little / too much of the word count on plot / character
· Not showing enough of the emotional life of the characters.
On the whole, though, the students have written fluently.
The amount of reading they have done has been a little disappointing. Lets hope that improves.
I am incredibly pleased with what they have managed to do. They all found it hard, but I think they would all acknowledge that they have grown through it. In every case, I have been impressed by an honest attempt at crafting a plot and with crystallizing that into a competent synopsis.

Thursday 2 April 2009

Writer in Residence

I spent another day at Lister Community School yesterday. It was quite a fruitful day working on creative writing in other languages. I worked with Y9 French, Y8 French, two Y7 Spanish classes and a KS3 English as a Second Language group. We did a variety of exercises, in fact starting out in French using the perfect tense and inventing Jacques Prévert style poems. We also looked at acrostics, hello goodbye poems, haiku and inventing a persona through questions an answers. The second language group did some writing with the senses from memory. These are all things which are so natural to me yet seem so new to the teachers there. I suppose that is the point of having a writer in school.
We then talked at length about what I might do. I’m going to see them again on 23 April to talk it all through. But ideas include:
Piloting “Creative Language Learning”
Working with Art on producing book covers
Working with Art on producing a picture book
Working with Science on writing about the environment
Standard author visits
Working further with the English as a Second Language group.
It is actually quite exciting. I am going to become their “Writer in Residence”
Fingers crossed.
I had some time to kill before it was time for my train. I went to the British library. It’s amazing now how you can’t get into the Reading Rooms because so many people are now allowed to join, and how they’ve made spaces for people to work on the laptops in the lobbies. You can more often than not find a power point. And often you can find a little desk to work at. Quite a sight – I reckon about 200 people working on their laptops in the public areas.
It’s not bad at all getting from London to Manchester. Virgin Trains offer some good Advance fares and you can usually book a seat with a power point. It takes just over two hours and doesn’t cost much more than it used to to travel from Southampton where there is no facility for reserving seats.