Tuesday, 12 January 2016

How to write - Part 2

Here's the thing - once you are lucky enough to get published lots of stuff changes and for me, that included the way I did my planning..

For one thing I realised was that people are actually reading my work! Anything I do now has to live
up to a lot of people's expectations and I want to write well and get better at it. My editor Imogen asked me to use a book map for my next novel and I did - there's an example here. This is just a part of it there are character outlines and a synopsis too.

As you can see in the example above, every chapter is outlined in some detail and you think about what you are going to reveal/hide from your reader and how your characters will behave.

The great thing about outlining your story, characters and motivations in such detail right from the start is that it frees you to WRITE. I know where I'm going and how to get there and if I change things along the way then that's fine - I'll eventually return to the road map or just ditch it and change my route.

Again Scrivener is a great tool if you want to take this approach.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

How to write - Part 1

Lots of people ask me how to start writing so I'm going to put together a little guide. It's not theory. This is how I do it, and I got published this way. Whenever I do a school event I talk about this because I think it is important. My approach is simple - I tend to think of my story as if I am viewing a film and I use tried and trusted film techniques to help me get started. Interested? Read on!

First I get out my A3 pad and draw a line representing how my character will change from start to finish.

Near the start of my story I plan an opening scene - an inciting incident. Film writers do this a lot. A good example is Will Smith in the Pursuit of Happyness. His character is poor. He sees someone park a Ferrari and asks what the guy does for a living. The driver tells Will he is a stockbroker - Will spends the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to become one himself.

Towards the end of my story I make sure that I plan a 'Turnaround'. This is where you make things impossible for your character or change tack so that your reader can't predict where the story will go next.

And that is it - literally. I fill out the details of my story along the line and sometimes I'll use this approach to plan important chapters. As you can see it gets a lot more detailed...

Monday, 13 July 2015

Planning Your Writing

I have just been given the honour of becoming Patron Of Reading for The Wordsley School near my home town of Stourbridge.  My first visit was all about playing God - creating characters and introducing dilemmas to see how they react. I also talked a lot about how to plan a story, beginning with an Inciting Incident and using turnarounds...

My own planning has changed a lot over the years - from my own ad-hoc scribbling to using Book Maps. Both of which work well, by the way.

Recently however, I've been trialling Scrivener and it's perfect for generating and arranging your story ideas - like I have done here for one of my own ideas, a story called INCARNATE. For me, the cork-board is really useful for sketching out your ideas because you can move them around freely just like cue cards and you can really get to grips with your characters and storyline.

Normally, I'm not a great fan of planning using software and I still like to map things out on a huge piece of A3 but this one really seems to work well. You can keep all your research and sketches in one place and really get to grips with creating your masterpiece.

I recommend giving it a try.

Monday, 9 March 2015

My Next Blockbuster...

So - I've just completed my latest novel - THE BONE SURFERS - and my agent is going to start sending it to publishers. Exciting!

Some of you who have been on GoodReads for a number of years may remember it as STEAMPUNK, a gothic murder mystery that was posted there for a few weeks and which got excellent ratings. This is a story that has done the rounds for too many years...

It all began as a re-working of Shelley's Frankenstein and mutated into a supernatural murder mystery set at a Manga Expo in Paris and in the miles of catacombs that honeycomb the limestone bedrock beneath the city. My novel was written before novels like Revolution by Jennifer Donnelley and before the upsurge in interest in the catacombs.

Now that I have a couple of novels under my belt the time seemed right to haul THE BONE SURFERS out of storage and into the light, to dust it off and to get tweaking. The cosplay party is still there - protagonists Fellin and Blaise still go dressed as Misa from Deathnote and chaos ensues.

As I have re-worked it, the novel has become more rooted in the real world of the Paris souterrainers and the enigmatic Remy is now a cool street runner or Parkours.

I can't wait until this novel is in print and people start reading it. I loved writing it and still love to inhabit the streets of Paris whenever I sit down to re-read or re-work it. This is why writing is cool.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Writer as Time Traveller...

Several years ago I wrote a novel that I mistakenly called Steampunk. It was one of the best things I have written and got lots of interest from publishers. For whatever reason, it was not taken up.

Travel forward about six years and two published novels later and I find myself thinking 'okay then - what am I going to do for novel three?' It is a no brainer, really. Take all that experience I have gained and re-work Steampunk...

So The Bone Surfers is born. The thing is, a novelist's first published novel is not necessarily the first thing they have ever written. It may not even be the best thing they have ever penned. Like me, they have probably written loads before and one or two may be complete gems. So when book three comes out and critics think, hey - he's really improved, I'll be thinking - nah, he's just been time traveling.

Monday, 10 November 2014

25 Years after the fall of the Berlin Wall

It was a shock to discover that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It brought back lots of memories because I stopped off to witness it on my way home from Romania. Some of the inspiration for my debut novel TORN draws on experiences I had back then in the winter of 1989-1990.

Like this image of an East German guard talking with a young West German lad through a hole in the wall. He was off somewhere on his bike and took the opportunity to do what young people do so well. To build bridges.

I took the photo near Checkpoint Charlie, the scene of many a spy movie... and came away from that trip with a deep sense of how war (even Cold War) separates people in a completely arbitrary way. After all is said and done we are just people with differences that could be resolved with words instead of guns.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

TAKEN makes the 2015 CILIP Carnegie medal nominations!

25th July 2006 Mr Leo on his birthday with unbelievable clouds
How cool is this? My second novel has found its way onto one of the biggest literary awards in the world - the Carnegie CILIP award! I am well chuffed, especially as all of those people who know about such things tell me that second novels don't do awards.


It's a wonderful surprise, especially as TAKEN is one of my favorite stories. I explore lots of themes and feel really close to my characters. One thing that worries me though is the LEO reference. Apparently one of the criteria the judges will be looking at is believability. None of the judges will believe that Izzy could experience something so weird! The thing is - it happened to me. Cue the X File music.