Thursday, 18 September 2014

3 great writing tips from Baby Duck

Baby Duck and I were chatting about writing on the walk to school this morning. I said I was hoping to get a fair bit done on book 3 of the Twiceborn trilogy today, since yesterday was the first day I’d worked on it since Friday, and I only got about 1100 words done.

“So are you going to start writing as soon as you get home?” he asked.

Low blow! This kid knows me too well.

“You should do that instead of spending all your time reading random websites on the internet, you know.”

Yes, I do know. In fact I tell myself so many times every day. I thought about telling him I was building up my presence on social media, but I knew he wouldn’t accept any such namby-pamby excuse. Writers write!

Except, you know, when they don’t …

“Sometimes it’s not so easy to just sit down and write,” I said. “You have to know what you’re going to write first, and I’m not too sure yet where the story is going.”

“Then why didn’t you spend time on the days you didn’t write thinking about the plot?” he asked.

This is why Baby Duck will probably be a better writer than me one day. This kid is organised. I mean, scary organised. He comes home every day and sits straight down and does his homework without being told. He starts his assignments weeks in advance. Weeks! It’s not natural!

I flailed around a bit more, put on the spot by my eleven-year-old son.

“Well, I know what’s going to happen in a general way. But it’s hard to plan, at the really detailed level you need for scene-writing, exactly what’s going to happen. Whenever I start thinking about it I usually get distracted by a million other things.”

“You should start at the end and work backwards,” he said. “Then you’ll know where you have to end up.”

So there you have it, straight from the mouth of my tiny writing guru:

  1.        Resist the temptation to goof off on the internet. When it’s time to write, write.
  2.        In between writing sessions, plan what to write next.
  3.        If you get stuck with plotting forwards, work backwards from the end instead.

I should hire the kid out to writers’ conferences.

What about you? Do you have any good writing tips? Anything that works for you as motivation, or to get you past a blockage? Struggling writer wants to know!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The bathroom: most creative room in the house

I was going to say it was the “most productive” room in the house, but I didn’t want anyone leaping to the wrong conclusion.

Baby Duck came in as I started writing this post.

“Why is it the most creative room in the house? Oh, I guess because you spend so much time sitting there.” Then the most evil grin spread across his face. “Or should I say …”

I quickly cut him off. “Sitting is fine.”

Cheeky kid.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question writers hear a lot. My number one answer in general is “in the bath”. When I’m drafting a novel I hop into the bath nearly every night. Something about the relaxation of it – or maybe the sheer boredom of sitting there with nothing to do or look at – prompts the ideas to flow. I can almost always rely on a nice long bath to give me a breakthrough when I don’t know where the story is going next.

But that’s in general. Today I want to tell you about the time when a bathroom gave me a very specific idea, which became the genesis of my forthcoming novel Twiceborn.

It was on a visit to a Gold Class cinema. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a very swish movie-going experience. There are only about forty seats in the whole theatre, and they’re big reclining armchairs grouped in pairs with a table between them. There’s a separate bar area where you can order meals and drinks to be brought to you during the movie. Obviously it’s more expensive than a regular trip to the cinema, but it’s a nice luxury for the occasional treat.

They also have separate toilets, which are a lot more upmarket than the ones for general movie-goers. Spacious and gleaming, they feature beautiful tiles, automatic taps – and the ones at our local Gold Class have the most enormous stalls. The first time I visited one I remember thinking, wow, these are like personal change rooms. You could do anything in here!

Which of course started the wheels in my little writer’s brain turning over. I pictured a pregnant woman entering such a stall, then stripping off her clothes to reveal the pregnancy was only a prosthesis, which she then removed. Then she dressed in a new outfit, complete with wig, and walked out of the bathroom a completely different woman to the one who walked in, deceiving the people who were watching for her.

Who was this woman? Who was following her and why? I knew she was in danger, but not what form the threat took.

I needed a lot more ideas to make a book, but that’s how books grow. You start with one little glimmering of an idea, then you hurl a whole bunch of other ideas at it, till something new and sparkly results from the collision.

That scene in the bathroom became part of the first scene of Twiceborn. A whole 90,000- word novel resulted from one moment of marvelling at the size of the Gold Class bathroom stalls.

Best bathroom visit ever.

Where do you do your best thinking? Ever had a great idea in a really odd place?