Sunday, 25 September 2011

Talking About Gay YA and Children's Books

Fellow Orion author James Dawson (Hollow Pike is coming from Indigo/Orion in Feb 2012) has an excellent post about diversity in children's books over at Tall Tales and Short Stories, which ties in nicely with my own post about the gay YA debate on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure yesterday.  Lots and lots of children's authors and others commenting on the latter, so well worth joining in. It's an important subject to discuss, I think. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

A Writing 101 Production: Part 14 - How to Reach The End (1)

I was delighted to be nominated as one of the Top 10 Children's Literature Blogs in the UK last week. I wasn't so sure about being the Number 5 Influencer of Kidlit on Twitter, though.  That particular title made me feel I should be wearing leather, and carrying a cosh to bludgeon people into reading children's books...(actually, is that such a bad idea? *thinks*)....

But I also felt that I hadn't done much to deserve those nice accolades lately, having been totally absent from Scribble City Central due to the necessity of finishing my YA novel (which I'd promised Lovely Agent I would by the end of August).  I did warn you about that though...see, here's the evidence.  Anyway, while it's fresh in my mind, I thought I'd talk a bit about how I got to that all important moment of writing those two fantastic words
on the bottom of my manuscript.  There may be some stuff that's helpful to you too, as you rush to the finish line of your own Great Work.

I don't go in for all those stupid writing rules (see Writing 101 Production No 8 for more about this), but when I have a book to finish, I know I must put all else aside and concentrate on only that. So, what worked for me (and what may work for you) is the following:
  • apply bum firmly to comfortable seat 
  • keep door firmly closed
  • turn off phone (firmly)
  • take an (almost complete) break from Facebook and Twitter*
  • tell teenage children/dogs/partners/mothers/all and sundry that if they interrupt you for trivial matters they will suffer an imaginatively painful death (be very very firm about this)
That's a start.   After that, I took Raymond Chandler's advice.
'Write with the solar plexus' 
he said.  For me that meant climbing onto the rollercoaster ride that is creating a book, not looking back too much, just cracking on and getting it all down on paper.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  It's not.  So I'll break it down still further. Here's some other stuff that worked for me:
  • Setting a word target (75,000 words in this case)
  • Doing complicated mathematical computations (if I have x days till D-day, with y days or hours when I can't write because of (insert annoying real life stuff like laundry, housework, cooking etc that can't be avoided here), how many words do I have to write a day to meet my deadline if I give myself rest day z on a Sunday?) Hey-it IS complicated-I failed Maths O level 4 times--OK?
  • Making sure I have loads of water (with fresh lemon in it) to drink, eye drops (just don't ask about the ongoing eyestrain saga), and plenty of healthy snatch-and-eat-at-the-computer food (this includes chocolate, which is, naturally, one of my 5-a-day)
I know, I know--sounds totally obsessive.  But this is how getting to the end of a book feels for me.  I AM obsessed with my characters, with the minutiae of their lives--and I want to know what happens to them desperately. They're talking to me by this stage--I can hear them, see them, smell them (not always delightful in the case of the latter).  And however much chapter planning and pre-book research and work I've done before I start, however much I know where I want to be in the end, I don't always know how I'm going to get there, or what will happen on the way.  There are always surprises--like the lovely Gillian Philip, at this stage I tend to write by the seat of my pants (applied firmly to that aforementioned comfy chair). Writing the most exciting story I can and getting to the end of is is all that matters to me at this stage--tidying up can come with the revisions and the second draft.  But for that stage I need my lovely Official Teenage adviser--of whom more later.  I'll tell you about her in Part 2, which will be up very soon.  Meanwhile, let's leave this post with me at the end of my first draft.  See me all excited and with 63,425 words under my writing belt (I started out with 20,000 in mid-July).  I feel like I've run a marathon.  Now where's my Lucozade, my medal and my lie-down?
*Um, on the Twitter and Facebook break--I was pretty firm about that, but did slip and creep on once or twice.  People did notice I'd been gone, which was nice.  I missed them too. See my Awfully Big Blog Adventure post on abandoning the Social Networks....
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