Saturday 31 August 2013

All change - writerly decisions!

I have made a momentous decision this week and I wanted to share, so here's a short blog post.

Quick drum roll...

 I have put Trafficking aside for the moment to write a new story!

Trafficking was part of my PhD but it is virtually unrecognisable as that story now. I am not giving up on it but my new story is time sensitive so I need to focus on that for the moment.  This is all with the blessing of IC, thank goodness. I am not sure I would have had the courage otherwise.

In a way it was a tough decision because I had been working on Trafficking in various forms for four years but in another way there was a huge sense of relief. The new story is something totally different and will take me into a new area of writing. It is very exciting.

The new story is partly based on a real event, hence the time sensitive comment, plus it just lends itself to being made into a wonderful story. I am managing to combine two of my passions too. You are looking at one happy writer here. It will give me a great escape from the pressure of writing and researching an academic book that I have been commissioned to write, which you will no doubt hear more about on here as this is a good place to explore ideas. (A brilliant nugget of information handed to me by a friend and then reinforced by a blog post by Mark Carrigan)

Sometimes as writers you have to make these decisions. You have to have to walk away for the time being and try something new. Who knows what it might turn into when I go back to it. Writing is all about making the write [sic] decisions, whether it is about the big story or the specific word, they all have to be considered. For all you writers out there, good luck with your writerly decisions and trust your gut instinct. It is invariably right!

Today is a beautiful day at the start of an enormous week for all of us in my family. And this is a perfect song by India Arie

Saturday 24 August 2013

What happens when your muses move out?

My inspiration
My world is changing at the moment. Gorgeous daughter is getting married in less than two weeks and youngest son moves out to live with his girlfriend next week. Think eldest son will be moving out very soon too also to live with his girlfriend. I will have an empty nest. What has that got to do with my writing. Quite a bit actually because they were my inspiration. They are part of the reason I wrote young adult fiction.

But as you can gather from above they are all in their 20s now so are at the top end of YA anyway. Does that mean I need to change my writing? Do I have a right to continue writing YAF? What happens when your muses move out? Will I be able to still write? Rachel Ward wrote a insightful post on a similar idea this week on Author Allsorts Blog. I have no idea what the answer to these questions are going to be. It will be a wait a see moment.

As you know from last week I have a new story to write and though it has a young adult protagonist it is very different from anything I have written so far. I am loving writing and am very inspired by it but have yet to find out whether IC thinks it is working and worth pursuing. IC and I were having a conversation this week about writing (we weren't supposed to be talking about that but we had gone off at a tangent as we do oh so frequently!). We were talking about the need to maintain momentum if you get published. You need another book (or at least a good idea) there ready. But of course there some people who don't want to write anymore. They have had their one book published and that's all they wanted. This I find very difficult to understand. I have to write, or at the very least I constantly have ideas going round in my head, and I know from some of my writerly friends they feel the same. I cannot imagine just writing one story. I watch people and make up stories about them. I look at artefacts and think about what has happened to them, what might they have seen? My world is full of 'what ifs?' just like Rachel.

I am hoping that with my empty house I will have 'a room of one's own' to write in.I also hope this will give me the head space to create wonderful narratives. And even though my muses will have gone the stories will still flow because, like Rachel Ward, I find teenagers fascinating. I love to see them trying to work out who they are and developing such strong identities with their whole lives ahead of them. However, I must continue to keep an eye on teenage culture, continue to read young adult fiction and watch what is making their world turn.

Yesterday I had to set up a royalites account for an academic book I am about to write. That is pretty daunting too. All very grown up. It is based on elements of my PhD but also a lot more. I will be relieved to have the space to research and write it in too.

Time to embrace the new world and fight the fear. Please excuse the obvious sentimentality of this but they may be moving out and starting wonderful, well deserved new lives but they will always 'still belong to me'. Thank you for being the best children anyone could ever wish for CH, LH and TH and good luck for the future gorgeous people. I am so proud of you all. (Oops is that vomit sounds I can hear?!)

Sunday 18 August 2013

Blossoming stories - where do ideas come from?

Wendy Storer recently wrote a brilliant post about how she had come across a gift of a story. I had a similar experience yesterday, it wasn't someone telling me something that had happened to them that could be made into an instant story as had happened to Wendy. Instead it was a case of researching something I love and I thought I had researched before. I was wrong,  I found out something totally new and it blew me away immediately

Oh the wonders of the Internet. I suddenly found I had a complete story unfolding in front of me. It is so perfect and it just fell into my lap. How often does that happen to a writer -not very I can assure you. It will be based partly on a true story though there will be an element poetic license. I am not going to tell you what it is yet as it is too new and still forming. But I am very excited about it and so is IC, which is always a bonus.

I am still working on Trafficking with IC but was very aware I needed another story to start working on. I wanted to avoid 'second novel issues.' I also needed something I could play with which is exactly what this story is.

It was the fear behind those ideas that inspired Trafficking
Writers are invariably asked 'Where do your ideas come from?' In a way it is such a difficult question to answer because ideas can come from anywhere. Some of you may remember that the initial idea for Trafficking came from a certain photograph which was very similar to a well known photograph from the National Geographic. But ideas can be formed from anything - song lyrics, poems, news articles, magazine articles. Some writers I know keep files of newspaper/magazine cuttings and use those as sources of inspiration. You can also be inspired by art of various forms, by going to the theatre or watching films or documentaries. It can come from history or a fantastical idea. The Internet can also play a huge part as it allows you to explore the world both past and present. It is always worth keeping a notebook where you can write down splinters of ideas as they come to you.

The most important thing is to remain open to ideas. Let them form and develop of their own accord. I find if you try and force them they stultify and never develop into anything. Also be careful about sharing them too soon. Sometimes people can inadvertently squash your idea because they don't understand what you are trying to do. Treat it as something very precious that needs to be nurtured until it blossoms.

Good luck all your writers with your ideas

And now a bit of Brown Eyed Girl like the girl i

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Who needs labels?

Too many labels!
We all know about young adult fiction. We were then introduced to New Adult which was supposed to piggy back on the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and its erotica. It included stories aimed at the upper age range of YAF right into the early twenties. But now, today, I have heard of another label. This time it is called Clean Teen! This is apparently 'sophisticated stories for the NA market but without the sexualised content.'

Does this mean that neither YAF or NA can be sophisticated? Who decides?

For me what they are forgetting to mention all the time is that whatever age you are you want good stories told well. Stories that interest you and deal with issues that may concern you or amuse you. You may be particularly keen on romance or crime, it may be Sci Fi or Fantasy that tickles your fancy. Or you might enjoy a good war story or a bit of sick lit (that's a whole other issue). But at the end of the day it doesn't matter as long as you are enjoying reading it.

All these labels at the end of the day mean nothing. They are just labels. Some are being conveniently used to raise the profile of certain books but most people don't actually care what label a book comes under. They care about whether the writing is any good and the story is enthralling.

As a writer I would suggest you don't worry about them either. Write the story you want to write to the best of your ability. You may find yourself shoehorned into a label at a later date but forget about it until it happens. Concentrate on honing your craft as a writer. Making your story come to life and lift off the page, sucking the reader in so even when they put the book down they are still thinking about it.

When writing for teenagers/young adults/new adults/clean adults (whoever) I would suggest you think about what Nicola Morgan has previously said: 'I believe teenagers want….stories that take them out of the comfort zone (and definitely out of their parents’ comfort zone), to the limit of fear, disgust, emotion, grief, or passion, and which then brings them safely back again'

Therefore my tip for today is - just go away and write and forget about labels!

One talented teenager: