Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Wanted - Children's Author...

Anyone interested in the following  advert from the little known publication -
"Guide to jobs that everyone wants but hardly anyone ever gets."?


We are looking for a very special person to fulfill this important role, they should display the following characteristics;

Imagination, creativity, determination, patience and perseverance with a certain amount of desperation thrown in.

Ideally the candidate should be very hard working, self motivated, thick skinned and willing to keep going despite the challenges facing them.

Job Role - We are looking for someone to create something entirely unique that at the same time is well known. It must be well written, funny, exciting, scary and brilliant. Unfortunately we can offer you no guidelines as to what we actually want because we don't know that until we see it.
 You will submit your work to us when you feel it is up to standard and we will get back to you at some point when we feel like it. We will probably reject 95% of everything you send us with little or no feedback but we will expect you to keep submitting work until we  feel you have written something truly spectacular.
 If on the rare occasion you manage to write something that is any good we will agree to your proposal and then ask you to take it away and revise it until we feel it is ready.
 At this point it will be looked at by others and may still be rejected if they don't like it, feel it won't sell or won't make us any money.
 We will then expect you to go away and write something else even better.

Hours of Work - 
You should write whenever you can, including evenings, weekends and holidays. You should stay up late and wake up early and be prepared to give up on all social engagements and family time for the foreseeable future.

Remuneration -
 For this difficult and thankless task we will probably pay you exactly nothing. You must be prepared to cover all your expenses, including any courses, conferences or events you attend. If you manage to produce something that sells we will pay you a small amount but probably not enough to cover all the hours of work you've put in. 

Career Opportunities - 
There are many exciting possibilities open to you if your work is popular but the chances of this happening are rare and growing smaller. If you do produce something that can be sold you will then be expected to work even harder. Your new role will involve; revising the book, meeting with editors and agents, attempting to gain publicity through social networking sites, visiting schools and libraries and attending literary events. Of course you must also start writing the next book at the same time and now you will have a deadline to meet as well as huge expectations to live up to.

 How To Apply -

 We are expecting a  vast amount of applicants for this job but the good news is that it's open to everyone regardless of experience, talent, skills or any knowledge of writing at all. We will provide no training but expect everyone to learn on the job. 
 If you think you have what it takes to be a writer then all you have to do is write a book! Send it to us  at wannabewriters@you' and we will do our best to get back to you within eight weeks or possibly never.

Good luck!

 Is it weird that I still think it sounds like an amazing job? ;)

Monday, 15 October 2012

Eating Elephants

 I was ready to start my revision. I'd had some great feedback from an editor, her comments had sparked off   a myriad of new ideas and I was excited about implementing them. I could see how this new angle would add depth and nuance to my work. It was going to be fabulous. I could see it all in my mind.
 Then I sat down at my computer and...choked.
 I couldn't do it.
 Should I start again, just rewrite the whole thing entirely?
 Should I try and revise what I'd already written?
 Should I hit myself over the head repeatedly with a brick?
 I spent a couple of days in a pit of despair. I couldn't do it. I didn't know how. Perhaps I should just give up. If I couldn't revise then I obviously had no chance of becoming a writer.
But then I had an idea.
 I would look at the first chapter and annotate the text with the changes it needed.
 Then I would look at the second chapter and so on.
 It worked.
 The notes helped me clarify my ideas and showed me where to start and the whole experience reminded me of that old joke -

It's old but it's true. Looking at a huge project can make us feel overwhelmed. So remember, in writing or revising, eat your elephant one bite at a time and you'll be surprised how easy it can be to eat the whole thing!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Matilda - read the book, seen the film, watched the musical

Last Friday I took my son to see Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre. It was brilliant, the songs were catchy, the child performers were talented and the drag act that was Miss Trunchbull was spectacular.
Best of all though Tim Minchin had captured entirely the essence of Roald Dahl and who doesn't love Roald Dahl? The man was a genius when it comes to writing for children.
When I discovered him as a child I was blown away by his imagination, The Fantastic Mr Fox was actually the first book I read entirely by myself and if I'm honest it was about then that I decided I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to create stories of my own.
I was keen to share my love of his books with my own child and sure enough as soon as he was old enough I began reading him Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Like me he was enraptured and I must admit to being annoyed when we came to the end of all his books. What were we going to read now?
My son was notoriously fussy about books, they had to be interesting, funny, fast paced with a great baddie and no boring bits. Everything in fact that was basically included in a Roald Dahl book so who was there that could compete?
No one. Believe me I looked but I have as yet to find anyone else that comes close.
And why is that? If we look  at his work there seems to be a formula to most of them
 1. A good child, usually either an orphan or with terrible parents,
2. A fabulous funny concept (chocolate factory/giant peach/special powers/big giant)
3. Lot's of horrible characters (most other children/grown up's)
4. An adventure that tests the protagonist and leads to a happy ending.

 So surely it would be easy to copy that, to become the next Roald Dahl? Well, no actually, I don't think it's easy at all. He may have made it look easy but really I think what he did was incredibly hard and incredibly perfect. His stories haven't dated, they are as much loved now as when they were first published, perhaps more so with all the new films and musicals being created from his work. He is loved all over the world, he does in fact have his very own day which is celebrated in schools and libraries.
I think he was that very rare person who really could relate to children and capture their world on paper. He wrote beautifully with humour and sadness, never shying away from difficult aspects, never patronising.
So as a writer I can't copy him, I wouldn't even try but I can continue to be inspired by him as are so many others.

Do you know anyone who can equal Roald Dahl? Leave a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Magic Recipe?

Just recently I've been travelling up to London for several author events; the Curtis Brown Day at Foyles, the annual S.C.B.W.I agent party, a meeting with my critique group and a Childrens Book Circle meet and critique evening.
Sitting on the tube at ten o clock last night I found myself asking why I found these events so useful, wouldn't I be better off spending my time writing instead? Well, maybe not. One reason for going is of course to meet other writers, to spend time with people who understand the struggles and joy of trying to get published and to feel a sense of support. Another great reason to spend time at these events is to learn about the industry, to get to know agents and editors and find out what they're looking for.
But more importantly for me is that I find that attending these events helps me with one of the magic ingredients needed by all authors...Motivation.
For example, at the agent party I spoke to several lovely agents who asked me to send in my manuscript, this pushes me to polish my work to perfection and get it out there on submission.
Another magic ingredient was provided at the Meet and Critique session where I talked to an editor about my work in progress  and that was - Inspiration. Having a professional viewpoint was so enlightening and sparked off so many ideas I feel completely inspired to incorporate all the ideas we discussed and I now feel confident that my revision will be going in the right direction.
So that's two ingredients - Inspiration and Motivation, each of them very important but perhaps the biggest factor for me is - Perspiration. Yes, the actual hard slog of sitting down and typing, day after day and week after week. Keeping going when you want to give up. The wrestling with ideas and problems until your brain literally hurts. Working for months and months on revision. Coping with feedback and critiques and rejections.
 But let's face is, that part is much easier if you have inspiration and motivation in the first place!
So what's my final ingredient? After Inspiration, Motivation and Perspiration?
This can't of course be found at events or crit groups. It is a random and uncontrollable factor within writing, publishing and life itself. However while I can't control my own luck I do believe I can increase my chance of getting lucky. How?
By getting critiques from professionals so I can make my work as good as possible.
By meeting agents and finding out what they want so I can make sure I send my work to the right person.
By making personal contacts in the business I may improve the odds of getting my work read.
So, yes, staying at home and writing is important but so is getting out there, finding support, making friends, learning about the industry, getting critiques and attempting to improve your chances. It all helps with the magic recipe and one day I hope to produce a perfectly mixed, light and fluffy, enormously!
Happy baking to you all.