Daily Prompt – A Little Sneaky

A Little Sneaky

Are prompts useful? When you write, do daily or weekly prompts help?

These are questions that I am asked, also – where do you get your ideas from?

Well, they are all linked. You see the daily prompt makes me write. And I love to write so I’ll actively seek out prompts. And from them ideas can swarm, a little like bees. A prompt can give a hundred different ideas or one solid notion. Or if your unlucky, none. If I get a prompt that goes the latter I don’t do it. After all, a prompt is optional. But I find the prompts can take you in all sorts of directions. Some of my best blogging has happened because of the daily prompt.

Also, I’m sad to say, some of my indifferent posts have as well. But no matter what it does the prompt gets me writing. And that is what I need. Practice!

The old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ applies, although I think that I will write a lifetime and not achieve perfection. I will however, get better. The more you write the easier it is to create the sentences you want. It’s a bit like being a painter and expecting to paint a masterpiece without any preliminary drawings.

For me the daily prompt and ‘write so fluid’ prompts are my preliminary drawing where I work out how to create ideas and sentences to express them.

If I couldn’t write…

I shudder to think. What would I do without writing? Well, firstly I think I’d be on some sort of ‘happy’ pill. I love to write but it also keeps me sane.

A little while ago I didn’t write and I was full of anxiety and problems. Now I do write I find I’m much more stable. To be able to allow my brain to take an idea and run with it is just liberating and soothes my mind.

If I couldn’t write I would be a mess. Luckily though I can and I do. 🙂

Picture Books and writing for children

I have an idea for a picture book. Even the illustrations are starting to come about. But for some unknown reason I keep downgrading it.

“It’s only a picture book.”

“It’s not literature, just writing for children.”

“I’m only writing for children.”

Why do I keep doing that? I love what I’m doing and it is taking just as long as similar sized adult pieces. So why do I keep down-grading what I’m working on? I have no idea.

As an adult I have read hundreds of books and yet the ones I truly remember are my favourites from childhood, from ‘101 Dalmatians’ to ‘Black Beauty’. Surely this makes them the most important books we read in our lifetime. Yet I still find that when people ask – what are you writing? I answer ‘Just’ a child’s book. There is nothing ‘just’ about writing for children. In fact, in some ways I’m finding it harder.

The story is going through more edits to make it as succinct as possible. You can’t use big paragraphs of description. Even if they were in the kid reading it would either skip over or put the book down. Instead you have to add the description around the action. For example:

“I’m Warren,” the hairy creature answered holding my hand in a big teddy bear-like paw.

That’s from my story and I’ve added the  description as part of the dialogue. It works and means I can leave out a descriptive block. I’ve steered the reader into the right direction and they can now use their imagination to create Warren.

Once you get to picture books the writing has to be really tight. 1000 words for a whole book. True you have to add pictures. but the pictures must say more than the words. In my book there is a boy who watches old movies. So my writing says something along the line of –

Bobby loved to watch old movies. Even after his parents had gone to bed he would sit in his room and peer at the television.

Okay so I haven’t said what movies he is watching and that’s because the illustration will show you. I don’t need to say that it is night or that he is up past his bedtime. The words and the illustrations show it. One or the other on their own don’t give the full picture but together they work.

So when I say I am writing for children I ought to say “I’m writing a child’s book, and illustrating it.” No ‘justs’ and no weak smiles and faint shrugs. I am working at something that is hard and wonderful at the same time. And I ought to show it.

Daily Prompt – These boots are made for walking.

These boots are made for walking

I had a pair of boots in school. I got them when I first started my GCSE’s. The were black and shiny and the Doc Martin type. They weren’t Doc Martin’s – I couldn’t afford them. I used them throughout school and they got knocked around quite a bit. Back then I used to walk everywhere.

The first thing to go was oddly a slit along one side. I think I may have caught it on barbed wire. I used blue thread to cross stitch it closed. Then a lump of leather was torn off the other boot when I came too close to a stick that was partially buried. I patched it with a piece of canvas with pink flowers on. And that is how my boots grew.

Four year later they were multi-coloured examples of stitch-work and patches. I loved them. I started University and they became the talk on my dorm, people liked them. I even had them re-soled. But their life was almost over.

The tops started to lift from the sole and that was the end. I tried glue but there just wasn’t enough leather left to stick. Finally I gave up and the boots just sat in the porch of my parents place. A memorial to my teenage years. Then one day they were gone.

“Where are my boots?”

“What boots?

“The ones in the porch.”

“Oh, those old things… I threw them out.”

“Why?”

“They smelt….”

I couldn’t really argue with that.

I don’t get writer’s block but…

I really don’t, usually words and stories pour out and I just write them down. Almost as if I am the secretary for my own head. But last night I sat down to write the next chapter and…. nothing. What I did write was clumsy and not all that good.

I got stressed, massively so. You see the story (it’s the child’s story at about 16,000 words) needs to be out to a competition by the 30th of this month and I was hoping to have roughed the whole lot out so I could write the synopsis. But it wasn’t working last night.

Anyway, I start pacing and my mum says, “Stop it,” and in the same breath “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t get the story,” I say, verging on panic. “It has gone…”

So she sits me down and gets me to tell her. So I do and when I get to the gap my mouth keeps moving and the story just appears and hangs in the air. I go silent and all I can hear is mum’s pen scratching across a page as she makes notes. Then she hands me the completed page and on there is a rough outline.

“Why couldn’t I just write it?” I ask.

Mum shrugs and then looks at me with a smile. “Because you were to stressed.”

And voila – I am not in writer’s purgatory. Instead I am now writing at full speed and the words are flowing again. Only now I have a plan that I am following.

I still don’t think it was writers block. Maybe it was more like constipation… 🙂

Shall I illustrate my stories?

I draw. Normally Welsh Life but I can draw and paint almost any subject. My forte is animal and people portraits. Except I am not earning money at it. I used to but I stopped because I found it difficult to see the original leave. My workshop is surrounded by my art and I love doing it. But with me branching into children’s stories I have been thinking about illustrating them. After all, the originals stay with me and are just reproduced. So essentially there will be no ‘break-up’ between me and the artwork. 🙂

shire horses I have already decided to add some illustrations to my dissertation, just on the front cover, not in the actual text, but I’m uncertain whether to send them to the publisher. I’ve read that it can damage the submission.

Picture books are different; publishers expect to see illustrations with the story, but the older stories I’m not certain.

jellyfishSo I’ve decided to do some illustrations but not submit them with the manuscript – when it’s ready. Just use them to give the dissertation a little something extra. If the manuscript is accepted by a publisher I’ll show them and see what they say. But I think I’ll listen to the advice and only send illustrations with any picture books I write.

I will illustrate my stories though – it helps with the characters I’m creating. I see my stories in pictures and sometimes it is easier to get the character if I doodle the head first. I’ll just finish the character I’ve drawn into a complete illustration. Probably pen and ink and water-colour like the jellyfish above. I’ll post them as soon as they are complete… 🙂