WIP

Yes, I’m back to painting. I thought about sticking with just the drawing but then I looked at the opportunities out there. If I want to exhibit in a large gallery then I need to either get all my work professionally framed (it is usually asked by the gallery) or I have to exhibit a canvas…

The only problem is that I have worked in the last year on drawing and watercolour. So when I decided to go for two competitions this year I chose not my usual drawing but acrylic…

I might have tried oil but I didn’t have enough time to let it dry.

So I picked up my brushes pot and blew the dust off it. Then I blew the dust off my paints. I haven’t painted like this in about eight years.

Now, I know I ought to put all the bad attempts down (there have been three) but I’m not going to. Instead here is the WIP that I’m pleased with. Hopefully there will be more as I practice with acrylic more – I really enjoyed it.

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Children’s novels are novels

I have four stories waiting to be edited and in some cases completely rewritten. Except they aren’t really stories. They are novels. Not for the adult market but for the children’s one. I love the stories and I really want to get them published but they are hard work…

Surely they are easier? Is something I hear all the time and the answer is really – no. I can write a decent adult novel in about six months but one of these kids stories has been three years in the making. They have to be descriptive and fast, with action and character developments, but unlike an adult novel I don’t have an unlimited word count. How many kids will sit down to a 100,000 worded tomb. It doesn’t happen.

You have to be concise and to the point. The characters have to be colourful and your dialogue must be easy going and believable. There can’t be any floral language and the description has to be simple but at the same time paint a picture so that the reader is immediately transported to the world you are creating.

Writing for children is hard.

But I’m persevering. I’m currently doing a rewrite on a novel that is based in Scotland; above ground and below ground.  It will be finished in a few weeks and then I have to decide whether to publish it myself or to send it the traditional route… I’m not sure yet.

Reporting vs writing

There are points in my month where sitting down with a good book is something I just have to do… It’s a compulsion… I’m an avid reader, but at this time I can read all night, grab a three hour sleep and then go write only to pick up a book again and start reading. When this happens I’m afraid I give in to my addiction and allow myself to be immersed in the written word.

I read a lot. In the last 24 hours I have devoured four books, some only 50,000 words but one was close to 100,000. I blame the dyslexia – I didn’t learn to read until I was 11 and the result wasn’t that I turned from books, but that I found new worlds and fantasies that I could truly experience. I read everything (not what had been set by the school but everything else). I know that my reading difficulties (yes, I still have some) means that I have trouble with ‘hard’ books. My tastes are confined by my ability to grasp the meaning behind the words so I tend to stick to popular culture.

I allow myself a budget every month to buy books, but after that I hit Kindle Unlimited and the free ones. I know that it means I read a lot of stuff that isn’t great… But every now and then I come across a gem. A diamond in the rough and then I can read everything on that author’s book list.

But there are those that aren’t bad, but at the same time they are not great. They have a foot in either camp. A good three star book. They are the ones I lament about. I have just finished two by the same author.

Why two?

Because I hoped that she had changed her mistakes with the second… She hadn’t but I wish she had. Both stories are brilliant in their premise… They could have been great. They could have been 5 stars and in the top thousand… But they aren’t.

The author starts well, we are introduced to our heroine and we feel for her. We are there as she helps her friends and tries to get over her body dysmorphia and then she meets the man… He is everything she needs, even if she doesn’t realise it.

The next chapter – what has happened? Suddenly we are removed from the action. In fact there is nothing but action. We feel nothing and there are no insights. The author is reporting the story. It’s great but it is just a premise, an outline, a taster of what the book ought to be but isn’t.

And that is the problem. 50% of the bad books I read are good. The story is good and the writing isn’t bad but the author has reported everything. They don’t allow the reader to truly experience the story. We are told what to feel and what to believe. We are not shown it.

It’s the difference between:

Melissa looked in the mirror and sighed with ill-concealed sadness. For once she would like to feel sexy. Her friends could get away with wearing tiny little dresses but she couldn’t. Her legs were large and her hips larger. She had a small waist but if she dressed to accentuate it then her bust would try to spill out of her clothing. She just wished she could find someone to look past the curves and see her.

So here I have let the reader feel the fact Melissa has body dysmorphia.

Melissa looked in the mirror and saw her form, more fat that curvy. She knew that there were bits she liked about herself. Sighing she turned to leave…

Okay, so this says the same, but the reader has been told what to feel. There is no drawing in to see the second layer of the story. The reader doesn’t feel what Melissa feels.

That is the difference between a good story and a bad one. I know that sometimes I can make this mistake, but my editor tends to pick it up. So to all authors out there – don’t report, just write and take a breath. Slow the story down. Let the reader savour the sunset or the action. Just show them… Don’t just report it.

Competitions vs publishing

There has to be a balance. I can’t always write small things for competitions but at the same time I can’t always be working on longer pieces. How many competitions should I do?

The problem is the feeling that I have missed an opportunity… It sits in my gut like a rock. I don’t like throwing possible chances away, and sometimes it feels like it. So this year I have got to find a balance. It’s harder than I thought…

So far this year I have submitted to 3 competitions of varying sizes but I haven’t worked on any longer pieces. My mum turned to me and asked me where my money comes from…

“The books,” I answered. It was an easy question.

“So why are you writing smaller pieces?”

The question is not unfounded. I love to write the short stories but the money comes from the novels. I have to find some sort of a balance.

But this year I really want to break into kids books. I made my little nephew a card for his birthday. I drew it myself and after I looked at the artwork and realised that it was an illustration. I can illustrate. The only thing holding me back is myself and my lack of confidence.

So the plan is to do a few competitions, finish at least one adult novel and two children’s novels… and to create one or more books for kids that need illustrations, be that picture books or chapter books.

I just hope I have enough time to get all that done and still keep up with the art work…

Truly Madly Deeply

I have just finished writing about David Bowie when another of my hero’s dies. I hate this…

Alan Rickman has brought us the best villains and the sopiest romantic leads. He has scared us and confounded us but through it all I believed him. As he danced in Truly Madly Deeply to when he fell from Nakatomi Tower in Die Hard he has always bought a story to life.

Only today we were told that he has died from cancer.

My thoughts are for his family.

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You have no power over me….

You have no power over me…

That was the line that Sarah always forgot in the Labyrinth. Upon saying it the Goblin King and his world shattered, a happy ending.

Except it wasn’t. As the owl that was the Goblin King sat outside the window and looked into Sarah’s bedroom filled with laughter and fun, I felt sad. All he had wanted was someone to be his… Surely that was a good thing to want even if he had gone about it oddly.

As a child I sided with the Goblin King, so when the man who had portrayed him died the a few days ago I felt a little bit of magic leak out of the world.

David Bowie was a huge influence in my life. I don’t admit to liking all his music but for me he showed how acceptance is the greatest gift you can give anyone. As his personas flickered through time and changed I found that I couldn’t wait to hear the next part of his story.

I don’t see this as an ending but I do see it as a loss. I agree with Neil Gaiman – my hero has died.

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Fermentation

I have started a new project and I managed to get the first 1000 words down today but after I found myself tired but looking at half a day of not much to do. We had my sister’s kids over and I had two options; to go into the workshop and paint or to do some baking.

I have a nut allergy so most of what I eat I have to make, which is great but it can be time consuming. Usually the workshop wins but today I found that I wanted and needed people around. So I got out the flour.

I started making a simple milk loaf but I was half way through before I realised that I was short flour. I had two options – malthouse or rye. I decided on the malt. It has made a beautiful loaf, but I was not alone in my making. My three year old nephew asked if he could help.

We stood side by side, both with aprons on and squished and mashed the life out of the dough. I explained about gluten and showed him how to make the ‘window’ to see how much gluten was awake. He was brilliant and I am told that at school (he only goes in the afternoons) he told his teacher that he had been baking bread all morning. It was good fun and I found that it gave me something I hadn’t realised I had been missing.

I needed to laugh and just have some down time. I have been working on some intense project over the last week or so (yes, I worked through Christmas). So now I feel tired but happy. For Friday my nephew has informed me that we will be making a cake or biscuits and next week there will be more bread. I have a feeling that I may have started something. But what could be better than warm bread and laughter?