Monday, 24 February 2014

Blog Chain: The Night Wardens

I was recently tagged by the wonderful Tony Ballantyne in this blog-chain-meme-thing that's going around. There's four questions, and I get to answer them, then pass them on!

You can read Tony's lovely take on it all here. And the best bit is I get to tag someone else, my pal Sarah Naughton, Costa shortlisted YA novelist don'tchaknow - details at the end.

What am I working on?

Well - it's not a sequel to Poison Boy. I would have loved to have written more about the Highlions gang, but someone needs to publish it, right? So I absorbed the blow, took it like a man etc etc, and cooked up something else.

I'm sooo glad I did. I'm dead excited about The Night Wardens, a contemporary superdark sci-fi thriller set in Manchester around about tomorrow night. There are urban explorers, missing children, insomniac kids, a secret government project, a shoestring crew of maverick scientists, and a couple of sinister devices known as Kepler Valves. 

Now all I have to do is persuade someone to give it a home...

How does it differ from others in its genre?

It loves its genre, this one. I've been channelling the soundtrack to Super 8 for over six months while I write - another story that loves its genre.

Why do I write what I do?

I guess it's just what sticks. I don't think I could ever write a book about - I dunno, I'm making this up - the developing relationship between a father and a son on a family holiday in Devon.

Unless there was something lurking down in that cave on the beach...

I guess that's me. I'm a beastie-in-the-caves sort of guy.

How does my writing process work?

I wrote about this in a post called Little Pockets, which you can find here.

I have notebooks and I gather up loads of ideas from newspaper stories, items on TV, documentaries, and of course reading other people's brilliant books. Then I find the ones that are going to work. Some lie dormant for ages. Others seem to creep up the pecking order by gathering bits of other ideas and strengthening.

When they start to look good, I begin trying to build them. They fall down a thousand times of course. Eventually, they stand up, wobbling drunkenly - propped up by all manner of crazy interventions on my part.

Now on to you, Sarah! Sarah wrote
The Hanged Man Rises (Simon and Schuster), a Victorian supernatural thriller for teenagers, and her second book, The Blood List, set in rural England during the witch-trials, came out a couple of weeks back. Check out her blog for her answers! 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Lessons from The Green Mile

How much do you guys spend on pricey tomes called variations of how-to-write-a-killer-novel

I've flung a fair few quid in that direction over the years, with varying success. Worth my hard-earned was this:

And more recently, this - which I'm getting on with very well indeed:

(And there's another one - Jerome Stern's Making Shapely Fiction, which I blogged about here.)

But you can get far better advice in other places. Rather than seek out the latest handbook advertising an instant-novel:just-add-water-and-stir, I've taken to scouring introductions and forewords by generous writers who don't mind demystifying the process. 

Stephen King does this brilliantly, to my mind. Recently I picked up a new edition of The Green Mile because of its additional introduction and, wouldn't you know it - there was more in those four pages than I've seen in whole chapters of meandering guff from some less helpful creative writing tutors. 

Grab it, kids. 

Alternatively, clock my filleted version below - for me being the sharing type (my mum often makes reference to my 'nice nature' - awww) I thought I'd share the three that worked best for me.

My advice? Do them. All three, all the time.

1. Plan obsessively (at night). 

SK: "I go through cycles of I try to keep a story handy for those nights when sleep won't come. Each night I start over from the beginning, getting a little further before I drop off."

2. Dismantle, rebuild. Dismantle, rebuild. Abandon, return. Dismantle, rebuild.

SK: "It was a good idea, but the story wouldn't work for me. I tried it a hundred different ways... Then, about a year and a half later, the story recurred to me, only this time with a different slant."

3. Then, as soon as you possibly can, get going.

SK: "...I thought research might kill the fragile sense of wonder I'd found in my story - some part of me knew from the first that what I wanted was not reality but myth." 

It has the virtue of simplicity, I think you'll agree. So save your pennies, people, and rather than reading about learning by doing, just learn by doing. 

10,000 hours, a million words and all that stuff. Off we go!