When I tell people that I’m an author and that I write YA fiction, I am often met with looks of wonder and awe. Most people seem to think that writing a book is an amazing feat, something that ordinary people just cannot do. It is flattering to say the least, and as much as it does take a certain type of person with a good imagination and determination, a lot of it actually just comes down to hard work and perseverance. These looks of wonder and awe are often followed by questions about my work and life. Questions which I struggle to answer adequately on the spot, so here is a picture instead.
This is a conservative picture of what my work and life looks like when I’m working on a novel. I say conservative because this picture is minus the caffeine, sleepless hours, hundreds of binned crumpled notes, dozens of typed draft versions, culling of characters, the rewrites, and the final edit. This picture is just part of what it takes for me to write a story, a story I’m not sure anyone is going to read or like at the end of the day, and as for sales, well, I hope so!
People often ask me how do I write a book and what is it like? read more
I’ve written several micro-stories for Twitter, but inevitably tweets are drowned and lost in the thousands of tweets posted every second, which on average is actually 6,000 tweets per second. So I thought I would share my Twitter micro-stories for you here, just in case you missed them. Writing a micro-story for Twitter is no small feat if you ever want to try it yourself, you have 140 characters to play around with and that includes all your spaces and punctuation too. Here are four of my micro-story tweets and I shall explain my thoughts and ideas behind the writing for these pieces.
For this micro-story I was actually daydreaming about characters, more specifically creating characters and how our ancestors gifted certain circumstances and natural objects to human-like deities. read more
- I loved “Laboratory Angel” and the exploration of science ethics in your ideas. Science is obviously something that interests you. Do you have a science background at all?
To be honest, I don’t. I’ve got GCSEs in physics, chemistry and biology but that’s about as far as my background certifiably extends. My interest in science – biology especially – has always had a strong influence over my writing, though. A lot of what I read is science fiction, and when I was studying biology at school I had a very enthusiastic teacher; she taught my class way more than what was on the syllabus and all of it with this crazy-excited gleam in her eyes. These days I think any background I have in science can be classed as hobby-work. I like reading and learning about it when I have the time.
- What are your thoughts on AI and the growing trend for creating intelligent robots?
I love this question. The whole concept of AI – specifically robots mimicking human cognitive functions – seemed like absolute fiction when I was growing up, and it astounds me to think that that wasn’t even very long ago, considering how far scientists have come since then. Personally I’m both excited by the prospect and terrified. While I would love to see where we could go with these sorts of technologies, I’m worried about how we as humans will play it. I don’t want things turning out the way they did in Laboratory Angel, for example! read more
I already touched on this topic in Blog 37: On The Importance Of Words, but I wanted to write more about the language and terminology that we use.
As a writer getting the language and terminology right for your characters, setting, plot and storyline is important. The writers who nail this often have the best-selling novels, whilst the writers who don’t, often trail behind. Now that’s not to say that every best-selling novel is a good book and every other book is bad, but you can definitely tell when a book is more likely to be good, based on the language and terminology that the author uses.
Language and terminology can be used to add colour and complexity to your characters without compromising on your word count. Sticking to stereotypes for now, the evilness of your antagonists can be increased with the language and terminology that they use. If their language is mean, cold, and/or condescending, it is likely that the reader will ‘dislike’ these characters. Similarly, the goodness of your protagonists can be amplified by the honesty, good-will and politeness that may shine through in how they speak and interact with other characters. Not only this, but the language and terminology used by characters when they talk about other characters, can be used to paint pictures and nudge the reader’s opinions of those other characters. This happens all the time in real life, you see it in advertising, music, the media, and pretty much every single thing that is written, everyone has an opinion and their own lives, and naturally this will come through in their work, their mannerisms and what they say, even if they’re not aware of it. read more
The wonderful thing about writing is that you can write anything, including all those things that you really want to say but are too afraid to. Writers are commonly described as introverts, and I would tend to agree since I lean towards the introvert end of the spectrum myself. During my school years I was painfully quiet, every parent’s evening my teachers would praise my work and grades and then they would say the dreaded ‘but’ word, usually followed by something like read more
A friend once told me that they had an idea for a book that they wanted to write. When I asked why they weren’t writing it, they listed a number of excuses, but one stuck out to me in particular. They wanted their idea to be completely new and original, and they didn’t want to write something that wasn’t. Now I was puzzled by this, the idea of creating a completely original story is something that I think many authors would love to and dream about achieving, but I don’t feel that this is a realistic possibility. read more
At the beginning of this year I set myself the task of reading more books considered ‘classics’ in order to widen my literary knowledge and improve my writing skills. After asking a friend and colleague for book recommendations, I have made it to and finished the modern classic and short story, ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. Previously, I had never heard of Joseph Conrad, so I decided to do some research about the author.
Joseph Conrad was born in December 1857, he was a Polish-British writer who was granted British nationality in 1886. Many of his works feature nautical settings which is not surprising considering Conrad expressed a desire to go to sea and spent time working on French merchant vessels before joining a British ship as an apprentice.
The ‘Heart of Darkness’ explores the effects of European imperialism and colonialism in Africa, both for the African people who lived there and the Europeans who were sent there as part of the now, illegal, ivory trade. Conrad writes from read more
When I was in high school and studying English Literature, we read books like ‘Of Mice And Men’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’. One day that I remember clearly, a student asked the English teacher why we were bothering to study the sentences in such detail. This student was sure that writers would not and did not plan every single sentence they wrote. They thought that if a writer chose to write that the curtains were blue then they simply were blue and that it was not a subtle attempt at drawing out feelings of sadness from the reader. My teacher didn’t have a reply at the time, but after writing a book, reading hundreds of other books and many years later, I do have a reply. read more
Ok so maybe some of these ideas are not so ‘novel’, but being an author doesn’t mean you have to write novels and huge epic trilogies all the time. Some people just don’t take to writing the longer stuff and that’s ok, because it doesn’t mean that you’re not a writer. Or perhaps you do write novels and you just fancy trying something different with your writing skills? Here are just a handful of ideas that you can try when you’re not feeling up to writing your novel, but you really want to write…
1) Write A Poem Or A Song.
You don’t have to write the next Homer’s Iliad or Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but a little song, poem, or even just a couplet, might be a secret talent that you never knew you had. Poetry and song writing is a good way to get creative with words, and learn some new synonyms and antonyms whilst you’re at it.
2) Keep A Gratitude Diary. read more
Outlet Publishing and their team have kindly asked me to help judge their short story competition, and even though I haven’t written a short story myself, yet, and I’m certainly no expert. I am an avid reader and I have been through the writing and publication process, so I do feel in my humble opinion that I have a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Over the past two months I have read dozens of entries written by young, hopeful candidates. Some have been very good, others not so, but as the entries have been piling up around me I have noticed similarities and reoccurring patterns. The same mistakes have been cropping up again and again, and there appears to be a preference towards particular genres and themes. The latter is neither strictly bad nor good, but the former is most definitely bad. With this in mind, I am going to share with you some insight into what I feel short story competition judges are looking for, and hopefully help you and your short stories shoot to the top of the winning pile.
Tip Number 1: Read The Rules.
This may seem obvious, but make sure you read the competition’s specifications, rules and guidelines. I don’t know if it was because candidates couldn’t be bothered to read the rules or if they simply misread them, but a couple of the short story submissions I have recently received didn’t sit within the required word count. Judges may be able to forgive a word count that falls 10% above or below the maximum and minimum requirement, but if your story is more than 10% above or below then don’t submit it. Also, some competitions state a specific age range or country of residence, so make sure you read everything carefully before submitting your work.
Tip Number 2: Quality Over Quantity. read more