Not so floppy!

22 06 2014

not so floppy!

not so floppy!

I was on one of my clear-outs of the Drawer of Ideas yesterday evening and found some history. Ancient history to anyone under 20. Floppy discs. Not the big 7.5 inch ones but the little hard plastic rectangles with the metal slider protecting the circle of black floppiness. Old news.

Well actually not! Old stories yes but not old news. Old ideas – but when I rooted through them (having found a converter from Lotus Notes to a more usable word processor) I was surprised to see elements of a number of my current books sitting hidden in stories I wrote 10 or even 20 years ago. These were my backups from the birth of the computer age where a book had to be split into sections, chapters even, and saved across multiple discs. And then saved on multiple more, stored in a different room or sent to relatives for storage against the inevitable fire.

However, fire wasn’t the biggest risk. There was a more dangerous enemy to the floppy disc lurking in every house, hidden in plain view and ready to pounce and delete the data of the unwary. I speak of the evil magnet. Created by Gallileo from Satan’s foreskin and scattered across the world with two aims. First, to stop boats interrupting beach picnics by crashing into land unexpectedly. Second, and more importantly, to delete your data.

Carelessly leaving your floppies on a stereo speaker or too near a telephone and you would return to find nothing, nada, zip. Magnets were the bane of existence. But if you wanted to listen to Wham whilst tapping away at your BBCB or Amstrad then magnets were another necessity of life.

I’m not so floppy now. On line cloud storage in both Dropbox and Google Drive. Double bubble, double safe. And free (for now).

Sequel threads – lay the groundwork early

18 08 2013

Unless you are setting out on a saga of such length that you know it will take three tomes to get it finished then you are writing a one-off. You are pouring your heart and soul into this book, this tale. Giving life to the concept which came to you over a bowl of cornflakes or perhaps was years in gestation. It is a story, a one-off.

Now you’ve nearly written it, your mind has to flick forwards to life-after-novel. What next? You’ve spent so long with these characters, this situation, you must start thinking about whether you could write some more about them. The Series is born.

Before you finish your first novel you therefore should be looking for seeds to plant. Loose little threads you can pick up and develop and turn into something new. If you don’t leave these pointers and plan them out, even if not in great detail, then you will find yourself having to scratch around for a sequel.

Why give yourself the angst?

Just add a sentence or two about your hero’s mysterious sister or something deeply significant in the setting’s past. Think about which bits of your story you like most, which people have the most interesting lives you have created. 

Your editor will probably also give you some pointers but one way to help get that editor is to show you are savvy and aware of the benefits of having a customer base already bought in to your characters, already emotionally invested.

So leave a loose thread, weave a flaw in the pattern, knit one, pearl one, drop one.

Then you can enjoy finishing off your book and start to leave hints in your own blogs and on your website about where your heroine is going to next.  Give your readers an inch and they will make up the mile themselves.

A Writer’s Retirement – the promised land?

14 08 2013

You don’t retire on book one. Or two, three or four. In fact, if you’ve got four over the line you don’t retire at all – the ideas keep coming, the books keep coming. Life is retirement because you are doing what you love to do. And loving what you do is what counts in life.

I knew a man once. He enjoyed his work. Loved it. Spent every waking hour he could at it. I used to have a job and when the working day was over then my commitment to it ended. He said to me that if you don’t love your job, don’t do it. It is where you spend most of your waking hours so if you don’t like it, don’t love it, just don’t do it.

Nice to have the choice, I thought!

But as time passes I see his point. I love what I do and who I do it with, for, about. Love it.

Would I stop? Only if I was forced to by circumstance, failing health or policy intervention. Luckily, I don’t think I will ever give cause for the constabulary to pay me much attention.  Then again, I do like to take the odd risk.

If retirement was forced upon me by the walls of a prison could I continue writing? Would I find sufficient raw material to shape and mould? Would my publisher still talk to me or would a new pseudonym have to come to life?

A new one? Does that mean I have one already?  JK has a lot to answer for, bringing the subject to the top of people’s minds!

Next book blues

2 08 2013

One of my recent blogs was about ideas, creativity, seeking the next perfect idea. I told a small fib. I said that the Drawer of Ideas was just filled with unexplored ideas.

Not quite hidden amongst the scraps of paper covered with random thoughts were the plastic wallets containing the bigger ideas. I see them every time I open the DoI and every time I can’t decide what to do with them.

First to see the light is the unfinished book. Fifty thousand words put on hold.  Shouldn’t be allowed – but I remember how the mindset creating it just hadn’t fitted in with where I wanted to be. It had created such a mountain of complexity in those opening chapters that the finished article wouldn’t have been really me. It was forced, contrived and damned hard to think through.

Part of the current, older me, regrets that decision now. But there’s no way back. I’ve different mindset’s now and couldn’t capture the same intellectual viewpoint again – I know, I’ve tried! So The book remains unfinished and that dark place in my house unoccupied. I fed that mindset to the furnace and moved on.  Could I return though?

The second plastic wallet contained the scripts. I love the idea of scriptwriting. Getting everything across in dialogue and a couple of ‘exits stage left’ or ‘angry looks at Curt’. Perhaps when I finish the next one I can put one of my creative minds on the project and see if ‘Finding Father Christmas’ can be made ready to fly – working title only!

Finally, possibly finally, is the wallet full of the reasons the rest don’t get done. The sequel ideas. Who needs new concepts, new characters when I’ve left threads, questions ready to be picked up and developed into full blown tales. Most are still in my mind but Jenny’s tale is definitely one that needs to be told.

Focus or float? Create or consolidate? What to do next?

Post book blues

1 08 2013

It’s interesting to turn back the clock – look at the start of my career. I’d been surprised at how much emotional energy my first book had taken. Not realised how often my mind had turned to solving a plot dilemma, planning a scene, setting a character up for a future fall.

It’s the same now. So many ideas come for what to do next. But the dark places where I let creativity reign are deliberately constraining – focused on the straight and narrow of following through with a single idea. When other ideas do come they’re scribbled on pieces of paper as single sentences or bullet points and consigned to live in a drawer in my study.  My Drawer of Ideas is usually pretty full.

I do look through it occasionally. Look to see if I’ve missed a gem. One day I found a problem.

I didn’t know what half the ideas meant!

At the time “Elephant, ballet, crisis” had potential for a great children’s story (even though that’s not my usual genre). There are a couple of different obvious plots to fit the words but I know none of them are the one in mind when it was jotted down and thrust into the drawer.

Now I’m being a bit more organised. I insist on at least a page of typed A4 – those ideas need to be fleshed out enough to be able to consider taking them forward in the future. 

But back then, at the start, with my first manuscript staring at me through its newspaper duvet, I still had to focus. Forget something new – I had to cast my book to the four winds and see if any of the professionals really liked it before I could really concentrate on something really new.

Was that enough ‘really’s for you?