Thursday, April 27, 2006

Talented teachers

You'll be glad to hear that my hysteria attack was short lived and that I am pleased with myself today. In fact, I am smiling like a cheshire cat. Why? Because:

1- I have started reading through my manuscript. Big cheers all round.
2- I have nearly finished the units I'm doing for the next resource pack for Philip Allan Updates
3- I am currently compiling a recommended book list for my Year 8s which I told them I would do some time ago, and which, I am pleased to say, one girl reminded me about. She wanted one so much she reminded me.
4-My Year 8s think English is cool or so I hear
5-I was treated to a yummy meal last night
6-I have done all my marking

Now, all I need is to complete my reports and we're laughing.

Don't you just love it?

If you were hoping to learn something when you came to this post, other than about me and my life (and as a teacher I feel compelled to teach you something) here's a titbit of sorts:

Did you know these famous individuals were once teachers?
Sting, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, J. K. Rowling and Chris Tarrant.

Just goes to show that we teachers are a talented lot!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Insane hysteria or rejectionobia

It's been over a week, now, since I completed my novel and I still haven't had time to re-read it and send it off. I want it as good as possible before it wings its way to the agent. Having read recently about the editing process and had first hand experience with my educational writing, I know a re-read is always worth it. (Cue smile and big bright teeth)

Well that's what I'm telling myself, although truth be told, I'm actually terrified that after all my hours of effort, my prized novel will still come back with a big BUT .... and a THANKS BUT NO THANKS stamped across the front.

I think you all know what I'm talking about, unless you're one of the lucky few whose first efforts were accepted. We all know what rejection feels like. A big old slap in the face.

I was amused to read about a cynical and previously rejected author who turned to other means and succeeded. This article was posted on a message board I visit and it really made me laugh- probably insane hysteria setting in, at the prospect of another big brown envelope returning like a boomerang to my door mat.

In any case, the manuscript WILL be sent in the next week and if it returns back unloved, I'll put it down to experience and move on.
You have to, don't you?
Who dares wins!
No pain, no gain!
If at first, you don't succeed try, try again!(In my case we can substitute first with something else)
Well, you get my meaning.
Oh the trials and tribulations of writing! No-one could accuse me of being melodramtic. Please, moi?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What makes a sale?

Well, I thought I'd take the opportunity while my internet connection is actually working to write something here. It's been unreliable to say the least. Yesterday on my way back from the metropolis of London, I stopped by WH Smiths in Waterloo station and resisted the temptation (to which I normally succumb) to buy two or more books because of the 'BUY ONE GET ONE HALF PRICE' offer.

Instead I stood fixedly looking at them for half an hour and decided that there are a lot of very good writers out there and some really interesting and wackily titled books!

One is All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye by Christopher Brookmyre which is a great title for a book. It comes from a saying which apparently originates from Ancient Rome. The only rule during wrestling matches was, "No eye gouging." Everything else was allowed. The only way to be disqualified was to poke someone's eye out. Fascinating, but I'm not sure how this relates to the book itself, as I've not read it.

Another book I thought looked interesting was the Yes Man by Danny Wallace. I loved the concept. A man learns to say yes more and his life changes. I know how that feels. The last one was Saving Samantha, an autobiographical story which looked heart rending.

I haven't read any of these books, because I'm re-reading Empire of the Sun at the moment for work, so I'm not recommending them. What I am saying is that they are the ones that grabbed my attention most and they got me thinking about the importance of a good title, an interesting concept and an emotional pull. And that's just from the cover and the blurb.

How do readers decide which book to buy? I look at the cover, the blurb, the first paragraph, sometimes a little bit into the novel and also I see whether the book has won any prizes. I also go on personal recommendation, if I think the person making the recommendation has the same tastes as me.

But in a book shop alone, marketability is a big thing, so what makes a sale?
What do you go for? I guess we're talking about commercial appeal.

While surfing the net and the world of blogs, I came across an interesting post - it gives an insight into what commercial viability means, as defined by a literary agent. Follow the link below to read it:
Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency's post

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rebel with a cause

Well, today is officially a bad day. I am snowed under with marking. Reams and reams of it on account of the Year 10 mocks. Guess the reading of my manuscript which is COMPLETE, yes I did say COMPLETE, in case you missed that, will have to wait. All 30,000 words of it. Grrr.

Instead I am writing this blog. Figures.

While I'm here, I have two interesting things to say:

1- Blog does not mean boring lonely ordinary geezer as someone suggested to me. It is an abbreviated form of the words web log. Sadly, in geezerish mode, I looked this up and I discovered the definition on Wikipedia, which leads me nicely on to:

2- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia which is as fantastic as sliced bread or even better. Its name derives from a Hawaiian word. Apparently the inventor noticed a bus service known as Wiki when he was there, and discovering that it meant fast, he gave the name to his enyclopedia. Aaa it's all making sense now. Wikipedia is the fast encyclopedia!

Yes, you heard it here. Enough of that. Suffice to say, I am exhausted and even though I have millions of essays to mark, I'm calling it a night. Does that make me a rebel?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The plot thickens

People write in different ways. I've been to talks and on courses where the advice has been to start with characters, but then again some people start with plots. I suppose different books require different starting points. My current novel One of a Kind which was shortlisted in the Waterstones WOW Factor competition and in Adventures in Fiction Apprenticeships 2006 started with a plot. I thought about a starting point, the conflicts and the one main character in detail, then I added to this: brainstorming other characters and researching historical background. That's just how I did it. That's not to say, this is the only way.

Fran, you asked about the types of plots people can use, so I'm posting a list of plots that every story apparently falls into. I got this from someone at Wordpool some time ago. I forget who it was who posted it originally, but it's an interesting set of topics.

1. Quest
2. Adventure
3. Pursuit
4. Rescue
5. Escape
6. Revenge
7. The Riddle
8. Rivalry
9. Underdog
10. Temptation
11. Metamorphosis
12. Transformation
13. Maturation
14. Love
15. Forbidden Love
16. Sacrifice
17. Discovery
18. Wretched Excess
19. Ascent
20. Descent

While we're discussing writing, let me suggest that you read a very informative blog belonging to Candy Gourlay, all about writing. It's called Notes from the Slushpile and at present she has some really good stuff on the Bologna Festival posted. I've not figured out how to add her to my links but when I do I will!

In the meantime, I'm on to my last two chapters so it's back to the drawing board.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Original ideas?!

I posted a query on a message board of a group I belong to called Wordpool regarding ideas and patenting them and I thought I'd continue the discussion here. Incidentally Wordpool is a useful place to visit if you're interested in children's writing. That and The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators are useful associations. So too is the Society of Authors, while we're on the subject. They're particularly good,especially if you want your contract vetted. Some very helpful people there.

Getting back to my thoughts on ideas and patenting them. I'm raising the issue because of the Dan Brown case which happened recently, and also, because of a case I heard about linked to Blockbusters (the video store). They were being sued by another DVD internet company that claimed Blockbusters had stolen/ copied their business model for internet rentals with no late fees.

So, now I pose the question whether original ideas are worth patenting. Apparently businesses are now doing this in order to insure against their ideas being stolen, and I wondered whether given the Da Vinci Code case, writers would or should follow suit. Is there such a thing as an original idea?

Some may think not. I'm not sure.

McDonalds food chain would certainly disagree, not that I'm comparing writing to fast food- far from it, but how would any of us feel if our plots were used in another book? I just pose the question.

I know lots of people get inspiration from others and lots believe that there are a limited number of plots for books, but I'd be interested to know what you think.... especially given that, I believe, a third of the UK's trade to overseas is now in ideas services i.e: the ideas are created here and companies overseas manufacture the goods. Is this the way things are going? We provide the ideas and someone else writes the book? or is this already happening?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What a journey!

Today I was stuck on a train coming back from London and, would you believe,it took me three hours to get home, when normally it'd take an hour? When I got in, I had some new sketches for the York Notes which are great, and yesterday, I got the last set of proofs. I also noticed that the remainder of my advance has been paid to me- yay! All in all this means the notes should be published soon, so that's very good news and certainly made up for the nightmare train journey.

Now, I'm going to be working on some resources which I'm jointly authoring with other writers. They're for Philip Allan Updates, now part of Hodder Education. Their site is:
and Hodder's is:
The commisisioning editor is Steve Eddy who is a really top bloke and he just so happens to run Q+A Resources, for whom I produced three sets of resources late last year. You can have a look at them and at the site at:
York Notes, for those of you interested in educational writing, are published by a subsidiary of Longman/ Pearson Education
Well, that's a lot of information to digest so I'll leave you with that for now.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Agents and publishers

Agents are an interesting topic. Every book I've read related to writing says get an agent and I can see why. You don't really want to have to negotiate deals or contracts do you, especially if you don't know what you're doing.
My first novel, unpublished, was written and rewritten, sent and re-sent to agents with no joy. My current novel was started and sent to a few agents and joy of joys one responded with a voice of optimism and a positive and personal comment advising me to make some changes and telling me that if I did so, they'd look at the finished product, so... several months on I'm finishing the book ready to re-send to them. It's been a long process and I'm still not sure they'll take it on but it's been a labour of love.
I'd have a look through the Writer's and Artist's Yearbook or the Writer's Handbook for a list of agents and be clear about what they want, if you want to get started.
I got published in the educational market without an agent. I'm excited to have been commissioned to write York Notes as they're the leading study guide and with the publisher being a trade publisher- Macmillan- the book will be in Waterstones. I'm at the proofing stage and have been really impressed and heartened with the level of input I've been given, regarding images and other aspects, aside from the writing which was clearly my own. My teaching and examining background probably helped with my getting published in the educational market. When I get organised I'll post up some links to my resources and the publishers' sites. For now, happy writing all. It's time to rest. I've still got this awful cold!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The writing process

Well, I thought it was about time I put up another post. I've been a bit ill with a cold and busily writing, so I've not had a chance to do anything. That and my xxx internet connection has been playing up!
I'm very excited - my editor for the York Notes that I've written, Marian, just sent me sketches by the artist for the book. It made it all more real. I'm due to get the second set of proofs any day now and then it'll be a pretty fast turn around, so forgive me if I don't post for a few days.
I've got to 27000 words in my novel and I'm getting pretty close to the end now. I'll read that through and then pop it in the post to a prospective agent, fingers and toes crossed. I'm not posting any questions today but feel free to drop me a line, if you get the urge.