In My Wildest Dreams: Adventures in Children's Fiction






Back to the future; no time like the present in the post-Trump world!

It's over a year since I last posted to this blog, so long ago that I have been fishing around on the screen looking for the 'New Post' button. The format of Blogger has changed during this period of absence. The world has changed - Brexit, Trump, I am older. Less optimistic? Never!

But I haven't written a word of a book in twelve months. I left my current project for 10+ two thirds of the way through, not because I don't know what is going to happen - well, I do so far as I can foretell the future - but because life just got in the way: things as exciting as family visits from abroad, visits to France & Canada, and other events as mundane as decorating, a new roof, a new garage... Christmas to Christmas in a flash. Writing was squeezed out.

Or was I just exhausted after five and a half years, four books and countless rejections from agents and my old publisher? Time for a rethink.

What have I decided to do with the life I have left? It does come down to that. I am a finisher and a starter. I shall complete the book for 10+, because I have to. I shall trawl back through my list of agents to see whether I have missed any from my submissions list and see if any new faces have appeared on the scene. Concurrently, I shall begin a novel for adults.

I haven't written an adult novel since I completed one when I was 23 years old. It was rejected once and I put it in a drawer. I have learned a lot since I pounded that one out on an Olivetti Lettera 32.
Most of all I have learned not to give up, that writing is a necessary part of me, and  that I probably should have developed a brand in order to be successful commercially, rather than telling the story that discovers me at the time.

Rather than self-publish the books I have written, I shall find someway of conserving them and curating them; i.e putting them up on the web, perhaps with notes, for free.

Time will tell.

So for now, I am winding up this blog. Thanks all of you who have taken time read bits and pieces of it. Rest assured, I #amwriting.




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Diggle's Dilemma (again...)

Diggle’s Dilemma: to write or market? Increasingly, I don’t think I can do both. Find an agent you say? I know that is a good idea… in theory… but let’s not be diverted by that question.

In the past four years I have written four novels for children/young people. I am presently re-writing the second one of these. The other free remain in finished form, but have proved to be unplaceable to date. I think that they are there or thereabouts, certainly interesting, one amusing and another uncomfortable and challenging, verging on the adult.

That is Diggle’s Dilemma. Do I concentrated on finding a home for three or crack on re-writing the second one I started… or start something completely new? Unfortunately, I am a finisher, tenacious by nature and nurture.

Why the dilemma? Time and energy. I’d rather be a writer than a marketing man. Today, you have to be both.

Should I spend time putting my work in order or crack on with the new, even make a change of direction – write for adults – NOW!? I think I may have said before that curation might be the answer. Just put my work up on the web and see how it goes. That seems like a half-way house and doesn’t really resolve anything.


Time will tell, but I can no longer sit here doing nothing. One must dismount with purpose rather than just wait to fall off the horns of a dilemma.
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Back where I belong?

I am happy to have spent the morning deep in the  Ramswold Valley! Good to be back where I belong. A new book to write. Batteries recharged.



Mind, you I nearly started writing another thing entirely. Time will tell whether I chose wisely! No more elation until I finish.
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Good intentions and inventions.

I haven't quite started back to writing this morning, but I have made a decision about beginning. I have scribbled a note on my mouse mat note pad (a very useful addition to my desktop).
It is the opening scene of the book. I am returning to the bridge where Steve and Pricey took their annual photograph (or failed to) in Badgerman & Bogwitch. The new novel is not a sequel, but I am returning to my roots and the writing I feel most comfortable with, the 10-12 age group.

I am taking another look at a first draft I completed about three years ago, and set aside until I fancied revisiting it. In truth, the ending hadn't quite worked out as I wanted it. Now I know what sort of book it is and where the story should go. It will all happen back in the Ramswold Valley of Badgerman & Bogwitch. After all that is where I live too.

What I shall do with The Reaping, I am not sure. I think I may change the title to The Reckoning. It is an uncomfortable and controversial book. It may become a full blown adult novel, rather than YA. I am surprised by the silence from some agents regarding its submission. It probably just got lost in the email. At some point I shall put it up online, if not as publication, as curation.

The Tall Story of Tobias Small is out there being read by an agent and a publisher (I hope. It is easier to lose an attachment than a paper MS! I should live in London, dye my hair and blag my way into parties!)

And the Key to Finlac, that book I started twenty years ago, that is 90,000 words in length (far too long), that I began to revise? I think it is my great white whale. I am still chasing it. It will be my life's work. It will be completed. I know what form it will take. I just have to finish writing it.

But there is always something new to do. Writing is the thing...

(A postscript to the above: I had an email from the agent in question this afternoon, whilst I was sitting on Cheltenham Promenade drinking coffee in the shade. 'A' took the time to write to me in detail, which is not the norm. She liked 'Tobias Small', but thought the reading level/tone was a little too sophisticated for 10-12 yrs. I am not so sure. It is an interesting debate, which perhaps I shall blog about in the the not too distant future. Still, 'A' was very nice to me and sincere, so that's all right with me!)

Yes, writing is the thing!
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Four years on: indefatigable and still uncategorizable

It's two months since I've blogged. Meanwhile I have been to Alberta, Canada for a month over Christmas. I have done no writing since finishing The Reaping, but have been collecting my thoughts. On my return from Canada I went down with a debilitating cough - transatlantic air travel - but I am better now. I have shovelled out my my study and reoriented my desk at right angles to the window. New beginnings. Ha!

Agents? I have heard from 11 out of 21. Ten pro-forma negatives and one more personal, but still a negative reply. I am beginning to think I am uncategorizable in that I don't write genre fiction, I flit between age groups, and am not intent on producing a series or recognisable brand. I write about what interests me. No complaints. I write well enough. Some might say unprofessional. Ha!

In the past four years I have written four novels for children & young people, a total of a quarter of a million words, more if you include all the redrafting. Three of these I sent off to agents, unsuccessfully, one I didn't feel was ready.

What's next then? I have choices:

  1. Rework the four novels I have written? The stories are worth telling.
  2. Develop two of the above into a series?
  3. Settle on writing for 9-12's?
  4. Begin a new children's novel? I have two ideas.
  5. Write an adult novel?

I still have some thinking time. I tend to think it will be a year of consolidation, travel in the camper van, and then come October the beginning of a new story. Self-publication is still a maybe.

Ha!
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On time and perspective

55 days to go to my deadline for finishing the first draft of my YA/crossover novel.  11,231 words remaining to complete the 60K. 11 working days. Sounds like plenty of time.

How's it going? I am approaching the final scenes. I have been writing in chronological order, working out the story as I go (my usual working method) and making notes for changes, using Scrivener's Document Notes along the way. I am optimistic, but the book will require extensive rewriting. It has taken this long (I began mid-August 2013) to discover relationships and motivations. I have been sketching. I need to layer some colour & texture, bring light and shade to the piece.

I have stopped fretting about agents and what other writers are doing. I am not sure it ever bothered me that much. When I look at Twitter now, it is mostly to see what visual artists are up to - an ever changing gallery to look at before I begin work each morning. Visual artists know all about perspective. Then there's the bird world and the weather....
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You know what happens to lines drawn in the sand.

Deadlines. Important, particularly when self-imposed. I have 82 days left to finish the first draft of my current project. (YA/cross-over). I am back into it today, back to writing a 1000 words after three+ weeks off over Christmas. I have accumulated 42,084 words to date out of 60,000. I hadn't realised so much time had slipped by while I was enjoying the season of good will and good intentions. Think how much I could have achieved in those few weeks? I could be 5,000 words, 5 days from finishing. Now 82 days doesn't sound very long, especially when you knock out the weekends.

It is 9 January 2014 and this is my first attempt to practise my New Year's resolution to write the blog more often; after all that is why I have bought a wireless keyboard for my iPad. (That is my story and I'm sticking to it). I thought if I wrote the blog downstairs and did some social networking in the evenings at the dining room table (whilst being sociable) I might keep that side of things current. Hmm. I'll make a start on that on Monday night; after all tomorrow is Friday.

Time will tell. Meanwhile I have abandoned all thoughts of agents. Three still haven't replied about The Tall Story of Tiberius Small. Finishing the current book is the priority and to support that, I have even relegated birding to the afternoons...

Mostly.
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A writer is a writer is a writer.


Who am I to make comments about someone else? I don’t know J K Rowling or how she feels about anything, anymore than I know about you who are reading this. So this is not personal. I’m not even going to pass an opinion on her children’s novels. I am not a child so what would I know anyway? I have read the first four Harry Potter books and enjoyed them. As some point I shall read The Cuckoo’s Calling, but probably won’t get round to The Casual Vacancy, because that’s not my cup of tea.

It is not J K Rowling, or her books I am really interested in, it is what her productivity tells us about what it is to be a writer. J K Rowling wrote before she had money (maybe in a dream of making a living). She could have cut and run after the first three Harry Potter books. When the films were done she could have rested on the money & devoted herself to good causes. (She has certainly done her share of that.) But at no stage it appears did J K Rowling stop writing, nor has she shown any desire to churn out more of the same.

Whatever the quality of her work, whether it stands the test of time, or whether she goes out of fashion, she will always be a writer because I imagine she is compelled to do it… and not for the money or fame.

Why do any of us do it? Writing is hard work (though no one makes me do it so I can’t complain) and I doubt that it is any easier if you become wealthy through your writing; you just have more to lose in terms of self-confidence and the self-esteem if your gift deserts you for a while. Best selling novelists are like the rest of us. We all need to have our books recognised for what they are and not because our name is on the cover.

Writing is a compulsion, but not an addiction; a writer always has control. Writing is compelling  - you can take a break from it - but return to it you always will. Being a writer has nothing to do with money or fame. It has everything to do with writing. It is simple.

A writer is a writer is a writer.

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