Monday, 24 September 2012


Maybe I watched Tangled too many times. This is the idea exactly as I wrote it when it came to me:
Dad refuses to let them go more than a certain distance from the house in case 'it' starts and they are too far to get back. 
There's frustrations of parental overprotectiveness but also parents fears things which children can't understand.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


So I know already that I tend to have an issue with plots. It's dogged everything I've ever written, bar the category romance and the less said about those the better... I've just come up with a story (at about 6am this morning) out of the wreckage of one of these conjoined triplet plot monsters, which is less plot than 'jumble of ideas', and I know it's a story because it feels ridiculously simple, I can explain it to someone else and they look like it's making sense, maybe even interesting. I think I had a bit of this idea yesterday evening.

It must have festered in my brain overnight. Kids' dad is rying to train them for the Apocalypse like it's a dead cert and nothing else matters - which is causing all kinds of mayhem with school. He says he knows because he's from the post-apocalyptic future but unfortunately his time machine broke - and during the entire length of the book, none of them can get it working. Dad is very weird, feeding the kids algae and mungbean sprouts and teaching them to shoot down the last, rabid survivors - which will likely include their classmates.

The boy isn't very good at it, and prefers metalwork, striking up a friendship with his metalwork teacher. Dad says metalwork is pointless as there won't be any electricity or metal after the Apocalypse. The kids don't believe him. But they're having disturbing dreams that may actually be memories. What seemed like a joke starts to feel worryingly real. The kids start to realise, what about the others? Dad permits has struck up a friendship with a fellow eco-warrior, Sally, who's also extremely concerned about the future fate of the planet. The only thing is, the kids come to realise, Sally's the one who causes it.

She's going to save the planet by wiping humans off it. The Apocalypse is real and it is due in a day. Sally's already set it in motion, and they can not get the time machine working...

Propp's Character Types MC/sidekick: Kids Mentor: Dad Villain: Sally Blockers: Toad (school bully); Deputy Head; History Teacher Helpers: Metalwork Teacher; Sally (at times); Prize: don't have one! (Sally? for Dad's romance), maybe the kids' lost mother.

It came to me in a dream. What can I say?

Thursday, 6 September 2012


I've done a monster edit (still in progress). I cut 30-40,000 words out of a novel that was only 50,000 words long in the first place. If I'd realised this was what I was going to end up doing, I probably never would've got started. I'd still be clutching the old, soggy version, pretending it was 'just fine really'.

I slashed and burned the novel in two chunks. First, I stripped 15,000 words of subplot out of the novel. Why? Sub-plots tend to bubble up within my novels that don't belong. I've moved the section I removed from Out of Time exactly as is to another word document, and it works perfectly as the first 15,000 words of a separate novel (The Clockwork Empire).

Actually it didn't take too much discipline to do this as I still get to keep the wordcount. There are strong psychological motivators for keeping word count high, and for a long time, it stopped me from editing with a clear head. It's better to delete the offending thousands of words (even if some of them might be salvageable).

Clean pages burn a lot better and quicker than ones that are muddled up with things you might or might not want to keep. With dirty pages, it's more about decision making (keep/delete), which seems to clog up creative flow. On a clean sheet, I can, sort of, write 6,000 decent words in a day - if I know where I'm going with it. Which by now, I ought to. And I really think it flows better.

This time, I was super-disciplined and didn't go back and endlessly edit. I just kept going till I reached the end of the novel. This took a week of full work (7am to 7 or 8pm, working in two/three hour blocks, with two hour rests), plus three half days. I now have 58,000 words, over half of which is half-sentences, ideas, events, raw dialogue which now needs to be fleshed out into properly nuanced and paced writing. I had a go at this yesterday, but I think I need more distance. Now, I'm working on the second novel (the 15,000 I stripped out), and ideas for the first are still coming to me. Awesome!

Monday, 4 June 2012


It's a long time since I did any proper writing. I've been researching. Properly. Not merely dipping into the odd (odd) book, but devouring books, filling actual blank pages with miles of spider scrawl.

Recent reads include: Understanding Jewellery, A ton of Dickens, Ditto George Eliot, How Mind Works, The Stuff of Thought, The Language Instinct, The Industrial Revolution Explained, Victorian Engineering, Dickens' Victorian London, and some book by Gavin Weightman that I can't remember the name of. Very good though. I've been to the Science Museum and filled my camera's memory with video clips of engines moving, photographs of analytical engines, Bessemer converters, Stephenson's rocket, Newcomen engines and other items I'm embarrassed to know the name of.

And why? For the fifth novel in the series. Lunacy!