Tag Archives: writing process

Interview with Maz Evans, author of WHO LET THE GODS OUT

Because I love you all so very much, today’s blog post is epic – in all senses of the word. Yes, dear ones. It’s time for an Author Interview!

applause-1

Photo Credit: Lulu Höller Flickr via Compfight cc

All right, all right, calm down. So, you see, one of the many perks of being a children’s-book-writing type these days is the immense joy of meeting other children’s-book-writing types, even if it’s only online. This is how I met the fascinating and lovely subject of today’s interview, Ms Maz (Mary Alice) Evans, a woman who not only writes books, but teaches others how to do it too in a variety of fun and exciting ways using her wonderful-sounding Story Stew, and is a total hoot to boot. The first book in her new series, entitled WHO LET THE GODS OUT, is forthcoming from Chicken House in February 2017, and so I was honoured that she took the time to talk to me about the book, her writing life, and what powers she would like if she could wake up tomorrow morning as a goddess.

On with the show!

Hi, Maz, and welcome to Clockwatching… Towers! Firstly, let’s hear about your book. What’s the scoop on WHO LET THE GODS OUT?

Well now… Gods is the first a four-part comedy adventure series for middle grade. Our hero is Elliot Hooper, a 12-year-old young carer whose troubled life is thrown into further disarray when he collides with the chaotic modern-day immortal community. Accompanied by the haughty teenage Constellation, Virgo, Elliot accidentally releases Thanatos, Daemon of Death and must enlist the Olympians if he is to avert mankind’s doom…

who-let-the-gods-out-packshot

Cover image for Maz Evans’ WHO LET THE GODS OUT (Chicken House, 2017); image courtesy Maz Evans

That sounds amazing! Where did your interest in gods and mythology come from?

When I was eight, I won an award at school – the prize was a book on Greek Mythology. I was hooked. I’m not a woman of religious faith, but I could buy into polytheism – I love that there’s a go-to God for any situation. That said, eight-year-old Maz was pretty peeved that the runner-up got a massive tube of Smarties. On balance, it probably worked out better this way.

Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an author. Did you always want to write?

For me, writing self-selected because I suck at every other field of human endeavour. I am supremely untalented, but I’ve always written. My career has been rooted in journalism, taking detours through copywriting, scriptwriting and academia, before establishing my own creative writing business, Story Stew. Writing and I are like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton – we’ve always got back together eventually.

WHO LET THE GODS OUT has had a fascinating route to publication. Can you talk a bit about that?

I say in the Gods acknowledgements that it’s had more lives than a recycled cat – it’s a bit of a long story, so settle in…

I wrote the uninspiring prototype, Elliot and The Immortals, back in 2009. I’d just had my second child in 15 months and could feel my brain turning into an Annabel Karmel puree. So in the 3.7 minutes per day when both kids slept, I wrote. I sent it to the literary department of David Higham Associates (I was repped there as a scriptwriter) and waited for my enormous advance. Instead, I got a very encouraging rejection. I responded maturely – with a massive strop and writing very little for five years.

By 2014 life – and publishing – had moved on. Most of my kids were at school, I was running creative writing workshops for schools and festivals and self-publishing was now affordable. So I rewrote Gods and published 500 copies, thinking I had the rest of my life to sell them. After launching it at the Hay Festival in May, all were gone by September. So I printed 2000 more. They went by Easter 2015.

Around then, my scriptwriting agent Nicky Lund enquired if I was still alive. I told her what I’d been up to and she passed Gods to a literary colleague. The gorgeous Veronique Baxter snapped it up, sent it out… and the moment I met Barry Cunningham and Rachel Leyshon from Chicken House, I knew Gods had found its true home.

A funny little twist to the tale that I hope might give heart: Veronique – my brilliant agent… She was the same person who’d turned it down in 2009!

When writing, do you come up with characters, plot or setting first, or do they come as a package?

Who knows! I wish I had a process… For my tuppence, your plot should always evolve from your characters and they pop into my head all the time. Comedy set pieces often spring to mind – I find dialogue and comedy come quite naturally – plot structure, much less so. I find novels infinitely harder than scripts – you have to fill in all the white spaces…

You’re a mum of four (ye gods!) Do you find it tough to manage your career and your family, and do you have any tips for writing while parenting?

Absolutely not. I breeze through as a flawless parent and author – doesn’t everyone…?

HA!!!!!!!!!!

People talk about spinning plates – my life is like a Greek wedding. Every day is a mad, chaotic, shouting scramble of a disaster waiting to happen – and frequently is. I don’t find it tough – I find it nigh on impossible to find a balance. But my family and my writing are my two great loves. I have an incredibly supportive husband, I run my own business and I always have prosecco in the fridge – between those, somehow it happens. [Prosecco in the fridge is a genius move… I’m incorporating that one into my life, stat! SJOH]

What, for you, have been the best and worst parts of the publication journey? How do you stay balanced amid it all?

Firstly, I haven’t stayed balanced at all – and that has been the worst part. I was prepared for the graft – and wow, do you have to be – but the emotions… they have totally caught me out. The crippling self-doubt, the anxiety, the waiting – oh GOD, the waiting! – the uncertainty – none of this plays well with my personality.

But the best part? Everything else. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and now I am. How many people get to say that? I still can’t quite believe it myself.

If you could be a goddess, what powers would you like?

Flushing the toilet from afar. My children leave our bathroom like a Turner Prize entry. [Well, if it works for Tracey Emin… SJOH]

What’s next on your agenda, writing-wise?

I’m just finishing Book 2 – Book 3 is due later this year and Book 4 next, so that should keep me quiet. I have two adult novels I am desperate to write and a series of kids’ picture books, as well as lots of scripts that are waiting for Mummy to come back. And my tax return. Better get onto that.

Ah, yes, taxes – the eternal leveller! Thank you so much, Maz, for these great answers to some intensely nosy questions. I can’t wait to get my hands on WHO LET THE GODS OUT; it publishes on February 2nd, 2017, and it is the first in a series of four novels about Elliot and his godly chums. You can find out more about Maz and her books on her website, or her publisher’s website, and you can (and should) follow her on Twitter, too.

mary-evans-6-of-15

Mary Alice (Maz) Evans, author of WHO LET THE GODS OUT.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading

Life, my friends, is getting in the way again. I’m busy, distracted, not altogether in the peak of health, and struggling with tiredness like nothing I’ve ever struggled with before.

I’m fine, of course. All will be well. But my own work has ground to a crushing halt (which I deeply regret), and I don’t have any pithy advice to dispense, and I am all out of clever ways around writers’ block (unlike these guys), and I certainly don’t feel like much of an authority on anything these days, besides self-pity.

So.

This is a post about some stuff I’ve read lately which I’ve found particularly inspirational, interesting and/or useful. Not all of it is about writing – some of it is just about life. But it’s all good. Put the kettle on, relax, and share a cuppa with me, won’t you? Good-oh.

Aaah. Lip-smacking good! Photo Credit: markhassize11feet via Compfight cc

Aaah. Lip-smacking good!
Photo Credit: markhassize11feet via Compfight cc

On Being a Fat Bride

Some of you who’ve been around these parts for a while may know about my struggles with body image, weight and self-esteem. It’s something I take a huge interest in, this cultural obsession with thinness, and particularly the ‘health trolling’ which can surround commentary about women (in particular) and their bodies in the media. People feel it’s their right to treat those with weight issues like they were less than human, sometimes, and worthy of nothing but disrespect and ridicule. I hate that more than I hate almost anything else in the world. I am a person who struggles. I am a person who has struggled all her life. Most importantly, I am a person, and I deserve to be treated as such – not simply as a person who is fat. Sadly, this is so often not the case.

Several years ago, I got married. I felt great on the day, but I had trouble finding a suitable dress in the weeks and months leading up to the event itself. I had to think about things like covering myself up, pulling myself in, camouflaging things I hated about my appearance, and making sure the gown I chose was ‘flattering’. So, when I read this article by journalist Lindy West, about her own wedding day and how she was a happy, joyous, celebratory – and unapologetically, unashamedly fat – bride, it made me well up. Like Lindy, I loved my wedding day. Unlike her, I didn’t have the same sense of freedom around my appearance. I regret that I didn’t allow myself the space to enjoy my body, and that this is something I generally have trouble with. The article inspired me. I loved it. Have a read. But if you come across any comments, either relating to this version of the article or any of the numerous versions of it which were reprinted in other media outlets, do yourself a favour and skip those. Trust me.

On the label ‘MG’ and what it signifies

I love Philip Reeve. He’s a creative powerhouse and a central figure in the world of children’s books, both as a writer and an illustrator. He wrote a blog post in recent days about the label ‘Middle Grade’, or ‘MG’, and why it gets attached with such alacrity to children’s books outside of the United States, where the term ‘middle grade’ is meaningless. This is something which has bothered me, too, for a long time, but I could never articulate it quite the way Reeve has done. Perhaps his take on the issue is rather contentious, and somewhat divisive, but I largely agree with him. And, for once, the comments are ace and well worth reading (probably because most of them are written by children’s book professionals!)

On Illustrating, Illustrators, and the Hard Work of Being Creative

Sarah McIntyre (who has, incidentally, regularly worked with Philip Reeve) is another children’s book professional whom I admire hugely. She is an illustrator and a creator of picture books, and for a long time now she has been building a campaign online under the tagline #PicturesMeanBusiness, which aims to ensure illustrators start to get the recognition they deserve. I will hold my hands up and say that before I came across this campaign, I was a typical ‘text-fixated’ type; illustrations (whether they were on the cover or dotted inside the book) were, for me, an added bonus, but not something I thought about too deeply. That has all changed now. Before, I used to make sport of finding the illustrator’s name (usually in tiny type somewhere on the back of the book, or in the copyright/publication metadata at the front, and sometimes not included at all); now, I’m not happy unless illustrators get full credit, whether it’s online or in clear font, somewhere visible on the book jacket. I hope more people will get on board with this, and that we’ll see a change beginning in the world of publishing. For more, see Sarah McIntyre’s recent blog post on the process of producing illustrations, and how it’s a lot harder than it looks.

On Being a Weirdo (and Why it Rocks)

I’ve never read Laura Dockrill’s books, despite the fact that she seems like a fascinating person with a unique voice. This article, which she wrote for the Guardian during the week, might make me take the plunge into her wacky imaginary world, for once and for all. In it, she talks about the importance of being yourself, no matter how weird you might be – in fact, the weirder the better, it seems. This is one of the reasons I love books for young readers; they have such power to shape thinking, to alter the course of a life for the better, to influence and affect and make a difference. Not only do children’s books possess some of the most imaginative world-building, language use and characterisation in literature, but they make the children who read them feel part of something bigger, comfort them in times of challenge, make them see they’re not alone, and (hopefully) help them to be happier in their own shoes. And what could be better than that?

Nothing. That’s what.

And finally there’s this great list of reads from some of the contributors to the site (gasp!) Middle Grade Strikes Back, which details what people are bringing off on holiday with them to keep them company by the pool. I’ve read several, but most are new to me. Maybe they’ll inspire you, too.

Au revoir for now, poupettes. Stay well. I hope I’ll be back soon – and that there’ll actually be some writing news to tell you!

From the Top

Yesterday, friends, I wrote just over one thousand words.

Photo Credit: danorbit. via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: danorbit. via Compfight cc

Once upon a time, this wouldn’t have made me happy at all. I’d have considered a day in which I ‘only’ wrote about a thousand words to be a failure. But now I know better. Now I know that one thousand words with which I’m pleased, one thousand words which I don’t immediately want to delete, is A Good Thing. It’s progress. It’s possibility.

Best of all, I wrote these one thousand words on a new story, one I’ve never tried to write before. It’s been in my head for just over a year, but I’ve only started really giving it brain-space over the past few weeks, drip-feeding it by reading and thinking and planning and allowing the characters and setting a little bit of space in my imagination. I’m not sure of every detail, and I only have a vague idea of what I want to happen, but I’m hoping that as I go things will become clearer, and as I get to know my characters their actions will drive the plot (because that makes for a better story, I think). The important thing is: I have the conflict. I have the antagonist, and what he wants, and I have the protagonists, and what they want, and these two sets of ‘wants’ are in opposition. I have bullies and family problems and school issues and illness, and I have friendship and loyalty and love. So, essentially, I have everything I need.

It’s like preparing a giant stew: I have all my ingredients on the workbench, gleaming and shining and full of colour and life, and I just have to put them all into the mix at the right time and in the right proportion and – fingers crossed – the finished product will taste wonderful.

That, as they say, is the plan.

This story is different from ‘Emmeline’ insofar as it’s set in our world – i.e. the children are contemporary, and they’ll have all the trappings of modern twelve-year-olds. This doesn’t mean there won’t be a fantastical element to the story – c’mon. This is me we’re talking about here. Of course there will. But I love stories which show that sometimes the scariest aspect of getting through adolescence isn’t the idea that there’s a scary monster in the shadows, but the fact that your parents aren’t speaking, or there are money problems, or someone is unwell, or all of the above. I love stories (The Skull in the Wood is a really good one) which interweave the real with the fantastical, and show that sometimes there’s no difference when it comes to how scary things can get, and in fact the real problems you’re facing can outweigh the fantastical without any effort.

I have a really clear mental image of the setting for this story, too (not least because it’s based on a real place, not too far from me) and I think that helps to get a handle on the story. There’s a certain freedom in writing a story set in a made-up landscape, or one which exists but which you’ve never been to and must, therefore, imagine, but I’m finding I like the idea of writing a tale based loosely on a place I’ve seen and can visualise clearly. It’s not a fancy setting, either; it’s about as far from exotic as can be imagined. But that, strangely, is why I like it so much.

Anyway. This story is a proto-zygote; it barely exists. Hence, this blog post must be brief and rather uninformative. Also, I really want to get back to the work of writing, and so I’m going to sign out now with a fond adieu, in the hope that today will go as well as yesterday and that I’ll have more good news to share as the week goes on. I’m going to slowly edge my way into this tale, knowing that I have written and completed one book of which I’m proud, and there’s nothing stopping me from doing it again.

(Nothing but myself, that is, and my own fear and flailing, so it’s time to stop all that old nonsense, and just get the words on the page. Right? Right).

Photo Credit: Lua Ahmed via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lua Ahmed via Compfight cc

Off I go, then. See you later!

 

Flash! Friday – ‘Monkey on Your Back’

 

Barbary Macaque, Gibraltar. CC 2.0 photo by David Stanley.

Barbary Macaque, Gibraltar. CC 2.0 photo by David Stanley.

Monkey on Your Back

Tired. So tired.

My last success a distant memory. Scraps, and leftovers, and charity, have been my portion ever since, but the sun is warm, here; the pace slow. It is the perfect place to start looking. The ideal spot in which to begin again.

I swing, lightly, onto a pitted metal balcony. My nose twitches with the scent of effort. Through an open window I hear muttering, the clack-clacking of a typewriter.

Soundlessly, I pad toward the room. A man sits at a desk. Novels, all bearing his likeness, lie scattered around, but he struggles, it seems, with today’s words.

I smile. I can help with that.

He screams as I climb onto his back and sink my claws in, but then his fingers reach for the keys. He begins again. It is good work. His best. With every word, I feel my strength returning.

Soon, and until it is too late, he won’t even notice I am here.

**

Years ago, I’m sure I read a vintage short story about a monkey which acted as a sort of ‘twisted Muse’ to a writer, driving him mad as he strove for greater and greater success. I can’t remember how it ends – and I also can’t remember the name of the story, so if anyone can help, please let me know – but when I saw today’s prompt, I knew this was where I had to take my tale. Flash! Friday‘s nefarious rules for today’s challenge stated that we had to write a story based on the image prompt above, and ‘a famous writer’ – not necessarily a named famous writer, but simply one which features in the story. So, what was a gal to do?

I’m not sure if the monkey in the original story was a soul-vampire (or whatever the monkey in my tale is; I’m afraid to really look) – I just know that it was about an unhealthy relationship between hard work, inspiration and mental and physical health, which is why the phrase ‘monkey on your back’ has come into use now as a shorthand way of describing a drug addiction, or something which is a burden but which the sufferer cannot, or will not, part with. Writers and their muses have long had a tortured relationship in fiction, but usually it’s the writer who torments the Muse – just check out the way Calliope is treated in Dream Country if you don’t believe me – and so I like the idea of it being the Muse tormenting (and quite possibly destroying) the writer, this time around.

Anyway. Whatever your feelings on monkeys, Muses, or drama-queen writers, I hope you enjoy my tiny tale this Friday. Tune in tomorrow for a book review (it’s fun, I promise), and I’ll see y’all next week for more travels through the labyrinthine torture chamber that is my mind. Adios!

The Blog Tour Q&A

A hundred thousand welcomes!

This morning, I have the inestimable pleasure of taking part in a blog tour; the ever-wonderful and marvellously talented Susan Lanigan (whose novel, ‘White Feathers’, will be published later this year, book fans), has nominated me to carry on the Q&A torch. So, here I go.

Image: researchvoodoo.com

Image: researchvoodoo.com

Since I have nothing like as cool as an upcoming book to talk about, I’ll have to answer the questions based on my two most active WiPs; technically, I’m working on both of them at the moment. So, it’s not really breaking the rules. Right?

What am I working on?

The first of my current Works-in-Progress, ‘Eldritch’, is a book which I had thought was finished and done with several months ago. However, it would appear not. A very kind and generous agent-person, who shall remain nameless, gave me some wonderfully useful and constructive feedback on the book a while back which – unfortunately, in a way – necessitated the total deconstruction of the story and the story world, and its rebuilding almost from scratch. The characters stayed the same, and the basic plot, but everything else – narrative voice, motivation, stakes (i.e. what’s at risk if the heroes don’t succeed), structure and scope had to be reimagined.

Invigorating work.

Image: superstock.com

Image: superstock.com

‘Eldritch’ is about a boy named Jeff who, on the day he turns thirteen, receives a strange gift from an uncle he’s never heard of before. But the gift is no ordinary one: it is a deeply powerful object, designed (or so Jeff is told) to test whether or not he has inherited the magic that runs in his family – but does his uncle have a larger and more sinister motive? (Spoiler alert: yes.)

My other Work-in-Progress is one that should be familiar to anyone who’s been hanging around here for any length of time. It’s going under the name ‘Emmeline and the Ice-God’, but that’s only a holding title, so so speak. It grew out of my NaNoWriMo project in November 2013 and was completed in January 2014. I have edited, polished and buffed this one several times, and it’s lurking at the corners of my mind, giving me no peace whatsoever. It’s my intention to start submitting it in earnest in (probably) March, if my nerve holds until then.

‘Emmeline’ is the story of an odd little girl who, when her parents are kidnapped, is sent immediately to live with strangers. On the way to her new life she meets an odd little boy with no name, calling himself ‘Thing’, who doesn’t know his own age or anything about his past. They become sort-of friends, despite Emmeline’s misgivings, and he helps her to escape from a dangerous situation. Before they’ve even caught their breaths after this scary encounter, however, Emmeline is abducted by a gang of strange and frightening men. Thing, with the help of a group of people calling themselves ‘The White Flower’, who seem to know a lot about Emmeline and her family, sets off after her… But who has taken her, and why?

And what is the secret of Thing’s past?

*cue dramatic music*

So, yeah. That’s where I’m at. Besides trying to prepare stuff for competitions and magazine submissions, and stuff. Never a dull moment.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well – it’s mine. Isn’t that enough? I write children’s books (or, at least, it’s my ambition to write children’s books, ones which are publishable and enjoyable and which will be read and loved), and they all have elements in common – a child protagonist in a world (usually) devoid of parental-figures, for whatever reason; an unsettling challenge or a frightening adventure; things are learned about oneself and the world along the way; friendship is put to the test; monsters are encountered and dealt with – and my books are no different from this tried-and-tested model.

I’d like to think my characters make my work different from other books in their genre, perhaps. I like to write dialogue, and I like to write with humour, and I hope that makes my work memorable. I’m interested in writing about children who are a bit strange, even eccentric, because those are the sort of books I loved to read as a kid.

In fact, I might as well come clean. Those are the sort of books I love to read now, too.

How does my writing process work?

Through panic, mainly. Panic, and my all-consuming fear of failure.

Things that work in my favour: I am good at imposing deadlines on myself, and meeting them, and I am a goal-oriented type. What that means in practice is I can’t let myself shut off of an evening unless I’ve made a particular word-count or hit a particular point in the text, or whatever. Not always a good thing, from a peace of mind point of view, but it’s good for the old self-motivation.

Usually, I plot things out to the nth degree – I didn’t with ‘Emmeline’, and it worked wonderfully, so I will try that again for my next project – and I like to have a sense of the characters before I begin, so I sometimes jot down biographies and motivations and the places in the plot where a certain character’s actions will intersect with another’s, and what effects that’s likely to have, and so on. I like to have an idea of how the book will end before I begin, but I don’t always manage that.

I tend to write careful, self-edited first drafts which are massively overlong. I then make at least two on-screen edits, looking for inconsistencies and errors and repetition (the ‘Find’ function in Word is my best friend), and when I’ve done this I let the work sit for a while. Then, it’s time to print and take the whole book apart with scribbled corrections, which I really enjoy. Then, after another period of percolation, I go over the book on the computer screen again, looking to cut words wherever possible; anything which isn’t utterly necessary is junked. Then it gets left to sit, again, and checked over once more (possibly in print) before the submission process begins.

So, that’s me.

I figure passing on the baton is part of this whole process, so – if she’s willing – I’d like to tag the fabulous E. R. Murray to answer these questions, too.

And finally – thank you, Susan, for considering me worthy of the Blog Tour Torch!

Image: friday-ad.co.uk

Image: friday-ad.co.uk

 

 

 

Friday Befrazzlement

This morning’s missive comes to you from a person who has been trying to put together a flash fiction piece for the past three hours, and who is starting to foam a little at the mouth.

So, here’s the deal. I have to create a story between 140 and 160 words, based around a picture prompt and a word prompt, and I feel like the proverbial camel going through the eye of the needle. My brain has a story in it, but it would take an entire novel to tell it properly, so getting it down to a teeny-tiny tale is proving (almost) too much for me. I am definitely feeling the Friday frazzle, and I have an idea that today is going to be a challenge.

My head is tired. My shoulder aches. My eyes are blurred. Writing is a hazardous endeavour, don’t you know?

Image: skybackpacking.com

Almost *exactly* like this… Image: skybackpacking.com

So, it’s been a busy few days for me. This past week, I edited ‘Emmeline’ on-screen. I thought things had gone pretty well; I’d managed to take a huge chunk out of my wordcount, bringing it down to a far more reasonable level. The book had seemed reasonably strong, and I felt I had a good, stable base to build draft 2 upon.

However, then I also started the process wherein I print out my work, in order to take a pen to it and slash it into ribbons. As before, I have been amazed by the difference between looking at a text on a computer screen and seeing it, in the flesh, in front of you; errors that I just didn’t see when I was writing the book, and even during the first editing go-round, leapt out from the printed page. I found myself drawing lines through whole paragraphs of carefully-worded text, excising them without a twinge of conscience – but it’s so much easier to do that than hit the ‘Delete’ button. Watching your hard work disappear into oblivion before your very eyes is a lot more difficult than just scribbling over your printed text. At least your words still exist, after a fashion, beneath the scribble, but when you hit ‘delete’, well. They’re gone forever.

The short of it is this. Draft 1 was all right, but not as strong as I’d thought. Draft 2 has, hopefully, started to spot all the stupid mistakes and the mindless repetition and the poor word choices and the clunky dialogue and the idiotic descriptions, and here’s hoping Draft 3 doesn’t see me putting them all back in again.

The process has been excruciatingly, painfully slow, though – I’ve only got as far as page 53 – and I hope this means that I’m doing a good job. I just want this book (complete with a shiny new name, which I’m keeping under wraps for now) ready for querying as soon as humanly possible, so that I can move on to my next project, which is already butting at the back of my brain. Such is the never-ending conveyor belt of life, isn’t it – just as you’re trying to finish one job to the best of your ability, along comes something else which needs your urgent attention. Oy vey.

Anyway.

Today, I need to take care of some writerly stuff, but also lots of non-writerly stuff, such as taking myself off for a long draught of fresh air, and doing some stretches, and remembering what life is like outside of my office. I may even bake some cookies, like the crazy renegade I am.

In the meantime, here is that piece of flash fiction, written in tandem with this blog post (finally):

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s) Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s)
Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

The image (above) had to be combined with the idea of ‘Destiny’. Tough, isn’t it?

So, of course, I decided I’d write about something really complicated.

The Stonecarver’s Boy

At his birth, his mother wept.

‘A daughter would have been wiser,’ frowned the doula, taking him away.

His training began immediately. He grew within the workshop, chisel in hand, prodigious and alone. From a distance, his mother watched.

In time, the Emperor took a wife.

‘Let it be his masterpiece,’ came the order.

His mother tried to warn him; once, she even passed beside his workbench, so close she could feel his warmth, but her dropped note was swept away.

The finished statue was fit for a goddess. On its raising day, The Imperial Guard came for its maker, and – willingly, unknowingly – he went.

‘You will never better this,’ decreed the Emperor. The blade fell quickly – there was no time for anguish. He never knew his fate was sealed from the day he was born, like all stonecarvers’ boys.

The Empress’ statue was anchored with its maker’s blood; a fitting memorial stone.

 **

Happy Friday, and happy weekend.

I am a warrior! Image: cutestpaw.com

I am a warrior!
Image: cutestpaw.com

 

 

The Little Story that Could

So, turns out I’m writing the Never-Ending Story.

No – not this one (unfortunately):

Image: ncwardwebb.blogspot.com

Image: ncwardwebb.blogspot.com

What I mean is, I’m finding myself wondering who’s in control of my brain lately – me, or a certain Miss Emmeline Widget, aged nine-and-three-quarters. At the moment, it’s Emmeline 1, me 0.

For some reason, I have been writing lots of words over the past week or so. Every day I sit down to work a little more on ‘Emmeline’, telling myself ‘Yup. This is definitely going to be the day. This day will be the day you’ll finish this darn book.’ But it just doesn’t happen. Words keep coming, squeezing out of my mind like toothpaste out of a near-empty tube.

Just when I think I have a handle on what’s going on, I find the plot deciding to take another jaunt down Unexpected Avenue, ending up at a place I didn’t know I was going until I got there. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; it’s actually a whole lot of fun. However, it does make it hard to know how I’m going to trim enough out of the book – once that mystical place known as ‘Done’ has been reached – to make it sit neatly inside an acceptable word count. At the rate I’m going, I’ll need to shed something like 10,000 words, and that will hurt. A lot.

I’ve been trying to just forget about all of this and go with the flow, putting the words down as they come to me and not caring about anything else. This, however, is not something that comes easily to me. I have always wanted to be a tie-dye, flower-haired, ‘all-is-one-here-have-a-crystal’ type, but really I have the soul of a person who wears all their pens in their top pocket and who likes to know What Is Going On at every given moment. So, the fact that I am dealing with a recalcitrant book which is, apparently, telling me who’s boss, is a bit uncomfortable.

Image: jamesclear.com

Yes, yes. But which one is the writer, and which one the book? *That* is the question. Image: jamesclear.com

It’s all part and parcel of being a pantser, I suppose. I certainly feels a lot freer than trying to write within a rigid plot, but with great freedom comes great terror, sometimes.

But perhaps it’s not all my fault. I reckon a portion of the blame has to lie with my fictional folk, too. Call me crazy, but I’ve often felt that characters in books have more of a life than anyone suspects. It really does feel, to me, that Emmeline and her friends just aren’t finished playing yet, and they won’t allow their story to come to an end – not until they’re good and ready, at least. If that’s the case, then what’s a writer to do but hang on and hope for the best? I hope that this is a good thing – as in, when I read my work over in the weeks to come, that it won’t seem drawn out, or extraneous, or ‘puffed up’ for effect; I hope that the story I’m telling will be fast-moving, exciting, interesting, fun (except for the scary bits), and as good to read as it was to write. If the writing process feels a bit out of control, the worry is – of course – that the reading experience will feel much the same.

But I won’t know that for a few weeks yet, of course. Perhaps, if things carry on the way they’ve been for the past while, I may never know.*

I’m sure there are people who think that sitting down to write every day must be the most boring thing imaginable. ‘What – you spend hours staring at a computer screen, by yourself, listening to the voices in your head, and staring at the wall when you need a rest from the sheer overwhelming excitement? Wow.’ To those people, I say: ‘Actually, it’s rather like being at the helm of a ship in a storm-tossed sea, with no land in sight. You’re the captain, and you think you know what you’re doing, but the waves have other ideas – and, no two are the same.’

Land’s not in sight yet, not for me at least. But – so far – the voyage has been worth it.

Image: devwebpro.com

Image: devwebpro.com

I’m off to do battle with my book once more; wish me luck, do. Perhaps today will be the day I bring her into harbour.

(All right – enough with the nautical metaphors. Tally-ho!)

 

*Of course, I don’t mean this. The first rule of writing, as everyone knows, is ‘Finish Your Work.’ This is truth. I will finish ‘Emmeline’, and the work will be done, and it shall not defeat me. But sometimes it’s hard to remember that when the book has you in a choke-hold. Anyway.