Monthly Archives: February 2015

Writing as two

Candice:  Phil wrote in our last blog about not having the speed to write everything that was going round in his head.  Now, I’m a bit of a better typer than two fingers and the thumb but it still doesn’t mean you can get everything down.  But to be honest it’s a nice problem to have.

I probably went into delivery mode when we met the other week.  That comes from how I work, and what I have been hired for over the years, problem solving and getting things done.   Phil had been saying he was going to write that section of the book for awhile but I think he was struggling with where to start, I got the iPad out and an hour later we’d thrashed out the ideas.

It makes me wonder though, what you do you do if you don’t have a Phil and Candice? We are the exception rather than the rule, being two heads writing one book.  In years to come I see that is what the interviews will be about, “So tell us, how do you write a book with two people?”  To be honest, in other writing circles its not that unusual.  TV and Film particularly usually have more than one writer, sitcoms and soaps could have five or six to keep the ideas flowing week on week.

In our case I don’t know exactly how or why it works. I have to say if you put Phil and I together you’d think we were an unusual, non-romantic, couple for many reasons, but some how our brains are on the same wavelength.  And we know our characters.  I can just see where, when writing this now three part chapter, when my bits fit and then where I need Phil’s comedy expertise.  If this was my book on my own, it would be funny but not as funny at it is as a two.  If it were Phil’s it would be much more comedy and less romance.

Going back to the brain storming, I just don’t know how you do it without a sounding board.  I can write happily on my own once I have the structure.  It actually a strange process as I am writing the present but plotting the future in my head.  Sometimes you get a bit confused as you are so far ahead in your head, you forget what you want to say here and now, but it also means you can see where your characters are going which helps shape the present.  But what Phil and I do is work out the big picture, how do we get from A to B.  Often the route doesn’t stay exactly the same as we originally worked out but its gives us a starting point.  Without that you don’t have a cohesive book.

So it was a good job we both got a contract five years ago in an obscure quango, else we’d never been a quarter of the way into Book 2.

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Faster fingers, FASTER!

How to type diagram

Phil: Last week, Candice and I sat down and talked out way through one of the main chapters in Book 2.

When we started, it was nothing more than a single line in the plan. Allocated to me, I’d a fairly simple outline in my head where I set up the story with a quick tour for our heroes.

An hour and some cake later, we both had several pages of notes and the single line expanded to a multi-layered chunk of story with an awful lot happening – a million miles away from the realitcly simple chunk of text I’d expected to churn out.

Buzzing with ideas, Candice has already written a couple of pieces where she abuses our characters a bit. My job is to weave these in to the main set-up text I’m supposed to be working on. The one chapter set-up now looks more like three with many subtle twists and turns along the way. It’s a lot better than the initial idea.

Trouble is, I’m also buzzing with ideas and here’s the frustration – I can’t get the ideas out of my head fast enough. There’s loads going on in my brain and now I need to get them on to the page.

Years ago, I learned to touch type but never progressed to the stage where it was faster than my two fingers and thumb (for the space bar – get me) technique. Even if I did, I still couldn’t keep up and find the letters tripping over each other as I try to put them in some sort of order.

One day there will be a faster way. A Johnny Mnemonic plug in system where ideas can flow straight in to the computer perhaps. Or we’ll get rich enough to employ a bank of assistants who can take dictation.

Can’t happen fast enough.

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Are you being safe today?

Candice: No, this is not a reference to Fifty Shades of Grey (I am not going to see the film even though Phil seems to think I should) but an unashamed plug for a project that I worked on.

Last year I was working for the Farm Safety Foundation (aka Yellow Wellies) encouraging people to be safer when they farm.  Being a highly dangerous profession (just check out the HSE stats) I thought this was a worth while cause.

One of my projects was to find a way to connect with the younger audience – and between us on the team we came up with re-recording a song that struck a chord with the farming community, ‘I’ve got a brand new combine harvester’ by The Wurzels.

Well with some negotiating and an trip to their recording studio, we came up with a new version. In fact I had a lovely day hanging out with the lads making their part of the video (and being invited to get ‘scrumpied up’ with them!) I then left for pastures new and hoped my little project would come to fruition. And this week it did.

So you can see the new version ‘Farm Safety is the Key’ on You Tube. So if you know anyone who works in a dangerous job, farming or otherwise, send them this funny video and let them think a bit more next time they want to cut corners. And if you watch it to the end you might just see my name in the credits.


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Picture this.

DredpicsPhil: If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a graphic novel a better read than a normal book?

While I might be as nerdy as they come, graphic novels always passed me by. I suppose it’s easy to group them in with the comics I used to read as a kid. Fun, but for a fast reader, even as a child, Buster or Whizzer and Chips didn’t hold me for very long.

When we write, both of us picture the scenes in a series of images or as a piece of film. There are segments of our book that are very visual indeed with elements of slapstick or action movie going on. Would these translate to a series of drawings?

Out of curiosity, I spent a whole 99p on the first issue of a new partwork based on the Judge Dredd character from 2000AD. I know a bit about the main character, have seen both films, although the cognoscenti tell me the first one is a million miles from the comics, and am a bit curious.

Book 1 is titled “America” which you might think refers to the country but is in fact the name of a female character, admittedly named after the USA but long after said country had ceased to exist in the way we know it.

America represented a serious turn for Judge Dredd and the first 4 stories are found in this collection. All are complex and not a little disturbing in places. There are twists and turns along the way and you do find real character development.

I was fascinated by the way the artwork moves things along. Many of the panels are narrow to pick up the pace of the story. They only provide glimpses of the action for the same reason. Unlike the sort of comic I was expecting, the size and detail within each picture varies enormously – there are a lot of subliminal messages being given before you study the picture itself.

Stylewise, I was reminded of the sort of smokey, dirty world that Phillip Marloe lived in, even though this is over two centuries after he would have been around. Maybe, like with the detective novels, audiences like a vicarious view into the underbelly of society that they prefer to view from a safe distance.

Reading the book took me longer than I expected. Not as long as pages full of text but a more than a couple of hours for the whole thing (sorry, no page numbers and it’s too late for counting). More to the point, I really enjoyed it. Not enough to buy the full series, which while it looks like an excellent deal would consume too much valuable shelf space, but at least I sort of get why people like this stuff.

So, could Kate vs The Dirtboffins be a graphic novel?

Possibly. We’d need a talented artist and then have to agree how every scene would look. Maybe this spoils the “pictures are best in your head” thing but they that won’t stop us when Hollywood comes a callin’ will it?


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Running on Caffeine and Sugar

Candice: I’ve had a hell of week, starting off with a drive to Hull which I thought would never end and ending up with a trip in an Ambulance to A&E for me and the little one. She’s fine but it was a bit of a shock.

So I come to Friday, before three days off work next week, and am playing catch up. This week, and with the dark days too, I think I’ve been running on adrenaline, caffeine and sugar.

I’ve got a stinking cold to, so there was I supping tea and taking a cold and flu tablet this morning (active ingredient, Caffeine) and I though, need to  be careful here Nolan.

What did we do before stimulants?  A few years ago I worked out that my regular stomach problems are related to too much caffeine, so I cut it out.  The terrible headaches and other effects of going cold turkey made me realise that it is not a good thing to be reliant on.

However, recently I seem to have become more reliant on it again, which I initially put down to new job.  But actually I’ve worked out I probably always do in the darker months, as I get a level of SAD.

So, I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but as long as I don’t end up looking like the side of a house, and getting the jitters, I’ll keep eating the sugar and taking the caffeine until the world gets a bit brighter.

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Don’t wanna go to BAFTA

baftatweetsPhil: On Sunday I returned from a busy weekend, tired but not enough to go straight to bed. I flicked on the TV hoping to find something mildly diverting that would entertain me without engaging my brain.

What I got was the BAFTAs.

I’m not a fan of awards ceremonies. They normally seem to be a large group of people who earn far too much for what they do spending an evening congratulating each other on being marvellous and allowing us serfs to look on in awe and wonder.

Too stunned to operate the remote control, I watched for a few minutes and realised something else. It looks really, really boring.

If you don’t stand a chance of winning anything then you spend the evening watching people who do. Looking at the number crowded in there, I bet the winners were less than 1% of the attendees.

At this point, I decided I didn’t want to go and sent Candice the tweet above.

It seems she does.

This might not be the problem you might expect. For a start, there are 26 awards and it’s reasonable to think that the film of The Book will sweep the lot. If the table is at the back of the room, that’s an awful lot of walking back and forth and my friend is far fitter than I am. She might need to wear trainers under the big frock of course.baftapic

The main issue is that no-one wants me there.

Look at this photo of Eddie Redmayne and his co-star in “The Theory of Everything”, Felicity Jones. As you can see, she is holding the trophy. The only problem is that it’s HIS trophy. She was a runner up and didn’t get one.

The press though, have decided that the person holding the gong should be the pretty one, even if it is rubbing her defeat in her face.

Conclusion: Because all the blokes wear dinner jackets and can’t be poured over by fashionistas who will decide if their outfit is “a disaster” (fashion journalism, your name is hyperbole) they aren’t really important and might as well go down the pub or watch the thing sat on a sofa with a bag of crisps.

Which suits me fine.

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Epic Fail on the Elevator Pitch


Candice:  I’ve recently started a new job and as part of that process I’ve got to tell people all the things that I do/have done.  One of those things is always the Book, how did it come about, who I wrote it with, etc etc.  So then it comes to the important bit, what is it about?

So, I’m sat there last week having this conversation.

“Wow that’s amazing you’ve written a book, what kind of book is it?”

“Chic lit/comedy.”  Some people understand the expression Chic Lit, some don’t.

“Oh ok, what’s it called?”

“Kate vs the Dirtboffins”

“Ah ok, I see, and whats it about?”

“Well its this strong minded woman who runs her own business, has everything she needs, she thinks, until her old flame re-appears.”

“Ok, and…”

“Well she runs a business that goes in and closes down companies, and there are people who investigate vegetables…etc”

That’s when the glazed look appears in their eyes.

Phil and I have had a few discussions about this as we moved our original synopsis from being about the company they are closing down to the love story.  But now we have the love story but it needs more meat about the comedy.  I’m even starting to wonder if the title is right, what is a ‘Dirtboffin’?

So along side writing Book 2 I really want to get this nailed.  By the time we are on Loose Women or chatting about this in the press it’s got to be short, sharp and to the point, but also exciting.  The Book is great, why is it so hard to explain it to people in two sentences?

If we were a big conglomerate we would test this with focus groups and spend lots of money.  But we aren’t, so you dear readers are our focus group.  How would you describe it?

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You only write – Twice

James Bond CakePhil: At the moment, Candice and I are wrestling with at that difficult second novel. There’s new plotting and characters and locations to devise. While great fun, it’s also hard work.

On Sunday afternoon, thanks to ITV, I worked out where we are going wrong. Instead of writing a novel, we should write a James Bond film.

The film that inspired me is “The Spy Who Loved Me”. In this, a supervillan captures submarines and their crews from Russia and America in an oil tanker. His plan is to start a war between the superpowers that will leave him to launch a new world order.

Bond, dressed as Roger Moore, boards the tanker and frees the submarine crews who then attack a heavily fortified control room in their efforts to stop the war.

Sound familiar?

It does if you ever saw the film, “You Only Live Twice”. Here Bond, looking like Sean Connery, comes up against a supervillan who is capturing Russian and American spacecraft in order to start a war between the superpowers. He infiltrates the volcano lair with some Ninjas and they attack a heavily fortified control room in their efforts to stop the war.

OK you’re thinking. Similar plots but then this is a Bond film, not high art.

How about a company of supervillans stealing nuclear bombs and then holding the world to ransom with them?

As they say before the adverts on a daytime ITV show, which Bond film featured this plot?

A) Thunderball

B) Never Say Never Again

The correct answer is both.

In passing we might also mention the similarities between the room where Goldfinger reveals his plans for Fort Knox and Max Zorin’s version in “A View To A Kill” and that both see a meeting where someone who didn’t wish to take part in the plans finds themselves a bit dead a few minutes later.

All this makes me wonder if the Bond writers have plots written on Lego blocks. They simply shake the box, pull out half a dozen, clip them together and viola! A new film.

Pretty galling when you’ve spent hours wrestling with Post-It notes to devise something original for a book though.

(Please note: If you are in the market for writers for the next Bond film, you can contact us via the “About the Authors” tab above. Just saying. We’d take part of the fee in cake.)

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