Tag Archives: 5-page challenge

Is a giant cabbage funny or wierd ?

Book cover - third go with footy cabbagePhil: I’m puzzling over this whole 5-page challenge thing. With a long training course I’m taking part in turning into a software demo thanks to a lack of Internet, there has been time for my mind to wander…

Initial ideas revolved around the scene involving a giant cabbage. We (well I anyway) even liked it so much that an early version of our book cover featured the vegetable (New readers please note that we originally touted the book with the title “Seeds of Change” and then decided this wasn’t funky enough to leap from the slush pile).

I think cabbages are nearly as funny as sprouts. They certainly taste and smell just as horrible. Thus, when we needed a giant vegetable, a cabbage it was. Not a carrot, that’s just rude (see also marrow, parsnip and anything else slightly willy-shaped) or a banana which is technically a herb apparently.

But, can you just spring a giant brassica on unsuspecting readers ?

I fear not. When you are well embedded in nolanparker world – which is not a new theme park but could be in a few years – then anything can happen and a giant cabbage makes perfect sense. At the start of the novel, perhaps we still need to be a bit gentle with the reader. We are funny not weird, and I’m pretty certain enormous veg aren’t chick-lit, so as far as that plan goes, I’m as stuffed as an artichoke on a middle-class dining table.

But, then I think a bit more. The scene I’m thinking of is described as happening after another event involving in a ladies toilet. We don’t actually say much about the lavatorial incident, but if I flesh it out we end with the cabbage and leave the reader dangling for a while before picking matters up a few chapters later. It’s even possible to drop hints that will make people say “Oh, so THAT’S what they were on about at the start.”

So, that sounds more like a plan. I’m training again tomorrow, time to do some more thinking.


Filed under Phil, Writing

The 5 page challenge

Gingerbread ManPhil: I don’t quite know how it happened, but out of our post-festival discussions, we decided that The Book needed more than just a good “hook” at the start. What it needs is a whole chapter to grab the reader by the (metaphorical) balls. Autumn Barlow suggested many months ago that we ought to try a prologue and that sounds as good a way of doing the job as any.

So, because Nolan is on holiday (Again. Yes, I have been left to look after the writing shop while she swans off to sunny parts. Do I complain, of course not. I mean it’s not like I can’t remember the last time I took a proper break. Well, it is but I don’t worry, hard work brings its own rewards. I will take a bit of pleasure from making sure the country is still running while she tops up the tan and drinks strange, exotic cocktails by the pool. I digress) which leaves me with a week to try to come up with something. It’s not like I have to go to work or anything…

My mission, is to write 5 pages that could be described as “kick-ass”.

They need to throw the reader into the middle of one of our more uproarious passages but in a way that allows us to return to the scene later on without anyone experiencing a great big unpleasent dollop of deja-vu. As well as this, I have to introduce some mystery by dangling snippets of plot that will be resolved toward the end of the book but without giving any important details away. No pressure then.

I can’t even remember how we decided that this ought to be 5 pages long. Perhaps someone mentioned it at the event, but it does seem a reasonable length. If you can get the reader to page 5 with a suitably sore bottom then they will presumably stick with the rest of the book to find our what the hell you were going on about.

All this is like being back as school – teacher will summon me to her desk, and I will be expected to present my homework for approval. After I say “What a lovely tan you are sporting” at least, or no gold star for me.


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Filed under Phil, Writing