Tag Archives: ideas

Who looks after the writers?

Phil: I’m starting to worry about our burgeoning careers as humourous novelists. I’m worried that we might be invited to work in television and I’m not sure I like the idea very much any more.

Reading Paul Merton’s autobiography “Only when I laugh”, he describes working on a TV show (and I can’t work out which one despite 20 minutes leafing through the book again) where there was a script. Being a writer himself, he trotted off at one point to thank the scriptwriters for their efforts. He finds them shut away in a little room hidden down a corridor. They are surprised as none of the previous hosts has bothered to pay them a visit.

This compounded the best TV I saw over the festive period.

Eric, Ernie and Me, tells the story of how Eddie Braben essentially created the popular duo Morecambe and Wise.

Lured away from working for Ken Dodd, he saved the pair from being nothing more than a footnote in entertainment history by changing their act dramatically. Basically, what you see on TV is Eddie’s work. And if the drama is to be believed, they didn’t always appreciate his work, at least in the early days.

For his efforts, he got two bouts of “nervous exhaustion” thanks to the stress of single-handily writing the most popular TV shows of the period. The audience demanded Morecambe and Wise and Eddie was the only one who could deliver.

That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me. I know I need a deadline to produce work, but I also know how I fall apart when the deadlines are continuous and never-ending. At least I have a friend to share the burden and commiserate when times are tough. And someone who appreciates the effort.

She still nicks bits of my cake though…

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Piling on the Christmas pressure

Phil: So there we are, sitting in a cafe awaiting the delivery of drinks and cake, and La Nolan passes me a Christmas card. I open it up and along with the exhortation to have a merry festive period, is the message above.

Seriously?

I mean, we’ve only just finished Book 2. Can we really be releasing book 3 in 12 months time?

Worse was to come. We exchanged gifts. Normally this is a low key business but this time she insisted that I open this, “Because I want to see your face.”.

I did as I was told and found a copy of the book Make a Killing on Kindle.

Ahah! I realise that as the techie half of the team, it’s going to be my job to make sure our books are found by as many people as possible.

But there was more to come, I opened the cover and found:

It seems someone has serious ambitions and loves Only Fools and Horses.

Somehow, I suspect I’m the Rodders in this partnership. I’ll be getting a 3-wheel van. Candice will be behind the wheels of the Capri Ghia!

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Time to gather up our ideas

think_aheadPhil: With Kate vs the Navy now out, we are pondering the third in the series.

Much of the humour and many of the important scenes in both books are based on our own experiences. HIA, from Kate vs the Dirtboffins, is influenced by one of my past employers. Recently, I met someone who reckoned he could write a list of real people who match the characters in the book…

Kate vs the Navy has the plot pivoting on an incident that happened to Candice. I’ve wondered for a long while what we would have done if it hadn’t happened to her (no spoilers, but if it helps, she did blog about it at the time). The resulting plotline made a lot of sense both for this book and the story arc covering the whole series.

So, now it’s time to mine our lives for more events to turn in to the plot. We already know that my job history is likely to provide the location for the latest set of adventures. I know it’s Candice’s turn, but I’ve worked in weirder places than she has – which probably tells you something about me.

One little tidbit I’m keen to include is a driving assessment I recently undertook. These are a requirement for anyone driving one of the firm’s cars and so I had to cruise around country lanes for 50 minutes trying not to crash into any tractors while a man decided if I was safe to do so.

Now the idea of people criticising your driving is a real horror for most people and I reckon that all our characters would be hilarious if placed in this position. Kate especially would find it hard – she’s not good at “feedback” at the best of times and she’ll be just the sort of person who thinks they are a great driver simply because they know which foot makes the car go quickly. Tracey, on the other hand, thinks she’s a good driver because her lipstick, applied while looking in the rearview mirror, is perfect.

The poor examiner doesn’t stand a chance.

Anyway, Book 3 starts in the new year. We better hope our festive crackers have thinking caps inside them.

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So THAT’S what the song is all about.

Phil: Last week, Candice was blogging about one of her earliest favourite albums – Phil Collins “No Jacket Required” and by coincidence, I was listing to a show on the radio about one of mine.

1985 saw the release of Suzanne Vega’s eponymous first album and to promote it, the first single “Marlene on the Wall” enjoyed heavy rotation on Radio 1. What I should have done is rushed out and bought the album, but in those days, my local library loaned proper vinyl albums out so I simply borrowed it and made a tape using my sisters record player and the tape recorder I used for my ZX Spectrum. Obviously this is bad so don’t do it kids. As they said at the time, “Home taping is killing music” even if the phrase “It tapes tapes” appeared on every stereo system in my mum’s catalogues at the time.

Anyway, while I liked the songs and the imagery, the inspiration for the lyrics was always a bit of a mystery. Until I heard Johnnie Walker’s Long Players last week. The program covered the album track by track with explanations of each from Vega.

Much of it was slightly disappointing, stuff about songs being something to do with whoever she was dating at the time but for pure weirdness, the track “Small Blue Thing” wins.

Inspiration struck when she saw the blue doorknob in a boyfriends apartment. In the centre of the knob (stop sniggering at the back) was the image of a blue eyeball. All of which inspired the opening lines:

Today I am
A small blue thing
Like a marble
Or an eye

Utter barking mad, but oddly, still sounds good today.

So, songwriter, get down to the ironmonger’s for your next hit. It just shows, ideas can come from anywhere.

Mind you, if you think this is oddball, I’m working out how to shoehorn a Lieutenant Pigeon joke into our latest book just to see if anyone spots it…

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Step away from the hovercraft…

Phil: Our latest luncheon meet-up was notable for a couple of things.

First, the queue for the cake was so long and slow-moving that I had to settle for a baguette that was delicious, but the same colour as my shoe.

Second, we came up with a significant new addition to the text that both fills a hole in the story and provides a chance to add more funny stuff. Because of that, writing the first draft falls to me. I’m researching at the moment.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a book about hovercraft. I’m fascinated by them having managed to take a ride across the channel and back the weekend before they were taken out of service back in 2000.

From this, I discover there was a hovercraft development site not very far from the fictional island we’ve set Kate vs the Navy on.

This sets me thinking, can I include this in the story? There is a definite place for it if I changed a boat into a hovercraft. There would even be some logic to the change.

But then I realised that appealing as the idea was, I’d need to make more and more changes to the existing text and most of these would add nothing other than the chance to satisfy my love of hovercraft. That’s not a good reason to mess around. Worse, as hovercraft are much harder to control than boats, there would be a definite credibility gap at a crucial point. Not perhaps one that many people would spot, but if I were a reader, it would annoy me and you don’t want to annoy your reader.

I guess the lesson to be learned is that you can’t cram all the ideas you have into a book. The secret is to assemble the best ones and learn to put the others back in the box for another day.

Back to the stuff I’m supposed to be reading up on…

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Playing with your imagination

playmobilediverPhil: Imagination. We’ve all got it, but adults have it sucked out of us if we aren’t careful.

I’m reminded of this as I was strolling around the London Toy Fair last week. While I was carefully looking for items for a couple of magazines who had commissioned coverage from me, being a big kid, I couldn’t resist taking a peek at some of the other goodies there.

Both Candice and I were Lego fans as children. We have similar stories of towns built and played with. Both remember the lives that our tiny plastic people lived in our minds.  I know that this is a direction Nolan Junior will be encouraged in.

Looking around the show, there were plenty of toys that did very little. Lots of “collectables” for sticking on a shelf too.

Mostly though, there were toys you could make up stories for. Figures could leap in and out of wooden trains, boats and cars or go for a ride for adventure.

Children don’t worry so much about realism either. Why shouldn’t a wooden train set be set in medieval time? And if it is, why shouldn’t a dragon pop its baby in a goods wagon for a ride?

purpledragon

It all looks like good fun to me. Far better than plonking the youngster in front of a television. That way leads to a world where you think an Excel spreadsheet is entertainment!

Grown-ups are normally deprived of purple dragons but writing is a socially acceptable way to give your imagination muscles a bit of a workout. Daydream for a bit but get yourself a keyboard or a pen and starts jotting things down. Once you get going, it’s addictive.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and add a bit to a story…

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Writing progress – BOOM!

Library CakePhil: There I am, sitting in a deck chair besides Solihull’s latest tourist attraction – a beach – perusing a magazine about fixing rusty cars, when I’m tapped on the shoulder.

“Don’t you want any cake then?”

Shockingly, I’d been so excited about the mock seaside, I’d not spotted that Candice had lined up pots of tea and a choice of cake in the cafe behind me.

Not to worry, once we’d polished off the refreshments (sparkly cake – excellent!) and I’d established that she’d not brough me any souvenirs back from the previous days trip to Cadbury World (Boo), we got on to discussing the book.

Writers – here’s a handy hint. If you’ve lost your mojo, give some copies of your book away. Once people start talking about it, you’ll be back at the keyboard toot sweet.

It’s certainly working for us. My friend is giddy with excitement about the book now she’s passing copies around her friends and we can see loads of people have downloaded copies. OK, we’re not making money but then we never expected to become as rich as Rowling. We just want people to read and enjoy the story.

And the reviews say they are. It’s a wonderful feeling.

All of which got us sat around a library table with laptops out. At first we discussed how the overall story arc should go in the second book. We’ve worked this out already but this time there was detail. There has to be when the words are to hit the page.

Not only this, we filled in some blanks for the books to follow this as well. It was very exciting to be back discussing plots and ideas.

After this, there was writing. Maybe the sugar rush from the cake was powering us, but after an hour or so, we swapped computers and read the 1000 or so words we’d each written. New words but ones that fitted like jigsaw pieces into the story we are telling.

So, giving away a few copies of our book isn’t such a daft idea after all.

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