Tag Archives: ideas

What does a being a writer actually mean?

Phil: A few weekends ago, Candice and I attended the Writing West Midlands  National Writers Conference – get us going big-time!

There’s lots to blog about, but the event started with a keynote speech from Illustrator Shoo Raynor which tied in very nicely to the first session I was booked to take part in – Sustaining a Creative Career.

I kid myself that writing about trains and editing a modelmaking magazine means my “career” (this makes it sound like I planned it and didn’t just luck out) can be described as creative. I guess that is because you can’t really call it “useful” in the same way doctors, policemen, firemen, farmers, workers making Tunnocks teacakes etc. are.

As writers, or at least aspiring writers, the challenge is to earn enough money by your trade to survive. Years ago, you’d do this by sending your latest manuscript to your publisher and they would send back a big pile of cash. Sadly, as Shoo explained in his speech, since the demise of the net book agreement, this doesn’t really work. You might get some money, but by the time everyone else has taken their cut, you’ll be reduced to the own brand beans aisle of Tesco for tea.

No, the modern author, or creative, has to have a number of strings to their bow.

Those taking the session I attended wrote, taught, mentored, ran sessions for other writers and any number of related jobs to make ends meet. This isn’t seen as such a bad thing – it provides a variety of experiences which can build the writers experience, feeding back into the work. If you reside in an ivory tower, can you write anything other than how it feels to be in splendid isolation? Rapunzel has been written and it pretty much covers all the tower-based hero genre.

Shoo is the sort of proper, published writer that we all aspire to be, but his output goes beyond traditionally published books into self-publishing and using YouTube tutorials to provide another income stream. It’s fascinating stuff, and I strongly suggest that you sit back and enjoy his half-hour long speech.  Ignore the slightly odd camera viewpoint, but remember that he recorded and posted this on-line himself. Another of those tasks that writers have to find time to become skilled in.

Turns out, being a writer isn’t just about writing.

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National Writing Day 2018 – What are you writing?

Phil: It’s National Writing Day, which seems as good an opportunity as any to give you all an update on how team NolanParker are getting on.

Progress is being made on Book 3. Not fast, but definite progress. As ever, writing sessions are intermittent but we are getting the words down.

In our early days, I was worried about the balance between main story arc and funny stuff.  The Kate/Dave love story needs to move forward and in this book and it gets a little heavy and dramatic at points. This is lightened by the story around the firm they are closing down (or are they?) where are comic side comes out. At one point, we had loads of ideas for the love story but the funny stuff looked thin.

A few weeks and several discussions later, we have loads of funny stuff. It just came out of nowhere. Some of it absolute filth (in a funny way, at least for me as I can deny all knowledge when my mother reads it) too! The story has really taken off and we are coming up with loads of ideas. There is also the chance for some proper character development too. Tracey gets to shine a bit in this book and show a different side to her character – something my mother will approve of. It’s amazing just how the imaginary people we write about start doing their own thing once we let them.

Anyway, I am determined to write something this evening and not for work. If I don’t, Candice is going to shout at me on Saturday…

 

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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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