Tag Archives: plot

How many chapters is enough?

Phil: We’re making excellent progress with Book 2 – but the 80,000 word target is still bugging us as we aren’t there yet.

“If something doesn’t move the story forward, leave it out.” is the traditional advice to writers, but we’re wondering if we have been too efficient. There’s been a lot of planning in the book, lessons learned from last time, and it’s pretty fat-free. I can’t see anyone lopping a thousand words out this time!

So, we are looking hard and thinking about areas that need fleshing out. An obvious problem is that while we know what certain people and places look like, it would be really helpful if we told the reader. Several scenes have now been enlivened by a bit of description, adding many hundred of words in the process.

Last Friday we sat down in an excellent farm shop cafe with the laptops intending to do some writing. And eat some cake, but mostly to do some writing.

What we actually did was to go through the book as it stands and write a timeline. Candice skimmed each chapter and I typed the synopsis into a spreadsheet. We created an overview of the story which included a surprise.

49 chapters.

That’s the not the end though. Some of those included far too many scenes. Later in the day I broke them up and we now have 56.

I don’t think this is a problem. Personally, I like short chapters. When reading I can think I’ll just finish another one before putting the bookmark back in. If it’s half-a-dozen pages then I might be tempted to do just one more. If it’s 30 then forget it. Short chapters add pace to the story.

Anyway, the upshot is that our overview revealed not too many plot holes. The book is nearly ready for its first test readers…

 

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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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January – what is the point?

capture

Candice: I have to say I don’t like January.  In the UK it just seems to be a really long month that is dark ALL THE TIME ! It’s a bit of a bummer as two important people in my household have their Birthday’s in January so I do my best to get as excited as I can about that but when it wake up every day to another pitch black morning, I’m struggling.

Talking about waking up in the dark I am slightly obsessed with looking at what time the sunrise is on bbc website.  Its still only 8am at the end of the month!  What this also means is that I struggle to get motivated to do things at either end of the day. Once its dark I want to curl up in a ball and eat chocolate.

I don’t see the point of the other things people do in January:

  • Dry January – don’t really drink that much, not because of the hangovers but because it really upsets my stomach. I’d rather down the odd margarita and enjoy it than drown myself in booze.
  • Joining a gym – argh, get out of my way.  In the last few weeks going to the gym has been a nightmare.  It’s a sea of people in pristine gym gear trying to work out how to use the equipment. I’m a regular goer so this annoys me as they are all hogging the machines I want to go on.
  • Complaining about over spending – don’t spend thousands on your other half and your children and this won’t happen.  Big presents don’t show love, spending quality time together does.
  • Setting resolutions – anyone who does this only ends up in a bad mood as they fail miserably to achieve them.  Set yourself little targets across the year and then you’ll better when you get there.

Phil and I have started the year well though.  We haven’t set a resolution but we have set a deadline. We love a good deadline.  There is editing and new chapter writing going on in the back ground, and we are both enjoying it a fresh.  Looking out for more new stuff soon.

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And on to 2017

pantocardPhil: Last week I looked back at 2016, now it’s time to anticipate 2017.

Candice’s Christmas card sums it all up really. Not the bit about thigh slapping, that’s a reference to my front of house panto work over the festive period, no, 2017 is all about writing book 2.

We’ve no choice, the last page of Kate vs the Dirtboffins tells the eager reader that Kate vs the Navy will be out this summer. People have actually asked me about it.

Summer seems a long way off, but once you factor in lead times for proof reading, cover design, messing around etc. it’s really not.

Good job someone has been busy with a fresh and fabulous chapter for me to read arriving on 3rd January. Only another 20,000 words to go then.

And hopefully a bit more publicity for the Dirtboffins to. We’re working on it. Busy year ahead!

 

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Bringing Christmas to life

Candice: For my daughter’s first christmas, just before she turned one, Phil bought her a book.  It is a personalised story of the big Christmas rescue where she saves Father Christmas and Rudolph from drowning at sea (not as depressing as it sounds!)

At the time she didn’t really appreciate it, and the same could be said last year.  However, this year while I was sorting out the Christmas stuff I found the book and showed it to her. And suddenly she loves it! We have to read it every night at bedtime and she carries it around the house. 

The story tells of a little girl being woken by a noise on Christmas Eve, and finding Rudolph in her kitchen trying to ring 999 but he can’t dial with his hooves.  She makes the call and he reports that Santa has crashed in the sea.  RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) volunteers jump in to action and rush to save him.

She gets an hug from Santa and an extra treat the next morning from ‘You know who’ to say thank you for her help.

You can personalise the book with your child’s name, sex and skin colour.  She loves to point at the picture and say that’s her and it’s her slippers under the bed, her with Rudolph and so on.

It’s lovely to see her developing so much, understanding what things mean and even being able to read her name – every E we see is E for Erin. But also to finally start to understand what Christmas is about.  We aren’t at the point of waking up in the middle of the night to open presents but I’m planning some fun on Christmas Eve: reindeer food on the patio, mince pies by the back door and a note from Santa at the end of the bed, just like the one in the book.

To buy the book go to the RNLI shop  and help to support an important cause too.

 

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Writers can learn from Star Trek

sptsPhil: Warwick Words literary festival has re-invented itself this year as a literary history festival. I went along to a few sessions and was fascinated by the life of Warwick Castle’s housekeeper and the local hiring fairs. I’m told that many of the other talks were brilliant, but some of us have to work.

One session that didn’t seem to fit the pattern was Marcus Berkman talking about Star Trek. This didn’t matter, I beamed in anyway. Only the day before did I realise that the TV show was 50 years old. That counts as history to me.

Marcus is a lifelong fan of the series, both in original and spin-off forms. The talk was based on his enjoyable book Set Phasers to Stun, both a history of the show and it’s production as well as a critique of many of the episodes.

This is proper nerd stuff. I loved it but then I can just about place most of the original series episodes from the descriptions thanks to repeated showings on TV. In Marcus’s book, there’s interesting trivia from behind the scenes, not a happy place to be it seems a lot of the time. Characters came and went as the series settled down and all the familiar elements.

As the book progresses through the various incarnations, Berkman identifies a huge problem faced by the writers – running out of storylines.

Even within the 79 original Trek episodes, there were plenty of very similar plots. Some blame Gene Rodenbury’s obsession that the cast had to be in terrible jeopardy every week, and he liked them to come up against god-like foes (this is one reason why the first film bears more than passing resemblance to the TV episode The Changeling). Berkman describes it as the “plant of the week” plotting style.

The followup Next Generation enjoys 178 shows which really did give the writers a problem. Basically, even with a team working on the series, you can’t avoid duplication, or at least your obsessive fan base spotting parallels.

It must be really tempting for TV and film executives to stick with succesful series. Witness the current trend for re-boots of both films (how many Spidermen do we need?) and re-hashing TV comedies.

We’ve had to consider this for our novels. There is a story arc, and the original plan involved 7 books. We’ve loped this back to 5 as sketching the basic plots out, we reckoned this was just enough to do the job. Any more and we’d be stretching the plot or repeating ourselves. It’s hard enough to avoid doing this and we’re only working on book 2!

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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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