Tag Archives: writing

Blue Monday?

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Candice: When I hear that expression I have to say I think more of the New Order song (which I hate) than the term that is banded around for the third Monday in January.

Monday, and this week, is supposed to be the most depressing point of the year.  Christmas is over, the days are still short and dark, and we don’t have anything to look forward to until the next big holiday which could be months away.

This Monday has turned into even more of a confusing one for me, my daughter seems to have decided it’s her blue Monday as she doesn’t want to go to school. At the age of six, they are already testing children at school, and she is in the middle of her first round of maths and reading checks.  I think it’s far too early, but that’s the way the world works.

What I don’t want this to do it take away from her enjoyment of school and learning, including reading.  One of the things that lifts me in the world of short, dark days is a good book or film, something to drift off in to so I don’t have the think about all the rubbish going on around me.

To me, you have to spin the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ on its head and find positive things to do to make this time of year better.  As much as I am sure my other half would prefer not to have a birthday at the end of Jan, its something I use to keep us going as I like to plan a day out activity so we all have something look forward to.   Birthday or not it’s good to have things in the diary so that you can go – ‘today was rubbish but I’ve got that trip to the theatre, cinema, day out in London’ – whatever it is that floats your boat, in the calendar.

Having a small person does help too as she always wants to find out new stuff, and I like taking her to new things too.  We were watching the ice dancing show last night and she said she’d like to have a go so we are going to plan a trip to the ice rink in a few weeks.  She’s never been so it will be an experience and there will definitely be falls, but it’s all new and exciting in her eyes.

My other ‘Blue Monday’ is the eternal battle with writing and time to do it.  Phil and I had a chat in a very busy Costa last week about plot lines, and then I didn’t manage to get to the edits off the back of that.  However, after beating myself up for most of the weekend about it, I’ve got my planning diary out and worked out when I might be able to look at it.  That makes me feel better.  It might not be until next weekend but now I feel more comfortable because at least I know when I will do, rather than constantly going when can I write.

If you are feeling blue, go and book in something that you will enjoy – a massage, drink with friends.  You might not be feeling motivated but once you do something you’ll find that the need to hibernate lessens and you’ll want to do more.  Now to sort out the six-year-old’s logic about school…..

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The worst Deus ex machina ever?

Deus ex machina: A plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and seemingly unlikely occurrence, typically so much as to seem contrived.

Phil: I like nerdy reading. I like sci-fi. I like space ships and I love the TV show Thunderbirds. Not for the plots, which are mostly rubbish, but for the models and whizz-bang stuff. The twenty-first century doesn’t look as good as it did when Gerry Anderson designed it!

Anyway, I was browsing in an especially nerdy (even for me) shop and spotted book for a couple of quid.

Thunderbirds Lost World isn’t a novelisation of one of the TV shows. No, it’s a brand new (for 1966 when it was published) novel offering a thrilling tale.

Investing the disappearance of two airliners over New Guinea, Thunderbird One and pilot Scott Tracey find themselves crash landing after his craft is hit by a mysterious invisible force. After some escapades that would be impossible to film with puppets, he is rescued by Thunderbird Two.

Separately, a boffin is planning an expedition to the island. He disappears and Scott heads off to find him. They suspect International Rescue’s arch-enemy, The Hood, might have something to do with it all.

Spoiler Alert.

Anyway, it turns out there is a race of being hidden on the island who are using alien technology to do bad things and are planning to take over the world.

Things look sticky for our heroes – they are trapped in jail with no hope of escape or rescue.

Then there is an earthquake, the jail doors fly open, the baddies disappear and everyone gets away to live happily ever after.

Seriously?

Pretty much an entire novel-worth of buildup, the ground shakes and everything is OK?

How on earth did author John W Jennison get away with this?

I had wondered as the bookmark was nearly at the back and we seemed a long way off a plot resolution, but I didn’t see this coming. Can anyone name a more blatant ending thrown in because the author wanted to go down the pub or was just close to their deadline?

(Nerd note: If you have a copy with a dust jacket, it shows Thunderbird One flying over a dinosaur. There are no dinosaurs in the story.)

 

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Clever Marketing

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This Christmas has been a whirlwind of new sparkly, pink things. Not for me, but for the little girl in the household, who actually isn’t that little any more.

She is one of those people with a birthday very close to Christmas so we go through a very fast run of present buying from one event to another. She loves the excitement of having so many things together, but I find it hard 1) to be inspired so close together, 2) wondering how she will feel when she is older when she’ll want the two things further apart, as I have to say to her you can’t have anything else you’ve had your quota for the year.

This is partly driven by me being a June person. I’m used to having a good gap between the two so I have to keep reminding myself she doesn’t know any different. And also it’s not totally my fault as she was early!

Anyway, this year has been all about LOL Surprise dolls. For those of you have not experienced them, they are the “Cabbage patch doll” of this year, but without the fighting at the till. Why no fighting? Because you can get everything with a LOL on! Clothes, pants, drawing kits, hair bands, pens, games alongside the dolls themselves.

What is a LOL?

They stand about 6cms high and look like a combination of Betty Boop and a Manga comic. All big eyes and oversized head. They don’t do a lot but the fun comes from the opening. The creators have come up with a clever way to make you a) buy lots of them and b) keep you interested. They come wrapped up in a ball or other plastic container and you have to unwrap the layers, like pass the parcel. You don’t know what doll you are going to get inside and everything that comes with her is wrapped up in little packages. Each item, shoes, clothes, bag, is separately wrapped. It’s very clever as it builds the excitement not knowing what is in there and then constructing the little doll.

I have to say I get just as excited as her in the process, wondering what we are going to get, and I don’t even know what most of them are called though she seems to.

There are 100’s of dolls to collect, they keep bringing out new versions and types – glitter series, winter disco, OMG. So you want to keep adding to your collection. My daughter has about 12 of them, this is a small number compared to some of the children you see and hear, and at £10 plus a go that’s a lot of money.

As my sister in law said the other day, “I wish I’d come up with the idea”. They have taken the world by storm, seemingly by using YouTube as their platform for delivery. I’ve never seen an advert anywhere for them but my daughter found them on YouTube by watching the ‘unboxing’ videos. This has become a big thing, vloggers opening things they are sent to promote. Because of the format of the LOL they are perfect for this, and they have kids and adults drowning in excitement ready to open their next surprise. I know some kids have become rich with ‘unboxing’ and their parents posting the videos.

I have to say I think the dolls are harmless fun, as long as you don’t get pulled into buying them all. It’s not like sticker books where you bought a pack of stickers for a few pence and then swapped duplicates with your friends, you could spend thousands to get a full set with these. In that case, it’s all about control from the parents. But I do think that the world of marketing has changed so dramatically and this is a very clever use of the new media out there. I’d just like to know how to transfer that into bookselling.

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Welcome to 2020

Phil: Wow, we are into the second decade of the 21st Century. Where’s my flying car?

Jan 1st sees the 9th year of NolanParker blogging and I suppose we ought to look back a bit at what we’ve been up to. It’s what the telly people do as it’s easier than making new stuff, so if it works for them…

Well, we’ve written two and a half books. People have read them. Not as many people as we’d like to have read them, but that’s the fate of many authors. I bet even JK Rowling doesn’t think, “I wish I had fewer readers” at any point.

No feature films have been made and the BBC hasn’t banged on our door offering to turn them into TV shows. Mind you, after their attempts with War of the Worlds and A Christmas Carol recently, my enthusiasm for this has cooled somewhat. You do not mess with our story…

I suppose this all sounds a bit rubbish, and as a determined glass half empty sort of person, I do feel it at times. However, I keep reading “inspirational” messages on the web which tell me I must always look on the bright side and everything will be rosy. Let’s give that a go:

  • We wrote two books and when we tell people they are impressed.
  • We’ve chatted and eaten cake.
  • We’re still mates. I’m still not quite sure how, but we are and that is A Good Thing.
  • We’ve been to some interesting places and chatted to interesting people, none of which would have happened without our literary ambitions.
  • I’m re-reading Book 1 as part of the proofreading process, something I’ve not done for a while and you know what? It’s still a very good read and I’m really proud of it. Even if no-one else ever reads the thing, I’m really chuffed with what we’ve done.

So, it’s not all been a waste of time. I just need to get over the lack of massive sales bit and writing has been good to us.

Too many people assume that success is only measured in units shipped. I’m not going to say that we wouldn’t be happy to top the bestseller lists, but what we’ve done so far, especially considering our busy lives, is pretty good. Let’s face it, we’re well ahead of those who just dream of writing and no worse off than most of those who have completed a book.

So, on to 2020. Let’s see what that brings…

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Why I’m not getting anything done.

Phil: I’m busy. Very busy. But still, I don’t seem to get as much done as I think I should.

Fortunately, there is a word for that.

Ploiter – To work in an entirely ineffectual way, because your mind is simply not on the job.

That’s me. Too tired after a busy weekend. Brain fugg because there are so many things to do and I keep jumping from one to another.

All of which leads to,

Quiddling – Busying oneself with trivial tasks in order to avoid the important ones.

I blame the dopamine. That little hit you get when finding out something new, or achieving something really trivial. Yes, I know I’ll feel much better if I do something big, but my stupid brain doesn’t get it.

Still, back to work…

(Words from Susie Dent’s entertaining Twitter feed)

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The value of an editor

Phil: I’m still working on the edits I mentioned last week.

Most evenings, after watching Space 1999, I settle down for an hour of approving, or not, corrections to our text.

The vast majority are punctuation. Spotting the red edit text and then zapping it with a right click of my mouse is an interesting game which demands pinpoint accuracy. Watching the little bars on the right-hand side getting smaller and then vanishing is satisfying. Once they are gone, I’ve got all the changes.

There’s a bit of text shuffling and tightening too. I don’t always agree to these changes, there are a (very) few occasions when I prefer our style and since it’s subjective, I let us win. Mostly, to be fair, the excellent Catherine is right and the story flows better for her efforts.

We’ve a few plot points to deal with, and I’ve sorted out a slot in the busy Nolan festive diary for us to go through these. I think she’s doing overtime in Santa’s workshop or something as shes very busy.

A few times though, I’ve read the text and thought, “How the heck did we let that one get through?” or even “How the heck did we write that in the first place?” Frustrating, but now these boo-boos are getting sorted.

The whole process is a bit like having your work marked by a teacher. I suspect everyone hopes their text is perfect, and no-ones ever is, but I can’t help feeling that “Must try harder” could be written at the bottom of this. I’m sure we were slicker when Kate vs the Navy was proofed.

What I do see is how all the work is making a better book. When you start to write, people go on about the importance of an editor, but it’s a bill no-one wants to think about if they are honest. The more I look at the plot tweaks and inconsistences picked up, I know we’ve spent our money well. Yes, we should have got most of them ourselves, and many people won’t spot the changes, but every one makes our story a more enjoyable read. Talking of which, I end up reading it too and it’s still a good story.

Anyway, I’ll continue plugging away. I’ve another part of the routine – claiming the days chocolate from my advent calendar only when I’ve done my homework. Everyone needs some motivation!

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Back to work under the gaze of Mariah Carey

Phil: Regular readers will be pleased to know there were no fights in team NolanParker last week in Birmingham last week.

No, we met up in the Museum cafe and enjoyed some excellent tea, cake and chat. As Candice said last week, our problem is that we have more projects than time and this means none of them is making any headway. We need to focus on one, get it down and then move on to another.

First, we focused on eating cake – result – cake was eaten. Well done us!

Next, there was a look at our writing ambitions.

We’ve got 2 books out and a third half-written. But, and it’s a big but, we’ve never been entirely happy with the first one. There’s nothing really wrong with it, the story and jokes are excellent, but it didn’t seem like a finished and polished package.

Kate vs the Navy benefitted from a proper proof-reading. Kate vs the Dirtboffins was proofread, but not nearly as well. Some things you just have to pay for, instead we relied on our (then) publisher.

So, Book 1 has been sent off for proofing and we received the results a couple of weeks ago. As ever, Catherine has done a superb job. We learned a lot about our own book from the list of characters and locations in the accompanying notes. She also complimented up on some aspects of our writing.

But, this still leaves a huge number of changes to be looked at from tiny punctuation marks to sentence tweaks to pick up the pace. Someone has to go through these and I volunteered that someone better be me.

So, last Saturday I grabbed a seat in my local library. Candice being unavailable to supervise me, Mariah Carey stood in for her.  You’d never know them apart except that MK is older. And on a bag of crips. (No, I don’t know why)

I thought a good day we see this done. It wouldn’t, Katherine has been far too thorough. 6 hours and a second location with cake later, I’m only at chapter 10. That’s about 1/3 of the way through the book. After that, I’ll be left with the bigger changes that will need the full team to discuss.

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