Sunday, 23 October 2011

Idea soup

I'd sort of promised (silently and to myself) that my next post would be a review, but as I'm juggling 3 reads at the moment (I know - never a good idea) and am nowhere near finishing any of them... well, here we are.

I've been giving some thought lately to where story ideas come from - and I will admit it's probably not from a purple castle run by pixies or the strings of the Devil's guitar. But what inspires a story idea can be something profound and intangible, a real-life event, or even just a waft of an unfamiliar scent - and probably varies a whole lot from writer to writer.

I have had this idea for a book bouncing around my brain for a few months now, and the idea for it came from watching Husbo playing a video game called LIMBO. In case you haven't seen/played it, it's about this little boy who enters the shadowy world of Limbo to find and rescue his sister. It's a puzzle game, and there are lots of creepy nasties waiting in the gloom to do creepy, nasty things to the little boy. Yes, it's pretty dark, but it's also kind of funny in a twisty way.

The book idea doesn't actually follow the plot of the LIMBO, but it was that dark, sinister-looking imagery used in the game that set the idea on fire. I often find it's an image or a song that will spark a story for me - which is exactly what happened with my very first novel.

This first one (not HELLFIRE, which I've mentioned in other posts) was a novel I wrote about 2 years ago, but never really did anything with. It wasn't that it wasn't any good (at least, I don't think so - but then, y'know, I'm biased) but I don't think I had the silky skillz then to do justice to the story. So it's simmering away on the back-burner until I've finished my current project - then I will make it ROCK.

But - tangents aside - this novel evolved from one short, tense scene that just seemed to spring out of nowhere for me, and the rest of the story grew around it until it looked nothing like what I'd thought it would from that first glimpse. Here's a lil bit of the MS - it's called PURGE - which is that tiny fragment of an idea that kicked off the whole thing (and sorry, this probably won't make much sense out of context!):

The cracked opening created a suction that drew in a thin river of dust across the floor. The shorter man extended his arms, and the doors slowly parted to the full width of the door frame, revealing a dimly lit interior.
            They stepped in, towards the source of the light. It emanated from two green cells at the base of a cylinder which rose to the height of the ceiling. The tall man looked at his companion’s face for some sign that he had been expecting this, and saw him kneel to feel around the cells for a concealed mechanism.
            Almost instantly, a tidal wave hit them. The cylinder’s casing opened outwards, releasing a surge of tepid liquid which engulfed them and swept across the surface of the floor, hissing steam as it hit the freezing air. The taller man staggered backwards as it hit, while his companion stood his ground, unfazed.
            They remained motionless for a second, seeming hardly to breathe until all around them was still again. As the taller man turned to ask what was happening, the beam of his headlamp swept across the floor, glancing over a wet object which had been ejected from the now empty cylinder. Seemingly in response to the light, the object jerked to life, vomiting over the already sodden floor and gasping for breath.
            ‘What the…?’ he gasped, and collapsed unconscious at the two men’s feet. The shorter man grabbed his wrist.
            Noah,’ he muttered to himself, too low for the other to hear.
            The taller man looked to the other, then at the gauge strapped to his wrist, which was vibrating rapidly. ‘Well, that was new.‘

This scene will probably change pretty drastically when I go back in to do the re-write, but I think that idea-nugget will always be the cornerstone of PURGE for me.

HELLFIRE was different in that it was inspired by an album called 'What it is to burn' by the band Finch. They very quickly became my favourite band, and almost as quickly broke up in January this year. My sobbing was loud and heartfelt over that.

Still, I'm finding that quite strange things inspire me. It's not like I look at a leaf floating on a puddle and have some profound revelation about the meaning of life that I simply must write down before it's lost to the world... er, no. Maybe stories about dragons and robots and demons won't change the world, but these are the kinds of stories that make up a big, fat part of my life, and I like spending my time with them. Does that make any sense at all? Probably letting my inner-crazy show a little, there.

So, what inspires you? Whether it's for your own writing, or the inspiration you take from the kinds of books you like to read - let me know, I'd like to hear!

Kat out x x

BTW, the next one really WILL be a review. There, it's in writing now, so I can't pike out. Unless I come back and edit this post later.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

If I were a boy

I read recently that female writers and readers of YA literature significantly outnumber their male counterparts, and this got me thinking: how is the male perspective represented in YA?

Looking back over the last couple of years, there are some great titles I can think of where the male voice/perspective is strong within a book which I wouldn't necessarily think of as being aimed at a boys-only market. Here are a few which really stood out for me:

Gone (and sequels) by Michael Grant
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
The Maze Runner (and sequel) by James Dashner

Despite the fact that I read more than is good for my poor ole eyes, I freely admit that there are even more books around that I haven't read (yet), so forgive me if I've left out any glaringly obvious ones - and please let me know of any additions you'd make to the list in the comments box below.

What struck me about my list was that all of the ones which stood out to me as a reader as having this strong male perspective were written by - yeah, you guessed it - male authors. But maybe that's logical; I mean, they were once teenage boys, so I would say it's only reasonable that their take on being a teenage boy would seem more authentic, somehow...right? Or maybe you disagree.

So here's the weird thing: I find that I prefer writing from the male perspective, and have so far written them almost exclusively in the first-person. And, in case you are in any doubt, I was never a teenage boy. So how am I qualified to write from the male perspective?

Well, maybe I don't need to be 'qualified' (in the anatomical sense) to get the male perspective, but I'd say that I definitely need to work a little harder at it.

I find that when I'm writing, I have to stop and think a LOT about how my male protagonists react in different situations - more so than I would when writing from a female POV. I also torture my husband by asking him very detailed and intimate questions about how he used to respond emotionally and physically as a teenager, and El Husbo has been a massive help to me because of his willingness to endure this invasion of his privacy (I think spouses of writers are pretty long-suffering, generally).

So I'll throw this out there to the universe - am I alone in this? Or are there other female YA writers who have found their niche writing from the male perspective? Maybe you're a male writer whose groove is in writing from the female POV... let me know.

Kat out x

Sunday, 9 October 2011

About... er, blogging

I started a blog a while back as a kind of test-the-water exercise before I wised up and set up this one. That first blog was written from the POV of a foul-mouthed cat called Ziggy who lived in an old folks' home, and who'd taken it upon himself to save all the residents when Death came calling with his scythe a-blazing. I know - it sounds effed up, and it was.
I gave up on Ziggy after writing a few entries a) because it really wasn't achieving anything anymore, and b) well, it sucked balls. But it was still useful in that I learned how to set up and manage a blog (I can be a bit of a tech-tard at times), and it helped me figure out what I didn't want to do with one.

Once I'd decided to start querying agents with my first finished manuscript, HELLFIRE, I knew that if I was lucky/good enough to land an agent, I would need to show that I was willing and able to promote my own work. So blogging became a must, as well as using Twitter and other social media to put myself out there as a writer and learn more about the business-side of writing and publishing.

And there really is a lot to learn.

The first thing I did was to consume as much online info about the publishing / agent-finding process as I could, checking out all kinds of sites (some helpful, some not-so-much) and try to filter the good advice from the bad. I started making a list of contacts - agents who were accepting unsolicited queries in my genre, publishers who would accept an unsolicited MS, writers' forums, writing competitions and publications I could submit my work to so that I might get some writing experience and credits under my belt. I also bought The Writer's Handbook, which was a really helpful resource and contained a lot of information about all aspects of getting published as well as agent/publisher listings.

I made a LOT of notes on how to actually write a query, which was a real eye-opener for me. I can't say with any certainty whether I've got this part down, but I've at least gotten to the point where an agent has requested my full MS, read it, liked it, and is currently on a second read-through. I can't adequately describe the feeling of getting that positive response from an agent (probably not a good thing for a writer to admit!) but I'm not counting my chickens just yet.

Another critical thing I did was to check out what other authors in my position were doing, which is when it really struck me what useful tools blogs and the whole social media thing are for any new writer trying to get their work out there. A lot of the writers' blogs I've read have given me an insight into the obstacles and opportunities for first-timers like me, and I wanted in on the action. Ziggy became my toe-in-the-water, so to speak, where I could wrap my head around actually writing these snippety bits and sending them out into the ether.

So, I'll keep blogging about writing (my own and that of others) because I see how important it can be for an author - whether they're just starting out or have managed to carve a career out of writing. And because I've benefited from the experience of other bloggers, I thought I'd write this as my own meagre offering to others who are just starting out.

But I know I've still got tons to learn - about blogging, writing, getting published and a whole heap of other stuff I probably don't even know about yet. Please send me an email (my addie's at the top of the page) or leave a comment if you have any pointers.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Win a copy of Becca Fitzpatrick's Silence!

Because I spazzed out and accidentally ordered a spare copy of Becca Fitzpatrick's Silence online, I'm going to run a leeetle competition to decide which lucky reader gets a free copy... mwahahaha! (Sorry, am in Halloween-mode.)

To enter, all you need to do is post a comment below saying which song most reminds you of the Hush, Hush series?

The best suggestion wins - it's that simple!

Make sure you leave your Twitter name so I can let you know if you've won. The competition closes 14 October at 8pm (GMT).

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Subtle Art of Procrastination

I imagine if you're reading this, you also spend a lot of time writing. I spend a LOT of time "writing", which is probably only 60% actual writing, and 40% good ole procrastination. Here are my tips on how to do the latter really, really well...

1. Reward your hard work with regular coffee/donut/cigarette/nap breaks. About every 30 minutes should do the trick.

2. Make sure you have your Twitter feed open. Whenever you have a maximum of 5 new tweets, be sure to check it out. (Going to go and do that now, just because I got points 1 & 2 down.)

3. Go surfing the internet every hour or so in the name of 'research'.

4. Suddenly remember the 1001 other things you're neglecting by setting aside time to write, and guilt yourself into doing a few of them. You know, spending time with the kids, paying the mortgage, feeding the cat - all that stuff.

5. Last but not least, make sure you work with the TV on in the background. You'd be amazed how well you can procrastinate with the white noise box lending a hand. Daytime TV shows are particularly good procrastination-fodder.

Thanks for reading what has actually been my own little procrastination escapade... so I suppose blogging should really be point 6. But you get the point.

Happy procrastinating!