A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
As I often say when coaching students – I’d rather they have a strong commitment to a small number of actions than a vague and fuzzy sense they might do a few tasks off a longer list. Let’s do three things really well, I say.
In that spirit, my writing resolutions this year are simple. There’s just three and I’m gonna be unswervingly loyal to these little beauties, I promise. No chance I’ll be binning them off by February, denying my commitment to them, dismissing them as mere fluff. This triumvirate will form the very backbone of my writing year, yes siree you see if they don’t, etc etc.
When your editor remarks in the margin of your mss; “I need a shorthand for too much detail!” you know you’re in trouble. When the promised shorthand – “TMD!” – shows up like clockwork in the next twenty pages, that sense is compounded. Being something of an expert, I can give you TMD anywhere in a story though mostly I do it in action scenes.
So this year I’ve chosen myself a reminder of how to do it properly – from Jedi-master-of-YA Michelle Paver, here writing for adults. She’s describing a near-death mountain accident:
“Above me, Garrard seems to have drifted off course. It looks as if he’s on the wrong side of the flags; although in this fog it’s hard to be sure. I’m squinting up at him when the snow beneath his right boot gives way with a crump and takes him over the edge. He falls without a sound.”
She uses four sentences. I’d have taken four paragraphs.
(Thin Air, by the way, from which this passage comes, is fire.)
I’m a slow learner but I think I’m getting there – character comes first, plot second. Character makes plot.
I’ve had the privilege this year of working with Jon Mayhew on a project we’re planning and writing together. (Weird because when I was an aspiring unpubbed YA writer, Jon’s Mortlock was one of my style-models.) As we worked up the idea, Jon focussed relentlessly on character. He arrived at an early meeting with a couple of scenes he’d written. Not for inclusion, he explained. “Just so I can see what the characters’ lives are like at home with their parents.”
Not something I’d have considered doing before. But I’ll be doing it this year.
This quote, from fellow Allsort Non Pratt I think, will be the cornerstone of my ego-surfing policy for 2018. I have a book out in April. It’s one I’m really pleased with. There’s a damn fine chance that no-one else is going to like it.
That’s fine. It’s the best book I could have written as the person I am now given the experiences and learning I’ve accrued up to this point.
So in 2018 I will not be checking in on other people’s opinions. They’re entitled to have them. Good luck to ‘em.
Ignorance of this at least, is gonna be bliss. Happy New Year!