Sunday, 28 September 2014

4 Stages of Writing a Novel.

The 4 Stages of Writing a Novel

I am currently in the stages of writing my second novel. My first novel was called 'Little Room on the Landing' and I self published it through a company called Lulu. The book I'm writing at the moment doesn't have a name yet but I am a little over quarter of the way through writing it. I have noticed that the processes (for want of a less pretentious word) that I have been going through are very similar to those experienced when writing my first novel. For me, they seem to go as follows: 

Stage 1 - 0-20,000 words - The happy phase. 

When you first start writing any story you almost always think that you have some sort of great idea or focus. This is why so many people (including me) start writing novels that they will never finish. The one that I am writing at the moment is actually my sixth attempt. The first few thousand words come easily to you and, if you enjoying writing, it is almost a simple pleasure. You can't foresee your project to have any real difficulties and you convince yourself the book will probably be finished in a few months at most. 

  "Well, I haven't ACTUALLY started writing it yet.'

Stage 2 - 20,000-40,000 words - The self deprecating phase.

This is the hardest stage to get through. All of a sudden, your creative juices slow down a little and you question the whole project. This niggling self doubt makes every word more difficult to write and you start wondering if you should just scrap it and wait for a different idea. This is where all those millions of unfinished novels come from. However, as my writing tutor used to tell me, "Just keep writing. Simple."

 "I'll just stick to watching television."

Stage 3 - 40,000-60,000 words - The slog phase.

This is when the whole writing process just seems to slow down. You now believe that the novel will probably get finished but it just seems to be taking so long. Every time you click on 'word count' you can't quite believe that it has only gone up by twelve words. It's not that you're not enjoying it, because you are, it just feels a little painful. A bit like writing uni assignments except you're not hungover in the library at 7AM on the day it's due in. So, actually, nothing like that.

"Only 998 words 'til I hit my 1000 word daily target.'

Stage 4 - 60,000 - 80,000+ words - The great finale phase.

You know when you're running a long distance race and you feel like you're going to die but on the last hundred meters you suddenly feel like you could do it all over again? Well, that's what it feels like when you get to the end of writing a novel. I guess it's like that with many things in life though. You forget what all the fuss was about as soon as it's over. This final sprint to the finish is even better than the start and the happy culmination of many hours of hard work and effort. Then something happens and you think, 'I'll have to write about that.' 

 "I'VE FINISHED IT! I'TS OVER!...anyone?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

4 Ways Children Are Put Off Reading.

4 Ways Children Are Put Off Reading

As a primary school teacher, it can be a real struggle to keep children interested in reading. Malorie Blackman, the current children's laureate, promotes 10-minute daily storytelling time in schools. I can say from experience that this time is effective and important in promoting a love of reading in children. Most recently, a group of inquisitive children asking for more details about information on severed heads and barbaric punishments from 'Rotten Romans' by the always brilliant Terry Deary. 

There are many other positive suggestions like this being encouraged to schools and parents. However, here are four problems that I feel are being faced when trying to give children a genuine love for reading. 

#1 - Those awful posters encouraging children to read. 

You remember the ones? The ones that you and your mates would make fun of once before completely ignoring them? The ones that never made you want to pick up a book...ever? The ones that looked like this, 

They're just so cheesy. No child over the age of six is ever going to think something like this is 'cool'. Not only that, it sort of feels like a book promoting a celebrity rather than a celebrity promoting a book. 

The ones that aren't celebrity endorsed will often look something like this,

From the generic, 'I didn't have much time to do this so I found a picture of a book on ClipArt and put some WordArt writing over it' school of poster design. Just completely non-effective. 

#2 - Children's books can still be a bit too 'nice'. 

When I was a boy, given the choice between a nice story about a friendly, talking dog or beating up thugs in 'Streets of Rage' on my games console, it was always going to be the thugs. I think we still have this problem today when video games can often have material that is so much more appealing to children than what they find in books.

Luckily, I do feel that there is starting to be more of a shift towards authors writing material for children that is a bit grittier, funnier or gross for children who aren't interested in friendly, talking dogs. Authors such as Morris Gleitzman who have written brilliantly effective children's stories about serious issues.   

"Yeah, who needs Xbox?" Said no child ever.

#3 - A lack of variety in what is considered 'proper reading'. 

Some of my happiest memories of reading as a child are from The Beano comic, superhero comics, Guinness Book of Records and WWF magazine (now WWE). The Beano had genuinely funny humour, superhero comics had complex storylines with a wide vocabulary of language and The Guinness Book of Records was packed full of knowledge. WWF magazine had The Rock but that's probably not as relevant. 

The problem is, I feel many of these would not be considered by adults as quality texts for children. I completely disagree though. If it has good language and is encouraging children to read then it's all good in my books (awful pun). 

The Rock, not an obvious choice for one of my early literary influences.

#4 - Children not being read to enough.

Back to my original point really. If children aren't read to enough then I think they're very unlikely to gain a love of reading. I have great memories of my Dad reading me Goosebumps and my sister reading me bedtime stories. Even if she was just making up a story to go with the pictures because she couldn't be bothered to read the whole thing.