Monday, April 23, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Walk the Dogs

If you find yourself stuck for ideas, or unable to think what to write next, don't sit and stare at your computer or your notebook, go for a walk. You'll be amazed at what pops into your head.

Yes this is as well as being an excellent tip is an ideal opportunity to post a video of my gorgeous dogs :)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Face Your Fears

I am sure we have always got to a point in our writing when we have lost confidence in what we are doing. We are about half way through but there is still so much to do and maybe the end is still unclear or a muddle in your mind.

Maybe your manuscript is full of gaps and glitches and your desk is covered with strange notes and ramblings that have lost all meaning because you are overwhelmed. The question storm through your head: How am I ever going to finish?

It is easy to lose faith and wonder whether it is actually worth the effort. This is NORMAL. It is how you know you are a real writer. We all get tired and disheartened. The trick is to take a deep breath and carry on. The only way you can get over the hump is to face your fear and nagging doubts head on and force yourself to work through it.

Don't think about it! Go on Try it!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Writing 4 Children - Miriam Halahmy

In the April 2018 issue of Writers Forum, Miriam Halahmy talks to me about how she was able to let go of her characters. Her YA novel, Hidden, which is about racial bullying, was adapted for the stage by playwright Vickie Donoghue.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Poetry

Poetry should be ageless but, should have a target audience in mind. Your voice has to appeal to the child of today.

Poems for children can be divided into three age ranges: 5+, 9+ and YA.
  • A-Z: The best children's poetry from Agard to Zephaniah compiled by Michael Rosen
  • Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg
  • The Day I Fell Down the Toilet and Other Poems by Steve Turner and David Mostyn
The Poetry Society is an excellent resource for poets:

If you want to target you peotry in an event remember National Poetry Day is the 4th October.

There are often opportunities for aspiring poets for children in anthologies and you can see your name alongside big names such as:
  • Michael Rosen,
  • Carol Anne Duffy,
  • John Agard,
  • Pie Corbett,
  • Paul Cookson,
  • Roger McGough
If want to write poetry for children go to local bookshop and browse their most recently published anthologies. See who published them. Write to them and say interested in submitting to the next anthology and could they put you on their list. Include a selection of poems as example of your style and voice. Try and include a poem that would have been appropriate for their latest anthology as a similar theme.

Poems can be timeless and you are often able to re-use them. My poem The Fairground is in the Teaching ICT with Story and has previously been featured in a teacher resource called ‘Here comes the Fair’ published by Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, in conjunction with the University of Manchester and Manchester City council and is now part of an anthology of poems for speech and drama teachers, Poetry for Performance published by The Playing Space.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Research Secrets - Anne Buist and Graeme Simsion

In the April 2018 edition of Writers Forum, husband and wife team, Anne Buist and Graeme Simsion, told me about the research process for their joint novel Two Steps Forward.

Their joint novel is a love story about two middle-aged people walking the Camino. In the feature they outline their three stages of research.

As part of their research, they walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrim's path from central France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It took them 87 days with detours and optional extras.

They studied the route and the location of hostels along the way. They bought guidebooks for each section. They found their conversations and observations were invaluable as they provided snippets and anecdotes that were essential for the atmosphere and development of the plot. Their tip to other novel writers is there is no substitute for being there, talking to people, locals and travellers alike, and keeping an open mind.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Picture Books

Picture books can be fiction, non-fiction or poetry. 

Remember most publishers do not like rhyming text as they do not translate well. If you are writing in rhyme, there has to be a very strong plot and well-rounded characters. Publishers do like good rhythm and repetition.

Picture books includes concept books like counting and alphabet books and novelty books like pop-up and lift the flap but most of these are written in-house or to commission. 

Most picture books are 12 double page spreads and under 500 words and should be appealing to both adults and children

Monday, March 26, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Read Widely

To decide what type of book you would like to write you need to be familiar with the conventions of different types.

If you are serious about becoming a children’s book writer you need to read and distinguish between the different children’s books for the various age groups – the word lengths, language, style, etc. then you can write the type of children’s books you enjoy the most. You should be immersing yourself not only in the classics but also what is coming into the bookshops now from new authors.

Think about how books have changed since you were a child.

Picture books (age 0-5)
You have the classic children’s picture books like:
  • Where the Wild things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  • Meg and Mog by Helen Nicholl and Jan Pienkowski
  • We're Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
  • Can't You Sleep Little Bear? by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth
 Some modern titles include:
  • Morris the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre
  • The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog by Sue Eves and Allie Busby
  • Mouse’s Summer Muddle by Anita Loughrey and Daniel Howarth
  • Black and White Club by Alice Hemming and Kimberley Scott
Early Readers (5+)
Books for this age range are often matched to a reading scheme such as:
  • OUP’s Oxford Reading Tree
  • Ginn’s Reading 360
  • Heinemann’s Storyworld
These books are also not usually arranged in chapters. They are sold straight to schools and you can’t usually find them in bookstores. Be aware children like to read up. They prefer to read about characters a few years older than themselves who they can aspire to.

Some publishers do accept longer picture books that are good to read aloud such as The Kite Princess by Juliet Claire Bell and Laura-Kate Chapman published by Barefoot books.

These books are usually 24-48 pages and around 500 – 1200 words. They are not usually arranged in chapters.

Or the classics Like:
  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson
  • A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
  • Rosie's Babies by Martin Waddell and Penny Dale
  • Dogger by Shirley Hughes
Chapter Books (7+)
These are usually between five and ten chapters long. They are between 8000 and 14000 words.
Dialogue is used more to move the story along.

Some of the classic stand-alone books include:
  • The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
  • Mr Majeika by Humphrey Carpenter
  • Bill's New Frock by Anne Fine
  • The Twits by Roald Dahl
 Also includes many series books such as:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Grub Town Tales by Philip Ardagh
  • Rescue Princesses by Paula Harrison
  • Dougal Daley by Jackie Marchant
Series books
Series books are often written under pseudonyms by a variety of authors, such as:
  • Animal Arc and Little Animal Arc by Lucy Daniels published by Hodder
  • Beast Quest books by Adam Blade published by Orchard Books but created by the fiction packager Working Partners
  • Rainbow Magic and Rainbow Magic Fairies by Daisy Meadows also created by the created by the fiction packager Working Partners and published by Orchard Books.
Middle grade novel (9+)
It is a US term but UK publishers do use this terminology.
About 14000 to 30000 words.
This would include the classics like:
  • The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  • Goggle-Eyes by Anne Fine
  • Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
 Some modern stand alone titles include:
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
  • The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters
  • Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz
They often deal with issues such as friendship, coming of age, school issues and are usually conflict driven novels, which concentrate on a single main character.

Older series books
Also includes older series books such as Harry Potter and:
  • Castle of Shadows and City of Thieves by Ellen Renner
  • Diary of a Wimpy Vampire and Diary of a Wimpy Werewolf by Tim Collins
  • Jimmy Coates series by Joe Craig
  • Muncle Trogg by Janet Foxley
Young Adult novel (13+)
Usually stand alone books with more gritty themes, such as psychological thrillers, horror, medical issues, graphic novels (illustrated in a comic type fashion).
Can be 50000+ words. Often fits into a genre type.

YA Trends
Contemporary realistic - deal realistically with conflicts in a young teen’s life, such as:
  • Jack Tumour by Anthony McGowan,
  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham,
  • An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons,
  • The Truth about Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne,
  • Hidden by Miriam Halahmy
  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  • Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale
  • Almost True by Karen David
Dark psychological type stories such as:
  • Slated and Fractured by Teri Terry
  • Dark Parties by Sara Grant
Edgy Fantasy such as:
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
  • Mortlock by Jon Mayhew
  • Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda
  • Angel by Lee Weatherly
Horror such as:
  • The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish
  • Midwinterblood and The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick.
These books focus on identity rather than independence. They can be about anything - romance, mystery, thriller.  All acknowledge sexual and romantic attraction.

New Adult (Age 16+)
There is now a new genre known as New Adult which includes ‘steamies’ for teenagers such as:
  • Irresistible by Liz Bankes
  • While it Lasts, Fallen Too Far Never too Far and Forever Too Far by Abbi Glines
  • The Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan. Includes: Reason to Breathe, Barely Breathing, and Out of Breath. 
  • Her Best Friend’s Brother by T. J. Dell

The protagonist is usually just left school and getting their first job or starting university. There is increased independence as may live in own flat or lodgings.