Thursday, September 28, 2006

Irene Yates's Writing Exercises

This is the last of my posts from the Caerleon writer's Holiday. I hope you found them helpful.

  • Write about being on a beach and how you experience it now as an adult in 300 words. Then write about being on a beach from a seven year old's point of view in 300 words.

  • Write the following emotions firstly from an adult’s viewpoint and then from the child’s:
    o Fright, fear, being scared
    o Freedom, release, independence, liberty
    o Power, control
    o Sadness, unhappy, misery, bereavement
    o Loneliness, left-outness
    o Shyness

  • Write about the following situations first as an adult and then as a child.
    o Sibling rivalry
    o Leaving home / school / town / comfort-zone
    o Family breakdown
    o Pet dying or getting lost
    o A thunderstorm
    o Parents arguing
    o Pressure to do what you don’t want to
    o Waiting for something / anticipation
    o Being with your best friend

If you have any other writing exercises you would like to recommend, I am very happy for you to post them here. Or if you try any of the above and would like to tell me how it went.

Until next time,

Anita xxx

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Cyprus Photos

Well, as promised to friends and family, here are some pics of my holiday in Cyprus. I had a brilliant time and would love to be back by the pool at this moment than working on photocopiable resources. But, wouldn't we all!

This is me, James, and my son, Daniel on the Super Mable. Just after this photo was taken Dan burst into tears because he was scared. But, I loved it. James laughed so much he fell off.

In the background you can see Famagusta.
We went on a banana boat too and I fell off that. I still say it was because they stuck me at the back and had nothing to do with the six cocktails I'd drunk before I got on.

This is the beautiful sunrise at our hotel. Isn't it romantic. James dragged me out of bed on the last morning just to see it. That's Love for you!

This is the view of the beach from the hotel bar.

This is me and my family at the hotel pool.

Whilst, we there we went to visit Kyrenia in the turkish side of Cyprus. It was a bit of a fiasco, as we had to go through check points and get pieces of paper stamped as we were not allowed to have our passports stamped. We looked around the Harbour and went in Kyrenia castle. The view from the top was magnificant.

However, it took over an hour for our food to be served at one of the restaurants at the Harbour. Considering, the long wait the kids were exceptionally behaved.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Irene Yates on Writing for Children

Irene Yates in the bookroom at Caerleon

Irene Yates is a very prolific author of educational books and children's fiction. She has written hundreds. She was the tutor for the Writing for Children workshops at the Caerleon Writer’s Holiday. I must say I enjoyed her workshops immensely. We had a visit from a commissioning editor of educational work for the primary school and she gave us a lot of very useful and specific advice.

This is a very brief summary of some of the things she said:

Know your market. Phone up the publishers and ask them to send you a catalogue. Get a feel for what they print.

Know how big the publisher wants the book to be, the size of the pages and the number of pages. Know where the pictures are and how many. Count the number of words to a page and / or chapter. Ask for the publisher’s guidelines or writer’s brief.

Because of the way books are made it is important to think in multiples of eight when writing your own books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction.

Editors move around and if you do what they want they will remember you and take you with them.

Avoid the fairy godmother syndrome. The child must be proactive in sorting the problem out. Remember the character does not have to be big to be good, they don’t have to win to be the best.

When you write a story for children, your aim is to make feelings inside the child. The children feel the world through their senses. Everything is new and fresh.

If you want to write for children you have to keep in touch with children by going into schools and also into the libraries to see what they are taking out.

When you are signposting, you need to signpost at least three times.

Think of a theme – what do you want children to learn from this book?

Remember when you write a book for children, you’re not actually selling to the children you are selling to the publisher.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Developing Characters


This is the last of the workshops I attended with Suzanne Ruthven at Caerleon.

It was very interesting to find that Suzanne Ruthven’s advice on developing characters within your novels, largely reiterated what other authors and editors have said. See:

Tony Bradman's Summary of Common Pitfalls
Rachel Wade's Advice
John Jenkins - On Writing A Bestseller

Suzanne said:

Characters must not be one-dimensional. You need to know who you are writing about and you need to have an emotional link to them. They cannot be too perfect. The perfect person does not exist.

When you start to create a character, develop a mini-biography. Think how you want them to behave and what academic level they are going to achieve. Remember, in historical novels the women may be feisty but they would not have been worldly. Map everything about them:

o Their parents,
o Family,
o Issues,
o Mannerisms and gestures,
o Habits,
o Accent,
o Vocabulary,
o Mental state.

The reader needs to empathise with whom the story is about. This is also true of the supporting cast.

Think of your novel like a play and try to decide whom you would get to play each character. An old copy of spotlight has every famous person’s face in it, which could be used to help with descriptions.

Do a lot of people watching. Everyone has little peculiarities and quirks that identify them as an individual. Watch people’s interactions.

Know your main character as you would your best friend.

Do not overburden the reader with great chunks of text. Describe them in a few sentences. Again, look at the colour supplements and see how they do it.

Some ideas Suzanne suggested was to do little exercises where you give your principle characters problems to sort out and work out how they will react, or go through your family and list their peculiarities and fears.

I hope you found these notes useful. Any comments would be highly appreciated.