One of the great joys in life is discovering an author whose work you love. Those books which you don’t want to finish, and when you do you hug them (that may just be me). That is one of the reasons why I am reading the top 100 books of all time, to find such authors.

As part of my youth reading I discovered Eoin Colfer, I actually did hug ‘Half Moon Investigations’ after I finished it. I loved it. I loved the humour, I loved the characters, I loved how Eoin brought the seriousness of a crime novel to the school yard.

It is when you read books like this that it reinvigorates the idea of why you wanted to become an author in the first place. You want to write books that people hug. And I’m feeling inspired, so short post today, I have some writing to do…

Too many choices

A friend recently attached internet to her massive TV. With the whole internet stretching out before us all we could narrow it down to was YouTube. And then we had no idea what we wanted to watch. I’m embarrassed to say this, but with all the choice in the world, all we could think of was funny cat videos. We were overwhelmed to the point where our brains just closed down (just as an aside, the cat videos were very funny).

This is what it is like when you sit at the computer and attempt to ‘write a story’. If you haven’t been struck by an idea and you just try to force one out, there is too much choice and (for me) the brain goes blank.

That’s why, if I’m looking for a new story, I put limitations on myself. I set arbitrary rules just so my brain has something to hook into; a rock must be a significant part of the story (just typing that story ideas start to come), it must have the theme of loss (yep, happening again). It is only when there are some boundaries set that the idea generator kicks in.

This, of course, I have extrapolated into wider life. Maybe this is why so many of us are unsure of what we really want to do in life. We keep going along the same path as everyone else because it is easier than making a decision. Getting a job, a partner, 2.4 kids, a house and a dog called Rover is something we can focus on. When we open up the whole world as an option, our brains go blank.

Sometimes you don’t care

If I say ‘writer guilt’ I’m sure most of you know what that is. It is when you get home from work and instead of sitting down at the computer and pushing out 500 words you sit on the lounge and watch mind-numbing TV. And then you feel guilty. It is spending your one day off in the garden instead of at the laptop. And then you feel guilty.

I don’t know if it is my jaded view on publication, if it is the head-cold that just won’t go away, or if it is the natural cynicism that comes of aging, but my writer guilt seems to be going away. There are days when the sun is shining and I think the bigger sin would be to lock myself away with a computer instead of getting out an enjoying the fine weather.

Does that make me less of a writer? Yes, I think so. Do I care? Not a whole lot. Maybe like the waves of productivity and lulls of stagnation this will pass. Maybe the guilt will come back and I’ll start eating more chocolate and stop enjoying the time off I give myself. Or maybe not? That’s the excitement of real life I guess, you never know what is going to happen next.

Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the garden now 🙂

Reading age

My project this week has been to read a range of kid’s book where the protagonists are all approximately the same age. I got all the books from recommendations from ‘kids’ of all ages. As a result some books were written in the 50’s, some in the 80’s, some in the 90’s and some hot off the press.

Wow, what a spectrum. All my pre-conceived ideas about language, complexity and length were completely destroyed. There was no formula that you could apply to all of the books, despite the supposed common target audience. I found some terribly boring due to their simplicity, while others were totally captivating thanks to the depth of character and story.

But all these books have been loved, that’s why I only read recommended books. The fondness for the book was remembered (sometimes) decades after the storyline had been lost to memory. Many of these older books have never been out of print, such is their popularity.

I know that publishers have ‘rules’ which mean they will probably reject most non-conforming manuscripts before they even open them, but Harry Potter got picked up eventually. That story broke loads of rules not least of which was story length and complexity given Harry was only 10 when the novel opened. Thank goodness J.K. didn’t listen to all the advice out there that would tell her to cut, cut, cut!

This brings me back to the same conclusion I keep butting up against; just write the book you want to read. Each book will find its audience, it might be an audience of two, or two million, but the most important audience is that of the writer. If publication is not your driving force, then be true to your story, you may just be onto something.