Recently the rather lovely chap, fellow geek and terrific local writer, Mark McCann asked me to take part in #MyWritingProcess. I'm pretty terrible at these sorts of things, I should probably blog more often but if you follow me on Twitter you'll know I could probably 'microblog' for the world there anyway. For Mark though I feel I'd do my part!
Well, for the past couple of years I’ve devoted most of my time to writing the second instalment (in a planned series of four) of my Amelia Black series titled The Unseen Trials of Amelia Black. It’s into its final stages of drafting. I think.
The fun part with the second one has been trying to expand on the world I created previously, and realise the much darker elements which occupy it. I feel it’s slowing starting to take on its own identity and not necessarily the fantastical worlds that inspired it first time round. So hopefully fans of the first one will see that later this year, all being well.
All the while I started to write a brand new book away from Amelia’s adventures and my first actually set in my hometown of Belfast. It’s the first time I’ve set any of my stories in an actual place and it’s been a lot of fun having to research Belfast’s history as well as bringing back echoes and memories from my own, very happy, childhood. I feel that Belfast deserves a more magical and whimsical tale than the stuff more commonly associated with the city and country. Readers won’t see the finished product for a while but I’m really excited to share it once it’s done.
Becoming an uncle in the last year has also inspired me to finally finish this picture book idea I’ve had for my nephew about a kind, gentle, monster who’s not quite a monster named Quentin Muldoon. Very rough versions can be found on my blog somewhere.
I’ve got to be honest it probably doesn’t but I’ll expand on that when explaining why I write. It’s never totally intentional but I often get told that my work, which I primarily write for children, is considered perhaps too dark by their parents. I think it’s healthy to scatter a bit of darkness into children’s fiction within reason.
I’d probably consider Roald Dahl my favourite author when I was a child and you only need to read The Witches or even The BFG to find some quite unnerving things, usually involving children getting eaten to some degree.
For a man whom barely scraped a C at GCSE English and never going on to do any sort of English Lit or Creative Writing course, I consider each piece of creative writing to be a learning exercise for me and I don’t think I’ll be the finished article for a few years yet.
I’m a huge believer in heroes. I think of all the fictional characters I grew up, all the movies, books and cartoons I still look back on with much fondness and I’d love to create that one character which kids of this or future generations look on with a similar feeling.
Also I simply love writing for children. I’ve never felt as proud of what I’m doing as the few times I’ve hosted public reading events and seeing these amazing, positive reactions from the kids to these characters I’ve created. Those moments make a lot of the other times where you struggle to get words down on a page all worthwhile
It’s not hugely different now to how it was when I started the first Amelia Black book back in 2009 (crikey!). With Amelia Black 1 it was definitely a case where I kept going just to see if I got the end. I’d never written anything longer than about 3000 words before that, never mind over 30,000 which the final book resulted in.
The process evolved gradually with A Boy Named Hogg. There was much more chapter planning and just writing short bits and bobs on small pieces of paper. Then when coming to Amelia Black 2 I built this up again and there’s a notebook of history and back story; some of which ends up in the book, some that will come later and stuff that only I know and maybe allude to with one line here and there.
The most fun I had constructing a story came from working on my short story, A Gurumapa in the Wood. I came across the legend of the beast while researching monsters for Amelia Black 2 and loved the name so much I wanted to make an entirely separate story for it just in a more familiar setting than ancient Asia. With a love for all things Disney I also wanted to have a story featuring talking animals and the rest pretty much fell into place.
My latest full length has probably been my biggest shift in my work process as I’m gathering parts of real life history in relation to Belfast, some of it truly surprising and really making me see the city in a new light.
I used to get quite intimidated when I heard other writers say they manage a few thousand words per sitting. I just can’t do that. I torture myself over every single word I put down on paper and will be my worst critic when I look back and know I could have done something better. Over time though I’ve became less scared of the whole process, after all, it’s only words.
So there you have it! A brief glimpse into my haphazard world of writing. Please be sure to check out Mark's work, especially Deadfast and his wonderful entertainment site Bad Haven.
TTFN - Ta ta for now...