Category Archives: Long Fiction

Work in progress: an excerpt…

I thought I’d share something new with you. Below is an extract from “work in progress novel #2” which will one day have a better title, but which is now about 35,000 words along. It’s proving a joy to write, when I can make the time, as the characters seem to wait for me to show up and then just act out scenes for me to transcribe.  Our narrator, below, is a 12 year old girl, and our setting is rural Finland (they say “write what you know”, I say “stuff that, write what you can imagine”. They’re probably right, but I’m having fun!).

So here we go. Tweet me @lizzieboylesays if you like it, or if you don’t. This is first draft (aka, the great blurt) so the words are in the order that my fingers produced them, unedited…:

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Blank sheet of paper time…

Forgive me, internet; it has been a while since my last blog posting. So settle back on your sofas, pour a glass of wine and let me ramble at you for a while.

Novel #1 is out in the ether looking for a publisher to adopt it as their own. It’s a fascinating process, in part because each little piece of feedback (aka rejection) gives you another insight into the process and into the minds and priorities of editors and publishers.

Letting go of Novel #1 has been tricky. I’m like a mother whose daughter has finally left home and, after years of arguments, I find that I miss her.

Pushing the metaphor a bit further, I guess I’m now pregnant with Novel #2. My plan was to tell you all about my process for starting something new. But it turns out I did this a few months ago (told you it was hard to leave one book behind and start the next). Here’s what I said:

I’ve been thinking about [it], dreaming a little, writing down little snatches of dialogue that as-yet-unnamed characters will say, mulling what each of them is really about. I like the looseness of the early stages of writing: finding pictures, pieces of music, historical reference, words, phrases, images and letting them come together in a slightly chaotic crowd. Then I’ll pick my way through them, seeing how they join together, drawing lines between one thing and another. The culmination of that is to get a piece of flip chart paper and draw lots of circles, arrows, stars, squares with words to describe key scenes, moments of character, moments of plot and a kind of sequence for the whole thing. By the time I sit down to start writing, I know broadly what will happen – though not every step along the way – and I could start to write at any point in the book (which is helpful if you start to get bogged down at the beginning of chapter 3).

The good news is: that’s what’s happened. It has taken a lot of mulling, dreaming, procrastinating, ignoring, scribbling, googling and wine, but I’ve now reached the flip chart paper stage. I need a few more arrows, a bit more clarity on major plot points and when they fit together, and to make some tough decisions about exactly how much angst, pain and tragedy I can heap on the next set of unsuspecting characters, but it’s definitely coming together. The one thing I haven’t allowed myself to do is worry about it. If you stare at the blank sheet of paper and feel anything like anxiety, then it’s never going to happen. Better to distract yourself with research, character development, jotting down idiosyncractic details (in this instance, I’ve learned a lot about Scandinavian folklore and I reckon I’d now be quite good at fishing) and generally just letting the world of the book build up around you. And if you’re still stuck, listen to some music: Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony, 4th Movement was my latest discovery and possibly the most dramatic piece of music you can imagine as your soundtrack.

I’ll keep you posted as things progress. In terms of timing: I’d love to have the first draft of this one blurted out into my computer before Christmas (all the dreaming about it makes the writing very quick…). And I’ll have comics news very soon for you too 🙂

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All the latest news and views!

What news of the novel, you cry?

After all that editing (and all those moany blogs about the process), it feels like the novel is very nearly in a finished state. Soon, it’ll be time for it to leave home, head off into the world, phone up occasionally for a bit of money to pay the rent, and – hopefully, eventually – blossom into a successful and independent young wage-earner. Or something like that.

Saying au revoir to one novel means planning the next one. There are two concepts vying for my affections at the moment. Both of them will get their chance. I’m just debating which one to date first. For either of them, the process has already begun: I’ve been thinking about them, dreaming a little, writing down little snatches of dialogue that as-yet-unnamed characters will say, mulling what each of them is really about. I like the looseness of the early stages of writing: finding pictures, pieces of music, historical reference, words, phrases, images and letting them come together in a slightly chaotic crowd. Then I’ll pick my way through them, seeing how they join together, drawing lines between one thing and another. The culmination of that is to get a piece of flip chart paper and draw lots of circles, arrows, stars, squares with words to describe key scenes, moments of character, moments of plot and a kind of sequence for the whole thing. By the time I sit down to start writing, I know broadly what will happen – though not every step along the way – and I could start to write at any point in the book (which is helpful if you start to get bogged down at the beginning of chapter 3).

Comics – analogue, digital and coming soon

Last weekend saw me at Bristol Comic Expo, always one of the highlights of the comics calendar here in the UK. I had the slightly daunting honour of interviewing Arthur Suydam, an absolute legend of comic art, a descendant of some of the finest painters produced by the United States, and an incredible painter. In an increasingly digital world, it was fascinating to talk art and craft with someone who still uses a brush, some paint and a canvas to create all of his works.

On the digital front, my most recent blog for Pipedream Comics was published a week or so ago. In it, I explored the creative opportunities presented by digital comics. What is it that digital, and only digital, enables you to do as a creator? How might you change the storytelling process when you’re creating for a digital only environment? It was fun to write and I hope you find it valuable to read.

As for future comics: well, I’m DELIGHTED to have two scripts now safely in the hands of artists and artwork under way.

The Heart Which Makes Us is a graphic novel for the Unseen Shadows universe, focusing on forensic investigator Kathryn Monroe. Artist Aaron Moran is about 1/3 of the way through and his work is stunning – dark, twisted, scratchy, disconcerting. When you look at Aaron’s work, you feel that there is something going on behind the scenes, that there are psychological forces swirling on the page, that truth sits in the shadows and the depths.

Secrets of the Islands is also a graphic novel which will hopefully come out late 2014 / early 2015 from a well known UK publisher. Artist Verity Glass is a prodigious talent, with an amazing eye for colour and a magical style when it comes to expressing character and setting. She’s been a real help in developing the story, and I can’t wait to see how the artwork develops. Secrets of the Islands focuses on a soldier aiming to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder by returning to the site of battle. More than that, I’m not going to tell you. Not yet….

Short stories

All of the above has happened at the expense of short stories. I desperately want to get back to writing them – I miss them! So I’m going to look at the schedule – and the competition calendar – and try to get some momentum on the short and flash front soon.

Thanks for reading! More news as it happens….

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Editing: dead darlings, flashers in the woods and someone stealing your shoes

So the blog has been a bit quiet for a few months, largely because (a) I was being a productive writer and (b) there was a heatwave. Probably more (b) than (a), but let me believe my own lies at least…

In the past few months, I have written a highbrow piece called Sentient Zombie Space Pigs, which has today received a very lovely review from John Freeman at Down The Tubes. I’ve also been compiling Vol 3 of Disconnected, our comic anthology of stories set in small towns – we’ll be launching that at the Comic Art Festival in Kendal later this month. And I’ve been discovering the joys of editing. Continue reading

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Sensible Saturday – A Conference on How to Get Published

Spent the day at the Writers and Artists “How to Get Published” conference learning, um, how to get published. I’ve boiled it down and boiled it down and finally have something approaching jam. So here are my Ten Commandments of getting published:

1. Thou shalt follow the submission guidelines – just do what they say and no-one will get hurt.

2.Thou shalt follow the submission guidelines – no, really, we don’t want any trouble here.

3.Thou shalt do thy homework – don’t send sci fi to a romance agent / publisher; whether they like it or not, they just won’t know what to do with it (paraphrasing there).

4.Thou shalt woo thy potential agent or publisher with the same care and attention that you wooed (woo’d?) your beloved – oh yes, you have to find out what makes them tick, what they like, what they hate, who else they’ve dated / published, where they live, what their PIN number is… oh no, hang on, some of those aren’t quite right….

5.Thou shalt not apologise for thy work – humility kicks in when you accept your Booker, not when you’re trying to get noticed. However:

6.Thou shalt not puff thyself up unduly – leave your ego in the wardrobe and wear your writing instead.

7.Thou shalt not waffle. Full stop.

8.Thou shalt not have a spelling mistake, a punctuation error or any kind of slip that makest thou seem like an amateruish dingbat.

9.Thou shalt not get impatient or huffy when the agent or publisher takes some time to reply – they’re busy people but they will read you and they will respond, especially if you obey number 10.

10. Thou shalt only submit books that are really, really good. The moral of the whole thing was that if the book is good enough, you can break at least some of Commandments 1-9. If the book is a pile of proverbial, then go back and start again.

Sage advice from Carole Blake (superagent), Richard Charkin (senior bod at Bloomsbury), Cressida Dowling (book adviser, editorial consultant etc) and the marvellous Barbara Trapido (seemingly accidential novelist), plus a panel of even more agents (Patrick Walsh, Madeline Buston and James Gill). A lot of wisdom in one room including some lovely fellow writers to talk to in the breaks.  Particularly lovely to meet Charlie Wilson, aka The Book Specialist, Amanda who co-produces Harold the Platypus and Ann Thomas who has written and recorded the Enchanted Empire stories. Add decent coffee and comfy chairs and it was a pretty decent day out.

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