It would appear that today I am a very lucky boy. I was asked by the lovely people at David Fickling Books to be a part of The Art of Being Normal Blog Tour! Such fun! TAoBN is one of my favourite reads of 2014 (despite it not coming out until 2015) and is sure to set the world on fire in the coming months. It is sweet, honest and frankly wonderful!
So I am stop TWO on the tour and Lisa has kindly sent me her list of writing tips for the budding creatives out there. It is a great post and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s lovely to have such brilliant advice on here!
So it is with great pleasure that I introduce The Art of Being Normal and the fabulous Lisa Williamson!
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL
by Lisa Williamson
Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.
When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Publication Date: 1st January 2015
Aquisition: Sent for review (Video Review To Come!)
Sitting down to write my second novel, I naively thought it would be easier this time round. I’ve done it once so I can do it again, right?
Not unlike a newborn baby, once I held an actual book in my hands for the first time, I temporarily forgot the pain of bringing it into the world.
Because writing is really hard. Yes, it’s also fun and exciting and all those good things, but above all else it’s hard. Talking to other authors has confirmed my suspicions that it never stops being hard. Last month I attended a networking event for children’s writers at which a five-times published author lowered her voice and ominously whispered that the pain and frustration never goes away.
‘Never?’ I asked desperately. ‘Really?’
She just smiled knowingly and filled up my glass.
Having said all this, I’ve never shied away from hard work and suspect I secretly enjoy wailing to my boyfriend about the utter awfulness of chapter nine, especially when I manage to fix said awfulness of chapter the following week and feel like the King of the World (briefly).
I learned a lot from writing The Art of Being Normal and am just a bit thrilled to have the opportunity to share some of my experiences in the form of my top five writing ‘tips’. It’s probably important to stress everyone’s writing process is different and what works for one writer, is abhorrent to another; for example all those writers who say they get up five in the morning to write (I mean, how?!? When do they sleep?!?), so my main bit of advice (above the stuff listed below) would always be ‘do what feels good for you!’.
Making up stories is just about the best job in the world, and one of the most brilliant things about it is the more you write, the better you get at it. Like any skill, it takes practice. I remember being told David Almond honed his craft for over ten years before seeking a publisher, and this shows in his quite exquisite writing. I try to write every day if I can, even if it’s just a snatched half hour before dinner. I also keep a diary in the form of regular emails I send to a specially created account. The contents are thoroughly shameful and I’d be mortified if anyone read them but it’s cathartic to get my personal thoughts off my chest (as well as useful writing practice) and once I’ve done so, I can then give my latest cast of characters the full attention they deserve.
It sounds obvious but I’ve met a scary amount of people who say they’ve always wanted to write a book and then admit they don’t actually read. It’s like wanting to be a master baker having never eaten a slice of cake i.e. crazy! As Stephen King so succinctly put it, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write. Simple as that.’
3) Have the courage to write badly
As someone (I’m afraid I can’t recall who) tweeted recently, you can edit a bad page of writing; you can’t edit an empty page. I really have to fight the urge to tinker on my opening chapters until they’re perfect before moving on. It’s so tempting (especially when you have perfectionist tendencies) but that sort of detailed work should be reserved for once you have a draft, no matter how shaky that draft might be.
4) Write the story only you can tell
I love this quote from Neil Gaiman – ‘Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.’ No writing class can teach authenticity and I believe it’s authenticity that truly captures and holds a reader’s imagination. There’s such massive temptation to chase trends or write for a particular market but the end result will never be as satisfying as a story told from the heart (specifically, yours!). When I write I like to imagine the teenage version of me and write for her; it helps ensure I stay true to myself, and the story I need to tell.
5) Be prepared to murder your darlings!
I love being edited. I love cutting scenes. I love axing characters. I’m pretty brutal! I wasn’t always this way though. It used to pain me to cut a single sentence. I’d mourn it for hours afterwards and try to engineer ways to sneak it back in. However, the first time I made a substantial cut (of several chapters) to the very first draft of The Art of Being Normal, I felt this overwhelming sense of liberation. I felt so free, euphoric almost and it quickly became addictive. I’m also naturally obedient and do whatever my editor tells me, mostly because she’s brilliant and always right! Occasionally I think of the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve abandoned over time and feel a little sick, before reminding myself every single one helped me to get to know my characters that bit better, even if they didn’t make it onto the printed page.
If you’re after more writing tips (the Internet is crammed with them), I can thoroughly recommend this set of articles on the subject, featuring writing advice from the likes of Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel and Philip Pullman:
Next Stop for Lisa is The Guardian Children’s Book Site! Click Here to check it out and, if you haven’t already, pick up your copy of Lisa’s INCREDIBLE debut using one of the links below! 🙂