Category Archives: Writing For Children: Tips by Alan Dapré

Playwright and Children’s Author Alan Dapré shares his writing tips and hints, taken from over 25 years of published/broadcast work

Writing For Children: practical tips by author Alan Dapre

After 60+ books I’ve gathered a few tips on writing for children:

1) Always read the genre you are aiming at and immerse yourself in the relevant books.

I have written plays for teenagers and younger children, general story and picture books, plus joke, puzzle, activity and story books for TV tie-in characters such as Brum.

I used to think that my writing might be diluted by reading other writers. The opposite is true. I was able to pull their words and structures apart, agree (or disagree) with what I read, and get a sense of how each format worked. What I discovered somehow filtered into my own writing.

2) Grow up surrounded by books.

This riffs on my first point. Obviously you can’t go back in time and surround yourself with books but it helps if you have had a childhood love of reading. Fiction, non-fiction, who cares. Just getting words into you is a positive and life-affirming benefit.

3) Study the ways children (your readers) think and interact.

Watch, listen and learn. Resist the urge to step in – any interaction from you will affect the dynamic. Become aware of the rhythms and patterns that youngsters adopt. It will make your own writing sound more natural.

Children tend to say only what they need to say. They often repeat phrases and rework their sentences as they speak – so go with their flow. It’ll make you a better writer.

4) Love your work.

There is no point writing something and getting all worked up about it before the ink is dry. I tend to write my stories in big chunks then go back and edit. This approach works, but only if I know the plot and the characters well enough. If I am too uncertain then it shows in my writing. Better to write a chapter and edit afterwards than write a paragraph and edit that.

Rash editing can simply be masking your lack of preparation or understanding of the story or characters. If you believe your work is rubbish it will be. So pull out what works. Look for the strengths. Print it off, go for a walk, come back and read it at arm’s length. If you think it is going nowhere then stop…and start writing something else.

5) Buy a load of sticky notes.

When I have a story idea I draw the main story arc. It gets me to explore actions and characters and motivations without too much fussing over the plot. I can see the way – or the roadblocks -ahead.

I concentrate on ACTIONS. If characters are not doing something then they should not be in your story. Stories are about DOING. Sticky notes can be easily rearranged, drawn over, replaced, etc. They are brilliant. You can do the same using virtual notes on your computer desktop or tablet screen. Trust me, it works.

6) Don’t give up.

Life for a writer is tough. For every rejection send your stuff out to three, no, ten more publishers. Who knows why someone gets lucky and is published? It could be that they have written the best kids’ book EVER. Maybe they simply approached the agent/publisher at the right time.

The key is to build relationships. Get known as a hardworking, imaginative writer and your reputation will help you get more work.

When you get rejections – and you will – channel your writing energy into new projects.

7) Be nice to everyone.

A) It’s a nice thing to do

B) Publishers and Editors and Agents move about, get promoted, lunch together, etc. Some may even talk about you. You want that to be in a good way.

8) Write as much as you can.

You don’t have show it to anyone – just write and see what happens.

When you write, magic happens. Doors open. People smile and the world is a better place.

You can quote me on that.

 

 

If you would to see my latest books, please click on the covers.

brawsome bagpipes, bashcrashding,alan dapre, dapre, porridge the tartan cat, tartan cat, floris

Brawsome Bagpipes & Bash-Crash-Ding by Alan Dapre

 

[If you want to use any of the above blog for non-commercial reasons then feel free to do so – but mention my full name. Link back to my blog please. Anything else? Simply click ‘Comments’ & drop me a line.]

Back In The Room…

It’s good to be back!

I have taken time off from writing this blog to concentrate on writing children’s books.

It takes a while to create meaningful, exciting and engaging characters who jump off the page, climb up your nose and playfully mess about with your brain.

I shall be posting soon about some exciting new developments regarding my latest project – a series of  humorous books for six to eight year olds, with a Scottish twist.

As ever, what takes the time is getting something off the ground. Finding a publisher or agent who is willing to take a punt and develop your ideas is a slow process, with many hurdles to overcome.

A writer may know his or her characters and plot intimately but this knowledge has to be imparted to others – never easy. I have developed some clear methods that I will blog about in later posts.

I have also been busy painting in acrylics just to give me a counterpoint.

Art by Alan Dapre  Copyright Alan Dapre

Art by Alan Dapre
Copyright Alan Dapre

 

Staring at a blank computer screen day in day out is not healthy so I mix in a bit of staring at a blank canvas too. Going from one medium to another can alleviate blocks. I often come up with plot ideas while daubing on paint.

Every once in a while I will offer up tips for writers. These have come from my own experience. I will back each one with an exercise and quote or two. Hope they prove useful for you 🙂

*******

 

WHY WRITE?

Writing for yourself is a great way to begin. You will discover what subjects interest, motivate and challenge you. To write honestly you have to write from the heart, regarding the things you really care about. If you are creatively and emotionally engaged then your writing will reflect this. External critics will be kept at bay while you learn to master your internal one. Keep what you write private and you will be free to write what matters to you. Not having to impress others is a great thing.

EXERCISES:

-Write about a subject you passionately love or hate.
-Write about a personal secret that needs unburdening.
-Write boldly about a fear or hope for the future.

‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self’

– Cyril Connolly

Far from perfect grammar

My Grammar School inconveniently forgot to teach me grammar. Fact. We had a few lessons about verbs and adverbs, prepositions and commas – and that was about it. When I became a Primary teacher I swotted up on the basics, while older colleagues banged on about the dubious merits of Box Analysis.

box chart grammar alan dapre

 

As a published writer I am expected to know how words are strung together. I do – but I string them in my own sweet way, dropping convention when I see fit (or through ignorance). My aim is to keep things simple.

Friends who speak foreign languages have a grasp of tenses – such as the Pluperfect tense in French. I vaguely remember that it had something to do with things already done in the past. The nearest English equivalent is the Past Perfect tense – ‘we had written, they had entered’.

Wikipedia has this to say –

Examples of the English pluperfect (past perfect) are found in the following sentence (from Viktor Frankl‘s Man’s Search for Meaning):

  • A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering had no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and more intensely.

Here, “had thought” and “had reached” are examples of the pluperfect. They refer to an event (a man thinking he has reached the limit of his capacity to suffer), which takes place before another event (the man finding that his capacity to suffer has no limit), that is itself a past event, referred to using the past tense (found). The pluperfect is needed to make it clear that the first event (the thinking and the supposed reaching) is placed even earlier in the past.

Dull. Dull. Dull. I get a headache just reading and thinking about it.

Quick question. Do you know what makes a tense Perfect?

Quick Answer. A tense is said to be Perfect when the action is over and complete.

Hmm, I also remember the dreaded Past Participle. It is always used for perfect tenses… opened, eaten, rewarded.

Perhaps it’s better not to dredge such stuff up.

The Present Participle is used to create continuous tenses, which show when an action has been going on for some time – even if it started back in the past… I have been sitting here for ages.

That brings me to Gerunds. They are verbal nouns, that always use a possessive adjective instead of a pronoun… I was upset about her leaving.

Writing this, I can see why Grammar left me cold. It is vitally important but when taught badly is almost incomprehensible. Too much and you struggle, too little and you struggle.

So I am heading for the middle way. I might use the odd Gerundive (verbal adjectives) but I won’t let the terminology get in the way of writing a cracking story.

I am glad that young kids have to use appropriate terminology and call a spade a spade – noun a noun. But let’s not take it too far. There is a debate whether kids should say ‘joining words’ or ‘conjunctions’, ‘Doing words’ or ‘Verbs’…

Surely they should be taught in a way that makes sense to them, using words that they understand. Horses for courses.

By the way, does anyone know the difference between loose, periodic and balanced sentences?

Hands up at the back!

‘It’s good to write badly’ – Writing tips from Alan Dapre

It’s good to write badly. Baldly, in my case.

Back in the noisy days of  typewriters I was indebted to a strip of white tape that I placed on the paper to strike out mistakes. This was replaced in time by liquid paper. Nowadays the computer Delete key is my friend. Though I enjoy drafting my ideas out on sticky post-it sheets, rearranging good ones and throwing away the not-so-good.

Writers produce their best work when they jettison unnecessary words, characters, narratives and ideas. I prefer to be ruthless and self-edit.

Working with an Editor is useful but can be painful too, reminding me of my TV script writing days where directors and producers would wreak havoc with a careful crafted submission. In TV, the editing process is not over until the final cut. Most of the writer’s vision is left on the cutting room floor, or in a computer’s trash bin.

The best publishers use Editors who work alongside writers to eliminate excess bloat – creating a flowing narrative that engages the reader. Bad ones take over – and might as well have written the piece themselves.

So I find it is in my best interest to get a story written and self-edited to a level where I feel bold enough to let it go. If it’s strong enough it’ll fly. If not, it will probably still benefit from a good kicking about.

I tend to write more than will see the light of day – best to have too much than too little. Writers need time to write themselves into a state of consistency. So there is always plenty of flab to cut out.

Giving birth to ideas allows them to take their chances. Sometimes it takes years for them to reach their potential. I once wrote ‘Kenny’ – a play about kids leaving a Care Home. It sat in a drawer for two years until it was dusted off, re-edited and sent to the BBC for their 1991 Young Radio Playwrights Festival. Happily, it became one of the winning entries and kickstarted my writing career.

It helps to write with no fear for half an hour or so. Then have a cup of tea or walk the dog, returning fresh to the work. Skim it and highlight the good sections and strike through the rest. Save the draft. Now delete the dross and save again. Re-read and tinker with any gleaming nuggets you have left.

Now for the hard bit. Look at the work as a whole and strike through anything that doesn’t fit. It may be your best line ever, but if it shouldn’t be there then it has to go. I find this tough. Very tough when I am writing short narratives for children’s picture books. Every word counts. If a word or sentence is out of place, out it goes.

Ouch.

stephen-king

Stephen King has this advice – ‘Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.’

bernard lepton, alan dapre, stranger in the home

Bernard Hepton, a great actor and a lovely bloke, once narrated ‘Stranger In The Home’ – my BBC Radio 4 monologue. Prior to the recording day, we were discussing a certain line – one that I considered to be of great emotional importance for his character.

‘I think I’ll just cut it out,’ he said softly. I asked how he would get the emotion across using the other, more mundane, lines…

‘It’s called acting, darling.’

Bernard gave my play more space – and that gave it greater emotional impact. What is left out is as important as what is left in.

This is true for actors, writers, musicians…dustmen.

A final piece of  advice from Stephen King – ‘Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.’

That’s what good writing hinges on…

 

 

 

 

12 dodgy ways to get a publishing deal.

12 – Being famous – worked for Whoopi Goldberg, Julie Andrews, Madonna, etc.

11 – Playing for Chelsea – worked for Frank Lampard.

10 – Posting your manuscript through J.K. Rowling’s front door.  She probably has a bin under the letter box flap. Or a paper-loving dog.  Or an island retreat somewhere else less rainy than Scotland.

9 –   Asking your best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law to ask her best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law if she would like to publish your book.  She won’t. You’re virtually related.

8 –  Slipping a copy of your manuscript into Richard And Judy’s shopping trolley. It’ll just get eaten.

7 –  Nominating yourself for a Nobel Prize in Literature in the hope it will get you noticed. According to Wikipedia, ‘Each year the Swedish Academy sends out requests for nominations of candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Members of the Academy, members of literature academies and societies, professors of literature and language, former Nobel literature laureates, and the presidents of writers’ organizations are all allowed to nominate a candidate. However, it is not permitted to nominate oneself.’

6 – Be an ex-Royal and write tales about a helicopter.  Too late. Been done.

5 – Get a good seat at the Commonwealth Games/Olympics and wave your homemade cover at the camera when Chris Hoy goes past.

4 – Streak at the World Cup with  your first chapter tattooed on your bottom. Not a bad way to get noticed but it depends on how big your bum is.

3 – Write your book on a pinhead and get it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Already been done.

2 – Invent a really dreadful personal illness/childhood and write some dreadful Misery Lit that will get Grannies crying dreadfully. Actually that’s not a bad idea.

1 – Write a funny, sunny kids’ e-book and put it on Amazon – worth a try.

***

If you wish to have a peek at or download Cuddle Muddle, an engaging, funny, sunny children’s e-book, please  click one of the links below
Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle now (UK link) (US Link)

 

Writing for Children – helpful ideas by Alan Dapre

I’ve had over 50 books traditionally published in a range of genres. A few are plays for teenagers and younger children. Some are linked to characters on TV (such as Brum) and are joke, puzzle, activity and story books. Others are picture books or adventure fiction for school age kids. If you look at my website you’ll see examples.

While writing in a range of formats, I’ve seen similarities in my work – and my approach to writing. Here are some ideas that have helped me.

1) Read the genre you are aiming at. Immerse yourself in the relevant books. I used to think that my writing would somehow magically be diluted and weakened by reading the work of other writers. The opposite is true. I was able to pull their words and structures apart, agree (or disagree) with what I read, and get a sense of how the format worked.

I never felt like slavishly copying a certain style – I simply read so much that stuff filtered into my own writing. No man is an island and no writer can honestly say they have not been affected by something they once read.

2) Grow up surrounded by books. This is riffing a bit on my first point. Obviously you can’t go back in time and surround yourself with books but it really does help if you have had a childhood love of reading. Fiction, non-fiction, who cares. Just getting words into you is a positive benefit. Obviously, if you have been starved of this as a child then grab loads of second hand books, trawl libraries and steal from friends (well, ask nicely actually).

Get yourself a real feel for narrative and story, for text and picture layout. It’s never too late. Books gave me a fantasy retreat from some rather dire stuff that was happening to me in Children’s Homes. Books created amazing worlds that I could inhabit for a while. They energised and enthused me and helped me become literate, confident and, er, me.

3) Get empathy with how kids think. Watch and you will learn. The secret here is to listen to the way children talk and think. Resist the urge to step in – any interaction from you will screw the dynamic and truth of what you are seeing.

By hearing children converse you will become aware of the rhythms and patterns that children adopt. It will make your own writing sound more natural. Children tend to say only what they need to say. They may repeat phrases and rework their sentences as they speak – go with their flow. It’ll make you a better writer.

4) Love your work. There is no point writing something and getting all worked up about it before the ink is dry. I tend to write my stories in chunks then go back and edit. This can work but only if I know the plot, the characters and have got myself to a stage where I can write without fear. If I am too uncertain then it shows in my writing which gets edited to death. Best to write a chapter and edit afterwards than write a paragraph and edit that.

Rash editing can simply be masking your lack of preparation or understanding of the story or characters. If you ever think your work is rubbish then it will be. Be constructive and pull out what works. Look for the strengths. Print it off, go for a walk, come back and read it at arm’s length. If you think it is going nowhere then stop and start writing something else. The urge to get back to that piece of work will return.

5) Buy a load of sticky Post-It notes (other makes are, of course, available). When I have a story idea – be it a picture book or prose, I always start by drawing the main story arc. It gets me into the characters – and stops me from fussing too much with the plot.

I draw ACTIONS – nothing else. If a character is not doing something then they should not be in your story. Stories are about DOING. Post-Its can be easily rearranged, drawn over, replaced, etc. They are brilliant. You can do the same using virtual notes on your computer desktop or tablet screen. Trust me, it works.

6) Don’t get scared or defeated. Life for a writer is tough. You are always going to have knock backs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sent something to a publisher for it to be rejected but then that publisher comes up with a very similar idea not long afterwards. Part of me says it’s coincidence – it’s probably just bad luck. For every rejection send your stuff out to three, no ten, more publishers.

7) Your work is probably as good as the next man/woman. Who is to know why someone gets lucky and is published. It could be that they have written the best kids’ book EVER. Or  they were the best of a bunch and had approached the agent/publisher at the right time. I think the key is to build relationships. Get known as a hardworking, imaginative writer and your reputation will stand you in good stead.

I read rubbish kids books all the time. I roll my eyes and despair how something so awful could make it into bookshops. That’s life. It doesn’t mean your work is bad. Hey, we can’t all be at the right place at the right time.

8) Publishers don’t always know best. I’ve had books rejected by one publisher only for them to be accepted by another. Keep trying.

9) When you get rejections – and you will – channel your writing energy into new projects. Following a rejection, I resolved to take some ownership of some of my ideas and created my Wee Panda Bear Books – Cuddle MuddleWiggle Jiggle & Eggy Leggy. Out of despair comes creativity.

eggy leggy, wee bear, alan, dapre, panda
Eggy Leggy – Wee Bear Series

9) Be nice to everyone. A) It’s a nice thing to do and B) You never know who is on the way up. Publishers and Editors and Agents move about, get promoted,  lunch together, etc. Some may talk about you – most will not. But if you stick in their minds as that rude individual who needs a slap then you probably won’t be getting much paid work in the future.

10) Write. No, really. Write as much as you can. Don’t show it to anyone – just write. If you want to get involved in a Writers’ Class then fine. But be aware that your words will be filtered through the minds of others and you’ll probably start rewriting to please other people. Not a good idea when an idea is so raw it’s bleeding out of your ears.

By all means listen to constructive criticism by someone you respect who has just won the Nobel Prize For Literature. Personally, I’d rather just write my own stuff and see what happens.

When you write, magic happens. Doors open. People smile and the world is a better place. 

Good luck.

 

[If you want to use any of the above blog for non-commercial reasons then feel free to do so – but mention my full name. Link back to my blog please. Anything else? Simply click ‘Comments’ & drop me a line.]

Beating Writer’s Block – tips by Alan Dapre

Pesky apostrophes.
Writer’s block affects one person but we all know WB affects all writers at some point so maybe Writers’ block is more accurate.

So how to cope with it? Easy. Never pick up a pen again and become a hermit atop a wind turbine. Hmm, that might make you dizzy and fall off.

I have no block today just an inability to concentrate due to a wee two year old blocking her tin teapot with plastic George and Peppa Pig toys every two minutes.

So how do I overcome Writers’ Block? …

  • I open a drawer and pull out a random object and write about that in a style of my choosing. Breathless Mills & Boon prose about a stapler anyone?
  • I write a list of things I dislike about my main character – and that seems to always generate some positives and add balance.
  • I get away from my computer keyboard and use a pencil and some post-its – sticking ideas into a small notebook. You can always remove the rubbish ones the next day.
  • I sniff the way forward by imagining what the location of my story smells like. Throw in unusual scents to generate a sense of place.
  • I give characters and places a potted history – no more than a paragraph written on the fly. (Just hope that the fly doesn’t buzz off.)
  • I ask a question – ‘Why?’ and try to think of a situation that gives me an answer.
  • I write a verb and get the computer synonym maker to chuck new words out at me – a different or unfamiliar word may get the character talking or acting in a different style.
  • I turn on the TV and grab a headline (one that is positive) and think about my characters and how they would react to it.
  • I write a note for my character – the sort you’d find left on a fridge.
  • I revisit first lines from books in my house – and play with them. This is best done after a few pints.
  • I time myself and try to write 200 words in 10 minutes – anything. Best shred it after.
  • I think about what my character most needs at the moment. Then I try to get it down, jousting its needs with other key characters.
  • I flip the issue over if it’s a problem that’s stumping me. If a character is too dull I try to make them too interesting but going OTT.
  • I nick ideas from friends & family either by telling them I’m stuck, or by eavesdropping on their conversations. Amazing what you can pick up and play with – just don’t use real names when it comes to publication.
  • I use rhyme – forcing myself to think of simple rhythmic sentences and, often, a narrative will come. Whether it is any good is besides the point.

The idea here is to just get something down … to clear the blockage. If one thing doesn’t work, try another. And if that does not work then, er, do a blog …

Works for me!

**Updated 29th Dec 2013**

 

How To Write For Children – Tips by Author Alan Dapre

I’ve had around 50 books traditionally published in a range of genres. Can’t remember the exact number but some have been plays for teenagers and younger children. Other books tied into characters on TV (such as Brum) and were joke, puzzle, activity and story books. More were picture books or adventure fiction for school age kids. If you look at my website you’ll see examples.

Despite writing in a range of formats, I’ve been able to see similarities in my work and my approach to the books. Here are some of my thoughts – a helpful list rather than a definitive ‘if you follow this, you will be published’.

1) Read the genre you are aiming at. Immerse yourself in the relevant books. I used to think that my writing would somehow magically be diluted and weakened by reading the work of other writers. The opposite is true. I was able to pull their words and structures apart, agree (or disagree) with what I read, and get a sense of how the format worked.

I never felt like slavishly copying a certain style – I simply read so much that stuff filtered into my own writing. No man is an island and no writer can honestly say they have not been affected by something they once read.

2) Grow up surrounded by books. This is riffing a bit on my first point. Obviously you can’t go back in time and surround yourself with books but it really does help if you have had a childhood love of reading. Fiction, non-fiction, who cares. Just getting words into you is a positive benefit. Obviously, if you have been starved of this as a child then grab loads of second hand books, trawl libraries and steal from friends (well, ask nicely actually).

Get yourself a real feel for narrative and story, for text and picture layout. It’s never too late. Books gave me a fantasy retreat from some rather dire stuff that was happening to me in Children’s Homes. Books created amazing worlds that I could inhabit for a while. They energised and enthused me and helped me become literate, confident and, er, me.

3) Get empathy with how kids think. Watch and you will learn. The secret here is to listen to the way children talk and think. Resist the urge to step in – any interaction from you will screw the dynamic and truth of what you are seeing.

By hearing children converse you will become aware of the rhythms and patterns that children adopt. It will make your own writing sound more natural. Children tend to say only what they need to say. They may repeat phrases and rework their sentences as they speak – go with their flow. It’ll make you a better writer.

4) Love your work. There is no point writing something and getting all worked up about it before the ink is dry. I tend to write my stories in chunks then go back and edit. This can work but only if I know the plot, the characters and have got myself to a stage where I can write without fear. If I am too uncertain then it shows in my writing which gets edited to death. Best to write a chapter and edit afterwards than write a paragraph and edit that.

Rash editing can simply be masking your lack of preparation or understanding of the story or characters. If you ever think your work is rubbish then it will be. Be constructive and pull out what works. Look for the strengths. Print it off, go for a walk, come back and read it at arm’s length. If you think it is going nowhere then stop and start writing something else. The urge to get back to that piece of work will return.

5) Buy a load of sticky Post-It notes (other makes are, of course, available). When I have a story idea – be it a picture book or prose, I always start by drawing the main story arc. It gets me into the characters – and stops me from fussing too much with the plot.

I draw ACTIONS – nothing else. If a character is not doing something then they should not be in your story. Stories are about DOING. Post-Its can be easily rearranged, drawn over, replaced, etc. They are brilliant. You can do the same using virtual notes on your computer desktop or tablet screen. Trust me, it works.

6) Don’t get scared or defeated. Life for a writer is tough. You are always going to have knock backs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sent something to a publisher for it to be rejected but then that publisher comes up with a very similar idea not long afterwards. Part of me says it’s coincidence – it’s probably just bad luck. For every rejection send your stuff out to three, no ten, more publishers.

7) Your work is probably as good as the next man/woman. Who is to know why someone gets lucky and is published. It could be that they have written the best kids’ book EVER. Or  they were the best of a bunch and had approached the agent/publisher at the right time. I think the key is to build relationships. Get known as a hardworking, imaginative writer and your reputation will stand you in good stead.

I read rubbish kids books all the time. I roll my eyes and despair how something so awful could make it into bookshops. That’s life. It doesn’t mean your work is bad. Hey, we can’t all be at the right place at the right time.

8) Publishers don’t always know best. I’ve had books rejected by one publisher only for them to be accepted by another. Keep trying.

9) When you get rejections – and you will – channel your writing energy into new projects. Following a rejection, I resolved to take some ownership of some of my ideas and created my Wee Panda Bear Books – Cuddle Muddle, Wiggle Jiggle & Eggy Leggy. Out of despair comes creativity.

eggy leggy, wee bear, alan, dapre, panda

Eggy Leggy – Wee Bear Series

9) Be nice to everyone. A) It’s a nice thing to do and B) You never know who is on the way up. Publishers and Editors and Agents move about, get promoted,  lunch together, etc. Some may talk about you – most will not. But if you stick in their minds as that rude individual who needs a slap then you probably won’t be getting much paid work in the future.

10) Write. No, really. Write as much as you can. Don’t show it to anyone – just write. If you want to get involved in a Writers’ Class then fine. But be aware that your words will be filtered through the minds of others and you’ll probably start rewriting to please other people. Not a good idea when an idea is so raw it’s bleeding out of your ears.

By all means listen to constructive criticism by someone you respect who has just won the Nobel Prize For Literature. Personally, I’d rather just write my own stuff and see what happens. When you write, magic happens. Doors open. People smile and the world is a better place. You can quote me on that.

These are my own thoughts. I hope you find them useful.

Good luck.

 

[If you want to use any of the above blog for non-commercial reasons then feel free to do so – but mention my full name. Link back to my blog please. Anything else? Simply click ‘Comments’ & drop me a line.]

Useful free websites for writers and authors – compiled by Alan Dapré

Need a website or a place to promote your work? I read a post recently where a writer was struggling to get a web presence, and had no money to pay for a website. What to do? There are some things that are easy to set up and cost nothing except time. I found these sites are useful but I am sure there are plenty more.

Jacketflap
– you can create a profile, add your own books with ISBNs, add a blog feed, join a community, etc. Be selective about friends or you will be inundated.

LinkedIn
– add your profile and writing history – then link up to like-minded individuals and groups. You can see who views your page. A downside is you can get unwanted hangers on who ask to link just to get their own profile up. I like to connect with those I share an interest, or have worked with at some time. Not easy to attract the attention of the real movers and shakers. Be polite. I think that’s essential to be nice to people as you go on the way up, as you may meet them on the way down!

WordPress.org/Wordpress.com
– great free sites to create your own blog, upload pics of your book, add feeds etc.

Alltop.com
– an inventive search directory which will check out your blog if you request that it goes in a particular category, and then list it if approved. My site is in the ‘Children’s Literature’ category.

Pinterest
– click on its home page for an invite. When accepted you pin ‘found images’ from the internet onto your own boards. These images are also placed on the main bulletin board so you get to see them displayed alongside other pinners.

Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
– obvious really but check out their Author Central section where you can add a profile and self-promote. The info will appear on your author page, e.g,

Alan Dapré’s Author Page On Amazon Uk

Goodreads
– allows authors to put up a profile, chat, list and promote work – even to sell their books. That said, I will not sell on there as I would be required to always keep a version there once a book has been bought. I want to reserve the right to pull any book at any time. Goodreads also don’t pay out until the royalties have built up. Check it out for yourself though.

Shelfari
– I have only just popped by this site. It displays my book without me putting it up there but I assume this is due to it being linked to Amazon.com. Discovered that if I clicked on my ebook ‘Cuddle Muddle’ that the first six pages can be read. Odd that, as it can’t be sample previewed by the ‘Look Inside’ software on the actual Amazon site.

OpenLibrary
– holds catalogue records from several different libraries around the world. You can add a book on the site.

Freebase
– database containing many subjects, but they do allow for an author listing and catalogue of books.

Facebook.com
– Facebook has swamped the internet and I have had my fill of it, but as a tool for self-promotion it is excellent. Set up a page and make it public. Simple, but I shy away from inviting all my friends – it comes across as very pushy and could get annoying. Why? FB do not make it easy to limit what everyone sees … and not everyone you know wants to know everything about you. Feel free to click LIKE on my page 🙂

LibraryThing
– is a kind of listing site for all your work. You can upload details for an Author Page and give info about your books.

Here are some more specialised sites for when you are published/broadcast in a so-called traditional manner.

Scottish Book Trust
– when you have been published by a traditional bricks and mortar publisher (i.e. not simply as an ebook) then the SBT may consider your application for inclusion on their site. They are rightfully picky about who and what they accept so it is best to plan ahead and choose what you submit quite carefully.

Books From Scotland
– I applied to be on their site as they will indicate to readers your location, and it was nice to be on the same page as Robert Burns! Obviously if you have no link to Scotland then see if there is a similar thing where you are.

IMDb
– The Internet Movie Database will include you if you have had something on TV or made a movie. It is not really a place to promote your work but there is a community to join. I have not updated my details as yet so what you see there is what others have put on. Didn’t cost me anything though and it is another useful bit of promotion.

Wikipedia
– it’s not a site that will just let you write your own biography  – best beware, as it will probably be removed. To appear they require a certain level of author prominence. The fact I worked in TV on some well known programmes has probably helped, and that I have 50 plus books to my name.

ReviewsHere’s one about Cuddle Muddle from Celina Grace.

Why not also write reviews and maybe people will start to notice your work and review your writing too.

Also join a bloggers Network. I have linked to Mumsnet who have promoted me alongside other children’s authors. They might feature you on their sidebar for a month and that creates many more hits from their blog readers.

Or join a writers’ network. I belong to the SAS – impressed? Actually it’s the Scattered Authors Society with members all across the UK. Once accepted (and you really need to have had a book published) they will list your website and you can join in with a fab message board group, full of supportive writers. The SAS includes well established authors as well as new ones.

There are loads of sites out there but I hope this gives you a flavour of the websites that writers can use for free to promote themselves and their work.

Good luck!

 

Scrabbling for new words

True story:

My daughter has a biscuit.
I say ‘Can I have a bit?’
‘No Daddy.’
‘Can I have a lick then?’
‘NO Daddy.’
‘Can I have a sniff?’
‘Okay Daddy’. I get a sniff! ….
‘Can I have a bit, go on,’ says Daddy.
‘No Daddy – you’ve already had a sniff.’ So I get a scone and she nicks half!

Maybe my two year old daughter should be a banker when she grows up?

At the moment she is creating her own take on the English language:
‘hicsups’ – hiccups
‘seaweewee’ – seaweed
‘DBD’ – DVD
‘weeweebixs’ – weetabix
‘some goldilocks’ – bowl of porridge
‘swim soup’ – swim suit
‘fishing rock’ – fishing rod
‘glubs’ – gloves

I have been busy writing the first book of a funny series for young readers and inventing humorous words – but it’s obvious that the master is still Roald Dahl (with my daughter hot on his heels).

After all, who can beat snozzcumber, fizzwiggler, whoopsey-splunkers, bugswallop, jabbeling, frobscottle and whizzpoppers? His last book was published more than 20 years ago but this writer is still sparklingly relevant. Simple narratives are entwined with rounded characters that are brought to life in just a few sentences and actions. Few come close to matching Roald Dahl. The nearest I (Alan Dapré) get to him is on a library shelf filed under D!

But we should all keep trying and carving our own paths. As writers we will face supportive editors and publishers but there are some horrors out there who say one thing but then do another. The key is to keep an inner enthusiasm alive so that when knock backs come they are treated with a calm response and a belief that one’s own style and talent will win through. After all, bankers deal with other people’s money and editors deal with other people’s words – it is always easier to work on something that comes from another person’s brain than think it up from scratch.

Which is why I so admire my two year old’s freshness with language and untarnished confidence. For it is that energy that brings out new creative ideas … and words.

The word I’d like to bring into the world is QUIJ and it means ‘to try it on in Scrabble’ – this word was once invented during a game of Scrabble and it sounded so good and so real that it needed a definition and its own life … so there it is QUIJ – unleashed onto an unsuspecting public … and worth loads of points!

Ok – I’ve just read that the word QUIJ is in the Urban Dictionary dated 2007 and the definition is rather unsavoury but we were using that word back in 1990 and so Alan Dapré and a certain Joan Mills are staking prior claim to it!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Writers Block – More ways to beat the block

Pesky apostrophes.
Writers Block affects one person but we all know WB affects all of us at some time or other so maybe Writers Block is more accurate. I dumped the apostrophe in the title of this blog as  it might mess with those little bots that crawl all over our sites from time to time.

So how to cope with Writers’ Block? Never picking up a pen again and becoming a hermit atop a wind turbine is one way, but might make you dizzy and fall off. Another is to search the Net and drag up the strategies of other writers (Hmm – if they had truly cured their WB then I am sure they would be busy writing works of genius, rather than long lists).

I have no block today just an inability to concentrate due to a wee two year old blocking her tin teapot with plastic George and Peppa Pig toys every two minutes.

So how do I overcome Writers’ Block? …

  • I open a drawer and pull out a random object and write about that in a style of my choosing. Breathless Mills & Boon prose about a stapler anyone?
  • I write a list of things I dislike about my main character – and that seems to always generate some positives and add balance.
  • I get away from the typewriter and use a pencil and some post-its – sticking ideas into a small notebook. You can always remove the rubbish ones the next day.
  • I sniff the way forward by imagining what the location of my story smells like. Throw in unusual scents to generate a sense of place.
  • I give characters and places a potted history – no more than a paragraph written on the fly. (Just hope that the fly doesn’t buzz off.)
  • I ask a question – ‘Why?’ and try to think of a situation that gives me an answer.
  • I write a verb and get the computer synonym maker to chuck new words out at me – a different or unfamiliar word may get the character talking or acting in a different style.
  • I turn on the TV and grab a headline (one that is positive) and think about my characters and how they would react to it.
  • I write a note for my character – the sort you’d find left on a fridge.
  • I revisit first lines from books in my house – and play with them. This is best done after a few pints.
  • I time myself and try to write 200 words in 10 minutes – anything. Best shred it after.
  • I think about what my character most needs at the moment. Then I try to get it down, jousting its needs with other key characters.
  • I flip the issue over if it’s a problem that’s stumping me. If a character is too dull I try to make them too interesting but going OTT.
  • I nick ideas from friends & family either by telling them I’m stuck, or by eavesdropping on their conversations. Amazing what you can pick up and play with – just don’t use real names when it comes to publication.
  • I use rhyme – forcing myself to think of simple rhythmic sentences and, often, a narrative will come. Whether it is any good is besides the point.

The idea here is to just get something down … to clear the blockage. If one thing doesn’t work, try another. And if that does not work then, er, do a blog … Works for me!

 

Simultaneous Discovery, Coincidence or just Bad Luck?

Being a published freelance author here at alandapre.com and beyond I have to be alert to trends and what is going around. Or do I?

Thinking back I realise that I have actually had quite a few ideas similar to stuff that has appeared on TV or in books and – rather annoyingly – someone else has got there first. Year back I drafted a grandiose screenplay for the life of Van Gogh, basing it on his letters only to see a film come out (of nowhere) which rendered the idea dead in the water. I know that sometimes 3 Robin Hoods come along at once but there’s only so much Van Gogh one can take. Currently I am looking at the TV output on CBeebies and seeing progs that share a theme or character type that I have been developing. Baby Jake is one such show – the idea of a family of older brothers and sisters (with names in alphabetical order) and an adventurous youngster has long been with me. Pity then I didn’t get the character out in the right format – but it’s been one I have wrestled with for ages so I put him to bed. Or, more accurately, in a bottom drawer.

Still, I am not unduely worried. There is something fascinating and comforting that I am still having ideas that have merit (even though others do them first) for it means I’m not on the creative scrapheap. Besides, there are only 36 plots (or 7 or any number you can think of) so there must be a lot of recycling. A friend of mine believes there is an ideas cloud of creativity that we all tap into and so similar themes and ideas are generated at the same time. You just have to get them quicker than others or not worry about it. At the moment I am happily pursuing a story idea and am writing it damn quick before that cloud dribbles my moneyspinning bestseller into someone else’s earhole.

Okay – enough about coincidences, bad timing, simultaneous discovery – but remember you heard/read about it here first!

Writer’s Block – ways to overcome it

I have written for TV, Radio, Books and Magazines but regardless of the area I am writing in there is always a blank page, post-it or computer screen to face. Over the years I have developed a range of strategies. So here’s what works for me.

  • Think up dramatic, funny, quirky opening lines  – and really play with the scene, character or place – pushing them as far as you can. This will lead you into areas that you would not normally go. If you struggle with this then play with the last line. Apparently J.K. Rowling had the last line of her last book ready before she finished the first book. I tend to think about how the action might wind up and conclude – so writing a final line seems to make things more concrete. It always helps me to know where I’m heading narratively.
  • Wander around the house picking up props – which can easily become prompts for new ideas. Maybe you’ve a figurine from Africa that sparks off a story set there … ?
  • Get in the car, or put on your boots, and take a journey – heading for an unfamiliar place, object, house – whatever – as long as you examine your feelings when you arrive there. Being in a fresh environment can conjure up vivid new ideas and thoughts that you can mull over on the way back.
  • Start with the word ‘I’ … and add an action to it – such as ‘jump’ – and then see where it leads – off a cliff – down a hole  – who cares as long as you’re writing …
  • Begin with ‘What If …’ and say aloud something outlandish or mundane. Let the ideas follow on from each other. Maybe it’ll help to dictate to your computer, or chat to the dog? Just getting words out and hearing them gives you ideas a reality that might spur you on imaginatively.

These are just a few writing tips that have worked for me. Hopefully the few minutes spent reading them has got your brain juices flowing … I will add more the next time I’m hit by a wall of my Writer’s blocks.