Category Archives: Floris Books

Beat Writers Block

Writer’s Block strikes all of us at some time or other so maybe Writers’ Block is a more accurate description?

Here are some ways you might beat the block!

alan dapre,writers block,lightbulb,solve.Open a drawer and pull out a random object and write about that in a style of your choosing. Breathless Mills & Boon prose about a stapler anyone?

Write a list of things you dislike about your main character. Then generate some positives to add balance.

Get away from the typewriter and use a pencil and some sticky note pads. Stick ideas into a small notebook. You can always remove the rubbish ones into the rubbish bin  the next day.

Sniff the way forward by imagining what the location of your story smells like. Throw in unusual scents to generate a sense of place.

Give characters and places a potted history – no more than a paragraph written on the fly.

Ask a question – ‘Why?’ and try to think of a situation that gives you an answer.

Write a verb and get the computer synonym maker to chuck new words out at you – a different or unfamiliar word may get the character talking or acting in a different style.

Turn on the TV and grab a headline (one that is positive) and think about your characters and how they would react to it.

Write a note for your character – the sort you’d find left on a fridge.

Revisit first lines from books in your house – and play with them.

Time yourself and try to write 200 words in 10 minutes – anything.

Think about what your character most needs at the moment. Then try to get it down, jousting its needs with other key characters.

Flip the issue over if it’s a problem that’s stumping you, e.g., if a character is too dull then try to make them too interesting  – by going Over The Top!

Nick ideas from friends & family either by telling them you’re 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.

Use rhyme – forcing yourself to think of simple rhythmic sentences. Often, a narrative will come.

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!

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.

Alan Dapré is a published children’s author living near Glasgow in Scotland. His latest series is Porridge The Tartan Cat. Packed with hilarious twists and fun wordplay, all with a cat’s-eye view of a zany Scottish family. 

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.

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Brawsome Bagpipes & Bash-Crash-Ding by Alan Dapre

 

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Wee Write! 2017 – Alan Dapre

wee write 2017 alan dapre
Back in 2015, I met the organiser of Wee Write! at an event where new books from Floris were being showcased. It seemed quite surreal to be chatting about half a dozen books I had not yet written. At that time, I was working on my first title – ‘Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes’ – and creating the style for the series.

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

The six Porridge books can be read in any order, as they feature recurring characters but stand-alone plots.

Just before the first two books were launched (Feb 2017) I was invited to take part in the Wee Write! schools programme. A great idea that brings schools into the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. It costs schools nothing and the children get lots from the experience. A morning – or afternoon – off school to watch authors and, in my case, engage in some silly wordplay and enjoy plenty of interaction. Yes, if you come to my event then be prepared to volunteer.

Nearly 180 pupils, teachers and helpers filled a large space inside the library, overlooked by big windows and curious office workers. Helped by Janette (an experienced  librarian) and knowledgeable technical staff, I was able to prepare my presentation and props in no time at all. The worst bit was hanging around the back of the projector while I was being introduced. As ever, I couldn’t resist a bit of silly shadow hand puppetry and that got the kids laughing.

wee write book festival 2017 Alan Dapre author

The stage was set for me to start. I was soon chatting about how my Porridge books came about. I then gave the children wee snippets about characters – aided by Yuliya Simona’s brawsome illustrations – and introduced Porridge (in soft toy form).

Porridge the tartan cat, porridge, tartan cat, alan dapre, dapre, toy, plush porridge, Floris,

Plenty of noisy fun ensued with fast-paced tongue-twisters,

alan dapre tongue twister brawsome bagpipes porridge the tartan cat

and kids running about the stage sorting out muddled-up words. A lot of Porridgy goodness was somehow spooned into one hour. At one point, we created our own crazy competitions – aiming to be as daft as Gadget Grandad’s Scottish Shed Racing Championships. There was also a lively joining-in session where children danced around and mimed tapping along to a noisy tripe writer. Next we explored together facts that sound like a load of old (typed) tripe but are actually true!

floris, tripewriter, alan dapre, porridge the tartan cat,

The hour flew by and everyone was hoarse and happy by the time my event ended. A short Q & A brought out some very good questions. “What’s my favourite book?” I was asked. I replied that it’s any book that’s being read. Books are meant to be read, to stimulate and engage.

Judging from the reaction of staff and the kind comments afterward, the children went away motivated and excited. If libraries and authors can get children enthused by the written word then we are all onto a winner.

porridge, language, made up, tartan cat, alan dapre, me-wow, mewow, cat talk,

 

Wee Write! is in someways an off-shoot of Aye Write! but it has its own special atmosphere. It offers a wee glimpse of the magic of books – and writing – to any kids (young or old) lucky enough to attend.

I loved it. Good job too because I did it all again that afternoon.

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

Porridge the Tartan Cat books launched purr-fectly

The first two stories in my Porridge the Tartan Cat  (6 book) series were launched last week.

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

A large group of eager readers gathered at West Kilbride Library in Ayrshire, Scotland to discover more about a terrific tartan cat called Porridge, who lives with the McFun family in Tattiebogle Town.

Staff from Edinburgh-based Floris Books (recently named Scottish Publisher Of The Year) were on hand to provide drinks and nibbles. I brought various activities and a tub of homemade fishy biscuits, Porridge’s favourite treat. Me-yum!

homemade biscuits, fishy, biscuits, porridge, tartan, cat, alan, dapre, Floris, scotland

The guests were entertained by an informative introductory speech about the series from Floris editor Lois, and then it was my turn. Cue lots of purr-fectly bad puns and a-mew-sing jokes from the author.

I discussed how the books came about, way back in 2011. (I wanted to do a series about a family with secrets – a Grandad with awesome gadgets, a Gran who was once a groovy singer, etc).

Then I talked about the characters and the way names had changed. For instance, Mini Mum was once Dinky Dad! And the name Porridge was originally used for a character called Doris Porridge.

I read out an extract from Brawsome Bagpipes and got everyone joining in with terrific tongue-twisters, e.g., ‘The dastardly Dug o Doom did a devious deed indeed!’

Later, I was joined by my daughter Isla – who features as a character in the series and has her own big adventure in one of the six books (where she turns invisible! You’ll see one day, or maybe you won’t…?)

[Btw, to get the look of the character Isla right, the series illustrator Yuliya Simona was given some pics of Isla and asked to draw a girl with glasses, a bob and a big smile. She did a brilliant job]

Isla, Ross, McFun, Dapre, Porridge, The Tartan Cat, tartan, cat, Floris, brawsome bagpipes, brawsome, bash, crash, ding,

Another child and his mum – who is an excellent actress – also helped out with a reading from Bash-Crash-Ding! It was lovely to hear my words come to life in front of everyone.

Porridge, tartan, cat, alan dapre, scotland, tartan cat, porridge the tartan cat, floors, childrens book, tattiebogle town, date

Reading aloud from Bash-Crash-Ding

We ended with some more joining in activities and a signing session, while the children did table-top tasks and had a go at Pin The Tail On The Porridge.

Here are some pics of the night’s events:

Porridge the Tartan Cat, tartan, cat, porridge, launch, books, alan dapre, alan, dapre, humour, floris

Signing Porridge books at my launch

porridge the tartan cat, alan dapre, book signing, Floris, scotland , author, childrens author

More signing

tartan cat, porridge, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, glasgow,

This is what it’s all about. Brawsome stories for kids.

alan dapre, porridge the tartan cat, tartan cat, floors, books, childrens, scotland, story

Reading an extract from Porridge

porridge, tartan cat, alan dapre, Floris, brawsome bagpipes, books, bash crash ding, scotland

Porridge with his tartan cat books

Books are available in-store and online with waterstones,  amazon,  w h smith and Floris Books. Plus other reputable sellers.

Porridge The Tartan Cat Series – launching Feb 2017

I know I really should have been blogging this year but most of my time has been spent writing an exciting new 6 book series for Floris Books, a large publisher based in Scotland.

The Series: 
Each story stars a member of the McFun family. Gadget Grandad, Groovy Gran, Mini Mum, Dino Dad, Roaring Ross and Invisible Sister. Nothing is ever what it seems in this fantastic family. Everyone has a surprising secret – and a knack of getting into trouble. Luckily, Porridge is around to lend a helping paw and save the day. All it takes is courage and a box of brain-boosting Fishy Biscuits.

The first two books come out in February 2017. Here’s the cover for:

“Porridge The Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes”

It’s brilliantly illustrated by Yuliya Somina, who has illustrated for Bill Bryson’s bestseller ‘A Really Short History Of Nearly Everything’.

porridge-1-cover

That’s the cover. Here’s a quick summary of the story:

Gadget Grandad does nothing on Sundays. Me-yawn. However, Porridge and the McFun twins soon discover he spends the rest of the week doing incredible things – like Walter ski-ing with a shark called Walter, or catching sneaky Scotch Pies (spies). All the while, mouldy old Fergus McFungus is stealing ingredients to cook up a secret secret recipe for disaster. Can anyone (anycat) stop him from destroying the world and volcanoes and fishy biscuits and elephants!”

***

The other book being launched is:

“Porridge The Tartan Cat and the Bash-Crash-Ding”

Here’s what it’s about:

Groovy Gran was once in a band called The Tattie Scones, but it split in mysterious circumstances many years ago. Porridge, the twins and Groovy Gran go on a mission to reunite the band members and put on a special one-off Big Gig. Unfortunately the dastardly Dug o Doom is on the prowl, trying to thwart their every move. Porridge is determined to save the day – and the show. Claws-crossed it will end with a fantastic Bash-Crash-Ding!

 

porridge-2-cover

 

I’ve seen the illustrations so far and they look very impressive. Energetic, fun and just right to capture the imagination of 6 to 8 year old readers. That said, there is enough word-play and imaginative quirkiness for grown-ups to enjoy too.

Well, I’d better crack on. More stories to write. I’ll post more thoughts and exciting news later.

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