Tag Archives: children’s author

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. 

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!”

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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.

Catch me on Twitter: Alan Dapre On Twitter

or Facebook: Alan Dapre on Facebook

 

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 🙂

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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

Lost your Blogging Mojo?

Well, it’s been a while since I last blogged.

The reason is that I lost my blogging mojo. It happened after I’d spent countless hours in front of the computer trying to boost my profile on the web – joining sites for Authors, asking for reviews, sending out PR mail shots, updating my website etc … but for what?

Sure, I got  a few more hits.  But I missed spending precious ‘daddy’ time with my wee daughter. I began to wonder if I had virtually run myself ragged online for virtually nothing. You see, Google’s algorithms are deliberately mysterious and vague and after so much effort I saw precious little change in my page rank, visitor numbers etc. And precious little of my girl in the evenings … though to be honest she is usually all over Mum when she gets home.

As a writer it is important to write the stuff that really matters but I was finding myself writing publicity articles and reviews. Stuff that might improve my rating online but will do nothing for getting my work out to a publisher. The rise of the net has left writers with immense opportunities but immense challenges too. Time is limited and we have to use it wisely. So – I ducked out of the net and wrote two stories and now I am pleased to say they will be published next year by Pearson. Always great to get another book out and these stories will be a fun read for Primary Age kids.

My next mission is to get ‘Wiggle Jiggle’ out as a picture story eBook for Kindle and Mac – it’s the follow-up to ‘Cuddle Muddle’, starring Wee Panda Bear. I aim to make it suitable for Kindle Fire as well as the iPad, Nook etc. More steep learning curves to climb. And more time away from actual writing and illustrating. The act of getting a book self-published online involves image resizing, html coding, knowledge of software such as Sigil, Photoshop, KindleGen and iBooks Author … the list goes on.

Meanwhile I am still hoping that a fantastic picture book story I have written for youngsters will get commissioned. A very well known illustrator is keen on doing the drawings but I need a publisher.  A bold, funny, energetic publisher willing to publish my bold, funny, energetic prose.

At the moment,  many traditional publishers  are just using the big names, and tried and tested formulas. There is fear in the air and money is tight. They stick to their lists, not willing to risk anything – which is why so many of their previously published books are being digitally scanned and flogged on eReaders,  just to make a quick buck. The online book market is saturated with these books and ‘amateur scribblings’.

Professional children’s authors who are not Julia Donaldson or J.K. Rowling are caught in the middle. We want to write books that get read in print … or on eReaders … by loads of children. But to do that we really need to be noticed. Getting our books seen and bought on the likes of Amazon is hard. There is so much competition needed. So much Time needed. So much luck needed.

Which is why I walked away for a bit and spent time with my family and wrote the stories I wanted to write.

And why I will still keep writing this blog – when it feels right. Oh, and probably when I have a new eBook to plug. 😉

 

 

Daily Mirror Daily Mirror? Alan Dapre in the news

A few weeks ago, a photographer came round to my house to take a publicity photo on behalf of the Daily Mirror. The UK newspaper features a business Q & A page called Biz Bureau and its editor wanted a photo of me … looking windswept and interesting.

This all came about because a few months ago I sent off a question about ebook publishing. The photographer took quite a few pictures though he seems to have left the better ones in his camera 😉

Here’s the link to the Daily Mirror article which featured my question & ugly mug. It was actually published on Wednesday 25th July and I missed it … despite being dragged past a stack of unsold Daily Mirrors in Morrisons’ supermarket by my daughter … towards her favourite Tractor Ride.

The Biz Bureau editor Tricia Phillips answered my question about how best to publish/publicise my ebook. Her advice was to use Kindle Direct Publishing –  good advice for anyone who has not tried self-publishing on Amazon before.

Actually I have already used KDP before. It was an easy process and worth doing as Amazon is the biggest online ebook seller. So I did not learn anything new but – hey – being in the Daily Mirror is a great bit of publicity for my preschool picture ebook Cuddle Muddle …

Cuddle Muddle by Alan Dapre, as featured in Daily Mirror 26 July 2012

… and I don’t mind ending up as yesterday’s fish & chip wrapper.

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If you wish to view or download Cuddle Muddle, please click one of the links below
Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle now (UK link)
Cuddle Muddle‘ – interactive iPad version with movies  (UK Link)
‘Cuddle Muddle’ – (US Kindle link)

 

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!