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Tag Archives: finishing a book

Birds do it, bees do it, but should fictional teens do it?

aguttes-chastity-beltWhen writing a book for young adults, as I am, there comes a point where you have to deal with the inevitable: the truth of the matter is that teenagers have relationships, and a difficult issue when it comes to depicting modern teen relationships is sex.

So what do you do if you want to write a book for young adults, that appeals to the realities of their lives, whilst avoiding the pitfalls of making more chaste teens feel alienated? Basically, an issue I ran into a few months back, like a solid brick wall, was; should teen characters have sex?

My two characters are hardly even teens (they’re both almost twenty) but in the end I decided to take a route for them that walks a subtle line between an actual real-world physical relationship and something less overtly sexual. I definitely don’t want the two of them to be ‘just friends’ but I also have to be careful not to make things too intense for younger readers. I only recently realised that my books might appeal to a younger demographic and keeping them in mind has forced me to make some pretty hefty changes.

One of the key issues I’m having to deal with are the difficulties in plot points that are dependent on their sleeping together. When I say ‘sleeping together’ I don’t mean anything sexual, I simply mean that on a number of occasions a key plot point is dependent on them staying over at each other’s houses.

I pondered this problem for a long time. Originally my main characters had a physical relationship and back then I planned out chapters and chapters of plot based around the two of them being present at the same houses at various times of the day and, importantly, I just assumed that they would be sleeping at each-others’ homes.

However, through the course of time (and after having my wife proof-read my first few chapters) it became clear that if my characters’ sexual relationship remained as overt as it was in earlier drafts the book(s) would be unlikely to be appropriate for/appeal to the teen/pre-teen demographic I’m now hoping to reach.

This is a difficult decision and it’s meant that so many different things have had to change. Though the plot of my book is still very similar to what it was when I started, I’m still having to traipse back through old material to make sure that it doesn’t refer to what was previously a much more overtly physical relationship.

I definitely need them to be boyfriend and girlfriend, however the nature of this relationship has changed significantly. This can sometimes weigh a little heavy on me as I’m not sure if this makes me a dishonest author, pandering to preferred reader, rather than writing what I originally set out to do. That said, I have to be realistic about this. I want people to read my books and it’s no use writing a book that will only appeal to me. If my primary aim is to provide an entertaining reading experience for a wide range of readers, I have to at least avoid writing about things that are either inappropriate or unappealing for those readers.

To be honest I’m actually pretty comfortable with my characters the way they are now. This change in how I define their relationship means I can concentrate more on the day-to-day aspects, rather than trying to pay too much attention to the nature and language of their physical encounters (I have to confess, I’m not the best at writing sex scenes, I’m just going to have to leave that to Anne Rice). Changing their physical encounters, from being overtly described to simply existing as subtle hints, actually seems to have allowed me to explore a more realistic and believable relationship for my two main characters.

Despite this, I’m still concerned that there may be something less ‘literarily honest’ about the way I’ve written my redraft. Of those of you who do write I’m very interested to see what you have done (if anything) to alter your characters, and/or plot, to make it more readable for your target demographic. Am I alone in doing this or do other authors think (even occasionally) about their target readers when sitting down to write? As always thanks for reading and I welcome any comments you have in the comments section below, Cheers, John

 
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Posted by on 6 October, 2014 in writing hints and tips

 

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The realities of slow authorship

melting_clock_lifestyle_1000Everyone has a book in them and anyone can churn that book out, what differs from individual to individual are the limits that stand between them and that finished manuscript. For me that limiting factor is time, I work near-on full-time and, because my wife and I work opposing shifts, I also spend a considerable portion of my week as a SAHD (stay at home dad). Time is my nemesis.

My writing gets jammed in wherever I can fit it and I feel the constant awareness that I should be writing more. I rush to get the kids to bed, clean away supper dishes, and generally get the house in order with enough time spare before my wife gets home from work. During my days off there are things in the house that need fixed, groceries to buy, meals to cook and things to take the kids to and pick them up from. I am on a constant quest for some alone time in front of my computer.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. Though the individual details may differ I imagine that the demands of normal, every-day life will be one of the most tenacious challenges for most authors and would-be authors. However I’ve spoken to many other writers who suffer from a very different problem; the dreaded writer’s-block. This is a problem that I haven’t had in literally years, and I wonder if time and inspiration are linked.

Perhaps there’s something akin to the expression ‘absence makes the heart grow stronger’ that goes on with writing. I simply don’t have time to fall out with my muse: when I find the opportunity to write I grab her with both hands and the rest takes care of itself. Maybe it’s got more to do with the old adage that if you want something done ask someone who’s busy.

The sad fact might simply be that the blocked among us have too much time to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination and getting stuck in their own heads. Whilst those of us with too little time end up with so much creativity bottled up that when the time comes to write they never feel they’ve done enough, or that it’s been drafted enough to be any good.

Somewhere out there there must be authors who have by some means found themselves in the perfect middle, with just enough time to write but not so much that they get distracted. In the mean time the rest of us just have to envy one another’s glut of either time or inspiration.

My own approach seems to be working fairly well (if unnervingly slowly), I’ve already got a completed book under my belt (you can check it out here), my next book is almost past it’s first third in completed form, and I have two others with a few completed chapters and full book plans. These facts fill me with hope but I can’t help but be a realist about time constraints: this next book is taking a while (a long while). I promised myself back when I turned thirty that by forty I’ll have written ten books and have recorded an album, but with each twenty-minute writing session that counts as my entire authorship of the day, I feel that goal slip ever further. My only choice is to keep pushing and keep my fingers crossed, on top of that maybe I have to learn to make writing more of a priority in my day.

What’s been your experience of trying to write? Do you lack time or inspiration? What tricks have you picked up to get over these obstacles? Let me know in the comments below and as always thanks for reading. By the way, you can also follow me on twitter by following this link, all the best, John

 
 

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‘Chasing Humanity’ (fiction): Character profile: Tobias

The world is different, human beings have changed and in a last ditch effort to hold on to what was once ‘normal’ human civilisation, an exodus of like-minded people has occurred. In the beginning only the wealthy few made the trek but eventually the new colonies were substantial enough to enable thousands more to leave their home countries and head to the only landmass on Earth still untouched by human hands: Antarctica.

Our story begins with Tobias, a young man who has spent the past few years of his life (and all of his savings) gaining invaluable skills for tending the habitat that keeps the elements at bay and allows the people of the domed city of Loam to live something approaching a normal life.

The Antarctic winter has set in and the lighting employed to battle the endless dark is limited to just a few hours a day. UV lamps pour out just enough to keep plants alive and the dome’s environmental controls are straining just to keep the temperature inside above freezing.

Icy winds of -50°C howl through the endless night outside the dome, and yet at times Tobius would rather take his chances outside if it meant he could get away from his dad’s relentless lecturing.

Cabin fever is setting in but the only way to get out the house is to go to ‘Mike’s Place’; an entertainment center near Tobias’s home, and that costs credits that Tobias just doesn’t have. Blagging his way through free coffees one repair job at a time Tobias longs for something different, a break from the monotony.

His wish is about to be granted in a way he never would have expected, Tobias’s time in Loam is running to an end and he has no idea. For now he’ll settle for a cup of coffee with the girl who makes his days worthwhile: Anyanka.

*

Let me know what you think in the comments below, as promised there is much more to come (though I’ll do all I can to keep spoilers to a minimum). ‘Chasing Humanity’ should be ready sometime after Christmas, but if I get a bit of extra free time who knows it could be sooner. Please subscribe to find out more about this book or to see my hints and tips about writing.

Today’s tip: don’t take the easy route now, you’ll just give yourself more work later. Before running on to the next chapter of writing, review what you just wrote, make sure it’s formatted correctly, reads easily, and is as free from grammatical errors and spelling mistakes as you can manage. Also if you intend to publish on kindle don’t bother about page run over, in fact save your writing in html format and when writing view as ‘web page’ that way you remove the temptation to move paragraphs to a new page etc.

Thanks for reading, I welcome any comments and I’ll have some more content from ‘Chasing Humanity’ to share very soon. Cheers, John

 
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Posted by on 27 August, 2013 in Chasing Humanity

 

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Finally completed something

Eudaimonia and disability Aristotle and human capacitiesOK it’s not what I expected to be popping up for my first kindle publication but here it is ‘How to Live The Good Life in a Modern World’. I’m not even sure if I can count a non-fiction book as the same sort of thing as what I’ve been talking about so far on this blog. As you may or may not know my background is in Philosophy so I went for the old adage and ‘wrote what I know’. I have to say even though it’s a completely different kind of animal than what I thought of when I started this blog completing it has definitely spurred me on to write more. Last year I completes my MPhil thesis and I thought that my writing habits would instantly translate into time spent writing fiction but I was wrong.

With the deadlines gone and the ‘honest’ reason for time spent away from other things it wasn’t as easy to set aside the needed hours each weak to get my work done. That’s probably the key word that changed things and got my book written: ‘work’. Until I started writing this one I didn’t think of writing as ‘work’, I thought of it as ‘writing’, it currently doesn’t pay and it does feel like a hobby so I kind of treated it like that. Things changed when I decided to write this book up and I started to set time aside for ‘work’. Loads of people do unpaid work every day from volunteers to interns so i decided to class this as a writing ‘internship’ where I’m my own boss and it seems to have worked. Now that this book is done I’ve even started delving back into writing fiction again. (Excerpts from chapters are to follow).

OK so for those of you who might be interested here’s a brief description of what my book is about. First off, it isn’t a mammoth read, I tried to keep things as neat and concise as I could. It would work as either an introduction to philosophy (it looks at both ancient and very modern positions in philosophy, providing people with a breadth of philosophical history) or as a more specific guide to the idea of what counts as a ‘good life’.

It doesn’t address every important philosophical question ever posed, but it does cover one or two of the ‘big questions’ as it takes the reader through it’s main topic. The book is about what it is to have a good life, and what kind of activities we might have to participate in in order to achieve this. When I started writing this book I wanted to make sure that the vast array of human capacities and capabilities are at least acknowledged, if not addressed head on. Because of this topics including the nature of mental disability and how it impacts on notions of merit and blame grew to become a steady thread throughout the book.

I like to think that it addresses these issues in the lightest possible manner whilst taking them seriously but I’ll leave it up to readers to decide. It’s available (in English only) in the UK, the USA, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada and Brazil. If you choose to get yourself a copy (or even just read a sample) I hope you enjoy it and I hope you take the time to tell me what you think.

So my final little bit of advice about getting a book written is to stop ‘writing’ and start ‘working’. Hope that helps you, thanks for reading, Cheers, John

 
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Posted by on 22 August, 2013 in Philosophy

 

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