Writing Retreat – day 3 – Taking out the trash…

Another early start with a little bit of light podcasting for next week’s episode, and a good morning’s writing. I’m realising that a big problem with this book is I’m setting too much up too soon, and a lot of what I’m setting up doesn’t even need to be there in the first place (retrospect is a fine thing and this is why we have rewrites). So my first four or five chapters might only need to be three chapters with clearer intent so that the reader’s expectations aren’t muddled and I have a greater chance of getting them engaged with the story.

It’s all about focusing on what’s important and taking out the trash… Speaking of which, Marcus asked if we fancied helping him take the trash up the road to where it’s collected, because when you get there, this is the view…

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Mont Blanc… which, on the hour, every hour, rumbles and ejaculates a new overpriced fountain pen from its summit.

 

I mean… blimey… that puts our local recycling centre into perspective. I couldn’t stop staring at it, and these photos don’t do it any justice whatsoever. It’s magnificent and gets something ticking over in my excitable little brain.

Fired-up once more, I returned to the chalet and worked harder than ever. This is the nook that I’ve been writing in. A little mezzanine level in the chalet with a not-remotely distracting view of the trees gently swaying outside…

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After a walk and an incredible dinner, we gathered for this evening’s session with Marcus, which was on endings, twists and readers’ expectations. This all came from conversations we’d each had with Marcus during the day, which is such a nice way of tailoring the group sessions to our own needs. I also got to interview one of my fellow retreaters Dawn Kurtagich who has been to a number of retreats and now even runs her own (subscribe to the podcast to make sure you don’t miss out on that!).

Once again, this retreat has defied all expectations and I can heartily recommend it. Check out more details of the May retreat here, and if that doesn’t convince you then this is the sort of food we’re getting…

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I mean, come on…

For day 4 click here.

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Writing Retreat – day 2 – hot tub writing machine…

I was up pretty early this morning and got straight into my rewrites, working solid for an hour or so before I hit a crossroad. One of those writing moments where your choices can end up taking you down all sorts of blind alleys. 

Last night, our host Marcus Sedgwick talked us through a mapping method that he uses to sketch out his outlines on a large sheet of paper. I gave this a go, but my bum had been stuck in the same spot for too long, so I decided to take a walk to get the oxygen flowing through my beleaguered noggin. Marcus thought this was a good idea, pointing out that the Romans had a phrase for this: Solvitur Ambulando! (Yes, say it out loud and make a Harry Potter wand action, good, yes, now sit down, well done). It means, ‘It is solved by walking.’ Well, I’m all for that, especially when the views are like this…

These photos do this place no justice whatsoever. It’s incredible. Sheer cliffs, mossy boulders the size of a house, the distant clonk-clonk of cow bells, deep, impenetrable woods echoing with the sound of mysterious creatures… if you’re not inspired by this stuff, then there’s no hope for you.

After a couple of hours going up-diddly-up, I came down-diddly-down, staying close to the stream to ensure that I didn’t get completely lost. Returning to the chalet I was fired up and ready to write and had a very productive afternoon completely and utterly rewriting the second chapter of my middle grade book.

Part of my suspicion of writing retreats is the thought of having to read out my stuff to a bunch of other writers who will then rip it to shreds. I embrace a bit of healthy criticism, but I’ve ever thought that’s the best way to go about it. However, our session with Marcus this afternoon was partly inspired by my switching from third person past tense, to first person present, and so it made sense to read a bit of both versions out to make the comparison, and I’m glad to say it went down very well. We also discussed character, opening pages and how shifting the perspective of your narrator’s voice can make a dramatic difference to the tone of your writing. This was an easygoing hour or so with a small group and it was inspiring stuff.

I can’t recommend this retreat enough and there’s another one next May if you fancy it. Click here to check it out.

Oh, and tonight I got to interview Marcus while we were both in the hot tub. Another first for the Bestseller Experiment. Please subscribe on iTunes or your pod catcher of choice to ensure that you don’t miss out!

Click here for day 3.

The curious influences of Alex T Smith

We had the excellent Alex T Smith on the podcast this week. He’s one of those children’s authors who gives so much back to the community, not least when it comes to talks and interviews that are choc full of great writing tips. I was lucky enough to talk to him at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators‘ conference last year (a big thanks to the organisers for letting me crash the party!). I particularly enjoyed hearing about Alex’s influences, which included the likes of Frankie Howerd, Frank Spencer and ‘Allo, ‘Allo. Not the most obvious starting points when writing for young children, but he makes it work. It’s a fun interview and you can hear the whole thing when you click here.

In other news, my aunty Marion has a new book out! Actually, she has TWO! If you listen to the podcast regularly, you’ll know that we’ve mentioned her  a few times. Her memoir was an Irish Times bestseller a few years ago, and she’s spent the time since then working on what is essentially a fictionalised version of her life, with an added dollop of romance. I’m indebted to the tireless Andy Bowden who designed the cover art, which really looks the business…

And speaking of new books… did you know that you can get 10% off when you pledge for my new book The End of Magic? Go here, click pledge and type bestsellerxp when prompted.

Till next time, happy writing!

Mark

“Therefore, but…” with Cass Green

We had the amazing Cass Green on the podcast this week and one of the things we touched on was the “Therefore, but…” rule for writers as explained by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone in this vid.

We also discussed a recent blog by Mark Chadbourn on how writers should be looking for not one, but multiple streams of income to pay the rent. It’s a fascinating piece, and could well change your life!

And we were delighted to see the podcast featured on Buzzfeed as one of the podcast you NEED to start listening to in 2018. Buzzfeed! My kids were actually impressed for about 30 seconds…

And stay tuned for some big news on an exciting new project!

Mark

PS.

Oh, and my first book Robot Overlords is in the UK Kindle half-term sale. Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy so far. If you haven’t you can grab a copy for only 99p now!

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