Category Archives: Mercury’s Child

Everything’s Coming Together …

Ok, so those of you who regularly read the blog will know that just over four months ago, I gave up life as a traveling nanny-come-first aid instructor – come author, and have returned home to a more socially acceptable 9-5 job!

After two months waiting to start my new job, the past two months of employment have been quite literally mental, working every hour under the sun to try to claw back all the debt I ran up waiting to start the job! As of today, I’ve had just four days off in nine weeks! Which, as I’m sure you can appreciate, has taken it’s toll on my writing.

I’ve been knackered! After 12+ hours a day staring at a computer screen, quite frankly the last thing I wanted to do every evening when I got home was to spend another couple of hours typing away.

Add to that the increasing general frustrations of being an ‘almost there’ author – something I’ve spoken recently about in ‘Just the Advice I Needed’ and ‘The Writer’s Marathon‘ – and it’s been hard to motivate myself to continue writing.

A few months ago, when I was waiting for my ‘day job’ to start, I began a book called ‘Mercury’s Child’ – a novel for 11-15 year olds about a girl called Halley MacFadden, who discovers eight parallel universes to the one in which she lives, and who, without giving too much away, soon realises that many of the people close to her are actually different versions of the same person.

The book has always felt ‘almost there’ (a phrase all too close to my heart at the moment!). The more I developed the concept, the more excited I got, but I just kept thinking it needed an extra va-va-voom, and I guess this slight apathy towards the story, combined with all the other reasons I’ve been disinclined to write, have meant that Mercury’s Child has sat half-finished, and untouched, on my laptop for the past two months.

Now, for those of you who are regulars, you’ll know, when it comes to writing, I like joining the dots! I write by linking connections, and I get my ideas by drawing connections from things I come across in every day life … (Me vs Me! and ‘Give Yourself an Inspirational Day!’) And you’ll also know that my Dad, who died when I was 19, has been playing on my mind quite a lot – ‘Just the Advice I Needed‘ – so with all that in mind … I think everything’s begun to come together!!!

Mercury’s Child needs some oomph … something that makes me want to write an ending, and also something which makes me believe in my writing again, after nine months of rejections from publishers.

As everyone keeps telling me, the best thing a writer waiting to hear back from publishers can do, is to keep on writing … but you need to be inspired to do that, and you need to believe in your own writing.

As I explained in Just the Advice I Needed, Dad has become the inspiration. My biggest fan might no longer be around, but that doesn’t mean I ought to stop believing in myself. If anything, the amazing feedback I got from all you guys from the blog post I wrote about finding all his old writing should be something that inspires me to believe in my own writing. But I have a feeling Dad can help me out in another way with the writing!

So, as I mentioned above, I’ve been working crazy hours recently – the life of the starving artist!!! And today was my fourth day off in nine weeks! The day off was long overdue, but it also gave me the down time I needed to start joining the dots and finding the connections around me.

Mercury’s Child is the story of a little girl.  Halley, the central character is just 11 years old when she begins travelling between the different parallel worlds. But there’s another major character in the story – her father Robert, and the different versions of the same man that she comes to know. And I think that’s the missing link in the story that I might have just begun to see.

I grew up surrounded by my Dad’s stories. Not the literal box of old stories and projects which now sits under my bed, and decorating my bookshelves, but tales of his weird and wonderful life. Tales of the thirty-odd years he lived before I came into this world. My Dad, a computer programmer by trade, was a hundred other things. He had been an English teacher in Tehran, a lorry driver, an insurance clerk, an RAF translator, a backpacker … And those were the stories which coloured my childhood. Which inspired me to momentarily forget my Cambridge law degree, and become a live-in nanny over in Canada, which inspired me to pack my bags and see the world, which inspired me to do every job from a children’s party entertainer to a first aid instructor.

But Dad’s stories don’t just have to inspire my life, and the way I choose to live it … They can also inspire my writing! Because I have a feeling that Robert MacFadden is missing something that my Dad had in truckloads …

Backstories ….

The man was meant to have discovered the different universes, and lived in different time-z0nes, set 20 years apart. He literally lived tens of different lives …

So now it’s time to add all those back-stories in, and see if I can put the va-va-voom back into the story, and get back my writing mojo

C-C xxx

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Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

I’ve been meaning to get around to this for some time now.  The theme for ‘Elli Writes’  June contest is ‘A New Pair of Boots’ – writing in someone else’s shoes, and whilst I know the idea of the challenge is to force you to write from someone else’s perspective, the contest has inspired me to write a blog post on the subject of characters and perspectives.

For a start, I’ve discovered I write far quicker in the first person.  Maybe that’s just because I’ve spent over half my life journalling.  Or maybe it’s because you dwell less on description in the first person than you do in the third person (or at least I do!).  The first person allows you to focus solely on one character’s thoughts and emotions, whilst the third person is obviously broader.  There’s more to consider,  both character-wise, and also from a lyrical standpoint.  The reason third person writing takes longer, is because sentences written in the third person can normally include more elevated, creative description, and as such, every sentence requires careful thought.  For me, first person writing often becomes a stream of thought.  I don’t know if that means I write better in the first person, or that my writing is lazier in the first person, but that simple initial choice of perspective can completely and utterly change a book.

At the moment I’m writing a novel called ‘Mercury’s Child’, which I’ve now mentioned a couple of times.  It’s my first stab at science fiction, and initially started as a far ‘younger’ project, as compared to my other novels.  The two other ‘children’s’ works I’ve written are teenage fantasy novels.  Teenagers with superpowers.  However, because of the nature of the worlds, the timings of the characters lives, and the necessary naivete of the protagonist, Mercury’s Child is a book about an eleven year-old, and as such I decided to target the book at a younger audience – maybe 11-15 year-olds, as opposed to the 14-19 year-old bracket my other books has been designed primarily for.

Initially I decided to write the book in the first person.  Because I find it easier, quicker … and possibly the lazy option 😉  However, the problem with writing about an 11 year-old in the first person, is that you then need to think like I’m an 11 year-old.  Now, I like to think of myself as a bit of a big kid at heart, and I don’t think I have problems empathizing with teenagers, in fact, in a number of ways I probably still lead a rather teenage life.  I live with my (friend’s) parents, drive someone else’s car, and a mortgage and marriage are both things which are still a long way off!  For those reasons I enjoy writing teenage fiction, because in a lot of ways I simply write how I think.

And whilst I was obviously 11 years old at some point, if I’m honest, I don’t really remember it all too well!  I definitely don’t think like an eleven year-old.  And for that reason, I eventually decided to write the book in the third person.  Because, whilst this perspective might require more careful crafting, and doesn’t allow for stream of thought writing, it also doesn’t require a detailed insight into the mind of your protagonist.  It requires some, but not total empathy.

So, I began writing a book for 11 to 15 year-olds in the third person.  And within a few chapters I noticed something else.  I write way too old for that age-group!  As an author, I genuinely think it’s hard to hide your own voice.  Some might argue that’s all part of the craft, and obviously it is to some degree.  You don’t want to write an autobiography, you want to write fiction.  But fiction, as I’ve said before, is also writing about what you know.  Writing about what you understand.  And as Mercury’s Child took shape in the third person, I realised I wasn’t writing a book for 11 to 15 year-olds.  I was writing about an eleven year old girl and her family, for readers in their late teens and adulthood.  And whilst that might seem like a failure for some, for me, I think it just means I know my target audience.  I know where my talents lie.  And rather than try to force a story into a form I think it ought to take, I’d prefer to leave it in its natural form, and see if it works that way.

Because this is the thing I’ve found about walking in someone else’s shoes … it only really works within certain parameters.  The shoes don’t necessarily have to be your own, but they have to be a reasonably good fit!  Whether you’re writing in the third person, or even more specifically in the first person, you need to know your character.  You need to understand your character.  And you need to understand your reader.  And whilst no one wants to read an autobiography where the names have simply been changed to call it fiction  (apart from maybe The Devil Reads Prada!) that doesnt mean people want to read something completely foreign to a writer.  Good writing comes from the heart.  Your heart.  Not someone else’s.  And so you need to understand your own story.  You need to live your own story.

That’s why Mercury’s Child, in my opinion, works best pitched at older children and adults, and in the third person.  Because, whilst I understand my characters and the worlds I’ve created, I best represent those characters and those worlds in the voice of a teenager/adult.  In a voice rather similar to my own.  That isn’t to say adults can’t write for younger children – as is obvious from almost all children’s literature! – I just know where my voice is strongest.

Following on from this idea of knowledge and understanding, I really struggle with the idea, as a female writer, of writing about a male protagonist.  Ok, from a distanced third person perspective, I might be able to do it.  (It’s something J.K. Rowling obviously nailed!).  But it’s not something I would choose, because I understand girls.  I know them, because I am one!  I don’t think I would ever excel at writing from a male first person standpoint, because, quite simply I don’t know how men think!  Men and women are really different creatures, and I don’t think I could ever be confident enough to establish a credible enough male voice.  Even in the third person, I’ve struggled to write male dialogue, and had male friends criticise the realism of my male-on-male conversations, because quite simply, I don’t know how men converse with one another when they’re on their own.

And so for that reason, whilst obviously, as fiction writers, we are always walking in someone else’s shoes, I think those shoes have to be a reasonable fit.  For me, I’d say my current literary fit is a woman’s shoe, aged 15 to 35 years-old in the first person protagonist.  Where the third person is concerned, those requirements are a little bit looser.

What do you guys think?  Can male writers write in a convincing female voice, and vice-versa?  How big are the writing shoes you feel confident filling?  Or am I being too conservative with my writing?  Should I step into less comfortable shoes?

C-C xxx

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A Change of Approach

Last week I hit a bit of a brick wall with the book I’m writing.  I’ve realised that,  rather ironically considering how much I enjoy travelling, I really don’t enjoy writing the ‘travel’ sections of stories – how characters A and B get to C. Something which you can in some circumstances simply skip altogether.  However, when the story is one about a series of interlinked worlds, it seems rather important to describe those links.  I just get rather impatient and can’t wait to get to the main story again … and that leads me to a bout of good old Writer’s Block.

However, I think I found a solution … or at least it did in my case!  Two week’s (of unemployment!) in, and I’ve now hit 30,000 words.  Obviously, their calibre is still to be decided, but they are words, on a page, and for that I’m proud/

In fact, it was actually words on a page which got me past the infamous Block, because I decided to change my approach to writing for a few days.

I write in  Word documents.  Each chapter is a simple Word document, and then sections are compiled as folders on my laptop.  I spent my life writing on a computer screen.  And so I mixed it up a bit.  I printed out my chapters.

For a start, actually being able to physically touch the pages of my work reminded me of what I had achieved.  30,000 words is about 76 pages of print.  That’s a pretty hefty weight in your palms … even more so if you print it out double-spaced (which is actually something I would recommend if you have a lot of editing to do!)

But also, seeing the writing in a different way – as printed pages, as opposed to a never-ending scrolling computer screen really helped me look at it in a fresh light.  I ended up editing everything I had written, and being inspired enough to go straight to writing another three chapters.

So if you’re struggling with a writing hurdle of some kind – whether it’s a travel section of your novel, or just simply a scene that you still can’t get to sound quite right – why don’t you try looking at it in a different way?  Print it out, type it up, or simply copy it out again … You never know what the results might be!

C-C xxx

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Getting Over The Writing Hurdle

I’m constantly thinking up stories.  As in literally every day.  If I’m working on a book, then that story plays out in my head throughout my day.  It’s there in the background, so that whenever I have a solitary moment – working out at the gym, or walking for the bus – the story picks back up in my head, and I carry it on.

If I’m not working on a project at the time, I find my head filling with new ideas.  I’ll toy with an idea for an hour or two, a day maybe … and if it sticks, write it down … if not, I start again.

So the stories are always there … and yet that doesn’t mean they automatically translate onto my computer screen.  Because sometimes I take my stories too far …

This has been my writing hurdle with my current book ‘Mercury’s Child‘.

I spent too much time thinking about the story before I began to write.  And I got too far along the story!

You see, I write books in the same way I read them.  I want to know what happens next.  I invest in my characters, and want to know where they’re going … and so the problem with thinking up too much of a story before you get it down on paper, is that you don’t want to be writing the first part of the story.  You want to be writing the later parts!

With Mercury’s Child I laid all the groundwork in my head, and couldn’t bring myself to write it all down, because I was worried that my impatience to get to the newer parts of the story – they parts I didn’t know yet – would translate into my written word.

And so for months and months I dawdled.  At first I had excuses – it was the end of my ski season in Whistler, and I wanted to make the most of the skiing and socialising.  Then I returned home, and there was the obvious excuse of catching up with friends and family who I hadn’t seen for years.

But now I have no excuse.  I’ve been back home exactly 1 month, and I’m still yet to start work.  I’m spending weekday after weekday waiting for my grown-up friends with their grown-up adult jobs, to leave work and come and play with me, and I’m getting bored.  Now, if I’m really an author, I ought to be using all this spare time productively.  And there are only so many magazine writing competitions I can enter in one month!

So I finally got started.  I’m happy to admit that the first couple of days were a struggle – trying to make sure the start of my book remained as exciting and full of promise as the idea had when I first came up with it, despite my desire to fast-forward through the story until I got to a point where I felt like I was still being creative.

But the reason I’m writing is that I got over my hump!  I got over the writing hurdle, and I’m back in a zone where I feel like I’m using my imagination again.  And once I got the first three chapters of Mercury’s Child down, I could go back over them with fresh eyes, and actually add in new snippets.  New ideas, which made me feel like I was actually using my imagination, and that I was injecting those things that I had been worried would no longer be present in the first parts of my story – excitement and intrigue – properly into it.

Obviously whether I’ve been successful is a subjective judgment, but in just four days, I’ve managed to pen twelve thousand, five hundred words.  The first of my six chapters is on the blog – have a read, and let me know what you think.  And if you want to read more, let me know, and I’ll post another chapter 🙂

So I guess my message today is that everyone has their hurdles, and for every writer, the challenges present themselves in different ways.  But from my experience, the only way you get over a hurdle is by gritting your teeth, and hitting it face on.  At first it might be tough, but once you’ve got something on the page, you’ve created a framework that you can go back and tweak.  And trust me, the tweaking stage is far easier, and far more fun, than the initial ‘laying the framework’ phase – so just get that first part over and done with!

C-C xx

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Filed under C-C Lester, Mercury's Child, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing