Wednesday, 17 June 2015

5 Things You Need To Know About Writing Sagas


Okay, first off when I refer to sagas I mean book series'that are similar in vein to The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games etc - where the narrative arc and the character building spans several books, not one. These can be for adults or as is becoming more and more common these days for Young Adults (teenagers) and children.

1. It Takes A Lot Of Time

You can't write a saga or a series of books in a year or even a few years. They take years and in some cases even decades. It took J.R.R Tolkien 17 years to write The Lord of the Rings series of books and if you are willing to count The Hobbit and The Silmarillion as being part of the same overall saga then the whole composition took decades. The same too can be said of Stephen King's The Dark Tower (8 books) begun in the late 1970's and finished only in 2012. So if you're going to have a go at writing a series of books be prepared to still be working on it years from now.

2. It Takes A Lot Of Passion

Since writing a saga takes a lot of time it is important that the writer is extremely passionate about his or her project. A writer doesn't just write a first draft, send it off to a publisher and then get loads and loads of money. A writer gets rejected. Over and over, time and time again. It's a frustrating business and it leads to LOTS and LOTS of re-writes and re-edits as the writer chips away and tries to make each book the best that it can be. The first book in my Jack Strong series of books has easily been through 15-20 edits and I'm still without an agent and a publisher. But ultimately, I believe in the worthiness and readability of my project so I keep on working away, trying to make it better, trying to make it a more enticing project for any would-be publisher. And that is what YOU have to do too - plug away, keep believing, and never ever give up. Because without this passion and dedication your saga may never see the light of day, never mind a bookshelf.

3. You Need To Believe In Your Characters

Deep down you need to believe that your characters' stories demand to be told. When I write about the characters in my books it's like they are old friends of mine. I can't let a rejection slip get to me; I can't stop writing because if I did that then Jack and Vyleria and everyone else would die too, and I don't want that to happen. Ultimately, they are willing me to write about their adventures as much as any of my readers.

4. You Need To Read A Lot

Tonnes in fact, but in the main you need to read other sagas, other series'that feature characters and storylines that are both similar and dissimilar from your own. Since I'm a YA writer with a penchant for Science Fiction and Fantasy I read anything and everything in those genres - such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and The Chaos Walking trilogy of books by Patrick Ness. But I'll also read other books such as the aforementioned Dark Tower series that are slightly different in theme and aimed at an older, more cultured audience. Ultimately, if you read a lot of sagas you will, when writing your own work, start to get a feel of what works and what doesn't, and what is ultimately literary gold dust.

5. Don't Be Afraid Of A Little Research

Now I'm not talking about sitting all day in a library here - writers, chiefly should write, not research. No, I'm talking about reading the occasional news article about the latest discovery from Mars for example or else some of those weird sea creatures that occasionally end up in fishermen's nets. Such tales - carefully exaggerated of course - can give you some great ideas for your own writing. For example the volcano planet at the end of my book Jack Strong and the Red Giant is based in part on Jupiter's volcanic moon Io. The triangular American spacecraft featured in Jack Strong in Dreamland come straight from watching numerous UFO videos on YouTube. I could go on and so should you. Don't hesitate to feed your imagination with a few little tidbits gleaned from the weird and wacky world of the internet because at the end of the day it will be YOUR world, YOUR saga that will benefit.

Final Word

If you want to comment on any or all of the points raised above please do not hesitate to do so. Also, if you want to read all about Jack Strong's adventures in outer space check out the link below:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Thursday, 4 June 2015

6 Reasons Why I'm Writing Poetry Again

After a brief hiatus of 8-9 months I've decided to write poetry again. Here's six reasons why:

1. I enjoy it

Sometimes there's nothing more enjoyable, nothing more relaxing than crafting words together and telling a story in the form of a poem. It's a challenge, but it's a stimulating one nonetheless. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish what I believe to be a good, original poem. It feels good to be back in the driving seat again.

2. I have plenty of ideas

Right now I'm working on several "collections" of poems. The main one (Made in China) concentrates on life in Beijing, where I live, and looks at the experiences of those living in this thriving, crowded, often polluted city. Another collection that I'm working on focuses on the Chinese environment, in particular how industrialisation has polluted many of the eco-systems here. The oddest collection I'm working on at the moment details the life of a serial killer in London. In a way it's my attempt at writing about something that's not China-centric, whilst also taking poetry into new areas that it has hitherto shunned. If I didn't write then these green shoots of poetry would ultimately wither, unpicked. I need to write to allow them to bloom and grow.

3. I don't write short stories

As a Young Adult fiction writer (the first two books of my Jack Strong series are available on Amazon) it's important to write short stories and get them published in various magazines and anthologies so that I can increase my exposure to the reading public, thus making myself a more attractive proposition to would-be agents and publishers. But the problem is I don't write short stories - only novels. But I do write poetry - poetry which is often narrative and subject driven - so my poems can be my short stories. With every one that's published it increases my exposure to the publishing world and increases the likelihood that I'll get picked-up by an agent and/or publisher in the near future.

4. Made in China

As mentioned above I'm working on a collection of poetry (sonnets) that focuses on many of the working people that I have encountered in Beijing and throughout the rest of China. I aim to publish this on Amazon shortly after finishing the 3rd Jack Strong novel in July. If I keep writing poems that conform to this theme then my collection should be all the better, all the more complete for it.

5.It gives me something to write and reflect about

I'm talking of course about this blog. Focusing solely on fiction can be quite tasking at times, and so if I concentrate on aspects of writing and publishing poetry then it will ultimately give me something different to write about and share with others.

6. Ambition

After having completed an MA in Creative Writing with Manchester Metropolitan University a couple of years ago I have improved my poetry significantly. But I still want to get better and I still want to get published in some decent (and even not-so decent) magazines and anthologies. The only way I can realistically do this is to keep on writing and to keep on churning out poems in the hope and belief that one day I'll get the recognition that deep down I feel I deserve. If I stop writing completely - even to focus more on the Jack Strong novels - then almost two decades of work and effort will have been wasted.

Final Word

To give you a better idea about the type of poetry I'm writing now I've included one of my latest pieces about the Chinese environment below. Let me know what you think.


Like a flotilla of ships, the puffy white
clouds scud and drift across a bright

blue sky, the arched backs of the crooked
mountains standing sentry beneath, bearded

slopes flecked with snow. Beyond, the hills
sink and rise in broad ‘V’ shapes

as blue snakes twist and coil across a green
carpet dotted with sheep. Farms are seen

first, then villages, and then the dark suburbs,
as a tangled web of concrete spreads

out across the landscape, little metallic spiders
scurrying in every direction. Car exhausts

belch, factories smoke, until rising hazily

a few buildings poke out of an iron-grey sea.

If you want to read my novel Jack Strong and the Red Giant about a 12 year old boy's adventures in space please check out the link below:*Version*=1&*entries*=0