Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Back to school (via Cairo)

So, a bad week for blogging (sorry this is a little late), but only because last week was very good for the writing.

I'm not sure what mental block prevented me from understanding when I was younger that writing a novel doesn't (for most people) involve having an idea and sitting down to write, but requires rather more research and planning. I have however just finished my first full synopsis of my planned novel, and am very excited to get started. It's fair to say that through my month and a bit of research the plan has changed direction radically, which has been useful, but more to the point it's felt really great to be learning about something new again - my knowledge of Egypt and of the Desert War in the 1940s was pretty much non-existent so it's been a real voyage of discovery. I've also been re-reading the Arabian Nights - I had forgotten how amazingly callous some of the stories are, with plenty of unexpected violent or deadly punishments that are regretted at leisure afterward, not to mention the details like the various importunate lovers who end up locked in a stack of cupboards with their urine falling on those below. No doubt this is why I liked them as a child - they remind me slightly of Roald Dahl's gruesomeness. Plus there are all the magic Djins, fish that talk and other fun things.

As well as back to school on the research (or at least to the library), I also went on an excellent City Lit one-day course on writing for picture books for very young children. This was a great chance to workshop some ideas, but also to learn the things that you never think of as a novice - like the fact that rhyme (though popular with kids) does not translate, and that most picture books have a standard number of pages to do with how they are batch-printed. First picture books for the under-3s tend to be deathly dull for adults, because fantasy elements are just confusing at that age, but for 3-6s you can have much more fun - although it turned out my idea had about 3 stories worth of plot in one, which I guess is good news when i come to rework it!

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