Friday, 25 February 2011

Show and/or tell?

If I read another how-to-write article telling me to show not tell, I will explode.

Yes, I know there is some sense in it. I know some novice writers need to be encouraged to bring their work alive by involving all the senses, etc. Or to use more dialogue - to let us see a character for ourselves rather than be told what she is like. And I am as prone as anyone else to write dull early drafts that need livening up when I revisit them.

But please, please, please! Stop telling me never to tell. Stephen King, much as I admire him, has a lot to answer for (and he tells, anyway, more often than you might think). Everyone tells. I just read Moby-Dick and there's tons of (wonderful) tell, as well as tons of (wonderful) show. Melville knew when to do which.

That's what we all need to know - when to do which. We all get it wrong at times. New writers need to learn when to show and when to tell. But that's it. Stop telling them never to tell, because that's wrong... I'm telling you.

I could show you, but I don't have time and I'm sure you don't, either.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Being a children's writer - scary stuff!

Writing the book was fun. The main character, Anna, turned up inside my head one day and started talking to me (a bit like Anna's sister Chloe turns up inside her head, but for a very different reason...)

Anyway, yes. Writing it felt like giving Anna free rein, discovering who this 12-year-old was and why she was obsessed with her twin sister being inside her head - or 'sharing her body', as Anna puts it.

Being accepted for publication was thrilling too. Phoenix Yard Books, a new children's publisher, liked it and so, they assured me, did the children they tried it out on. Wonderful. I'm eternally grateful and they are doing a great job for me. I'll have a copy of Coping with Chloe in my hands any day now and I can't wait.

But what terrifies me is all the other things that go along with writing for children. It seems that many children's authors visit schools to talk about their books. I haven't been inside a school since my last parent-teacher meeting (as a parent) in about 1998. I've heard some horror stories about what (some) schools are like nowadays. Though I'm sure that most of the teachers and students are wonderful people, I'm shaking, nonetheless.

I've done signings in bookshops for my previous two books, which are for adults. They were fun occasions, with friends dropping by to chat and the occasional member of the public being inveigled into accepting a bookmark. I've given talks at universities and in libraries. I've given presentations, come to that, at academic conferences with dozens of people in the audience.

But there's something scary about kids. Maybe, as a writer, I'm scared they'll see through me. See what? I'm not pretending to be anything I'm not...

Or am I? To write for kids, I think you have to pretend to be one. Pretend to yourself, that is. Or remember what it was like. Get back in touch with the child inside you (mine is never very far away).

That's what I'm scared of, then. I'm scared that the kids will see the kid inside me and not like her. That I'll get bullied in the playground all over again.

Yes, that's it. Well, I know what I'm afraid of now. Just have to face my demons. At least I've got a few adult defences to help me, this time round.

Coping with Chloe by Rosalie Warren. Published March 21st 2011, by Phoenix Yard Books.

See Chloe on Amazon