Whenever I was asked to plan a story as a child I did not like to do it. I wanted to get started right away and I always thought that planning got in the way of what I really wanted to do. I don't think like that anymore. In fact I enjoy the planning side of writing as I learn things as I do it.
Yesterday I was going to write a part of 'Book 2: Survival Instinct'. I wanted to know how a character (I'm not going to give you too much details, it might spoil the story for you!) could travel over America in 1966. I wanted to make sure this is accurate so I researched how to the character could do it and what route they would have had to take. I have now learnt about Greyhound buses from this time and this has formed part of my plan.
'The Adventures of Eric and Ursula' has a number of different plans which I call arcs. The main plan is the story arc. This is the first plan I did and covers all four books. The story arc is broken into four smaller arcs for each of the books. I break these down into three clear segments - a beginning, a middle and an end. Each of these I break down into six chapters. The chapters I also break down into three segments - a beginning, a middle and an end. Each of these segments I aim to be around one thousand words, which makes each chapter three thousand words and each book approximately ninety thousand words. This all sounds very logical and not in the least bit creative or imaginative. However, this is only my plan. 'An Extra-Ordinary Beginning' ended up with thirty chapters plus a prologue and an epilogue and was over ninety-four thousand words long. The plan shapes what I am going to do; I know where I have started and where I am going to. However, if I have a good idea or want to change something I will do it. The plan does not restrict me, it just makes me more focused.
I believe that as a reader you need to like or dislike the characters in a book. You want to cheer on the 'goodies' and boo the 'baddies.' To achieve this I plan the characters carefully. As well as basic information like how the characters look I also plan their back story, I think about what they like and dislike, what motivates them, if they have any personality quirks, and so on. Most importantly I create a story arc for each of the characters. These are then included within my story arcs. Some readers have said that Alexander is not as descriptive as other characters. I agree with these comments but there is also a reason I have written him this way which I hope will become clearer as Books 2,3 and 4 are released. If they had said this and I had not planned Alexander I would be worried. Instead I am thinking that Alexander is going according to plan and am actually quite pleased!
So, planning is the key. It may not be as imaginative as writing but it can be as creative and if you approach it in right way it can be fun too.
I think 'An Extra-Ordinary Beginning' is a great ebook or paperback. It is a page-turner, fun and full of adventure. I also think it is the best thing I have written in the last thirty years. You may be thinking, 'well he would say that, wouldn't he?' You're right to think this but let me give you some background and try to show you that I am more objective than first seems.
I started writing when I was nine years old and have written plays, short stories, film screen plays, comics, poems and short stories. I have also written one other novel which I can honestly say is a pile of rubbish. However, I want to start at this pile of rubbish; it was called 'The Golden Flea'.
I wrote 'The Golden Flea' while living in Transylvania and I wrote it without any real plan, just an idea. One day I would write a chapter and the next day I would write the following chapter. I would write as the feeling took me and use ideas that came to me as I wrote. I did not give any thought about how they would fit into the whole story as I didn't really know. 'The Golden Flea' is, as I have already written, a pile of rubbish. However, it was a great learning experience. In writing it I practiced how to describe characters and setting. I also learnt that a book needs a plot and most importantly it needs a plan.
I still have 'The Golden Flea' on my computer. I keep it because it reminds me how not to write a book. About a month ago I mentioned this story at a 'Meet the author' session. Afterwards an eleven year old girl asked me if she could read it. For the first time in over 10 years I started to read 'The Golden Flea'. I read the first chapter and was so embarrassed that I could not continue. Despite my feelings I felt I should be open and I emailed this chapter to the girl who had asked. I didn't ask what she thought as I didn't have the guts. However, she did not ask if she could have the rest of it so I think we can safely assume that she probably thought the same as me.
Eric and Ursula has been a very different experience and without 'The Golden Flea' I doubt it would have as good as it is. After the initial idea I sat down and brainstormed a story about Eric and Ursula. When I brainstorm I do just that. I wrote Eric and Ursula in the middle of a piece of paper and then scribbled ideas all around it. The ideas grew and grew. A week later I looked through them, chose the best ones, crossed out the bad ones and started on a plot plan. The initial plan was written on two sides of A4 paper.
Over the next month I expanded this plan and incorporated different story arcs. I also planned the characters and gave them story arcs too. The plans got bigger and longer but my ideas turned into a much tighter plot, the characters became three dimensional and the places they would go to became real. In the end this process gave me a much greater understanding of the book I was going to write.
Eric and Ursula were 'born' (if this is the right word) in the Tatra mountains in Slovakia five years ago. I was hiking with a friend and it was a beautiful summer's day. As we walked large black clouds appeared on the horizon. They looked menacing and our walk turned into a jog as we tried to find cover before the storm broke.
In the distance we saw a hotel and our jog became a run as the first drops of rain started to fall. We just managed to reach a picnic area covered by a tent as the heavens opened. Rain was followed by hail stones the size of marbles and then back to rain again. Foolishly we decided to run into the pub next to the hotel. It was only twenty metres away but we got soaked from head to foot.
While the storm continued to rage outside we drank hot tea and began to talk. The extraordinary weather had got me thinking about extraordinary events which led to extraordinary characters and then onto super heroes. At this point I asked why most superheroes are normally white American men who like to wear their underwear on the outside of their trousers (maybe the last bit is not strictly true!). We couldn't come up with an answer.
The storm passed, the sun came out and we left our cosy pub to continue our walk down the mountain. While we walked we created the characters of Eric and Ursula. By the time we reached the mountain's bottom Eric and Ursula were almost fully formed.
Over the coming days and weeks I will be writing about the journey I took, and am still taking, to get to where I am today. It has been a busy time and in many ways just writing the book was the easy bit. Everything else has proven to be far more difficult. So, as mentioned in my last post, here is my plan for my blog:
This is the third time I have tried to start a blog. Each time I add posts, publish them and then a few days later delete them again. Why do I do this? The simple reason is that before this post I was never sure what to write about. I sat down, thought for a bit and then started to write anything that came to me. There is one big problem with this - if you don't know what you are writing you don't know how to start it, have no idea how to end and just forget about the middle! This time I have got it right, I hope. I am going to write about my writing journey and how I became a writer of a children's book which will, over time, become the first in the series. There will no sitting at a keyboard and randomly hitting keys. I have planned my blog and each post. Planning is the key to good fiction writing and I think it will also be the key to good blog writing.
is the author of the popular 'Adventures of Eric and Ursula' books. The series have been called 'wonderful' and 'fantastic' and are 5 star books on Amazon.