Tuesday, 8 May 2007

ANNE DROYD II: Now 70 Pages In.

Well, friends, I have at long last started to knuckle down on Anne Droyd and the House of Shadows. I actually wrote the first two or three chapters many months ago, but due to my being despondent about my future as a writer, and my general low self-esteem, I just couldn’t get motivated.

Then, last year, a man took a job at the office where I work, and it turned out that he was none other than sometime editor-producer-director John Ainsworth. He had worked in the media in different roles and was now between jobs. He took the office job to give some structure to his day and enable a little social interaction. Amazingly, and entirely by coincidence, it became my job to train him up.

John was astonished that I knew of him. He asked if I’d heard of Big Finish Productions (the BBC licensed company that make Doctor Who radio plays with the original series actors), and when I conceded I was a bit of a fan, he revealed that he had considerable involvement with them. Indeed he had directed some of their plays.

Over the next six months or so, John gave me a few pointers about writing and publishing, and put me in touch with a friend of his who worked as a talent scout for a major publisher. His friend’s advice was to shelve Anne Droyd (because the first book has been published twice already, once by a tiny company, once by a well known publisher catering for a niche market, and has “failed” both times (or at least that’s how the big boys will see it)) and start on something completely fresh.

Write something completely fresh I did. A novel for older readers was penned in three to four months, I created my own soap opera and wrote a half hour script with a view to submitting it to various producers and script editors (John told me soap is the way into television writing, but they cannot look at a prospective episode of their own soap for legal reasons. You must create one of your own, and if they like what you do, they might commission you to write for their show), and I wrote a two hour pilot episode for a young adult TV series of my own devising.

None of the above have as yet seen the light of day. But I was fired up and ready to go again, and it’s all thanks to meeting and getting to know John Ainsworth. John left my place of employment a few months later to take on a full time position at Big Finish Productions, directing the likes of Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy (not to mention David Warner and Derek Jacobi).

I never felt comfortable with the idea of shelving Anne Droyd, though. I had sent Century Lodge (CL) off to a couple of literary agencies a while ago. One said my book had nearly made it to their list, but they felt the presence of real life issues hindered the story rather than helped it (not the view of my readership, it has to be said) and the other informed me there was no market for the series (again my steadily growing fan base implies that there is a market).

So the plan now is this: Write and publish Anne Droyd and the House of Shadows through POD and give the fans something new to read, put my young adult book through another edit and release that under a pseudonym (I don’t want children and parents assuming it’s a book for youngsters, and publishing under “Will Hadcroft” would certainly lead them to think that it is), and submit my soap script to a few producers and see what feedback I get.

House of Shadows (HOS) is turning out to be a joy to write. As I say, I had done the first couple of chapters and worked out a general plot as early as 2002. Recently, I summoned up the treatment from my computer, read through it, broke it down from 12 long chapters to 30 shorter ones, and got started on a revision of the existing text.

Something that has helped encourage me enormously is downloading the paperback template from Lulu.com. I am writing the novel on paperback sized pages rather than A4. Doing it this way has really boosted morale. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’ve only managed to do five A4 pages today, it’s going to take forever,” I find myself getting excited and saying, “Hey, I’ve done ten paperback pages today!”

Writing it in this format is something I would encourage all authors to try. You see your baby taking shape as you go. Once I’ve reached page 100, I will know I’m a third of the way through the book.

I am currently up to page 70 and loving it. One of the real joys is having the situation between the three human children and Anne already in place. The vast majority of readers will have experienced Book I, so there’s no need to write lengthy paragraphs explaining who everyone is in Book II. I think it will be more intriguing for newcomers as well, since Anne is there with Gezz, Luke and Malcolm right from the first chapter of HOS. Her behaviour and rigid speech patterns will fascinate and amuse those who discover the character on her second book.

There is a one line explanation stating that she is an android left in the care of the children, and a brief mention of the professor who created her, and then it’s on with the new story. I’ve put in an asterisk and a footnote, which reads, “See Anne Droyd and Century Lodge”. That’s something I used to love about Terrance Dicks’ Doctor Who TV story novelisations. If he referred to an event in a previous adventure, the title of that story (if it had been published in book form) would be in a notation at the bottom, which, of course, made me want to buy that book next.

As with CL, I have found that the most mundane experiences seen through the eyes of this emotionless robot school girl become fascinating and, more often than not, amusing. And those who praised CL for capturing life as an 11-year-old will be pleased to know that HOS continues the trend.

It took me a while, too, to remember how I wrote the first novel. With the new one, I was going over every scene with a fine tooth comb and finding it very laborious, when it hit me: On the first book I just wrote the story. I kept going and going, intent on getting the thing out of my head and onto the computer, with a view to returning to it later to embellish the descriptive parts and check the grammar. Now that I have remembered the approach, I’m doing it again on HOS. The editing and embellishing process is a real pleasure, whereas the writing of the story, even in this sketchy way to start with, is the work.

I’ll let you know when this, the hardest part, is done.


Bob Furnell said...

Will, hadn't checked out your blog in some time and thought I'd check it out today. I was really excited to read that you've started the sequel to Century Lodge. Wow! Can't wait till the new books finished. Look forward to reading it.

Will Hadcroft said...

Cheers Bob,

It's just a matter of finding the time now and knuckling down.


CP Leigh said...


So glad you have managed to start the AD2 book.

I like the idea of writing it up in the book format. I know from my own experience of writing novels that it is sometimes difficult to equate what looks like minimal progress to the goal of a finished book. I am 70,000 words in on my current project, but the next 50000 I need to complete it seem to stretch out before me. Always far beyond my ability to percieve the end result.

I have to take issue regarding your statement that writing the initial story is the hard part and the imbelishing, narrative and editing is easy. For me it is completely the opposite. It takes me much longer to do all the 'detail' work.

It becomes a painful process of constant re-arrangement of words and phrases. Very rarely do I move on entirely satisfied.

I guess the old adage about writers never being able to say "It's finished!" is true in my case.

Will Hadcroft said...

I suppose in my case, CP, I am more interested in telling the story than how it is told. I want it to be well written, don't get me wrong, I want it grammatically correct, I want good and varied vocabulary - but I don't ponder over every word.

Does this make me a sloppy writer? I do sometimes worry about this. I just write the sort of thing I know I would have enjoyed as a youngster.

My favourite books from childhood are Clive King's Stig of the Dump and John Christopher's Tripods trilogy. Both are easy to read, and that is something which has been said of my books (and I'm honoured to know it!). The latter author is famous for being a one draft writer. Imagine that! I read somewhere that he got irritated by his editor when she suggested he rewrite the first chapter of The White Mountains. Don't know how true this is,but it sounds like something Sam would do.

Children of quite young ages can tackle Anne Droyd, and so can those who struggle with reading (I fitted into that camp at school, so it means a lot to me to hear that kids find my prose easy). I learned this week that people who read English as a second language also find it easy. A lady in Germany bought Century Lodge and read 30 pages in an afternoon while waiting for a friend in a Stuttgart shopping precinct!

It goes to show that there is no set way of approaching the work. It's whatever's best for you.

Many bestselling authors do agonise over every word. So you're in good company there, CP. ;)

G L Wilson said...

Hi Will. In the American paperback editions of the Tripods trilogy, John Christopher has written new introductions to each, and he does mention the American editor asking him for re-writes - which he did indeed do as requested. So, I don't think the story of him being a one draft writer is quite true. Perhaps it's what he aspires to.