Archive for the ‘Author Diary’ Category

Author Diary – Part 4

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

How does writing fiction differ to writing an autobiography? The differences can be enormous depending on the project at hand—a crime thriller can’t, for example, follow the exact same planning process as an autobiography.

In my case, my new book Dirtbirds will share many themes and a similar writing style to my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams. However, one of the key differences in the writing process this time round revolves around the planning and structuring.

Because a memoir is—or at least should be—primarily based on fact, the author already knows his characters. Their hair colour, their personalities, their phrases—the author generally doesn’t have to think twice about these things.

With fiction, things are slightly different. The characters are derived from the author’s imagination, so unless he outlines their traits from the outset, it can be easy to lose track of things and make mistakes. For example, a book’s characters should have phrases associated with them only, as would be the case in real life.

If you’re writing a book with authentic Irish accents/phrases, it makes sense that one of your characters might say, for example, “No bother” on occasion. Common sense dictates that only one of your characters would speak like this, but it’s easy to unwittingly create characters who mirror each other’s language—the everyday language of the author even. Imagine watching an episode of Home & Away where everybody called each other “flamin’ galahs” a la Alf Stewart! Dialogue is something that needs to be checked and checked again to ensure that your characters are speaking in a realistic fashion. Autobiographies need to follow the same rule but fiction, which generally features more dialogue, is especially susceptible to this problem.

Timelines also need extra attention when you’re writing fiction. Whilst timelines are important in an autobiography, they can be verified and checked via research, photographs, etc. (although a surprising amount of autobiographies contain timeline errors that should have been picked up at the editorial stage). With fiction, the author creates the timeline and then must take steps to ensure that it is consistent throughout the novel. For example, if your novel is set in the present and your main character is 30, the timeline you create needs to be consistent with everything this character would have experienced during his 30 years—music listened to, world events experienced, etc. Again, it sounds like common sense, but it can be easy to include errors/inconsistencies in your writing if you don’t do some planning from the outset.

Dirtbirds is—I think—is beginning to take shape. I’ve just reviewed and edited the first five chapters and have another chapter waiting to be typed up. The chapters, thus far, are very short. But that’s the way I like them. I should surpass 10,000 words before Christmas and then I’ll take a nice break! 2011 will be a pivotal year in the writing of the book.

Progess Report

Word Count: 7,029 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 5 (typed)

Are you writing a book? Share some of your experiences via the comments box below.

Purchase my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging). Now only €10!

Author Diary – Part 3

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

A hint of what's to come perhaps?

It has been six months since my last author diary. Why the delay? Well unfortunately I didn’t manage to get ANY writing done for more than five of those six months, mainly due to the time-consuming task that is purchasing an apartment—banks, solicitors, buying furniture, etc.

Anyway, I’m back writing. And I’m glad to report that the break has—like on previous occasions—left me refreshed and feeling a little creative. Now you may have noticed the omission of Lord of the Rams 2 from the title of this author diary post. And there is a reason for that. The book is officially on hold. As I hinted on Facebook/Twitter in late September, I’m working on a new book.

Provisionally titled Dirtbirds (title likely to change), the book will be my first foray into fiction. It’s early days, but at the moment the writing is going quite well (cue big self-jinx that will probably halt my progress for months). I’m still working on the outline for the novel and nailing down ideas, but I’ve managed to complete a draft of the first three chapters.

It’s too early to talk much about the subject matter, but I can tell you that Dirtbirds will be similar to Lord of the Rams in many ways. Expect short, snappy chapters; dollops of humour (it is a comedy drama); sharp, realistic dialogue and memorable characters. But the novel will also tackle adult subjects—like sex and relationships—in a way that may surprise or even shock readers. Expect Dirtbirds to be lewd, crude and very rude. And definitely not for children or those of a delicate disposition.

This doesn’t mean that I am abandoning Lord of the Rams 2—not at all. My plan is to concentrate on one book at a time and switch between projects if I hit a creative wall on one of them. For the moment, Lord of the Rams 2, which is about 1/3 complete, is parked. I still haven’t finalised the direction for some parts of the book, and the break should allow me to return to the project with new ideas at some stage down the road.

Right now I’m genuinely excited about Dirtbirds. As I mentioned, the book will not be a million miles from Lord of the Rams in some respects. But it will feature fictional characters that will be based firmly in reality. The action takes place in Dublin and one of the core themes—friendships—will be developed further than in my earlier work.

Expect more details in the coming months.

Progess Report

Word Count: 3,537 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 3 (typed)

Are you writing a book? Share some of your experiences via the comments box below.

Purchase my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

The Making of Lord of the Rams 2: Author Diary – Part 2

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Almost nine months into the writing of Lord of the Rams 2 and I have completed the first draft of 13 chapters. Sounds good, but there’s a lot of work to be done and real life has a nasty habit of standing in the way of progress.

Since the first diary update, I have been to Las Vegas and back. Those of you who read the exclusive draft extract from Lord of the Rams 2 in last month’s blog will know that ordering food in Vegas can be a pricy affair if you don’t keep your wits about you. Unfortunately, the food bill for dinner on the Friday night this time round put the bill from the extract firmly in the shade.  What’s that about “you live and learn”? Maybe next time!

Anyway, as a result of that trip and distractions either side of it, the writing took a back seat (i.e. was non-existent) for two full weeks. But things are beginning to get back on track and I am currently working on what I hope will be the opening chapters of the final book.

Today I’m going to write a little about the planning process of writing a book—particularly a memoir. Unlike my first effort, most of which I wrote in chronological order, I’m approaching Lord of the Rams 2 in a slightly different way.

The original Lord of the Rams could essentially be split into four parts—primary school, secondary school, college and post-college life. But the sequel is a different beast and will not be as easy to segment into large chunks as its predecessor. For me, I find it useful to split my work into segments—it helps with planning the story and defining the overall structure of the book. It also helps when editing the book and it allows me to assess chapters according to the overall sections in which they belong.

For example, with Lord of the Rams 2 I know that this book will take place almost entirely outside of Ireland. From there, I can identify which of my many trips from 2003 onwards (where the first book ended) might be of interest to the readers.

For most of these trips, I’ve initially listed a series of bullet points in a notepad detailing key points I want to cover in the book. I am also conscious that I will need to reintroduce characters from the first book (for those of you who have, heaven forbid, not read the original) and create some semblance of an overall story arc, but the bullet points are a great foundation for the overall book.

The notepad scribbles are added to all the time—following conversations with friends who were on the trips, “flashbulb” moments and reviews of the many photos charting the events of the book.

True, if I kept a diary over the years it would make things easier. But everybody has their own way of doing things—and this, unorthodox as it might sound, is mine. In truth, I have jotted down some bullet points in notepads while on some of my bigger trips in the past three years or so. These will no doubt help with getting the overall facts, figures and recollections down onto paper.

I mentioned “research” in the February diary update, and this doesn’t just involve verifying facts about tourist sites I visited. Airline tickets and hotel reservations are being retrieved and scrutinised to ensure that everything I write is as close to fact as possible.

All of this planning will eventually lead, I hope, to a cohesive book that can be split into several sections—definable by different adventures. Some sections will be much longer than others. But my overall goal is to have short accessible chapters—something I think I achieved with Lord of the Rams.

So, where exactly am I with Lord of the Rams 2?

Progess Report

Word Count: 22,923 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 11 (typed) + 2 (untyped)

Featured Locations (thus far):

  • Edinburgh (Scotland)
  • Oldcastle (Ireland)
  • Ljubljana and Postojna (Slovenia)
  • Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago (United States)
  • Riga, Sigulda and Cesis (Latvia)

Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide postage and packaging)

Are you writing a book? Share some of your planning methods via the comments box below.

The Making of Lord of the Rams 2: Author Diary – Part 1

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

As mentioned last week on lordoftherams.com, a sequel to Lord of the Rams, provisionally titled Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents, is in the works. It’s a long way from completion (projected release date is 2013) but it’s definitely on the way.

Unlike its predecessor, the action in Lord of the Rams 2 will—for the most part—take place outside of Ireland in a diverse range of countries such as Russia, Mongolia, Japan, United States, China, Slovenia and Germany. Many of the old characters will be back—including Goosey, Dowd, Sean George Mara II and the irreproachable Tighe brothers—and they’ll be causing mayhem and destruction with yours truly right across the globe.

But if the book is at least three years away, why am I telling you about it now?

As the title of this month’s blog suggests, today marks the first part of what I hope will be a regular series (every two or three months) in which I will discuss the progress of the new book. I aim to provide an insight into what goes into writing a book—the research, the time commitments involved, the problems, etc.

I know a lot of people who have spoken about writing a book but never seem to get round to it. Well, these updates will follow my trials and tribulations, as I get stuck into the writing and editing process while trying to balance work and other commitments. It might be interesting; it might send you to sleep. But I’d welcome any comments along the way.

Just because I’m writing my second book, that doesn’t mean the process gets any easier. For one, there is a certain level of expectation (however low) surrounding a sequel to any work. Difficult second album syndrome can apply to authors too. For me, the biggest question in my mind at this early stage of the process is: can I write a follow-up that can at least equal, if not better, my first effort? Right now, I just don’t know. I think Lord of the Rams 2 has potential, but only time will tell if I can manage to pull it off!

Going back to the point I made about people who talk about writing a book but never find the time, I had that problem too. I started Lord of the Rams in January 2003, wrote less than a handful of pages and then didn’t touch the project again for a year—a failed new year resolution no doubt. Exactly 12 months later I returned to the writing with renewed vigour.

The most important rule to remember if you want to write a book—and any author will always tell you the same—is that you need to write something every week. Set a realistic target (in terms of word count) and stick religiously to it. I write by hand on A4 notepads, and my aim each week is to fill three notepad pages. This only amounts to about 800 words maximum (which explains why my first book took almost five years to complete). Sure, it’s a relatively small output but it adds up over the course of a year.

Even factoring in six weeks holidays per year (it’s important to take extended breaks from your writing so you can return to it with fresh eyes) and averaging 800 words per week, you will have written almost 37,000 words in your first year—a remarkable achievement and about half the length of a small novel (Lord of the Rams clocked in at over 72,000 words).

The main problem I had when writing Lord of the Rams is that I didn’t commit enough to reaching that 800 words target each week, and so it ended up taking me almost three years instead of two to complete the first draft of the book.

This time round, things have been going a lot better. I began work on Lord of the Rams 2 in mid-July 2009. Once again my biggest stumbling block was getting those first few words down on paper. However, once I got started, the old creative juices began flowing and I have reached my targets every week (after factoring holidays into the equation). The word count at the moment (which is no indication of quality but is an important physical benchmark nonetheless) is around the 19,000 mark—not bad for a little over six months’ work.

So, where exactly am I with Lord of the Rams 2?

Progess Report

Word Count: 17,020 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 9

Featured Locations (thus far):

  • Oldcastle (Ireland)
  • Ljubljana and Postojna (Slovenia)
  • Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago (United States)
  • Riga, Sigulda and Cesis (Latvia)

One of the ways in which Lord of the Rams 2 will differ from its predecessor is that it will include references to some of the hotels, restaurants and tourist sites I’ve visited over the years. Don’t expect guidebook-type reviews (far from it) but I’m hoping that the descriptions of the locations will help bring the story to life and will allow readers to relate more to the book if, for example, they too have visited a location mentioned in the book.  This time round I have to do a lot more research in order to accurately portray the events in the book (last night, for example, I spent time trying to find out the name of the oldest restaurant in Ljubljana. It’s called Gostilna Sestica in case you were wondering). On the plus side, I have hundreds of photographs from my trips (which are the cornerstone of this new book) to help fill in the gaps, and that’s a luxury I didn’t have with the first book.

I’ll post another diary update in April or May. But first there’s the little matter of a trip to Vegas in March. All in the name of research, I’m sure you’ll understand.

Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide postage and packaging)


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