Are you laughing yet?

 

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My dog has a very well developed sense of humour. He thinks it is hilarious to put a ball down at my feet, nudge it towards me and then step back carelessly, as though the last thing in the world that he would want to do, is to pick up that ball ever again. Then, just as I reach down to pick it up, he leaps forwards and gleefully snatches it away from my fingers at the last minute. He shakes his head in delight and goes prancing away, the ball in his mouth, snorting and sneezing to himself at his amazing ability to trick me. A few seconds later he’ll come back and lay the ball at my feet again. He looks at me innocently. ‘Go on,’ he says, eyes wide, ‘it’s yours… just pick it up!’ He knows I can’t resist, and the joke starts all over again. Mind you, he can dish it out, but he can’t take it back – if I try the same trick on him, he looks at me with hurt surprise, before wandering away sadly, shaking his head at his misfortune at living with such a cruel owner.

Like the dog, I like a bit of humour. I’ve always loved funny books, both as a child and as an adult, so when I started writing my children’s book, I really wanted it to have some funny bits in it – it didn’t necessarily need to be laugh-out-loud funny all the way through, as most of it is mystery/drama/magic, but in my opinion and experience, all the best children’s books have at least some humour in them, and at least one character who is funny (either intentionally or unintentionally), most of the time. In my first book, Hannah’s dad is the character who brings in most of the humour – often at his own expense.

When I told the dog that I was planning to start a second book in the series, he thought it was a good idea, but he was very firm with me on one point – the second book needed to include at least one dog. I bowed to his (as always, excellent), opinion, and so near the beginning of the second book, Hannah got a puppy. Although Hannah’s dad continued to have a humorous role in book two, the puppy helped out a lot with adding in plenty of extra funny bits, and at the dog’s insistence, I made sure that Hannah’s puppy, although a girl, was the same breed and had the same markings, as my dog.

When I’d finished the first draft, I read it out-loud to the dog and he seemed very pleased; laughing away, in his sneezy doggy-way, as I read the section about the puppy’s arrival. The dog and I smiled at each other – I’d entertained him and helped to keep his (already well-developed), sense of humour alive – my job, for that day at least, was done!

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A writer’s dilemma – creativity versus admin

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When I first started writing a children’s book last year, it was great – having the chance to be creative, building my characters and settings, and writing the first draft of an adventure was wonderful. It was just the inventive, imaginative task that I thought it would be. However, once the first draft was written, the admin side of writing began to raise its ugly head.

Writing query letters to agents, investigating self-publishing options, re-writing and editing, working through copy-edited manuscripts, style copies and proof copies seemed so uninspiring – not my idea of being a creative children’s writer at all. I knew the manuscript was getting better all the time, but the process seemed pretty tedious.

Then my Marketing Controller at the publishers suggested that I start a blog. I had never (knowingly), read a blog, much less written one, but I did a bit of research, and noticed that lots of writers and aspiring authors wrote blogs – sometimes about their writing and sometimes about whatever came into their heads at the time.

After discussing the pros and cons of it all with the dog, I signed up for a WordPress site and then left it alone for a while – I was reluctant to put my fingers to the keyboard and write my first blog in case either I, or worse still, other people, thought it was rubbish. What to do?

I took the dog on longer walks than usual, to give myself a chance to think – did I really want to write a blog? Wouldn’t this take valuable time away from the ‘real’ writing process of kicking my manuscript into shape for publication?

After a couple of weeks I took a deep breath and started writing my first post, the dog sitting beside me to provide moral support, and nudging me occasionally with his paw to make sure he got the occasional mention. What a revelation it was! Far from being just another item on my long ‘to-do’ list, writing the blog became an oasis of creative calm, a lovely break in an otherwise admin-swamped world. Finally, I could write something new, and I could do it on a regular basis.

Now I understand much better why writers who are trying to get their books published, write blogs. It’s not just about publicising books (although that is good!), or about sharing experiences with others (which is great too!), but also about keeping the imagination and the creative side of writing alive, during the otherwise long, and slightly boring editing process.

So, what do you think of my blog, so far? Any comments will be gratefully received and responded to – as long as it doesn’t involve too much admin!