Everything Is Awesome?!

For all my cynicism of this world, I remain stupidly optimistic sometimes. I have high expectations of most things and usually go into new experiences with a sense of almost childlike anticipation and excitement.

And then I get there and my sense of awe and wonder comes crashing in, as only it can to an adult with too many years on the clock and too many times around the proverbial block.

In this case Lego blocks.

How much I have been looking forward to the day when I could spend a whole two days immersed in all things Lego. A once in a lifetime trip to Legoland, Windsor.

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It’s my own fault really. For being slightly let down and disappointed I mean. I really should do my research first. However, just like with a new class in September, I don’t like to read the reviews or listen to the hype before I’ve made my mind up on the personalities who stare back at me on September 1st (or 2nd or 3rd or whenever it is the council have set the start of term date for). Besides, everyone’s different so everyone’s experiences will be different. If I’d read all about Legoland before I got there, I would only have the website’s expectations or the reviewers’s expectations lodged in my mind. I’m the same with films. I very rarely read a review before seeing a movie. These days, quite often, I’ll go and see one simply if I like the sound of it, without even knowing much about it. Then I have no expectations and so it follows they can’t be dashed, at least not too much.

BUT, I should have known better than to be optimistic about a place run by the Tussauds group. I’ve been to Alton Towers and Warwick Castle (I actually love Warwick Castle ) and The Sealife Centre and so I know they are all a massive rip off. Overly hyped and extortionately overpriced to squeeze every last dime out of the unsuspecting tourists, so why would I think Legoland would be any different? Because of that stupid optimism I mentioned above.

Problem number one in Britain is this: There is no space. Theme parks (for this essentially is what Legoland is, much to my unfolding disappointment and horror) are basically places whereby you queue to get on a ride for an hour or more to ‘enjoy’ something which lasts essentially for one minute. You queue in this country because a) that’s what we do as facilities are never built to meet demand and b) the theme parks are tiny with very few rides to cater for a relatively massive population plus the million tourists who of course go to these ‘top attractions’  because that’s what’s sold to them on ‘www.whattodoinBritain.com.’*

(*not an actual website.)

And yet we all flock to these places! In our droves. Knowing all this, still us Brits  flock there. If there was any reason to suppose mankind has lost the plot, I’d say it was at the dawn of the era of theme parks.

Anyway, I didn’t realise Legoland was a theme park. (Honestly, I am that naive at times.) If I had have done, I’d have probably not agreed to take my 7 year old nephew. (Though perhaps I would have. He’s gone about going for so long. It’s been his dream, and every parent likes to think they can make a child’s dreams come true.) No, I thought Legoland was more of an outdoor museum/activity park where one would spend all day gasping in awe at wonderful Lego Creations as well as take part in workshops run by experts and build your own stuff, with maybe a few rides thrown in on the fringes.

Hmmmmm. What you actually get is a variety of themed Lego ‘lands’ which contain rides and a few Lego related activities thrown around on the fringes. Oh, and if you are stinking rich you can choose to stay at the Legoland official resort hotel, where you will get your own Lego themed room. We would have had to pay £509 for the privilege of one night in the hotel with our two day pass to the park. £509 is half a package holiday abroad for a week. We opted to stay in a Holiday Inn 4 miles up the road. Nevertheless, all in (that’s one day in the park with one day ‘free’ (yeah right), a night in the hotel (with breakfast included and kid’s free evening meal), plus two days parking at the site itself came to just over £200.

As you can imagine I was expecting BIG things. Yes, as we set off my expectations were at an all time high.

Until that is we reached the entrance. We’d had an easy journey down the M40, just two hours, no traffic, one toilet stop and arrived at the entrance bang on schedule at 12pm. My plan was to park up, have lunch and then spend until tea time exploring.

Forty five minutes later we finally finished our crawl up the long and winding, hilly driveway and passed through the main “priority parking” areas to a field where we were directed in by high viz personnel to our parking space. By this time my bladder was about to burst, my neck was aching and I was pissed off about the fact I’d had to pay £5 for the parking (PER DAY) on top of the entrance fee. This to me is ludicrous: The fact you pay to park in a place you’ve already paid extortionate amounts to get in to. (This happens at Warwick Castle too, though I sort of understand it as visitors to Warwick itself would possibly take advantage of free parking at the castle to get into the town, thereby clogging up the car park for castle visitors. At Legoland I can’t imagine the need as there’s nothing of interest close by enough to warrant the long walk it would entail up and down the drive to get out of the place.) But of course the reason they charge is because they give the option of ‘priority parking. Which basically means if you’ve got more money than sense to splash about, you don’t have to mingle with the riff raff in the field and have such a long walk into the site itself. No you can pay £8 a day and feel utterly smug and superior that it takes you approximately 5 minutes less to walk into the park. I don’t know who’s been more ripped off. Surely it should just be first come first served, but that’s probably the idealist socialist in me speaking.

Anyway, because I was tired, hungry and needed the toilet (to the point I was in actual pain) and knowing I’d now have to trek from the field up to the main park gates (and who knew if we’d have to queue there too), then find toilets I was not in the best of moods and actually said to the 7 year old “It’s probably best you don’t speak to me until I’ve been to the toilet.” Poor kid. He was beyond excited “I can’t believe I’m at the actual Legoland!” he kept saying, jumping up and down with a huge grin on his face. Aaaah, to have no cynicism. How refreshing that would be! I was trying, really trying, to be in awe and wonder with him, but at that moment in time I was ready to write a letter of complaint there and then.

Still at least it wasn’t raining.

Much to my relief, once we did arrive at the gates, all I had to do was scan my pre bought ticket bar code at the turnstile and in we went. Of course the first thing I had to do was find the toilets (much to the chagrin of the little one, though by this time he needed to relieve himself too, so he accepted the pause in exploration).

Naturally, we had to queue. I might have barked something at this point about wishing I was a man, as of course the men’s toilets had no queue. I resited the urge to rant about why they don’t make women’s toilets have more cubicles and half the space of men’s toilets as they only need urinals. Though this applies to all public arenas not just Legoland.

A few minutes later, we were back out in The Beginning part of the park. Ingeniously named because well, it is the beginning of the park. (Makes you wonder where all that Lego imagination disappeared to when they were naming it that.) We passed a packed cafe (called Hill Top cafe as it’s on a hill – really stretching themselves there again), and wound our way down, down, down the path and into Land of The Vikings. We passed the Water Rapids ride where I noted the queue time was 75 minutes and my heart sank again.

As we entered Pirate Shores we found a burger joint to eat, as by this time my imagination was lacking and I just wanted food.

Already it had struck me each ‘land’ was pretty much the same format: Some themed rides (perhaps with some sort of giant Lego structure attached as in the case of The Spinning Spider ride which had a giant Lego spider hanging above it – which was impressive); some form of eatery; some form of ice cream stand; a shop for that theme and some fun fair style stalls for which you of course pay extra to have a go at winning a cuddly toy, but are more likely to come away with a crappy keyring. (The number of children walking around with a huge cuddly toy = zero so those figures speak for themselves I think.) In addition everywhere you turned was somewhere advertising or selling a plastic cup for £7.50 where your child could then refill on fizzy pop ALL DAY. Really? I don’t want my child to fill up on sugary fizzy pop all day and if I did I’d have bought a 2 litre bottle at the supermarket for 55p. Except I wouldn’t.

So to the burger joint. We were served by one of the Legoland staff (all of whom were lovely, friendly, smiley and helpful I must add and maybe why prices are so high – staff need paying after all). Except this one. (I mean that she wasn’t lovely and friendly and smiley, not that she shouldn’t be paid!) She was the first staff member we came across (bearing in mind my mood at this point) and was as monotonous in tone of voice and as welcoming as Morrissey would be to a meat eating Tory. I smiled, ordered our food (a replica of what we both normally eat at McDonalds) and the words “That’s £13.75” nearly sent me running for the Hill Top Cafe at full speed. This is over double what we would pay at McDonalds and to add insult to injury the kid’s meal comes only with a Lego badge rather than a toy! (Though little one was made up!) My own fault again though. I should have packed a picnic. I suddenly realised the £60 spending money I’d budgeted was probably only just about going to cover our food requirements for the couple of days. Ho hum. Smile. Except we had to wait an awful long time for the food so my smile would have looked as fake as the plastic pirate in the doorway. Another customer ordered his food whilst we were stood there and the woman who had served me asked him “Are you enjoying yourselves so far?” in her trademark monotonous saaaaaaaatharn accent. The man replied “Oh er…yes, the kids love it.” A chuckle may have accidentally slipped out of me.

And there, my friends is the summation of Legoland. Kids love it. Adults walk around generally looking extremely pained (probably due to bladder needs, excessive queuing they’d not even tolerate at the local post office, and the thought they will probably need to visit their bank at the end of the whole experience to beg the bank manager for a remortgage on the house which will of course entail standing in yet another queue). Yes, the adults I encountered all looked generally harassed and miserable and as such  found myself being eternally grateful it was just me and the little one as (aside from the sky high price of everything), there were no squabbles with siblings to sort out, or arguments about which part to visit next, or when to eat, etc, etc… From some of the things I saw and conversations I overheard, I’m pretty sure a trip to Legoland could well be grounds for divorce between married couples. If divorce wasn’t so expensive that is, because by the time said married couple get home, they’re no doubt near to bankruptcy.

Once lunch was eaten we explored the park, deciding that we did not wish to spend what was left of our day queuing for rides. We planned instead to study the map and make a plan of action for day two. In the meantime we visited Miniland. Miniland is more what I expected Legoland to be about. I.e there was Lego. Lego models of famous landmarks such as The Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge, the Gherkin Building, Edinburgh Castle, Cape Canaveral and many many more, all built to such minute detail just from Lego.

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Model Lego Urquhart Castle

 

 

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Model Lego Gherkin Building

 

 

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Model Lego Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral

I was happy at this point. And awe inspired at last. There seemed to be a point to being here. The disappointment of a rocket countdown resulting in nothing more than a rumbling noise made me roll my eyes, as well as a few other expostulations from those surrounding me of “Was that it?“, but all in all how could we expect anything less when it’s a mere £49 a ticket per person? (Honestly, no sarcasm there at all, nope; none.) Obviously little Babbacombe model village can stretch to pyrotechnics, but not the mighty Legoland. Hmmmm….

In Knights Kingdom we stopped at a small covered stall where for £3.50 you could make and take home your own Lego parrot or kangaroo. Little one opted for the parrot (good choice) and actually it meant he was doing something, and, as Lego is notoriously expensive, I thought £3.50 for that was reasonable. More reasonable than anything else I’d seen at any rate.

We took a ride on the Hill Top train back to The Beginning just for the heck of going on a train ride. There, as you step off, is a sweet shop. Little man didn’t want an ice-cream (average price £2.50), but wanted some sweets instead. Pick and mix was either £4.50 for a smallish cup or £7.50 for a larger plastic container. We opted for jelly beans which you could dispense yourself from a very complicated contraption for the pauperish sum of £2.50. I also realised he’d need a drink so he got a Capri Sun for £1.50. I decided I could wait until back at the hotel for a drink, as at least it would be free. So far, three hours in and we’d spent £21.25 and that was with me being ‘frugal’.

We then entered the Star Wars Miniland exhibition which was also awesome. Just some amazing sculptures of all the main characters made entirely from Lego, and a moving, light up Millennium Falcon as well as scenes from Hoth, Geonosis and Naboo.

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Of course at the end was a shop dedicated to all things Lego Star Wars, which we browsed around, yet didn’t buy. The thing is, you can, in this day and age, get all this stuff on the Internet at a fraction of the price. Even foreign tourists have no real reason to purchase this stuff here, yet I saw many people carrying bags of large boxes of Lego sets.

We decided to end our afternoon, before driving to the hotel in Slough, with a ride on the Viking Rapids as the queue was much smaller and it keeps moving. Little one said the pods (as he called the ride’s boats) should have had long boat carvings extending out of them. Yes! See, kids should so design these things, not adults! We debated whether to get a poncho to protect us from the deluge we were bound to get, but at £3.50 EACH (for a thin scrap of plastic) we decided against that. We are tough enough to take a bit of water. Plus the machine was broken so that settled that. It was the best way to end the day. The 7 year old (not the most adventurous or daring child in the world) loved the ride and neither of us minded getting soaked before we headed back to the hotel.

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By the end of day one I was in a much better mood. We grabbed a map and planned the rides we wanted to go on the next day.

Now one thing I’d discovered whilst wandering around on day one was this mystical thing called Q bot. I’d worked out (because remember I’d not read the website beforehand), that this was some sort of queue hopping privilege. I guessed maybe only certain Merlin pass holders were entitled to jump the queues, but a stand in Adventure Land (possibly the least lived up to name of location next to Imagination Centre) told me, that no, this was something anyone could buy. At a price of course. £20 allows you access to jumping three queues on your day visit I believe. You can pay either £35 or £75 for upgraded versions of this. Wow. When you’ve already paid £49 into a place where, essentially, all there is to do is go on rides, they expect even more from the rich kids who can afford this luxury whilst the rest of us languish in shuffling forward hell for most of our time.

Needless to say, I did not purchase a Q bot pass. My one course dinner (nice as it was) and one glass of wine at the hotel had amounted to £20, so I had £15 of my original £60 budget left knowing there was still lunch to buy on day two and I’d promised the little one he could build mini figures and get a rubbish Lego Chima foam sword he’d had his eye on since visiting Kingdom Of the Pharaohs land.

Anyway, day two dawned and we drove to the park, but as we arrived there for just after 10am, we breezed in quite easily with no queues of traffic up the drive, and we were able to park in the first of the car parks reserved for the proletariat, which was not a field but a rough gravelly affair. The kind of in-between option of the field for latecomers and the tarmacked priority parking for the posh.

We’d planned to go on the boats on the lake in the Lego City part of the park. This is where you can drive your very own Lego boat around a lake. Little one opted this over the drive your own Lego car around a track option as I could go on that with him. These two rides seem to be most popular (I’d imagine due to the age range of kids Lego is aimed at), and so I said choose one rather than both as knew queuing would be a long experience for both. Despite the ride being at the far end of the park, and us heading straight there at the start of the day the queue was already right out to the entrance of the ride, so a 30 minute wait seemed likely, and I was right. The queue moved along at a good pace though as, like the Rapids, it’s a continuous ride where as boats come back in more get sent off. We had a lot of fun, me being sprayed with water by a huge Lego elephant right in the face! I wasn’t allowed to steer of course, more the pity as little one’s steering skills need some work, especially when he cut up another family as we headed back in to the end stretch!

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Following this we went immediately onto Dino Safari. Being a ride for smaller kids it’s not so popular and so queuing was only 10 minutes. Again, another continuous ride as the safari Jeeps move around on a track (much like in Jurassic Park!), so of course that was great fun, spotting all the giant Lego dinosaurs and a few prehistoric Lego plants.

 

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Once we got off The Dino Safari, little one said “Can we buy our photo of us on the ride?” You know how they take those photos as you go round? £10 each. TEN POUNDS. Not on your life. How does anyone afford it? Oh, but they do! That’s the amazing thing. (Or You can pay £30 for a photo package. I didn’t even delve into how many you’d be allowed. Four, tops I’d say, and given you probably only get on 4 rides in total, not exactly a bargain is it?)

Anyway, after that, we popped back on the Hill Top train to go to the shop to build some mini figures. Again, this was less expensive than I thought it would be. You get to build three minifigures for £4.99 and put them in a box to take home. There are a selection of heads, hairs, hats, bodies and legs to choose from, though, disappointingly, no accessories for your mini fig. I think Legoland could include that, as it would make it even better value for money and more fun. Whilst in there we purchased the foam sword lusted after by little one for £6.99 and an Emmett figure and ‘piece of resistance’ from the Lego movie for £2.99. Again that was quite reasonably priced given that mini figs on their own retail at £2.50.

We then headed to The Hill Top cafe for lunch, (much against my better judgement), as this seemed to be the only food outlet which sold sandwiches as oppose to burgers or pasta or pizza. “Ooh,” I thought, “this should be cheaper.” *Cough, Cough.

Little one had a kid’s lunch box. This is one of those cardboard affairs, much like you get a Happy Meal in or you can get at motorway service stations, or in fact in most places these days. They choose a sandwich, a bag of crisps, a drink and a bag of dried fruit (why not fresh I don’t know). It comes with another Legoland badge. Woo hoo! Then I had a sandwich, a banana, a small pot of strawberries and a small bottle of water.

The cost? £14.25. His lunch box was £5.50, so for my chicken salad sandwich, some fruit and some water I was charged £8.75. EIGHT POUNDS AND SEVENTY FIVE PENCE, people. I can’t even…. Loaf of bread? 75p. Punnet of strawberries? £1.50. Chicken deli slice? 40p approx. A banana? 20p. Water? Free. So essentially I paid about quadruple what that would have cost me to make myself. And then some I should think.

Note to the now wise: TAKE YOUR OWN FOOD.

The cafe also sold an alternative kids lunch meal ‘deal’ for £7.50. Which was basically the same as the one my little one had but with a blue plastic Lego brick lunch box instead of the cardboard box. The two women on the table next to us had three kids with them and they each had one. That’s a total of £22.50 for three kid’s lunches! That’s a quarter of my weekly shopping bill! I know its’ crude to talk about money and make judgements on people’s spending, but WOW. My eyes water just thinking about it.

Next, we ambled on down to Imagination Centre, an area we had omitted to visit on day one. There we could go in a room and build Lego stuff using our imagination. “The only thing holding you back is your imagination.” Or lack of decent Lego pieces. We have better stuff in the bedroom at home than they provided here. Disappointing again really, considering this should be the sort of place where kids say WOW! at every turn. Instead the room really only had what we call the chunkies, that’s the very basic pieces. Anyway, we sat, uninspired for a while, and the best I came up with was to make the word Legoland whilst the little one made his name!

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It comes to something if Imagination Centre inspires the exact opposite! Still, it was nice and relaxed and we enjoyed ourselves as a rest after lunch. There are other attractions in Imagination Centre including a 4d cinema, a Lego Ninjago training centre and an X box gaming centre, though I’m not entirely sure how these inspire imagination. Anyway, little one showed no interest in these other things, other than the cinema, but the Lego Chima film wasn’t on until 2:30 and as we had to make our way back up the motorway at 3, it was a choice between that or the Rapids again which he desperately wanted to go on. I guess better initial planning on my part would have being wise and meant we got more for our money, but I’ve already admonished myself on that score at the start of this post so I won’t go on.

We then had a go on Spinning Spider ride, for which there was a half hour queue, to be spun around for one, possibly two minutes. Chatted to a nice family in the queue and little one made a friend who was the same age and it passed the time queuing more quickly. Finally, we headed back to the Rapids for the final ride of the day. This time, we got absolutely drenched (still not paying £3.50 x 2 for some plastic even though the machine was now working!) But we loved it again, and went back up the hill laughing about how soaking wet we were. We wandered back into the Star Wars exhibit to have one more look as it was so thoroughly awesome, before we headed back to the car and I did a good impression of a contortionist to change my underwear and jeans under the cover of my cardi. I’m not entirely sure I’d have coped with a squelchy bum all the way home!

The rain held off until we got onto the M4, so we were lucky with that. Yes, us Brits don’t mind getting a drenching on a water ride, but show us a bit of rain and we run for cover as though our very lives depended on it!

So everything is awesome?

Well, if you: a) do your research, b) accept that you are essentially going to a theme park and will spend hours in queues, c) understand you are going to be surrounded by whiny, squabbling, sugar filled kids and grumpy parents, and d) give up your fortnight holiday in the Seychells for the next few years, Legoland is awesome and you’ll have a great time! The staff were all (that one I mentioned excepted) really nice.

My advice though is this: Take your own food and drink,  get there for opening time and leave at 7pm (to take advantage of smaller queues and free meals for kids) and you’ll have a blast. There is a great deal to do if your kids like rides especially.

Oh and if you don’t have kids, it’s probably not worth your bother other than to see the Lego exhibits, (as rides are not thrill seeking ones especially as it’s aimed at kids). Also see if you can go in quieter none peak times and use vouchers with a buy one get one adult in free voucher so you can split the cost.

Would I go again? Yeah…I would. For all that, me and the little one did have a good time and he has great memories, as I managed to put a lid on most of my cynicism in front of him, hence the explosion on the blog!

Tussauds Group are still rip off merchants though. I’m not changing my mind on that!

 

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Lego Chima characters: Cragger and Lavell

End note: I feel as though I should have the Trademark logo throughout this post, as I think I’ve name dropped so many companies.

And whereas I’ve probably not advertised Legoland or Tussauds attractions to their fullest, I think McDonalds and Lego itself might have come across fairly well!

 

 

 

 

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We Could Be Heroes

We all get a superhero complex from time to time. We all want to save the world from whatever we believe it needs saving from.

 

You know the type of thing. You want to do something to end poverty, revolutionise education, help prisoners of conscience or refugees, stop terrorism, stop war.

But these things are the BIG things. The big things that no amount of petition signing or throwing up your outrage onto social media sites will solve. These BIG issues are the very reasons politicians become politicians . They have superhero complex I think, and look where it gets them.

Pretty much nowhere. They want to save the world, I do believe they really do, but they don’t know how. After all, they are not cartoon superheroes with super powers. They are just humans. Fallible and stupid like us all. And, despite the best will of politicians and governments, all these world problems are no closer to a solution than they were a thousand years ago. The same problems exist, they are just manifested in a different guise.

So you may think I’m saying that we should give up fighting these things. Give up the dream of a better tomorrow. Put the superheroes back in their box.  No, I’m not saying that. Not at all. What I’m saying is, no amount of righteous indignation or spouting about it on social media or arguing the toss, er I mean ‘debating’ it  with others on, for example, Twitter will change these things.

The American government will not overturn the gun laws because you argue about it with someone on Facebook.

The atheist will not turn to God just because the Christian tells him on Twitter he is lost or evil or that immorality is the atheist’s fault, any more than the Christian will turn away from God because the atheist tells him he’s a religious nut.

A socialist is not going to vote conservatively just because he shouts the other down with his own opinion.

The migrants at Calais will not just slope off back to where they came from, simply because someone bangs on about the injustice of it all and slags off the government and the way the ‘crisis’ is dealt with across the world wide web.

The state school system will not change just because a teacher writes (however many times) to the ministers or shares a thousand blog posts on the subject of how crap it all is. (Believe me, I’ve personal experience of this one and it comes to no conclusive happy end.)

David & Victoria Beckham will not take the dummy from their 4 year old daughter’s mouth because it is debated upon by a pair of middle aged, middle class women on Radio 2.

So what can we do to make this world a better place, because we all seem to want to? We all want to be heroes. And what the heck is the point of this post any way, because again me blabbering my thoughts out into the world wide web won’t change a thing, will it?

Well, the point is this. It is simply to say that it is only by doing the small things, that these big things will change. Only by doing the things within our own power will we start to see an effect on the big issues. Only by being a mini hero can super heroic things happen.

And we must really try to accept that some of those things will never be changed to suit ourselves and our own agenda, and so we have to leave them behind. And learn that, yes, sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

In my own case, to illustrate the point, I’m leaving teaching soon. In the meantime I’ve given up reading blogs and related ‘news’ items on the subject of education in order to preserve my own sanity, but more because reading and sharing blogs will not change the British education system. It just won’t.  For the remaining time I am in education I will concentrate on just doing my job and making the small difference I can to the children who pass by in my care. For I cannot change their lives. I went into teaching thinking I could. I was naive. I thought by working with children I could inspire a whole generation to overturn the type of society we were becoming. Haha! Well of course I realise I can’t. Though it took me twelve years and a breakdown to come to that conclusion. No, I can only be kind and do my best to make their day or hour or few minutes in my presence a good experience of learning. I cannot change a system I disagree with either. All my shouting out into the ether has been just that. The echoes are deafening at times.

So, to do the big thing of helping children and inspiring the future generation I had to do something on a much smaller scale. Not that I set out to do it, it just happened. The opportunity came along and I took it. As you know if you follow me on Twitter or this blog, I took on the kinship care of my nephew nearly four years ago. He is one child out of many, many children who have crossed my path over the years and who have suffered some form of abuse. (If I had a £ for every time I have heard myself or another teacher say about a child they taught “Oh if only I could take them home, I’d look after them.” This of course doesn’t happen but imagine if it did. Imagine if life was like Matilda.  How much better would our society be? ) Anyway, I digress. The fact is I have been able to do something which will change the course of one child’s future. A future which in his early days looked quite bleak. That makes me incredibly lucky. I have friends who have adopted children who were abused early in life, I know a teacher who herself became a foster carer. And I know now it is these acts – the things we can do, the things which are in our power on a small scale – which make the BIG difference in the long run.

But sometimes we miss opportunities. We’re so busy and preoccupied showing our disgust in the world we forget we are part of it and that the small things we do actually matter, and if that we all did more of the small things and noticed the opportunities to help around us more, the world would be a better place.

This came to the forefront of my mind whilst out walking the other day. Myself and my nephew came across a young hedgehog. Now I haven’t seen a hedgehog for years and years, as numbers in Britain have dwindled to around 1 million. So my first thought was how privileged I was to have seen one. My nephew was super excited because he loves hedgehogs and he immediately asked me to take a photo. Which I did.  My second thought was something was wrong as the creature didn’t move away from us very quickly, or curl up in a ball or extend its prickles, even though we were very close to it and I noticed it had a red kidney bean shaped thing stuck to the underside of its back end and I frowned as I thought that didn’t look right either. It didn’t occur to me to wonder what on earth it was doing out in the middle of the day, considering I know hedgehogs are nocturnal. That fact didn’t occur to my conscious brain until 4 days later that. Then the realisation of the fact that this hedgehog had probably needed rescuing hit me. And now I have to live with the guilt that the population of British hedgehogs more than likely stands at 999,999 rather than 1 million because I didn’t think beyond “oooh look a hedgehog!”

No, what I did, much to my shame, was share the photo on Twitter and talk about the fact hedgehogs are endangered and how sad that is. What a complete and utter arse I am. This was an opportunity to do something when the opportunity arose and I didn’t and I feel pretty awful about it. The only comfort I tried to offer myself (and it’s pretty crap actually) was that if we’d have passed a few seconds earlier or later we’d never have seen it and be none the wiser. Or maybe someone else spotted it later on and saved it from the foxes, who would no doubt have had it later on for their meal, and in that sense nature is nature, so should I feel so bad? Yes, actually I should, because the opportunity did arise and I didn’t do a thing. As I said before, ignorance is, at times, bliss. Of course it doesn’t mean the hedgehog wouldn’t still have been there or subsequently died, but I’d not have known about it.

It’s the same with most news stories though. Just because we turn off the TV or radio doesn’t mean the thing isn’t happening. However, the difference between the items on most news stories and my hedgehog is this: Most of us cannot help the migrant man or woman at Calais unless we are at Calais and willing to risk trying to help them. We cannot stop a tree from being chopped down unless we tie ourselves to said tree and insist it isn’t. We cannot change an electoral system by sharing our outrage about lack of proportional representation on social media sites. Simply having knowledge of a thing is not enough. It does not make us ignorant if we choose to turn off the news. I’d argue the media in fact has the power to make us more ignorant and more blind.

I may turn off the news a lot, before even hearing every detail, and I may not read blogs about education any more because I know my blood boils and I’ve come to realise there’s not much I can do on a grand scale about it. As a result, people may consider me uncaring about what’s going on in the wider world. Not a bit of it. I do care, but I have learned that to be truly influential about a thing, you have to care about what’s immediately around you. Do the small things and the big things then will snowball from that. It’s why I’m more left wing than right wing. Look after the people who can’t look after themselves, raise them up a bit, if you can, and in doing so you elevate those who are better off. It never works the other way around. I can’t save every hedgehog, but I could have saved that hedgehog, and so for the fact I didn’t I feel bad.  I can’t change society through teaching or spouting my incensed outrage at the system, but I can help one child’s future and that in turn will knock on to others in society and make that small bit okay. I am glad I took that opportunity when it arose.

We could be heroes? Of course. Maybe not superheroes, but certainly heroes. We all can, if we just keep our eyes open and help with the small stuff when the opportunities arise. We cannot do everything. It is impossible. We might not change the world, but we can definitely improve our own little part of it.

The battle continues

It always will

Forever we climb

A great big hill

We never can see 

Into another’s mind

So always try

And simply be kind.

Through our small actions

We can be the hero

And a better world

We all can sow.

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Pinocchio: An FP inspired short story.

The FP (Friday Phrase, check out the hashtag FP on Fridays for micro fiction fun) this story came from was one I wrote a long time ago, even before the weekly themes came about. It’s a little bit of fun with the idea coming from the familiar fairy story of Pinocchio. I haven’t written a short story for a while, so forgive me if it’s a bit on the not-so-sharp side. But it’s been good to get some practise in. :) 

 

So here it is, an FP inspired short:

PINOCCHIO

“Peter.” The stranger stated his name confidently and extended his right hand as though he knew for certain I would take it. His left hand casually rested in the pocket of his trousers causing the matching suit jacket to flick up slightly, revealing a well toned thigh. That much I could tell, even through the fabric.

I offered him my hand in return, intrigued by his assertiveness.

He took it in his cold, smooth, firm one and, instead of shaking it, he held it up to his lips, not that this surprised me much.

“Christie,” I said, wondering why I was giving this stranger my real name.

I wasn’t one for being stopped dead in my tracks by a well chiselled jaw, I was too long in the tooth for that, but Peter was, how shall I say, different. Oh, I know it sounds trite, but there was something unique about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I pulled my hand back. Not quickly, but deliberately, reluctantly almost, and ran my fingers through my hair.

“Your finest champagne, please,” Peter said to the barman. Ryan took it upon himself to roll his eyes on my behalf. I wasn’t a stranger to being chatted up in this way. Ryan had seen it a hundred times though and it simply amused him. He was gay of course, otherwise he’d have tried it on with me, despite being half my age. He’d told me as much. Thousands of pounds on plastic surgery meant that even now, into my fifties, men found me attractive enough to try their luck. It was tedious at times. The same old chat up lines, the same lack of originality. But this one, despite the usual conventionalities, was different. Something in me melted, and it wasn’t my enhanced cleavage or botoxed cheeks.

“Thank you,” I said, as I took the champagne flute and we clinked the crystal together.

“Here’s to new acquaintances.” Peter smiled, and I couldn’t help but notice how every single physical feature he possessed was so perfectly formed.

“He’s had as much work done as I have,” I thought, and smiled back.

We spent the evening chatting, drinking and, unusually, laughing. He was easy to talk to, and despite his slick, obviously well-worn, moves, he was refreshingly childlike in his outlook on life. Perhaps on account of being no older than thirty-five. He suggested we go bowling and ice-skating, though not that night, “maybe we could do that on our first date?” he boldly suggested.

When the jazz band came on, he took my hand and led me to the dancefloor. He held me close, those well toned thighs pressed hard against mine, and it was obvious, from another of his protruding body parts, where the night would lead.

I think I might have whispered something suitably cliched in his ear at that point. Something along the lines of, “Is that a piece of wood in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?” and he laughed. Not at me, but with me. And then he looked into my eyes and leaned in for a kiss.

The sudden blaring of the fire alarm brought us both to our senses and halted the kiss before it had even started. “Everyone out! This is not a false alarm,” I heard Ryan’s voice call, as we were shoved and shunted towards the exit. Thick smoke bellowed into the intimate space Peter and I had only moments before shared. I found myself clinging tight to Peter’s fingers. Long and smooth and slender; a reassuringly strong grip.

A sudden cry of terror ripped through the air from somewhere behind us. Peter froze on the spot and turned his head back. As he did so his fingers slipped from mine and I was pulled away from him through the crowd towards the fire exit.

“Peter!” My voice was strangled, and I coughed through the smoke.

But he didn’t hear, or didn’t seem to hear, and he disappeared from my sight towards the back of the club. As I moved closer to the front exit with the crowd, I glanced back. The kitchen door flung open and a tsunami of flames tore up through the bar and licked at the ceiling over our heads. I tripped out onto the street, wondering how the dream had turned so quickly into this nightmare.

Then a man, an old man, appeared through the swirling black smoke, coughing and spluttering. He hobbled towards the exit and collapsed, as two firefighters ran to him and dragged his body out onto the pavement. There he gasped for air.

“My son,” he choked the words out. “My son, you must save my son.” The firefighters ran back in, ducking under the flashover and disappearing towards the kitchen.

Only a few seconds passed, though it felt to me like minutes and in those seconds I caught the old man’s watery, grey eyes staring at me.

Suddenly, the firefighters emerged with Peter from the back of the club. He was wheezing and gasping, his face blackened from the smoke. The two firefighters hauled him out and he collapsed next to the old man on the ground.

I screamed. Peter’s feet were alight. They were actually alight.

“Somebody help him, for Christ’s sake!” I yelled. The flames licked higher, smouldering through the fabric of his trousers. And therein lay the strangest thing. As the grey sheen of the trousers disintegrated, underneath there was no burning flesh. There was no bubbling or crackling of skin and there were no screams from Peter. He didn’t so much as flinch as the fire danced and burned up his legs and charcoaled the wood that replaced the flesh.

Peter caught my eye, and he smiled just as he had when we had clinked champagne glasses.

“My son! You must save my son!” The old man coughed again. But this time he was not addressing the firefighters or the paramedics who were now rushing across the street to Peter with blankets and medical equipment. No, he was looking at me, with the same steel-grey eyes Peter was.

“Kiss him,” The old man choked. “Kiss my boy,” he said just as a paramedic put an oxygen mask over his mouth.

Confused, I looked again at Peter. The man who had captured my heart in one evening of utter madness. How much more madness would kissing him be now as his body burned?

“Someone, please, help him!” I screamed again.

One of the paramedics threw a blanket over Peter’s legs and rolled him back and forth, but the flames resisted the smothering and continued slowly cremating both the blanket and his wooden legs.

“Christie, please. Only you can save me,” Peter said. “I need you to kiss me, You must kiss me.”

The paramedic swung his head round to the firefighters. “I’m going to need help here! This man’s legs are wooden and won’t stop burning!”

I went over to Peter and dropped to my knees, behind his head. Peter tilted his head towards me.

Another paramedic took out an oxygen mask, and pulled back the elastic.

“Quickly” Peter whispered to me. “Before it’s too late. Before all of me burns.”

I leaned in just before the paramedic could put the mask on. “Please, Madam,” I heard him say “Now’s not the time!”

I ignored him. It was now or never, whatever ‘it’ would turn out to be. As our lips touched, Peter’s whole body shuddered. I kept my lips locked there, and felt his face, so rigid and taut, suddenly soften. His shoulders and arms relaxed by his side. I stepped back, and watched, wondering how one kiss could have so much power. His breathing slowed and his chest rose and fell with the ease of a sleeping baby. He touched his stomach and pushed the soft flesh inward. Peter sighed and a small smile crept over his face, until the smell of burning wood turned suddenly to the acrid stench of burning flesh. The paramedic reeled back.

“What the-?”

Peter screamed as the flames now seared his brand new flesh.

“The blanket!” I grabbed it from the stunned paramedic and, wrapping Peter’s legs in it, I rolled him side to side. The flames went out and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Peter’s breathing became more shallow and the paramedic placed the oxygen mask over his mouth.

“Thank you,” Peter mouthed through the mask. “Thank you for giving me my life.”

I grabbed Peter’s hand and squeezed it. It felt different. Warmer and softer than when he had first taken it all those hours ago at the bar.

“I don’t understand any of this,” I said.

The paramedics lifted Peter onto a stretcher.

“Are you coming with him, madam?”

I looked at Peter.

He shook his head, and in that moment I knew. I knew I’d been used.

I went home, tossed my heels in the trash, pulled down my hairdo and removed my mask of make-up for the last time. I looked into the mirror and saw my naked features through a new lens. I guess there’s no real way to tell a liar, and killer looks aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.

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Ode to Social Media

(With no hint of irony at all…)

Oh social media, how I love you
Your silly, modern ways.
A place to be a socialite
Across the World Web waves.

To check in your location
Refresh the News Feed page.
To tag and crop a photograph
To create your very own stage.

A place to share and have a laugh
Or for sympathy to seek.
Make of it all what you will
Any day of your long, dull week.

A world to stalk celebrities
From the comfort of your own home.
Or just to find that other folk
Have a life as ordinary as your own.

Status updates, like and link
A profile for all to see.
Nothing’s sacred anymore
But who cares? It’s all for free.

Tell whoever wants to know
All about your life.
Communicate your deepest thoughts
From the sofa to your wife.

Collect up lots of friends like stamps
How many follow you?
How many do you even ‘like’
Of all your Facebook crew?

Be certain that you always
Try hard not to offend.
Be politically correct
Lest your followers should un-friend.

Acronyms a plenty
May drive some up the wall.
O.M.G and W.T.F
You haven’t heard them all??

Now social media, it may seem I loathe you
For wasting all my time.
But if you were not in my life
Then where would I share this rhyme?

A great big thanks to all who continue to read this blog and engage with my mixed up mind on social media :)

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Filed under General Rambliings, Writing

Character Count

Another post about her writing journey? Really? What’s come over her?

Yes, folks, don’t change the channel. I know I haven’t done a rant for a few weeks, but you know, this blog is called Writeaway so I do feel a little as though I am false advertising at times.

Anyway, for those of you who have followed this blog for sometime, you will know all the headaches and doubts I have about my novel in progress, as well as the great things I love about it. (Yes, I do; remember the A-Z from last year? There you go.)

You may also be aware that I consider myself to be a plot driven writer, rather than a character driven writer. Many blogs and writers will tell you this is the way to doom and unpublishable work, because if a reader can’t identify and root for the character they can’t give a damn about the plot. I’d agree with this (but only to a certain extent). I would argue there are plenty of adults who don’t worry about either so much. I haven’t read 50 Shades, but from what I can gather, neither the characters or the plot stand up too well, yet look at its success. Hmmmm. That old chestnut, hey?

So as always with writing and with regards to writing my own novel I have to put the blinkers on from time to time and not heed all the ‘rules’ and ‘advice’. As I’ve often said: yes, there are certain rules which need to be adhered to, but essentially I need to write what I feel is in me, and it so happens that my characters are not, as so many writers profess, “speaking to me in my head” or “taking over my life,” whilst I am trying to go about my daily business.  They are just not. It was in a previous post entitled “Losing the Plot” that I talked about this. I think of a plot first and characters come only when I start writing dialogue on the page. That’s just how it is for me, right or wrong, we shall see. It is why I have to ignore social media most of the time because there are a lot of writers out there spouting their advice as though it were gospel, and as any atheist will argue, that’s a load of tosh as well.

So, today I was turning over in my head what my editor may say about my characters (other than “why are they all named after motorway service stations or mash-ups of UK place names?”),  and thinking more so with regard to the question do the characters drive the plot or does the plot drive the characters? And then I stopped questioning myself and thought…”You know what, I don’t care, I’m just going to blog my thoughts on this subject.”

And this got me to  thinking about all the books I loved as a child and how plot won me over every time.

1) The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. Most of the characters got right up my nose actually. Other than the White Witch and Edmund. Lucy was sappy, Susan and Peter as dull as ditch-water, talking Beavers and a fawning Fawn. Then there was Aslan and well, he was just a lion who sacrificed himself. That book was all about plot (and God and Jesus and stuff, not that I got that from it at all when I was ten)! But I don’t think CS Lewis spent an awful lot of time drawing his characters out. I could be wrong, but what I loved about that book (and The Magician’s Nephew – more so actually) was the plot. The story and the way it developed. Just the simple notion there was another land through a wardrobe or pools of water in woods or by putting on a magical ring. Cool.

2) Anything by Enid Blyton: Oh come on. The Famous Five? The Secret Seven? Plot, plot and more plot. The mystery was what kept me reading, not Dick or George or er…who were the other ones again? The Naughtiest Girl in The School only had me hooked because I wanted to go to boarding school and have a tuck box and go to the shop to buy stamps and write letters home. Elizabeth could have been Alfred for all I cared.

3) All Fairy Tales. All of them. Generic characters with the odd baddy to spice it up. (Rumplestiltskin anyone?) Why is it only the baddies who were any fun or actually the ones who drove the plot forward? (Incidentally, I worried that my antagonist is the one who drives the plot forward in Book 2 as oppose to Toddington. I’ll wait for the back lash on that little piece of literary rule breaking and rebellion, but as I’m, essentially, writing a fancy, long fairy tale, I think I’m going to just have the guts and conviction to go with it.)

4) I’d even go as far as to say Harry Potter himself is not the character who kept me reading that particular series of books. Professor Snape? Yes. Ron and Hermione? Yes. Wanting to find out out what magic spell they’d all learn next? Yes. Harry was, for me, quite bland, and although I cared about him a bit, it was more that I cared for the wizarding world and the effect Voldemort had on that and how they were all going to collectively defeat him. All the little plot twists and turns around Snape actually engaged me more than the main plot. And actually Voldemort’s back story was far more riveting than Harry’s.

But not only as a child has this been the case. As an adult I’ve enjoyed Agatha Christie novels and we know how her characters (at least the secondary ones) get accused of being two dimensional. Murder mysteries are, by nature, plot driven. It is the whodunnit? which keeps us reading, rather than the characters, I’d say anyway. I mean her detectives are engaging of course, and Poirot is my favourite, but Christie had plots first it seems, then character.

Then I got to thinking about stuff my little boy has read or is reading. He’s heavily into Roald Dahl at the moment and I’d say his books go on a 50/50 scale, including his short stories for adults. Tales of The Unexpected…very plot driven. Of course he does write some wonderful characters too…The children in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and Willy Wonka and The Grand High Witch. Miss Trunchbull. All fantastic characters.The BFG too is a great character, but I wouldn’t say all of his stories have great main characters. Danny in Danny The Champion of the World is for me, quite dull, yet I love the story itself.  Dahl actually is billed as “The World’s Number One story teller” and I think it is the stories and their plots which engage children most. The idea of winning a chocolate factory? Or of turning ducks into people and vice versa? The idea of a man who can see through playing cards to win a fortune and how he goes about it. It is Dahl’s “what ifs?” which engaged me over the characters (although obviously mainly very well drawn).  I certainly know the idea of The Witches all being teachers in disguise was just perfect! Oh and speaking of Roald Dahl. We’re reading The BFG at the moment and Dahl uses the “was  ….ing” thing LOADS instead of ed verbs. So quite frankly, I really, really, really won’t be listening to much of these “writing tips” anymore. It seems one sure fire way to lose your style and voice.

Also my little boy loves these books called “Dinosaur Cove” by an author called Rex Stone. They are typical chapter books for the 6+ age range, but oh! The amount of adverbs is akin to the number of hot dinners I’ve had and the two main characters are completely indistinguishable from each other. But my little boy LOVES them. Because, you know, dinos.  Also the plots are atrocious, but that’s what is funny. Kids will like books for all sorts of reasons that we as adults and especially us as writers baulk at!

Now, I’m not aiming for a series of ‘easy read’ chapter books or advocating the overuse of adverbs or inappropriate repetitive dialogue tags (grinned – Rex Stone, seriously too many ‘grinned Jamie, grinned the other one’) particularly as I’m writing a three volume middle grade fantasy novel. Of course I want my characters to have depth and I hope the main ones do, (because my character count currently stands at about 24 speaking characters and it’s really hard to give them ALL depth), but in all honesty, my book is not character driven. Probably because when I had the idea for the book I was twelve and had just finished reading The Narnia books. I like my characters though, but I had no idea who they were going to be until I actually started writing. Many of them just showed up half way through, unexpectedly. For Book 3, which I haven’t written yet, I need to introduce four human characters. Children. I work with children. I know children, yet I cannot plan for them at all. I don’t know what I want them to be like until I get them to meet Toddington (the main protagonist). Even Toddington had no real character to him when I first drafted. All my characters have developed as I wrote them in and found them talking. It is my idea for the plot and getting from point a to point b which drives my characters forwards and my writing, not the other way round.

And the truth seems to me, from my experience of children, is that plot is actually more important for most of them than character. That doesn’t mean you can’t have great characters, but do we need to sit and worry that every event which happens in the book is driven forward by the main character? I know in my book it isn’t. And if you watch children write a story they come up with a plot. They do. That’s how they are taught. That’s how their imagination runs. My little one wrote a story the other day. He couldn’t get all his plot ideas down quick enough, as he told me. He was so excited by the plot. It just so happened everything in the plot happened to a velociraptor named Speedey (with an ey on purpose apparently). Speedey was simply the vessel for all his plot ideas to go through. I know however, many writers say “Have a character, THEN put them in a situation, or situations.” But knowing what I do about children it seems to me, I think maybe we need to worry less about what adults think when we’re writing for children and see it from a child’s point of view. I’m not dumbing down my characters at all, I’m just saying I’m going to get ready to defend why they aren’t necessarily at the forefront of my thoughts when writing.

Yes, I am a novice and so am, no doubt, talking out of my backside. My editor will no doubt tell me a load of these things which are formulaically wrong with my book and will hate my characters for more reasons than that three syllable names are hard to pronounce. But I can’t help thinking back to those books I enjoyed as a child, and even now as an adult enjoy most. They are the ones where the plot came first. The characters have to be good, but for me they are not what comes first to my mind when reading or when writing. I do like a good story.

The End.

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Filed under Characters, Editing, Plot Development, Writing

To the End

“Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

It took me years to write, will you take a look?….”

So I was all a bit doom and gloom last week when I wrote my post on how the writing is going so far. That may be something to do with my strange, annual “I’ve now got six weeks off work” feeling that I get, which should see me dancing on the ceiling, but which invariably, as I said to one friend, sees me staring at the ceiling blankly for a couple of days instead. My brain is indeed a strange machine.

So anyway, I took a Twitter break intending for it to be for two weeks (as I figured that would be how long it would take me to get my backside into gear and finally finish the first draft of Book 2 of Prophecy of Innocence).

Turns out taking a Twitter break was a brilliant thing to do, if not excruciatingly hard for a hobbity hermit such as myself who has come to rely on it so much for contact with the outside world. Ooops. May need to rectify that. Yes, I missed it. Shocking. (I say it, I mean you all, of course.) However, the break does mean I have now finally finished the first draft of Book 2! Yay!

Near enough four years ago now, I sat down at my little Samsung net-book and typed the first words for Book 1. (No longer the first words, naturally, after a million revisions.) So it’s hard to believe  I have actually completed the second one. And the final leg only took me five writing sessions during my Twitter break to finally finish it off. (I have also had to do holiday stuff with the little one, as well as paint my hallway and lounge you understand. It’s not all been “write, write, write.” Though it just goes to show how much time I must spend on Twitter! A hem…)

However, if it wasn’t for Twitter I’d not have managed to find the editor who has agreed to work on my first manuscript. (Yes, despite my worries in my last post that she wouldn’t want to after reading the sample I sent, she emailed saying “I enjoyed reading the sample, and found the characters and set-up fascinating,” so I was worrying over nothing as usual. I’m trying to tell myself she doesn’t use the same stock phrase to all her clients. Put the cynic back in her box, Joanne.)

As I said, my editor came on recommendation from a Twitter pal who has worked with her. I spoke to her the other day, and I believe this may be the best nearly £600 I’ve ever spent. Yes, folks, an in depth editorial report with annotated manuscript does cost that much, and actually knowing how much goes into it, it’s very reasonable for the work needed. I could have gone for the cheaper less detailed edit, but I am a novice writer. It is important to learn as much as I can and take advice from the professionals, even if as my friend says “Just be prepared for your ego to take a battering.” Anyway, that’s also happening (an edit not my ego battering) and I will have the feedback around about the 12th October. (When the ego battering will take place! Happy Birthday!)

So what will I do until then? Writing wise that is? Well, I need to begin outlining Book 3. Book 3 is going to be the most complex as it will obviously be where everything comes to a climax and the whole story is finally resolved. Although in some ways this should be easy, as I know how the story ends, getting to the story’s end is always very tricky. Book 3 will also be trickier as we fast forward in time to the modern day and there will be new (human children) characters to introduce. Book 3 will in some ways be easier  as it was Book 3 which was actually the original idea for the story. Books 1 and 2 grew backwards from that idea. I guess I could actually have written Book 3 first, with hindsight, but I’m quite a linear writer – I felt the need to go back to the beginning. Anyway, there will be a lot of outlining for Book 3. There was none for Book 1 (hence why 4 years later we’re only just getting to professional edit stage). Book 2 has outlines. (Plural because the outlines have changed about a hundred times, or at least it feels like it!) Of course, I need to go back to Book 2 and begin the re-writes, but I’ll probably sit on that for a few weeks and go back to it with fresh eyes to begin that process.

Also whilst on my Twitter break I wrote a short story which I may or may not go back to. It’s an FP inspired one, but I’m not sure how much I like it. It needs work and I did it mainly just to warm up for getting back into the writing habit, so what I do with it may, in fact, be nothing.

I also recently started a draft of another children’s book I had an idea for a few weeks a go. I may well go back to that and start writing it properly, if I have enough time.

Once the editor comes back to me in October I will also have more re-writes and edits to do on Book 1, which will have a knock on effect on Book 2 and then Book 3. We will have to see how it goes. When I’m happy I will then start submitting properly to agents, if I feel that is a viable option. If not, I will look once more into self publishing, which will be an expensive business if I want to do it properly.

For those of you who think a book can be knocked out in a matter of months, or if there are first time writers out there frustrated that they are not getting anywhere, well the truth is it is a long game, as I said in my last post. It takes years, and in those years there are highs (like now) and lows (like last week when I had all the doubts one could have crowding around my brain).

As a result there is little point to asking “when are you going to be published?” because that is like asking me to answer “when will you die?” I don’t know. I can only hope I have published my book one way or another before I do die. That’s the best I can tell you.

My all means, ask how the book is going, because clearly I’m not about to be quitting on it (despite how I might feel at times)!

No, it seems now, having completed Book 2, I will indeed make it to the *end.

*Whenever the end may be :)

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Slog

So where am I on this actual writing journey at the moment?

It’s a question I seem to have neglected on the blog for a while now, but no news is good news, right?

It’s a long slog, this writing a novel business. That’s what most people don’t realise.

Recently I was asked by someone who had been told I was writing a book: “Published yet?” It was his first question, and I did my usual sigh and patiently explained how long the process took. He did the usual, “Look at JK Rowling. Twelve rejections before she was published.”

“I have four,” I replied.

“Then only eight more to go,” he said.

I suppose the fact that I am writing a fantasy novel for 9-12 year old’ will perhaps slap me into JK comparisons, but I am growing a little tired of it now. Why does everyone assume that if you are writing a book you are going to become some sort of millionaire? Yes, she is but only because her books were sold into one of the biggest film franchises ever and she’s probably living off the interest created from merchandise alone. The books themselves probably account for a very small proportion of her wealth.

Truth is there are not many famous, rich authors. I am certainly not going to be one of them. Neither would I wish to be that famous. Everything you say, wear, do scrutinised and ripped apart? No thanks.

Anyway. That’s for another blog post. This one is to update on how we’re doing so far.

Well recently I was lucky enough to come into a small amount of money, which means I can finally use it to get a professional edit done on Book 1.

Once I knew this, I set about (after all the thousands of re-writes I’ve done) chopping the superfluous words and passages out as the word count stood at around 85,000. I’ve managed to get that down to 79,000. This is still a little on the long side for middle grade, but I am now at the point where I need a professional eye on the thing. But I am so nervous about this. I mean more nervous than I’ve been about anything related to this Book so far.

Why? Because I know there are still loads of things wrong, things I don’t know, even with professional advice, I might not be able to fix. They may be things like my voice which make this book not at all commercial and so not publishable (not by traditional publishing standards at any rate.) A professional edit may help this, but it may just be I’m not cut out for writing children’s fiction. I only have this one idea. A publisher wants something/someone with longevity. Publishers in England also seem to want middle class authors, and I don’t fit that bill at all. There are days when after four years of work on this, I feel the dream of having my book published slipping away. I had so many visions for it, but I know so little and I have so little time to spend on it, or spend on courses learning how to write. Or maybe I just don’t have the inclination. Perhaps with so many things in my life, I’m chasing the wrong dream.

Anyway, I have found an editor on the recommendation of a Twitter friend, (he’s now got an agent for his Middle grade book since working with her) and she is looking at the first 5000 words of my manuscript to see if she wants to take me on as a client. I think if she chooses not to, this will be a worse rejection than from a publisher, as it possibly means it is actually beyond all hope and the last four years have been a wasted effort. More nerve racking is that I could invest this small windfall on an edit, for it simply to be beyond hope anyway, and I’m not rich and this is a big investment for me. I’m speculating to accumulate, because I want my work to be the best it could possibly be. I could spend it and still never make that money back, and as I am not one of life’s big risk takers, I feel a little apprehensive about it all.

I guess I may even have to face the facts that I am not a born writer. Many people say writer’s are born with the talent. I tend to agree. I tend to agree that they need to practise and hone the craft, yes, but that essentially they are creative and are born with an inherent capacity to put words into the right order in such a way as to form a solid plot and a cohesive story.

I’m not at all sure I have that.

For some reason though, I keep on slogging onwards and I’m now hoping to write the last 20,000 words or so of Book 2. Once that first draft is complete, maybe I’ll feel better. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll give up writing and teaching and go and live in a cave somewhere.

Sometimes life feels like one long hard slog where nothing comes easy.

But for some reason, despite the set backs and the lack of time to dedicate to this book fully, I keep on keeping at it. Maybe I’m just waiting for the day someone in the business says: “Yeah, look give it up.”

I guess until then I’m going to just keep at it.

Until next time, when hopefully I’ll be in my happ(ier) place, TTFN. :)

PS: I’m on a Twitter break right now, which is, after less than 24 hours, making me feel like a crack addict going cold turkey. Seriously I don’t know why I’m doing it to myself.

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