The Murdstone Trilogy By Mal Peet – Review

murdstone

What does every writer want, more than anything? More than a book deal, along with a movie adaption deal?

Someone to write the book for them, that’s what. And don’t try to tell me you don’t, every writer has, at least once in their writing life, wished the book would either write itself, or for someone to do it for them.

That’s exactly what Philip Murdstone gets.

Murdstone starts this book as an established writer, but he hasn’t published anything in years, and his sales are going through the floor. He usually writes books for ‘sensitive boys,’ overcoming some sort of trial in their lives, and that kind of thing just isn’t selling anymore.

What is selling, though, is fantasy. Fantasy is selling by the bucket loads. Every literary agent, publishing house, and writer, is looking to create the next Harry Potter.

There’s one problem. Murdstone hates fantasy, abhors it, wants it banished from the world. He’d rather die than write a fantasy.

“I hate Tolkien. I mean. Bloody pretentious escapist nonsense, isn’t it?”

His agent doesn’t like the genre very much either, but it sells, so who cares?

But when he is faced with no other choice, he gives in, and that’s where this story starts.

Murdstone ends up meeting Pocket, a swearing, uncouth, yet strangely likeable, Greme from another land, who agrees to tell him about Morl, a dark necromancer trying expand his Thule. The book becomes an instant classic, Murdstone soars to J.K Rowelling levels of fame.

It all comes at a price, though. And that price is Morl trying to use a sacred Amulet to get into this world, an Amulet that Murdstone possesses, and uses, to translate Pocket’s stories into our language.

Every writer’s dream, and worst nightmare, wrapped into one.

But, for a reader, it’s brilliant.

For a reader, who also happens to be a writer, or knowledgeable in the publishing industry, it is dream, to read.

Full of sass, snark, and just about every insult to Tolkien, Rowelling, and the fantasy genre as a whole, The Murdstone Trilogy is an unrelenting, yet hilarious, story, with twists and turns galore. Nothing is safe from Murdstone and his ire.

“Writers no longer work in solitude, crafting meaningful and elegant prose. No. They have to spend most of their time selling themselves on the fucking internet. Blogging and tweeting and updating their bloody Facebook pages and their wretched narcissistic websites.”

In between the Hamlet-esque ‘is he mad, or is this actually happening,’ diatribes against just about everything, and the fear for Murdstone’s life, there are moments where the audience can really sympathise with Murdstone’s plight.

Every writer has thought that they couldn’t finish the book, or face huge deadlines that loom overhead, or have been so unbelievably stuck, they didn’t think they could ever get out of it.

Every writer has wished that they were as successful as J K Rowelling.

Every writer has definitely wished for someone to take the story away and magically complete it for them.

And that’s the magic of this book. It’s wacky, and insane, but it speaks to the authors, the publishers, the editors. It creates a story focused around the world of publishing, while keeping the most fantastical elements flowing.

I loved every second of this book. It was truly a wonderful read, that had me laughing throughout, and half wishing I could have my own Murdstone-style adventure.

Witty, uncompromising, definitely not for the faint of heart, but, an absolute must read for anyone who loves books.

Writing Through The Noise

Writing Through The Noise

So, you want to write. You’ve got your story line sorted, you have scenes planned, and you’re inspired. In fact, you’re raring to go, itching to get started. But, there’s a problem. A very big problem in fact. You’re surrounded by people who won’t stop talking to you, or have put the TV/radio on, or are doing noisy things. And now you can’t concentrate, and therefore can’t write. So what do you do?

I’m afraid I can’t help with that, because I don’t know, because I haven’t figured it out myself. Since I moved three weeks ago, I have so far only managed to have one good day of uninterrupted writing, the rest I have been plagued with non-stop noise. That’s the problem with moving in with other relatives who don’t yet understand how you work, and don’t go out often – they want to talk all the time, and continue in their normal routine, without realising that they’re disturbing yours.

For years, I have had about 40 hours a week of uninterrupted time to myself, while my Mum was at work, which I used to write and read to my hearts content. Now I’m down to 8 at most, and the rest of the time I’m in the company of someone who talks a lot, and has the TV on for most of the day. It’s something I am definitely not used to, and it’s something I am now struggling to adjust to.

You see, I find it very difficult to write while there’s any sort of distraction. I can deal with writing with musical accompaniment, as that can be inspiring, but everything else is pure distraction. If someone is talking to me, that means I have to reply and think about the conversation, therefore I cannot concentrate on my story line.

If the TV is on, I get distracted, even when it’s a show I’m not interested in. I end up getting sucked into watching whatever is on, or find myself wanting to work whatever is going on on the TV into the story I’m writing, which is obviously not a good idea.

It’s a nightmare, and one I’ve been living in for the past three weeks. I’ve yet to come up with a solution to the problem. The only thing I can try and do is crank up the volume on my headphones, and hope to God it drowns out the TV/puts people off talking to me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s all I’ve currently got. Until I can sort out my own ‘writing space’ I am stuck in with the noise. The noise that doesn’t seem to let up for a minute. Even with the new space, I don’t know how well it’s going to work. I’ll be away from the TV, but it doesn’t stop people coming in to talk to me.

I’m praying it will help my productivity a bit, but really, there is no catch all solution to the problem. If there was, that would be what this blog’s subject. But there isn’t. So the only advice I can give is to crank up the volume on the music if you’re in a similar situation. Crank up the volume and try to adjust the best you can.

If not, well, there’s always waiting for everybody to leave or go to sleep, and writing then.

Though if you have any ideas, leave me a comment and tell me, I’m dying to figure this out and stop the distractions!

Writing While Moving

Writing While Moving

Moving house is stressful – there’s boxes everywhere, nothing is where it should be, and the entire world feels off kilter. It completely throws you off, daily life is put on hold until the whole house is sorted, so what happens to your writing during this time?

It stagnates, generally. As of right now, I’m a week into a house move. There are boxes literally everywhere, I have no bed, just a mattress on the floor, and I only just managed to put my clothes in my wardrobe. This video suddenly has become relevant again:

And in the last five days, I have written about 900 words, the same amount I can usually average in one sitting.

Quite frankly, it’s driving me insane. I’m used to writing seven hundred words a day on one of my two ongoing long projects, but right now I’m stuck writing one/two hundred words a day on a small project I only work on when I have no ideas for anything else. I have so many ideas for my other two projects, but I can’t write on them, because I have no time.

Currently, every day is being spent unpacking and moving things round, hoping to fit it in this new house. My mind is utterly taken up with that, and I spend so long doing it I have no time to think of how to get more words on my page. It’s utterly maddening, there’s nothing worse for a writer than not being able to write.

So there’s only two options to choose from in this situation. 1) Give up writing, risk losing all ideas and getting out of practice, possibly chucking myself into the dreaded writers block. Or 2) Continue writing the little pieces and note down the bigger ideas, plot and plan inside my head until I do get time to write again.

It’s a tough one, I’m desperate to write, but I can’t. I’m sure there are others like me who know this feeling. It’s a terrible thing to feel, and unfortunately there is nothing to be done, apart from wait for the house to order itself. It times time, and patience (which I don’t have by the way), and a lot of hard work to get things sorted. But it’s worth it in the end. You get there, and the writing is a lot sweeter because of it.

Pointless Character Death

Hey, long time no see. Blame the damn assignments for uni. Anyway, I want to talk in this blog post about a problem. Something that is a major problem in so many really good franchises, that don’t just annoy me, it annoys a lot of people. I’m talking about pointless character death.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally fine with character death… sort of. But only when it is a necessary death that serves a purpose. When it doesn’t serve a purpose and it was simply done for either shock value or to create tension between characters, it really winds me up.
Take Sam on How To Get Away With Murder, his death was necessary because the entire show is built around Keating and her students getting away with his murder. His death was semi-justified too, he was an absolutely horrible human being, for reasons I won’t get into for people who plan on watching the show, and his death is the premise of the first season.
Another example is Rue from The Hunger Games. Its a horrendously painful character death, but it serves a purpose of sparking off the revolution and forces Katniss to fight back and get revenge on that Capital.
But when a character death is utterly pointless, I just get so annoyed. Recently, I was watching season 10 of Supernatural, and it got to – spoiler alert here guys if you’re not on season 10 – where Charlie Bradbury died. And her death was so completely and utterly pointless and wrong that I was angry about it for days afterwards. Basically, she died to drive a wedge between Sam and Dean, that was it. She died for that single reason, there was no other reason whatsoever. And it was incredibly annoying.
I mean, the writers could have not killed her, and just injured her instead, easily! The whole reason why her death caused the wedge was because she was helping Sam find a cure for Dean and they were lying to him about it. But because she was in danger, Sam had to tell Dean what was happening, and it caused a huge wedge between them because she died. But the same effect would have been caused if the writers had saved her, but she was badly injured instead. She could have easily been badly injured and the wedge would have still been made. Hell, Cas could have saved her, because he can teleport because he’s an angel and the wedge between the brothers would have still been there.
But no, the writers killed her off. And now she probably isn’t coming back. 
This happens time and time again in things, TV shows especially, where characters are killed off for no reason. I understand it when an actor wants to leave, like with Derek and Greys Anatomy, but even then that death could have been avoided. Derek could have simply just stayed in DC and asked for a divorce or something instead of dying in one of the worst character death scenes I have ever seen. I cried after that one. Actually cried, and I rarely cry over character death, I generally end up just getting annoyed.
Because characters aren’t supposed to just die to create tension, or to be a shock that creates hype on the internet. It’s supposed to really mean something. It’s supposed to be like Buffy’s mum, who died to force Buffy to grow up and stand on her own two feet. Like Dobby, who died saving Harry. Like probably Captain America, who’s death will hopefully force Tony to see the extent of what he’s doing and stop the war.
It’s supposed to be like that, not a death just for hype. When it’s for hype, it’s just pathetic, and clear that the writers are lazy and have no idea on what to do with a character anymore. It’s stupid, and I hate it. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand when writers have to rapidly change story lines because actors are pregnant, like in Bones, so they have to write something like Vincent dying to force Booth and Brennan to finally sleep together out of shock or something, so Brennan gets pregnant. That I can totally understand, but surely it doesn’t always have to end in death?
Can’t a character just be injured for once? Or can’t they come back as a ghost? Or decide to move away? Or something that isn’t them dying for once?! Killing someone off isn’t the only way to get rid of them, it is entirely possible for characters to leave through other means and still have it hurt like hell. Look at the Doctor and Rose at Bad Wolf Bay, Christina leaving Greys Anatomy, Zack turning out to be Gormagon in Bones!
All of those hurt like hell, and with Rose and Zack alike, created great plot twists people weren’t expecting. It’s entirely possible to create a feels inducing moment without killing people off. Writers, take note of that, and stop killing people like Charlie Bradbury off. Please, before I lose my mind.
What do you guys think about character death like this? Do you think any of the people I’ve mentioned had a good send off, if so, why? Or are there any other characters you pretend didn’t die because their deaths were so utterly pointless? Or did you see a really great character send off that didn’t involve them dying? Let me know down in the comments, it would be great to hear from you!

Starting New Projects

First of all, I must apologise for the lack of updates recently, blame a 20th birthday, a tonne of assignments, preparing for a house move, and a new project, which is what I want to talk about in this blog.
Recently I started a new project, and by project, I mean a new story. I’d finished my old one (finally, after changing my self imposed finish date four times) and had had this idea in my head for a long time, so I had been excited to start it. The only problem was that I didn’t know where to start.
One of the worst parts of being a writer is finding a place to start. So often a project sounds perfect inside the mind, but when it gets put on paper, it falls to pieces, or holes start appearing, or sometimes the story logistics get changed round. What’s more, you have to get a feel for the characters again, find the voices of these people, possibly world build around them, and basically start from scratch. And that is difficult. We get so caught up in our projects that when we have to let go of them to start a new one, it’s hard to let go. I’ve been a victim of this time and time again.
Even when I have been writing a sequel, I find it quite hard to get into the new story, even when it is the same characters I’ve been writing for a long time. Keeping them consistent is hard, as is keeping their voice flowing, and I think it’s because it’s the daunting idea of the new story that causes it.
But new characters in new stories are the toughest offenders. Characters, plot, setting and everything has to be reintroduced. Old stories have to be forgotten about, everything is fresh. You can’t get into the plot and sink your teeth in because you have to establish things, and get a feel for what you’re writing. And it’s tough, so, so tough. To be perfectly honest, it’s one of the things I hate the most about writing, because it’s so hard to get things flowing in a new story. Of course I know I can rewrite later on, but I like to get everything going ASAP, and when I can’t get the details right, I can’t move forward. I get stuck, feeling desperate to just get on with it, but unable to until the details are right, especially when they’re essential to further the plot later on.
I need to learn to control this perfectionism, but at the moment, it feels impossible.
It’s murder on the brain, and can be a great one way ticket to the horrible land of Writers Block, something every writer wants to avoid. All I can do in this situation is push through, do my best, and tweak as needed later on. Book openings have to be written, characters need introductions, setting needs to be placed, and plot needs to be at least hinted at before anything else can happen. It’s the hardest thing, but it’s worth it. The time used writing introductions etc helps to introduce me as a writer to the characters, and everything else, to give me a feel for how this book (or draft at least) is going to turn out. From the introducing paragraphs, I can ascertain just how dark it’s going to be written in, what POV I’m writing from, as well as tense and everything else.
I like to view these hard first few paragraphs the testers, to where I can prepare myself for what I’m getting myself into, and know what kind of thing I’m subconsciously going for with the story. I can set out my tone and get a feel for my new story, so I know where I need to go from here. It also helps me figure out if I need to go back to the drawing board and plan out a few more things. I’ve found it’s so much harder to write myself out of a plot hole when writing the middle section of a book, than it is to write myself out when I’m at the beginning.
Basically, this long, winding post that probably doesn’t make sense (it’s late, straight after a bank holiday weekend, and I’m writing this after I melted my brain on assignments, don’t blame me) is trying to say that really, beginnings are a struggle, but a good thing. Beginnings are needed to introduce you the writer to the story, and gives you the chance to go back to the drawing board if needs be. It’s so hard to write, and sometimes you just want to jump the gun and get on with it, but it’s worth it. In fact, it’s a necessity. So don’t skip your beginnings, don’t leave them until the end of the book to write. Go and write them now, if they suck, you can tweak them later, but for now, get the testing ground going. You’ll thank me later.

Top 5 Most Important Editing Points

Hey, so here’s the start of my series of blogs/vlogs on editing your novels! I thought I’d start off with a check list of the most important things you need to check for in your work. It’s so important that you get these things right, as these are the basics of a novel that you have to get right in order to get anywhere else.
11)      Check for spelling and grammar mistakes. That’s an obvious one really, because spelling and grammar are very important things. Spelling should be relatively easy thanks to spell check, but grammar is a bit harder to deal with, but there’s a few things you can do to help yourself out. One is to read your work allowed to yourself, speaking and reading engages different parts of the brain, so you pick up more mistakes if you’re reading aloud. It sounds nuts, I know, but it actually works. I’ve done it before, and have had it recommended by several tutors so I know it works a treat.  And two, you can use a website called Hemingway, which checks through your work and clearly highlights sentences that need improving. I’ve used it loads and it works great.
22)      Check your story for coherency. Make sure that your story makes sense and that it is easy to understand. I’m not saying you can’t have a convoluted plot, if you want that, go for it, but you have to make it easy to understand, or you will lose your readers. Make sure that you’ve explained your plot fully in your story as you’ve gone along, and not suddenly including an important element with no explanation as to how it got there.
33)      Make sure you have tied up all loose ends. Unless you’re writing a series and are planning on tying up loose ends in a further book, all the fragments of the story have to come together to make sense by the end. Go through and make a list of all your plot points, and check off each thing you resolve and see if you have anything left over by the end. If you do, you’re probably going to have to go back and resolve that point somewhere. Obviously, if you’re planning a series out, you can resolve plot points in a further book, but make sure that by the end of the series you have actually done that. As for one off books, then you have to resolve all plot points or you’re going to anger a lot of readers, as they will want answers.
44)      Make sure you’re consistent. If you’ve started writing in first person, make sure you’ve stayed in first person throughout, unless you have a specific reason to change it. Check to make sure your characters physical attributes are consistent and haven’t suddenly changed for no reason, make sure you’ve kept to the same tense throughout (a flashback/memory is mostly where a change from present to past tense is allowed, everything else should be in the same tense). All of these things are really important, and you have to make sure you have kept everything like that the exact same way throughout the novel, unless there’s reason for things to change. If there’s no need for things to suddenly jump from present to past tense, then make sure you’ve stayed in the original tense.
55)      Keep your story line on the right track. You have to be certain that you’ve kept to your story line from the beginning until the end. A story is going to go nowhere if your character starts off trying to find their parents at the beginning, and ends up battling demons by the end, unless they have been drawn into doing that while on their original quest. If they’ve completed their original quest and have had to go on another straight away, fair enough, but you have to make sure that that original quest has come to completion by the end.
It’s all about consistency people; every single thing has to be consistent and kept on a similar path. And yes, editing is boring, I know. But it’s an incredibly important part of the writing process, and will be the thing that sharpens your story into the incredible epic it can be. The editing is so, so important, and you have to check for these things and change anything that is wrong, or your novel won’t go anywhere.

If you guys have anything else you check for when you’re editing your stories, please comment below, I’ll add anything to this main post, or start a new one, so we can create one massive checklist of editing!