18 July 2012 - RESEARCH

Quote of the day:

"Dwelling on the negative
simply contributes to its power."

Shirley MacLaine

Writing tip of the day:

As you know, I write young adult fiction. What you probably didn't know is that most successful young adult fiction writers are in their 60's. Why, I guess because they have a wealth of knowledge and decades of experiences to draw on - the 'hard drive' as I call it.  That may be so, but how do you appeal to young readers? Personally, I pitch my work at reluctant readers; usually boys. I also try to cut the waffle and keep things moving. The avid readers will devour what you write, and the reluctant readers might start reading.  Let's hope so, eh?

Imagination: Kids have vivid imaginations and a thirst for knowledge. They are also curious and do not have the 'baggage' we adults have. Why this? Why that? ... they continually ask ... sound familiar? So, it's important to keep their interest. Also, they will probably check certain things in your book via the Internet - just to make sure you got it right. Give a teen a DVD, a can of soft drink and a packet of chips and he will lounge on the couch and be entertained. However, he doesn't have to use his imagination. Nope, it's all there in front of him: shooting, noises, blood stains, action, humour, music etc. Imagine the same teen reading a book. He will have to conjure up scenes and imagine what the characters are like. Ah ... that's your job as an author. Yep, you can't shy away from it. You must make a funny character funny, a sad scene sad and an exciting scene exciting.

Book review: I recently received a great book review for my first book. However, the reviewer made one mistake. He stated that many of the towns mentioned in the story were 'probably fictional'. WRONG! Just because he couldn't find them via the Internet did not mean they did not exist. Those small towns do exist. They were just too small to crack a mention on the Internet. Why did I use real towns in my story? Easy. To make it more credible, knowing that some of my young readers would do the same as the reviewer and check - check to see if cranky Clancy was pulling the wool over their eyes. Real facts give your story credibility. I wrote that particular story with a map beside me. That way, I knew the town names and also knew the distances between them - important facts when you're writing about a drover pushing cattle up the sides of the road during a big drought to keep them alive. The drover had to know where the next town was so he could replenish his supplies.

'Sheeza': This story is about a famous Australian sheep dog - a kelpie. A young boy trains Sheeza to become a champion. Not sure if any of you have ever seen sheep dogs in action. If not, do it. They are extraordinary animals and, having been a farmer, I can assure you of their loyalty - stronger than humans. So, knowing that sheep dog trials are big in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, I researched the Internet for a few hours, printed off a few pages of facts and got on with my story. That research made the story more credible, especially for city kids who have never experienced a sheep dog trial.

Here are some comments about that story made by a UK publisher:

Idea: An emotional and child –friendly concept enveloped in a down to earth
traditional animal drama.

Plot: Strong animal story clearly executed with a believable dog and boy
relationship given added depth through the boy’s physical disability.

Content and Themes: Good animal theme suitable for the intended age group with sheep-dog details naturally woven into the story.

Characterisation: The boys are quite strongly drawn with a believable relationship between them. Good emotional tone between characters, including the dog. Dynamics are given some edge with the inclusion of a ‘bully’ character creating menace.

 Writing Style: Traditional narrative structure but the content is quite visual. A good pace is maintained through the sheep dog trials. Writing is fluid and exciting.

Clancy's comment: Sad news is that this story has not been picked up by a publisher. Trust me, it would make a great movie - one for the entire family.

James A Michener has been a sensational author who writes thick, chunky books. I read 'Centennial' and was gob smacked to find that the first fifty pages contained geological information about the shifting of the earth etc. That's fine, but you can't do that for young adults. You have to be snappy and get on with it.

So, my point is simple: teens and kids are smart. Don't underestimate their intelligence or their capacity to absorb information. If you write a believable story, the same kids will ask their folks to buy your next book. Now that's a great idea! The same points apply to those who write for adults. I nearly threw 'Centennial' away, but I persisted because I knew that James A Michener was a top writer.

Keep writing!

Don't be shy ... leave a comment or email me: clancy_tucker@hotmail.com

Thanks for listening.

I'm Clancy Tucker.