Thursday, 19 December 2013

Secret of Waterwhistle Part 2

Hello, non-cats! Hope you're all looking forward to Christmas and that you've got a very, very long list for Santa. I know I have. I've asked for lots of Dr Who DVDs, some books (anything by Patrick Ness, even though he clearly stole Arthur's surname..!) - but most of all, I've asked for a finished copy of Arthur Ness and the Secret of Waterwhistle, Part 2.

I mean, yes, I'm supposed to be writing it... and yes, it was meant to be out before Christmas... but I've been a little bit delayed. First of all, there was the alien abduction (I went to the corner shop for some milk and it turned out that the entire shop wasn't actually a shop, it was a UFO that was disguised as a shop - once there were enough people inside, it shut the doors and took off). I'll have to tell you how I escaped that one.

Then, there was the attack by Voldemort - I was just minding my own business when the magical Dark Lord attacked our street. Luckily, I know my Wingardium Leviosar from my Expeliarmus so I took care of that little interruption, quick-smart. By the end, it was He-Who-Runs-Away-Squealing-Like-A-Little-Girl.

There were some other things too - the intergalactic bank-robbery I foiled, the hot-air balloon I built, the robotic teachers I had to re-program... all of which have stopped me from finishing Secret of Waterwhistle Part 2. No, really. It's all true.What do you mean you don't believe me.

Okay... well, I suppose I did make up some of it. The bank-robbery I foiled was only inter-planetary, not inter-galactic.

BUT... there is one piece of exciting news (even if I do say so myself)... the opening chapter of Secret of Waterwhistle Part 2 will debut here on this very blog! Sometime over the Christmas period, you will get the chance to read the first chapter, even before the book is fully completed..! Please take a look and let me know what you think... I might even put some comments into the finished book itself.

Well, I'd better get back to writing the story... just as soon as I escape from this underwater prison I've been locked up in...

Monday, 12 August 2013

10 Minute Writing School : The Opening

Hello! Welcome to the first in a series of creative writing articles called the '10 Minute Writing School'. (I stole the name from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez' '10 Minute Film School' videos - sssh! don't tell him when you see him).

Each article is meant to be a quick 10(ish) minutes of hints and tips on creative writing. I'm not the highest authority on writing and there are many great books on How To Write at your local library or bookshop (or global internet-based book giant). But these are some tips that I think would be fun to share in quick, take-away bites. They may help if you're planning on entering the world's most awesome short story competition, too.

Right, enough ramble. Let's get to work.

Now when it comes to openings, there is a golden rule which you must always remember:
Grab your reader's interest and do it quickly!

There are two main ways to do this - CONTENT (what happens) or STYLE (how you write). Grab them with Content - great. Grab them with Style - brilliant (but hard). Grab them with both...awesome!

Let's talk about Content first.

One minute, the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.



No "poof." No flash of light. No explosion.

For a moment, Sam Temple thought he had imagined it, the teacher disappearing. For a moment, he thought he'd slipped into a daydream.

Sam turned to Mary Terrafino, who sat just to his left. "You saw that, right?"

"GONE" by Michael Grant

Arthur Ness ran.

He ran so fast that his chest was bursting, his head was pounding and his legs were burning up from the inside. ‘You’d best stop running right now!’ his legs were threatening him, ‘Or we’ll never work for you again!’

But Arthur Ness did not stop running. One of the witch’s spells blasted right past his head, its bright, white light flashing in his eyes as it exploded against a nearby wall.

Arthur Ness ran faster.


There. Two openings to two different stories. They're both quite different. In "Gone", you have something very quiet and ordinary (kids sat in class - probably daydreaming!) and something very much out of the ordinary happens - the teacher disappears. It's very big and out of the ordinary... but it's written about in a very simple way. That's what makes it so jarring - you're like Sam, the character. You're like ... "whu... did... did that really just happen?"

In the opening of "Arthur Ness", it's the opposite. You're thrown straight into big, loud action. People running, witches blasting spells at peoples' heads. Frantic! Crazy!

Though different, both openings have one important thing in common - something is Happening. Notice I put Happening - with a capital 'H'. You have happening (small 'h') and Happening (big 'H'). In stories, things don't just happen. They Happen. To see the difference, read these two extracts...

A man gets out of bed. He puts on some clothes and leaves the house. He heads to the corner shop where he buys a newspaper. He thanks the shopkeeper and goes home. The end.

A man gets out of bed. He puts on some clothes and leaves the house. He heads to the corner shop where he finds a robber pointing a gun at the shopkeeper, demanding all the money. The man grabs a newspaper and hits the robber over the head with it. The robber is knocked out. Out of gratitude, the shopkeeper gives the man the newspaper for free. The man thanks the shopkeeper and goes home. The end.

One of these is a story because stuff Happens. The other is just a list of things someone did - because stuff just happens. I think you can easily see which is which.

In a story, something has to Happen - preferably something that would not normally occur in real life. And that is doubly true for your opening. If something Happens at the start of your story, you've got a very good chance of hooking your reader (your ultimate aim, remember..!)

Does 'Happening' have to be something supernatural as in our two examples? No, of course not.
It could be something regular and plain (like Erin getting her exam results through the post). But it has to set up something out of the ordinary (Erin failed the exams and so is going to have to go to the college she really wanted to avoid).

Whatever you do, don't forget the golden rule; get them hooked and do it fast!

We'll briefly touch on STYLE - I say briefly because this is something a lot more complex and difficult. You should put as much time and effort into your Style as possible and there are lots of really good books at your local bookshop that will give you hints and tips on how to write in a way that captures your reader's imagination. But I won't go into it too much here because it's a very tricky thing to try and teach (and I don't have the time and space here to even begin to do it justice!).

But, just to give you a taste of what I'm talking about, read these two extracts;

The sun was rising into the sky. Jodie felt the warmth on her face and smiled.

The sun was blinding. Blinding and hot. As it crawled up into the red, morning sky, it reached out and grabbed Jodie. All that light and warmth - right onto her skin. She lifted her face up and closed her eyes. It was the best feeling in the world.

They both describe the same event but the second one tries to use more style to really make the reader feel what is happening rather than just read it. I say 'tries' to use more style because, like many things in writing, it's completely subjective - that means different people will see it in different ways. Some people like lots of description so would prefer the second one. Other people, though, might prefer it when a description is very brief because it allows them to imagine more themselves - so they might prefer the first one.

I think you can start to see how the topic of Style is so difficult. But don't worry - the good thing about Style is that you already have your own! The more you write, the more you'll discover it. It's a bit like sharpening a pencil - do it a bit and you have a pencil that's sharp-ish. Do it a lot and you have a pencil that's super-sharp and ready for action..!

Anyway, I think I'll stop there. Don't forget;
Grab your reader's attention - and do it fast!

Don't give them the chance to put your story down. Most importantly, though, have fun when writing. If you have real fun when you write, your reader will have real fun when they read it.

Do you have any questions about any of this? Just ask them below and I'll make sure I answer them for you.

I look forward to chatting with you!


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Readers' Comments on The Secret of Waterwhistle Pt 1

Hi all - it's the Cat here.

Now, like any good feline, I do like to read lots. And one of my favourite things to read about is myself. So, I thought, 'why not pass a law where people have to email me and tell me how great they think I am?'. Of course, I'll have to become President of the World for that. And that could take a few years.

So, in the meantime, I'll settle for this -

Have you read Arthur Ness and the Secret of Waterwhistle, (Part 1 or 2)? If so, post a comment below (or email and let the world know what you think of it! Was it scary? Exciting? Who were your favourite characters? (Apart from me, of course...) You can just drop us a few lines or write an entire review - go crazy!

See what Amazon readers have thought of it : Click here

Keep Getting in Trouble
The Cat

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Well, yep, I think the title pretty much says it all. Competition time!

How do you fancy opening Arthur Ness and the Secret of Waterwhistle Part 2 in a few months' time and reading your very own story inside? Well, grab your pencils because that's what's on offer!

I want you to write a short story and send it in - my favourite one will be printed in the back of 'The Secret of Waterwhistle Part 2' which is due out in time for Christmas 2013.

The story can be about anything in the Arilon world - you can set it on any Island that has been in the story so far or you can create your own, as-yet unseen Island. Will it be set on Graft, Labyrinth or Bamboo's Island? Or perhaps somewhere else - maybe, an island where everyone constantly tells lies, or a place where time is traded like money.

Who will your main character be? What will they be after? Will they be helping someone? Running from something? Trying to rescue somebody? Or perhaps they will be in need of rescue themselves...

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some articles on creative writing to help you come up with some ideas and guide you on how to put your story together. But as from right now - as they say on X-Factor - the phone lines are OPEN! (Well, not phone lines... you know what I mean...).

The closing date is 31st October 2013. After this date, I can't accept anymore stories, so get writing! Keep your eyes out for the creative writing articles to give you some tips - the first one will be appearing soon.

I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures in Arilon!

Keep scribbling


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Lowdham Festival Wordsearch Winners

Just a quick post to congratulate the winners of the Arthur Ness wordsearch competition that took place at the Lowdham Book Festival a few weeks ago. Everyone who completed the fiendishly difficult wordsearch had their name put into a hat (well, Morrisons carrier bag) and the lucky three who were picked out at random were;

  • Tom Hunter
  • Jacob Curley
  • Annalise Machin
Each of them has won a signed copy of Arthur Ness and the Secret of Waterwhistle which those nice men and women at the Royal Mail hand-delivered to their respective houses. Well done guys!

Everyone else will get (or has already got) a text thanking them for their participation and (more importantly) giving them  a discount on the purchase of the book from the Bookcase in Lowdham before August 31st.

Don't forget, you can pop in to the Bookcase (they're very nice people!) to get a copy or order it via (£5.99) or you can download the e-book version for Kindle or any device with the Kindle Reader App installed (£1.99).

Congratulations and Thanks again to all who took part!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lowdham Book Festival 2013

Hello. It's the Cat here. I just found out that there was a book festival in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire last weekend - and that I wasn't invited. I can't tell you the words I had to have with young Wilf on this one. Lowdham is just a stone's throw away from Waterwhistle (or, you know, what's left of it). Plus, I do like book festivals. I can read better than most cats. And to be fair, I'm actually the main character in one of the books Wilf was selling so you would have thought I'd be the guest of honour and get loads of adulation and fish. Adulation and fish are my two favourite things.

ANYway, after telling Wilf in no uncertain terms how annoyed I was, he did ask me to take some small part in proceedings by coming on here and thanking everyone who came along on the day and chatted to him. Also, if you did the fiendishly difficult wordsearch, well done! I'd like to take credit for that - but it was actually Wilf's friend, Ian, who concocted that little gem. If I'd done it, it would have been even more fiendish. Doubly fiendish. Trebly, even. Maybe even fourbly. The levels of fiendishness would have been so high, they would have needed to double the size of the festival, just to fit all the fiendishness in. It would have been a fiendish overload. We would have used up all the world's supply of fiendish, just on this one wordsearch.

I think you get the idea. It would have been quite tricky.

Anyway, thanks again (even though I wasn't there....) and check back soon for a brilliant competition for all you budding writers out there. Fancy the chance to get a short story you've written printed in 'The Secret of Waterwhistle Part 2' when it comes out later this year? Then don't go far.

Until next time. Keep an eye out for Yarnbulls!