Where do you get your ideas?

This perennial question is feared by writers, mainly because we are expected to offer up a hidden insight that only we are privy to. Some authors shrug off the question with a quip, such as, from the merchant if ideas. Others go with the truth: Ideas come from everywhere and everything, the trick is in selecting the good ones. Of course this is not what people want to hear. They want to know the secret.
Well here goes: Think of any idea that involves conflict and turn this idea into a, what if? Once you have this, the story is simply down to plotting, or repeating a new question, what next?
Fine, but that doesn’t tell me where the ideas come from? I hear them groan. Then try this: Take two existing and different ideas, now gel them together, thus, creating a fresh story. By the time you’ve re-shaped your tale you’ll be hard pushed to find any resemblance of the originals.
Alternatively, eavesdrop. Recently I overheard one woman gossip to another, “They’d been taking each others drugs by mistake.” If that line doesn’t conjure up an idea or two, you can’t be helped.
And be forewarned, the next time I’m asked: Where do you get your ideas? I’ll be sure to reply: From standing on my head in a bath of brain dust.

Links for Writers

A list of websites/blogs that may be useful to authors or aspiring writers:
The Most Common Mistakes I See in Fiction Manuscripts
from Jerry Gross
Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)
from Holt Uncensored
5 Editor’s Secrets To Help You Write Like A Pro
from Remarkable Communication
How to write a book proposal
from BubbleCow
Creating realistic characters with depth
from kris cramer
Write Characters, Not Mary Sues
from Born Liar
How to Create Suspense in a Story
from eHow
How to Use the ‘Rule of Three’ to Create Engaging Content
from copyblogger
How To Write A Fight Scene
from Start Writing Fiction
How To Spice Up Your Writing With Dialogue
from Archetype
Ending a Scene by James Thayer
from Author Articles
An independent directory of online writing resources http://www.websitesforwriters.net/
from Websites for writers.
10 Ways to Improve Your Writing
from Tefl Spin
Writing Links
from Internet-Resources.com
Checklist of Fiction Faults
from Ray Nelson
The 3 Most Important Elements of Fiction Writing
from Absolute Write
15 worthy blogs for writers
http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2009/10/09/15WorthyBlogsIJustDiscovered.aspx from The Writer’s Digest
How to Write a Novel Using the Web
from Mashable
Tips for Creating a Compelling Plot
from Debbie Lee Wesselmann
50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills
from Smashing Magazine
10 Free Resources Every Writer Needs
from Write To Done
17 writing secrets
from Writer’s Digest
Fiction Writer’s Character Chart
Character development in fiction
from suite101.com
Read first chapters
from The Washington Post
Tips for Writers
from Write To Done
13 writing tips
from Chuck Palahniuk
How to Write a Great Novel
from The Wall Street Journal
50 Tools to Improve your Writing Skills
from Dumb Little Man.
8 rules for writing unstoppable shorts
from i09
10 Tips for Creative Writers
from Dennis G. Jerz
The 10 Best Books for Writers
from Editor Unleashed
50 best websites to download eBOOKs FREE
from Tech tools
52 short stories
from Fifty-Two Stories


Originality. Is it dead?

Are there any truly original stories left?

Harry Potter – the tale of an orphan living with his aunt and uncle, from where he is rescued by a wise, bearded man, who turns out to have magical powers. It is revealed to the young gent that his father also possessed these powers. Later, in the finale, our hero is forced to see off a threat from a bad man who we understood killed his parents.

Original? Well here’s the story of Luke Skywalker.

Star Wars (1977 – Episode IV) - the story of an orphan living with his aunt and uncle, from where he is rescued by a wise, bearded man, who turns out to have magical powers. It is revealed to the young gent that his father also possessed these powers. Later, in the finale, our hero is forced to see off a threat from a bad man who we understood killed his parents.

Plagiarism? No, they just share a similar story, and this has been going on for as long as tales have been told. Take the following from a few thousands years ago:

A child is born on Dec 25th; a boy, born to a virgin, and the only son of God. The birth is heralded by a star and announced by angels. He grew up, going on to resist temptation and walk on water. Death came in the form of a crucifixion and he was buried in a tomb, from which he was resurrected after three days and hailed as the savoir of humanity.

You might recognise this story as the tale of Horus, allegedly written thousands of years BC.


Just don’t upset the children.

Nursery rhymes are being altered in order for them to have happy endings. In a recent BBC broadcast Humpty Dumpty was not beyond repair, if fact all the King’s horses and all the King’s men were able to make Humpty happy again. Then on a CBeebies channel near you, Little Miss Muffet was spotted welcoming the spider that sat down beside her. Is the santisation of children’s literature a good thing, or should we be preparing our little people for the harshness of life?
Well, which of the following do you prefer?

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

Three kind mice, three kind mice,
See all their fun, see all their fun,
They all looked after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut them some cake with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three kind mice?

Personally, I like happy endings, but only after the characters have suffered on a difficult journey. Many fairytales aren’t far off the mark. With their goblins, witches, and trolls they are the stuff of nightmares but, by and large, they end in a happy place and all is forgiven. Imagine the Brothers Grimm trying to get published today. “It’s a horror story for kids. The title ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, basically a wolf disguises himself as a grandchild in order to eat her Granny.” Good luck with that!

And another thing, If the fun police are to insist on protecting little Timmy from violence then they should start with computer games.


Reviews matter!

Reviews matter! They shouldn’t, after all they’re only one person’s opinion and not everyone will like your book, but for new writers, they really matter. So in thanking Borders for the following review, I do so with great gratitude.

Danielle Siddons at Borders Book Store, Leicester:

‘Wow! What can I say? Chasing Shadows absolutely blew me away! It was like a cross between 'Life on Mars' and '24', with ample doses of action, gore, thrills and humour! Never a dull moment, the plot doesn't halt for a pause with twists, turns and new discoveries unfolding in every chapter. The characters were beautifully put across, in equal parts our protagonist was heroic and wholesome, made massively credible by his witty and dry sense of humour, and the 'bad guys' were deliciously detestable. With its short chapters and John's concise, to-the-point writing style, this book was unstoppable; it had me gripped from the first page until the side-splitting, shocking and genuis conclusion. A fantastic book!'


X Factor or ex factor?

I have given up watching this bobbins and yet millions tune in every week. Why? Even with the addition of a live audience it’s a tired format.
Here goes the structure:
After the obligatory ‘coming up’ spoilers, the judges enter the arena with all the fanfare afforded to returning gods. Following this, a procession of deluded wannabes are paraded in front of the mocking nation. Many of these dimwits are accompanied by their entire family, a mob of genetically hamstrung individuals who take issue with the judges. About this time a sob story will pull at the heart strings and some unlikely council worker will rise up from the dross and blow away the judges. If only they would. The chuckling Louis and smug Simon sit there like bookends spouting innuendos designed to keep them in a closet they should have left years ago. Meanwhile, Dani – who sits there no less obsolete than Arlene Philips – can only look on in envy as Cheryl basks in the kind of public affection last offered to Princess Di. TV has no jury like a woman scorned.


Book Launch

Saturday saw the 2009 NewWritersUK festival where Chasing Shadows was launched to great success.

Big thanks go out to all of you who turned up to see me. I really appreciate your support and your presence made it a wonderful day. Full pictures will be put on my Myspace page this week so have a look (via my website). I must also thank everyone who helped with the event and all of the punters who purchased a copy.


Derren Brown

What did Derren Brown do? He gave us all six lottery numbers after they were announced. Key word folks, AFTER! He claims that he had already selected his six predicted numbers beforehand but Camelot wouldn’t allow them to be revealed until the draw had been made. Yeah right. Now let me make two predictions of my own. One: Wherever Derren goes people will be asking him for the lottery numbers. Two: This will get on his nerves.



As of today my website is up and running.


Making a thriller thrilling.

I will be talking at the NewWriters festival (see earlier blogs for details) at 12:15pm. The subject matter: What makes a thriller thrilling?

Great thrillers provide a roller coaster ride of adrenalin, but what makes this possible?

Memorable characters aside, I view the following as the crucial elements that go to make up a thriller.
They include:
Establishing plot.
The importance of conflict.
Providing hooks.
Creating suspense.
Planting twists.
The ticking clock.
The surprise ending.


Festival Launch

The 19th Sept see the launch of Chasing Shadows at the New Writers UK Festival V
I'll be giving a talk and signing books and if that's not enough you can check out the following:

Creative writing workshop : Guest speakers : Independent Publishers : Book stalls : Snapshot presentations : Support for new writers: Secondhand Books : Raffle : Refreshments : Free Admission and Parking

Date: Saturday 19th Sep 2009, Assembly Rooms,County Hall,West Bridgford,Nottingham NG2 7QP,
From: 10.00am to 5.00pm

Our Guests: Helen Hollick, Author and Scriptwriter Mark Thornton, Proprietor, Mostly Books, Abingdon Simon Potter, Publishing Manager, Print on demand– Worldwide, Steve Bowkett, Educational Consultant and Author, Raj Pathak, Film-maker and the Producer Chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council, Councillor David Taylor. AuthorHouse UK Ltd and Discovered Authors, Historical novels, crime, thrillers, true-life stories, children’s and teen fantasy adventures, ghost stories, non-fiction and more.

Special Event:Prize presentation to winners of the Creative Writing Competition for Children at 2.00pm. Prizes presented by Des Coleman of BBC East Midlands TV


New Writers UK

The NewWritersUK are a non-profit making, ever expanding group, supporting authors and prospective authors alike. If you live in the UK and have ever written - or would like to write - a book, then check out what we have to offer.
From getting published to selling you novels, NewWritersUK is here to help in all aspects of the writing process. Members include: editors, cover designers, web specialists, and authors of fiction and non-fiction, covering practically every genre.
Our members have access to an online forum where you can post questions and discuss all aspects of the writing/publishing/marketing process with fellow authors.
Every year we hold a festival in Nottinghamshire, at which non-members are
welcome to attend.
For more information, or details on how to join us, visit www.newwritersuk.co.uk


John Hughes

Just heard that John Hughes has died of a heart attack, aged 59. Hughes is the writer behind - and often produced/director of - many wonderful films such as the Home Alone movies, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Dennis, Baby’s Day Out, Uncle Buck, The Great Outdoors and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. His accessible humour, both visual and verbal, together with his capturing of what it’s like to grow up, made Hughes one of the great exponents of the family movie. Never preachy, he made touching, emotionally moving films which avoided over sentimentality. RIP John.


Follow me, JohnBairdAuthor, on www.twitter.com. As a productive hermit I can’t promise any more than a few laughs and the odd tip.