Tag Archives: gender reassignment

Diary of a hopeful author: How I write to Snow Patrol

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

When I was fifteen I wanted a personal stereo. I used to watch anyone else that had one and feel envious of their headphones plonked on their heads like a steel crown. The earpieces were foam circles, little pieces of squashy heaven that transmitted music for your own amusings without anyone else being able to hear.

When I eventually got one following a long, hard campaign to my mum (poor woman), I was made up. You never saw me. I was lost in a world of tinny 80s music; Madonna’s Material Girl and Kajagoogoo were my friends. It was the best thing ever. Fifteen and switched off from the world.

Anyone’s who’s seen a fifteen year old will know switched off is common, much like tutting is common to those over 40. We all switch off (and tut) of course. We can’t help it. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it’s essential. This week, switching off while I write has been the way to roll. But, since I’m not fifteen anymore and therefore not living in a 3-bed with my brother and sister fighting over whose turn it is to be last in the re-used bath water, I can do what I like. And that means music.

Technology, much like my age, has moved on. Now we have iPods and boy do I like to use ours. TVs moved on, too – i.e. you can watch it on your iPad on catch up – which means the Ian Rankin Imagine programme on BBC2 I mentioned last week has been an inspiration again this time round. You see, when Ian writes, he switches on some music first. But it ain’t just any old jingle. Nope. When Ian Rankin writes his books, he listens to the same tunes. I know, I sat up at this point and listened too.

You see, what he does is play the same band on his CD player and when he hears that music it signals him to write. It switches on, if you will, his writing button. Bit like hearing an ice-cream van and being catapulted into childhood. Or the dentist’s chair. Whichever.

So, I thought I’d give Rankin’s roll a whirl, just with more technology. Shunning CDs and selecting an iPod, this week I have been working on novel number 2 to 90% Snow Patrol and 10% Stone Roses. And do you know, it works.  Who knew? Normally, if you remember maybe from an earlier blog post of mine, I’d write to episodes of 24 on Love Film.com, and while this is fun, it’s not always productive. All the more made a nightmare by the fact that I have an Xmas deadline for editing this darn book. Bottom line: I have to FOCUS. Holy Jesus.

So thank the lordy lord that Snow Patrol is working for me. The foam circles from my personal stereo of the 80s have been replaced with little buds that slide out when I move, but hey ho. When the music’s on, my mind does this shift thing where I am instantly thinking like the main character. And, given that main character has just had a sex change (in a way…), this is a vital focussy type thing.

I am now over half way through the edit. Hold me to this, won’t you. Get on my case. I have to finish this thing by Christmas, at which point I will switch off from everything. Accept this time, no longer being fifteen, it’ll be with (several) sherries.  When I was fifteen, it was spirits siphoned from my mate Antonia’s parents’ drinks cupboard. Don’t ask.

If you want to catch the Imagine show with Ian Rankin, I’ve popped on the BBC iPlayer link Click here >>

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about the why I just don’t get what youth centres are for…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How Ian Rankin gave me the guts to make some changes…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I used to love playing dressing up. As a kid, anything was fair game. Pirate. Policeman. Shelf stacker. There wasn’t much to do in the way of amusement back in them days so all you had was your imagination.

I mean, yes, sometimes you’d work that imagination alone, kitting yourself out as Chief Inspector Rant and ticketing all your teddies, chucking your Barbies in jail for snogging Action Man. Other times you’d get make-believing on mass, a whole gang of us from our estate playing ‘on the backs’ aka a huge outlying field, imagining we were a secret, undercover Grifter Gang infiltrating a dastardly criminal cartel.  

Thing was, I always remember swapping roles. Not you know, transferring Grifter Gang positions, but I mean going from a girl to a boy and back again. That was the great thing about make believe. You could be anyone, anyone you liked. In your imagination it was like social boundaries, gender role expectations never existed. Sure, it got confusing when one of us yelled, ‘right, all the boys over here!’ and half us girls would get up and troop on over, but hey! We were liberators, trail blazers. And, most importantly, we made stuff up.

And that’s leads me to my week. The edit of my novel is all about making stuff up. Plots, sub plots, dialogue. You name it, I pluck it out of thin air. Trouble is, I’ve had a niggling doubt – and it’s all about the main character.

Another part of making stuff up as a writer, thankfully, is making excuses to watch TV by calling it ‘research.’  So, in the name of ‘research’ last week, I watched a programme on BBC One called, ‘Imagine.’ I know – a somewhat appropriate name.

Anyhoo, the subject of the interview type, fly-on-the-wall show that week was the blockbusting criminal author, Ian Rankin. The man is a legend. Not only that, he seems a nice bloke, unaffected by his fame, preferring to dress in old jumpers and shun the limelight. But that wasn’t what got me going. No. Rather it was the way he worked.

You see, as a writer, sometimes I have no idea if the way in which I work is correct. Like, half way through a plot, I may change it. Is that correct to do that? Or, say, when I read an edit, I may totally amend the dialogue. Is that correct, I ponder? You get the idea. But watching Rankin was a revalation. He changes stuff all the time, I mean all the time. Seriously, if that man were a weather cock he’d be all over the shop.

The reassuring thing about it all was that maybe I am, you know, doing stuff correctly. And, more’s the point, is there a definitive right and wrong to the whole writing process anyway? What works for one, may not for another and all that. Either way, watching Rankin chop and change his way through his novels gave me a new confidence. It gave me the confidence to change stuff, too.

For a while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of changing my main protagonist. The novel is a psychological thriller and the main character so far has been a bloke. The first write went well. I did all the character bios, mapped everything out. But, by the time 80k words were written, it slowed. The edit, as you may have picked up, has been slow, too. And then I watched Mr.Rankin on TV.

Hey, I thought, this man laughs in the face of normality! And so, come the edit of Chapter 8 of my book I took a bold, please God, confident step: I changed the main character from a man to a woman. Yup. I have gender swapped my protagonist, transversed, if you will, the gender gap and crossed the line. Just like we used to do when we were kids playing on the backs in Lancashire, I have swopped roles. And, do you know what? It’s working. The book has suddenly come alive. Everything about the character now as a lass instead of a bloke works a treat, all slotting into place like a key in a lock. Bingo!

I’m on it now. If you recall last week’s diary entry, I said my 1st draft edit deadline was Christmas. Remember? You are holding me to it, right? Well, I am pleased to report, Sir/Madam that I am now at the half way point. I know, get me. I have found a sudden fresh enthusiasm for the novel and it’s all to do with a simple change in character. It has meant also gender reassignments, if you will, for the other characters to make it all fit (it’s based in a prison…), but, so far so good. So here I am, having swopped from being a man to a woman, wondering what to make this new character wear. Really, changing stuff is great.

If you want to catch the Imagine show with Ian Rankin, I’ve popped on the BBC iplayer link Click here >>

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about the why crimes happen and why they shouldn’t…**