Alongside a 16 year career in publishing Marcus Sedgwick established himself as a widely-admired writer of YA fiction; he is the winner of many prizes, most notably the Branford-Boase Award for a debut novel Floodland, and the Booktrust Teenage Prize for My Swordhand is Singing. His books have been shortlisted for over thirty other awards, including the Carnegie Medal (four times), the Edgar Allan Poe Award (twice) and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (four times). His latest title in the UK is Midwinterblood.
Marcus in workshop mode
Where do the stories come from? Well, it's all been done before said Marcus quoting the rather depressing words of Milan Kundera,
"But hasn't the novel come to the end of the road by its own internal logic? Hasn't it already mined all its possibilities, all its knowledge, and all its forms? I've heard the history of the novel compared to a seam of coal long since exhausted. But isn't it more like a cemetery of missed opportunities, of unheard appeals?"And with all due respect to Mr Kundera, Marcus advises...
You can write anything!
You can write anything!
To do that you should...
- develop a magpie mind which means consider every idea even Giant Killer Cats before dismissing most of those ideas including Giant Killer Cats, although...
|wish I'd thought of that|
- put yourself in the right place - walking, driving, coffee shop, comfy sofa (hem hem), wherever and whenever works for you
|Marcus prefers not to listen to Radio 4 whilst working - bit distracting|
Those initial ideas can come from anywhere. And the good ones stay - like being infected with a disease. Hmm, a charming notion which Marcus overnight changed to, 'like falling in love'. One of the ideas which stuck with Marcus was a dream of a witch coming over the hill towards the remote cottage he was staying in, getting nearer and nearer...
|What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?|
|Midvinterblot - guess the book title|
'I count as my main asset the combination of a magpie's mind that sees, finds or makes connections and patterns...the ability to doodle mentally and to play.' Alan GarnerThis ability to make connections is essential to a writer. It enables you to conceive a story or characters, to weave an entire world from a single idea. This playing becomes the test of an idea - holiday romance or soul mate? So, how does Marcus start a novel? Take the example of Revolver.
'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.' Ernest HemingwayMarcus is a planner and for him, characters can sometimes start at a rather 2D level. When the first draft is sorted then he can go back and add in characterisation. Characterisation comes in the first five pages, if you don't have a sense of who's in this story by then, you're not going to care about them.
|do not bore your reader!|
But don't fret over the details when you start off. Don't get it right, get it written. Often quoted but true. Let the ideas flow, enjoy the research, plan a little and the story is yours.
So thanks to Marcus for letting me play fast and loose with his two inspirational workshops and let the last words be the last words of Charles Dickens.
'Be natural, my children.'