Today I am so pleased to be part of the blog tour for Boys for Beginners by Lil Chase. I'm thrilled to welcome Lil Chase to Floor to Ceiling Books, and she has written a fantastic guest post. Without any further ado...
Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?
When I tell someone that I’m a writer this is the conversation that usually follows:
Them: Wow! That’s great. What’s the book called?
Me: Boys For Beginners
Them: Love the title!
(I didn’t come up with the title. A friend suggested it. In return, I bought her an orchid.)
Them: What’s it about?
Me: It’s a funny story about a tomboy who tries to become a girlie girl to impress a boy… but gets it wrong a lot.
Them: (Polite laugh.)
How did you come up with the idea?
Me: Erm… I stole it from a little girl.
Before you judge me, that little girl was me.
I started writing Boys for Beginners when I was 10. Back then I had called it Gwynnie Goes Girlie (a Ronseal title, but not quite as stand out as B4B). I’d never forgotten the concept so I mentioned it to my agent and she told me to get writing. But before I could get writing I had to get researching… which meant a trip to my parents’ attic.
I knew where I’d put it, in a colourful folder with Velcro seal. I knew what that first page would look like: the title, chapter one heading, three quarters of a page of pencil written text, then a picture of Gwynnie, drawn by me… I just had to pray that my parents hadn’t thrown it out.
What was surprising about the manuscript – other than the crude drawings and the even cruder spelling – was how well structured it was:
1. I introduced the protagonist Gwynnie and her best friend Paul.
2. I introduce the antagonist – Jenny, the girliest girl in school. Paul starts to fall for Jenny and Gwynnie doesn’t understand how he could like her.
3. I introduce the threat – The headmaster says they’re implementing a school uniform. Which means that Gwynnie will have to wear a skirt!
4. I introduced the goal – the arrival of the hunky boy.
5. Only after all that did I give any backstory – Gwynnie goes home and we see that she has a father and a brother but her mother died when she was little. Now we realise why Gwynnie is a tomboy – she doesn’t know how to be a girl.
Armed with the ingredients from Little Lil – my ten year old self – I started writing. The process was made so much easier because I knew these characters: Gwynnie was based on my best friend Kate… who is still by best friend. Paul was based on Paul, a good friend at the time and we’ve met up again recently. Jenny was… I know who Jenny was but I’m not telling. I took the characters from that original manuscript and adapted them: Gwynnie has become less like Kate and more like me, with the experiences I had when I was a teenager. Paul has become less like Paul and more like another best friend Tom. Jenny has become more like me too: she says all the nasty things I sometimes think but never dare to say out loud.
I would love to be able to go back in time and tell Little Lil that the book she started writing would one day be on bookshelves… and available to download (‘What’s a download?’ she’d ask).
But now I need to write a second book, and Little Lil is not around to plagiarise from so I am left with coming up with the second book on my own. Tricky.
Here are some of the ways I do it.
Keep a notebook
I have a notebook on me at all times in case a flash of inspiration hits me. But it’s one thing to have the note book, it’s another to get it out and write in it.
While commuting I pretend to read, but really I’m listening. Being a writer is often about taking in the world around us, that way the writing feels more authentic.
The idea for my second novel came to be when reading Bliss Magazine. The banner along the top read: ‘In this issue: Boys… Cringes… Pets… Friends… Secrets…’ A list off things tween girls are interested in.
Whenever I’m feeling really blocked I try to get out. Much as I love my house, bed, local coffee shop, nearby park, friends and family, sometimes I need to see something I’ve never seen before.
In my day job I work with a team of editors, most of whom are writers in their free time. We talk about our books a lot (like the friend who came up with the new title). It’s like Weight Watchers for writers, with everyone bemoaning how little writing they’ve done and helping each other to tackle that flabby second act.
Where do you get your ideas from? Have you got a novel way to inspire your novel? How do you unblock that writer’s block? Please, share your tips.
Please do leave comments for Lil with your suggestions!
And, in the meantime, Boys for Beginners is out now, so go and pick up a copy!
Thanks for dropping by, Lil.