Friday 28 March 2014

School Visits: Wix Primary School / École de Wix

I'd like to say a big thank you and merci to Schnell Donacien and the fantastic Year 4s of Wix Primary School / École de Wix, who I had the pleasure of visiting last week!

It was wonderful to meet so many great readers and writers, and to be asked so many interesting and thoughtful questions.  It was also very nice to hear how much everyone had been enjoying Varjak Paw and Phoenix.  One Year 4 told me he read Phoenix in just 5 days!  Given that it's 490 pages long, that's an amazing compliment for a writer to hear!

Thank you all again for your wonderful warm welcome.  And if anyone at Wix would like to make a comment about the visit or my books, this is the place to do it – I love hearing from readers!

Friday 21 March 2014

Writing Tips #3: The Secret Of The First Draft

So here's the third tip I would give any writer (if you want to know the first two, they're here).

On a first draft, give yourself a daily minimum word count: something you can easily do.  The amount will be different for everyone, but I usually aim for 4 sides of A4 – 1,000 words.  If I feel like doing more, that's fine, but it doesn't mean I can do less tomorrow; I have to do at least 4 sides a day.  While I'm doing this, I don't look back or edit or even wonder if what I'm writing is any good.  I just write 4 sides a day, every day, picking up where I left off yesterday, always moving the story forwards.  

Every time I stick to this, within a couple of months, an amazing amount of writing has somehow happened.  That's how I wrote the first drafts of Varjak Paw and Phoenix, and that's the secret of how to do a first draft.  Don't judge it, don't worry about it: just get those words down on the page, whatever they are.  Momentum is everything.  If you try to edit while you're writing a first draft, chances are you'll never finish it.  But keep moving forwards, and you'll reach the end before you know it.  

Then it's time for the next draft... which I'll talk about in the next writing tip!

Monday 17 March 2014

World Book Week 2014

Every year, World Book Day gets bigger and bigger.  This year, it became an entire week!  I was honoured to take part in a special video made by The Guardian to celebrate the occasion.  Along with my fellow authors Jacqueline Wilson and Jim Smith, I was interviewed by a reader dressed as a character from my books: in my case, Varjak Paw!  The video is here and is absolutely fantastic; there's also a full transcript of the interview that you can read here.

I also visited many schools, and met lots and lots of great readers and writers!  First up was Our Lady Queen Of Heaven Primary School in Wimbledon, where I met Years 6, 5, 4 and 3.  It was brilliant to see so many Varjak Paw fans, and so many people interested in my new book Phoenix.  For anyone who missed it, here's the Phoenix book trailer again:

On World Book Day itself, I visited Montem Primary School in Islington, and talked to Years 6, 5 and 4.  It was inspiring to see so much enthusiasm for books and reading – and I was delighted to see a tiger on the way out of the school, because the new book that I'm working on is called TYGER!

Finally, I visited Friars Primary School in Waterloo, where I met Years 6 and 5, many of whom had read both Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw, and some of whom I understand are now reading Phoenix!  I hope you all enjoy it... and I hope that everyone I met had a totally brilliant World Book Week!

Monday 10 March 2014

School Visits: New North Academy

Some sad news: my trusty old computer, on which I wrote Phoenix, died a couple of weeks ago. So I haven't been able to update this blog for a while.  But I've been busy doing school visits, and I hope to make blogs about them all in the coming week.

I think my visit to the New North Academy in Islington was one of the best I've ever had.  I met some brilliant readers and writers from Year 6, and fantastic teachers like Fiona Gunn-Stokes and Alexander Hall.  They showed me the excellent work they'd been doing on Phoenix as well as Varjak Paw.  It was really inspiring to see all the enthusiasm for books out there!

It was amazing afterwards to find messages on my site like this:
Dear SF SAID, you have visited new north academy and I was one of the pupils. So far I have written 5 MINI SHORT STORIES because you have inspired me to do so. I have learnt a lot from you and I will cherish your visit. I hope you write another Varjak one of my ideas was varjak having a twin called varjak Claw and he could be bad. That could be a special edition . I really wish you would use some ideas in your books such as Holly and Varjak getting married! Thanks again

It really means a lot for a writer to hear things like that!  So I'd like to wish everyone at New North Academy all the best with their writing and their reading – and thank you for saying such nice things about my books!