MY IDEAS BOOK

My stories always start in the ideas book. I just start jotting down ideas that pop into my head and if one of them seems promising, I will try to work out a little plot around it. I am basically talking to myself with a pen and I will make little notes saying things like ‘great stuff!’, or ‘terrible’, or ‘oh no, someone else has already done it’.

For me, getting the idea is the worst part of writing. I will do anything to get out of it – go do the dishes, weed the garden, make the bed or go into town for a coffee. My head feels like it is going to explode while I am doing this. I look out of the window and see people on bikes and fishing rods sticking out of the back of cars, and here am I in my own little self made prison. I have a fabulous view but it doesn’t make any difference – it is all happening inside my head and it is sooooo hard.

When my first book came out I met a friend down the street and he said to me, “I read your book mate. Not bad, not bad.  So I said to myself, if Paul Jennings can write a book, I can write a book.” I said, “Good on you, good luck.”

Six months later he stopped me in the street again. He said, “Geez it’s hard mate.” and rushed on.

It is hard, but you have to keep going. Out of the hundreds of people who tell me they are going to write a book, most give up because it is hard work.

But, having said all this, it is soooo good when you finish a story that I am happy with. I walk around and the world is full of singing birds, smiling children, gentle breezes and sunshine. There is nothing like the feeling of having created something worthwhile. No pain, no gain.

Here is a page out of my ideas book. This is the outline of a story called Lennie Lighthouse (Tongue-Tied!). At this stage I hadn’t worked out the surprise ending where Lennie’s glowing teeth make something fantastic happen. But I knew that the idea of a boy whose teeth glow in the dark was a good one and you can see from the comment at the bottom that I had decided to start the story with a boy standing in a paddock, with his magic teeth glowing in the dark, and attracting moths which he caught with his mouth. I never actually start the writing until I have figured out the end.
 

One thing I have learned is that every writer operates differently. I do my best work early in the morning with the sun streaming in the window. My friend Morris Gleitzman works best at night with the blinds closed. Some people start writing without knowing where the story is going. I don’t do this but I change things and get new ideas as I go. Sometimes when I have finished I realise that it is no good and I throw it in the bin. But usually I will save one little bit of it – maybe just a joke – and use it somewhere else.

It is your story, so do it your way.