New ideas come, says Nick, from ‘the darker recesses of my brain – and my kid’s brains. A child’s brain is a great place to look for ideas. My kids tend to come up with absolute corkers!’
It may help a bit that Nick’s main career is as a clinical psychologist but being a parent has been even more important in showing him that children need to have fun with their reading. He says ‘Being a parent makes me realise that kids books are about helping kids enjoy reading – ideas of making them ‘good literature’ or ‘worthwhile subjects’ is nonsense. The point of a good kids’ book is that kids enjoy reading it. The other side of my brain which works as a child psychologist, would wholly concur!’
Fun is a theme that runs through all of Nick’s thoughts on writing. Although there is an educational undertone to the books he says ‘The books are 99% about entertainment and silliness. But I think it’s also fun for kids to learn new stuff, especially about dinosaurs, space and Roman invasions. So I make sure to always include a few fun facts along the way – the other 1%.’
Nick points out that if a writer is to be successful he or she deserves some fun, too, along with the necessary graft. ‘I just write what I want to write, and hope my readers enjoy it!’ he says. ‘I find writing for fun easy. But as soon as a publisher gets involved – which is of course what we want – and sets series guidelines and completion dates, things get a bit harder. I always find the hardest bit is making my ideas fit with the series ‘rule’. I like to let my stories go whichever way they want to go but with a series such as Saurus Street you have to ensure the same ‘universe rules’ are followed. Constraints like this make writing a bit harder.’
Nick was already a dinosaur enthusiast before he wrote the first book, an enthusiasm that has probably also contributed to the series’ success. ‘I have to admit I’m just a dinosaur and science nerd. And I’d also spent three years prior to writing talking dinosaurs with my son, and reading dinosaur books with him. So that was all the research I needed.’
Writing is a solitary craft. It helps to mull over ideas with others, says Nick. ‘I exchange ideas with my wife, who writes Screenplays, and I throw ideas around with Tony Flowers, the illustrator for my books. But writing is a lonely business in many ways, and it’s important to write what you want to write and not try and stick to other people’s ideas if they don’t mesh with your own.’
It is all good advice but can anyone write? It’s that fun word again. ‘Start as early as you can. Writing should be fun, so age, talent and writing style are irrelevant. If you’re not enjoying it, it won’t be any good. So start writing for fun as early as you can. Just remember the golden rule – Don’t Get It Right. Just Write!’
At Learn to Write Online, we couldn’t have put it better ourselves. Just Write!
Nick’s latest two books in the Saurus series will be out in September. Published by Random House, the first four, Tyrannosaurus in the Veggie Patch, The Very Naughty Velociraptor, A Pterodactyl Stole my Homework, and An Allosaurus Ate my Uncle.
Draw a line down the centre of your page. All of these words are about different kinds of thinking. Put them on the left if you think they are logical and analytical. Put them on the right if you think they are imaginative and creative.
- Enjoy yourself! Don’t make writing a chore. It is fun. Why do it under sufferance?
- Allow yourself to get it wrong. Make mistakes. Write rubbish if that’s what comes out. We don’t learn from getting it all right but from getting it wrong and improving it later.