In today’s Author Spotlight, UK author David Baboulene has joined us to talk about his writing and his new book entitled The Story Book: A writers' guide to story development, principles, problem resolution and marketing. David’s vast writing experience and educational background has given him a wealth of knowledge which he generously shares with others. If you write, The Story Book is definitely a book worth checking out!
JLR: Hey, David! As a writer myself, I’m really interested in your writing process. What type of writing routine do you have? Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer? Any tips you want to share?
DB: There is a saying that goes: ‘write with your heart, rewrite with your head’. This is exactly right. Many writing courses and guides provide formulae and rules for writing. These should be ignored. Don’t go near. The creative process is about letting your imagination run wild and letting the story just flow out of you. It’s YOUR story. Don’t listen to anyone else. Let it out how YOUR heart wants it to come.
Once it’s there on the table in front of you, you will have issues with it. You’ll perceive problems, you’ll want to change things, integrate new events, perhaps make it longer, find out what it is that’s bugging you about some aspect of the story, and, yes, perhaps make it more commercially viable. At THIS point a knowledge of story theory can massively speed up the process of fixing problems and turning your story into everything you want it to be.
JLR: What a great saying. I’ll have to remember that one. So, how have you been able to balance your writing with your day job and your family responsibilities? What sacrifices have you had to make?
DB: Writing itself is not so onerous. Even pro writers rarely write more than around 4 hours and, say, 2000 words per day on average. When I had an office job, I’d hit that word count just by getting up early, grabbing a half-hour on the train, another half-hour lunchtime, thinking in the bath and so on.
I advise writers to plan their writing into their daily lives. Don’t plan for a year out or some mythical magical time when you can turn pro and forget everything else in life - that’s the dreamer talking. The pro writer in you needs to get real. Actually do it. As little as 500 words a day - that’s a side of A4 - and you’ll have a 100,000 word book in seven months’ time. Polish it for another five months. That’s a book in a year. Do that every year, and you will succeed.
JLR: Personal blogs and websites almost seem like a requirement for authors these days; yet, they are time consuming to keep updated and don’t bring in any direct revenue. How important do you feel a personal blog or website is, and how much time do you spend on these projects? What are the benefits that you have seen?
DB: Marketing your work becomes your life once you have something to sell, and yes, new media are important - critical, even - because they work and are very cheap to set up. Publishers like them because it is the author that puts in all the legwork. The problem is they take up all the time in the world.
I try to turn off the phone and the email and Facebook and Twitter and set time aside to write but it’s all so irresistible. It’s also just about impossible to make a decent living as an author, so you end up working harder than ever on selling to try and make enough money to live. Becoming a writer turns you into a workaholic salesman. That wasn’t the plan!
JLR: What three books have most influenced you to become a writer?
DB: Interesting one, this. PG. Wodehouse is my hero. A genuine genius. I read 15 minutes of Wodehouse before a writing session in order to get my humour in the right place. And his real active influence on me came when I got hold of a book of his earliest work. It was material written before he was published, and then put out as a book years later.
And it was rubbish. This was such a whack for me. The thought that my hero could have ever been so bad... But then it really inspired me. I realised he got to be great by working hard - harder than anyone. He wasn’t successful because he was a ‘genius’ - labelling him that way was not doing him justice. He was a normal human being with a drive to write and a fantastic work ethic. I realised if I worked hard, maybe I could make it too.
JLR: Have you had the opportunity to meet any famous writers? Were there any who made you star-struck?
DB: As you can see on my website, I’ve met and worked with many famous writers. But the one who made me star-struck was Bob Gale, the writer of my favourite film, Back to the Future. Going to his home in Los Angeles and talking story theory with him for a couple of days - I felt like a teenage girl meeting the Beatles or something. I think there’s every chance I stood on his front step and just screamed at him for the first five minutes, and quite possibly made some terribly inappropriate jokes and comments from nerves after that. He’s a great bloke though, and really easy to get along with - and very, very knowledgeable on story theory.
JLR: So cool! That was one of my favorite movies when I was young. Speaking of our young selves, if you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?
DB: Focus. I have always been interested in so many things that I don’t push any one thing all the way to fame and fortune. And it’s the same today; I write books and screenplays, I work as a story consultant, I give seminars, I’m making a film, I manage and produce a band, I’m developing a software invention, I’m doing a PhD, I have four kids - the list goes on - and although my life is fun and busy, I know that greater success would come from picking anyone of these things and stripping out the others. Focus, people. You can’t give 100% to six different disciplines...
JLR: What are you writing now that The Story Book has been released?
DB: I’m writing the next book on story theory. The Subtext Book, which will show writers just how critical subtext is to a story power and how to use subtext to make stories that grip and intrigue. It builds on one of the chapters on this topic in The Story Book.
I’m also writing my PhD thesis - also on the topic of the importance of subtext to story power. My research is proving that the more subtext there is in a story the more popular that story is with an audience. Fact. The Subtext Book will be a more accessible, practical, applicable version of my PhD that writers can use to understand and improve their stories.
I’m also writing a film script for a story called HeartStoppers, due to start filming in the Autumn. I’m blogging the progress of this story development and film-making on www.thescienceofstory.blogspot.com
Then I’m writing two more humour books - one about an idiot working in the Fire Brigade, and the other is A Ship Called Wander - the third book in my humorous series recounting my world travels. See? I have too much to do, and not enough focus!
JLR: Great title! Where can readers go to learn more about your work?
DB: www.baboulene.com is a good starting point, and there`s a link to my story theory blog from there.
JLR: Aside from The Story Book, what other titles do you have available and where can readers go to find them?
DB: I’ve written two illustrated children’s book’s, but they are only available in the UK. I’ve also written two humorous travel books. www.properdog.blogspot.com is my humour and travel blog.
My books are published in hard copy and available everywhere in the UK. The rest of the world are best off getting the ebooks direct from my website (www.baboulene.com) or from Amazon.com.
JLR: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I wish you lots of success with your writing.
DB: Thanks so much, Jesi, for the fun I’ve had with you and for the work you do. You are wonderful!