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29 October 2014
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Comical drawing of bugs
Illustration from This is Our World

NY writer: David Dale

Following years spent working in a a wide range of jobs - from the prison service to working on supply boats in Lousiana and teaching in Taiwan - David Dale has resettled in his native York, where he dedicates his time to writing and illustrating.

About the author

I was born in York in 1949 in Clifton. I was born in 69 Baker Street, into a family of just two children. My father worked as a railway guard in the days when British Rail was enjoying the magnificent age of steam.

In 1960, after Shipton Street School I graduated to Cannon Lee Secondary Modern, where today my daughter Amy studies.

In 1969 I joined the Air Force and served in Germany and Sardinia on 4, 6 and 20 squadrons of Harriers. I then worked as an arial photographer.

In 1974 I joined the prison service and served at Pentonville prison, Hull prison, and Birmingham’s Winson Green, until 1985, when I was medically discharged due to a knee injury.

From 1985 to 1989 I lived in the USA and worked in Texas and Louisiana on the supply boats from cut-off Louisiana and on the NASA site at Clear Lake in Houston.

I returned to the UK after the breakdown on my marriage and entered Leeds University. After obtaining a BA in Modern Chinese Studies, which involved studying Mandarin, Cantonese, Mongolian, and Japanese, I entered my teaching career and spent the next three years in Taiwan. Since 1993 I’ve spent ten years in China, Taiwan and Japan.

My works include a novel entitled “A tale of St Thomas”, poetry, and short stories about China. I also illustrate children’s books. In fact, I have returned to Clifton, York, and am now dedicated to creating characters for children’s books.

I have six children: three in America still living in Atlanta (Zoe, Leon and noel); one here in York (Amy); and two Japanese children (Joseph and Joel). SO I am surely well qualified to write for children and for different cultures.

David's writing tips

Have you ever dreamt of writing a novel ? Yes? Well why not take a stab at it now. No one wakes up in the morning and writes a best seller. In fact any kind of writing, without exception, needs to be learnt.

When we write, our language differs from that of ordinary speech. In ordinary speech we tend to um and er and most of us muddle through with thought processes that at best are disorganised. The written word is exactly the opposite, organised and each piece of narrative must be relevant and logical.

"If you believe in your characters, they will be believable to your readers."

With this in mind, we need to set out a plan from which we can begin to write. Let’s assume you do have a story to tell, most of us have one we’d love to see in print. The writing itself is relatively easy, the planning however isn’t.

Writing is a lot like painting a fence in that the quality of the finished article depends on the amount of unseen preparation. “But doesn’t a novel take years to write?” I hear you say. The answer is no.

If you enjoy writing, one page a day isn’t going to be a grind, and at this pace a two hundred and fifty page novel can be finished in thirty six weeks. This will be a finished first draft of course.

Before you embark on any serious writing, do some in-depth reading. Read a variety of writing styles and genres. Choose a style you enjoy and adopt that style you are comfortable with. Too many descriptive adjectives make the story slow; move quickly and add verbs, leave some things to the imagination and skip the fine detail.

Also plan your story, develop your characters, research your subject, if you’ve never been in prison how can you write convincingly about being in there.

As for your characters, if they’re fictitious, write up a profile on them, make them real, write background notes about them, put in the profile information you may not include in the story, but a profile will bring them to life for you.

If you believe in them, they will be believable to your readers. Use real characters if you like, but disguise them and don’t name them, and certainly don’t tell them they’re in your book, tempting as it may be.

Make up a story board or a plan of the stories events, a line of continuity needs to link all the threads of the story together. Include some irony, some humour, we need a hero or an anti hero. We also need to include obstacles or problems our hero overcame or was faced with.

The most important part of a book is its first page. When a reader, or more crucially an editor, reads the first page he or she needs to be captivated, so much so that they will turn the first page over and continue onto the next page. This manuscript will probably escape the slush pile or editor’s bin.

Spend a month or more on your first chapter. If your story can divide into ten chapters, then a two hundred and fifty page novel will have chapters of twenty five pages in length. As stated take your time over your first chapter, there are good reasons for this.

By the end of your novel your writing skills and style will have improved greatly. Sadly when you review your first chapter you will feel disappointed at the poor writing and unpolished style.

Such an experience is true with all writers and so a second “draft” is written and some times a third. There is no hurry, one good book in a life time is more than most of us achieve.

Over working can also be a problem, join a writers club and share your work and get an outsiders opinion, but they need to be a member of a writing fraternity. Criticism from jealous or ignorant people can destroy your delicate self drive, only expert constructive criticism should be sought.

Writers love to write, it’s not work but it does take discipline, so make sure you find time to write everyday, keep the imagination buzzing. Carry a note book around with you everyday and jot down silly little anecdotes or phrases you may like.

Describe a character you find interesting. I remember seeing an old lady sat in one of those shelters by the sea on the Scarborough sea-front. She was sat there all hunched up on the bench–like seat, sucking her gums and rubbing her hands together rigorously. I thought that was funny and so I used it in one of my stories.

When you have planned the whole story, write your first draft remembering to write double spaced, that means leave a line between each line of writing to insert notes, comments, alterations or even insert an extra piece of dialogue and so on.

For the same reason leave a margin at both edges to add notes or flag things up for altering later. Your first draft should be littered with notes and alterations. Your first chapter and subsequent early chapters will of course be forever in need of upgrading, the trick is knowing when to stop.

Include plenty of narrative in the story - it is informative and helps to mould a character’s attitude and personality for the reader. Avoid trying to include colloquial accents as they are difficult to pull off in one’s first novel.

Avoid cliches such as “her eyes across the room” or “Once upon a time”, try to be original and fresh. Lastly leave a lot to the imagination, for example with “She had long firey red hair”, you know it was wavy and silky with an Auburn tinge, but there is no need to hit the reader with all that head on; feed in the information subtly and slowly.

I hope you will begin to write something and at least write something that future generations can read and maybe even understand. Few things survive beyond our short time on earth, but writings once published do. Please enjoy your writing and good luck.

David Dale

last updated: 03/06/08
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