Review: ‘Child Taken’ by Darren Young

An investigative journalist looking into a missing person’s case is nothing new in the world of crime fiction (one only has to look to Mikael Blomkvist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a classic example of this), but as with most books in this genre, it’s about the characters. A struggling young reporter trying to get her big break at the local paper had me interested as a student journalist, and I soon began reading Child Taken by Darren Young.

Cover for Child Taken, with a child in a yellow dress on the beach, with her back to the camera, looking out to sea
Whilst it was the blurb which primarily had me hooked, part of me was curious to find out just how many stereotypes about newspaper editors and journalism would end up in the novel. Aside from the character of David Weatherall sounding a little like J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies and one day off too many, the Gazette‘s newsroom wasn’t too unfamiliar…

Admittedly, having read this book over the space of two or three months, the first half of the book has been somewhat forgotten. However, it can be described as a ‘slow burner’ of a novel. As the mystery unwravels over the course of 438 pages, it’s around two-thirds of the way in where the pace really starts to pick up, with action in every chapter.

It was at this point that I was reminded how good a movie or TV Show Child Taken could be. Written in an intriguing and descriptive narrative style, it was one of the few books which made me imagine every scene in detail. It made each action scene more intense, and the big finale even more impactful (no spoilers).

Gripping and thrilling with a perfectly constructed plot, Child Taken is a brilliant debut from the writer, Darren Young.

A huge thank you to Red Door Publishing for sending me an advance copy of Child Taken and apologies for the review going up late! Whilst I was sent a free copy, this review contains my honest opinion.

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A Thousand Words: Persistence and an attention to detail

It’s been a fun week of journalism this week, as I went to the for work experience whilst also receiving some exciting news about an application I submitted last month. Both situations reminded me of the two skills mentioned in the title of this blog post – skills that are essential for a career in journalism.

Thank you to the team at the i for a great week of work experience. Here’s yesterday’s issue of the paper, which featured a couple of pieces from yours truly.

One thing I have always admired about the is its focus on concise, to-the-point news stories. Page two of their paper sees a ‘matrix’ of short, 50-word articles summarising news from a variety of different areas – be it foreign affairs, politics or something else.

The short pieces, known as nibs or ‘news in briefs’ present a fun challenge to the typical journalist. With the right story, reporters have quotes, statistics (of sorts), backstory and facts to hand, which they then need to squeeze into such a tight word count. It’s a case of prioritisation and they have to ask themselves: what is the most important information which needs to be included?

It was a craft I was able to hone throughout my week at the i. Alongside an exciting visit to the Saatchi Gallery to help out a press photographer, writing some business nibs and writing a short piece for the arts section, most of my week was spent assisting the Foreign Editor with articles. Every day I had the opportunity to write up about five or six stories to go in the aforementioned ‘matrix’. Some could quite easily be summarised in such a limit, but others proved more of a challenge. Nevertheless, it helped build upon my love of the news form and my attention to detail. It was great to get some editorial insight into the style of the i too.

Then there’s persistence – that came during one particular lunch break. After spotting a message from Sky’s Early Careers department in my voicemail, I was quick to return the call when I had a minute spare. It was about my application for a placement at Sky News under their Diversity Scheme, and it was third time lucky. I had been offered a place!

I fell in love with Sky HQ – based in Osterley – last year, when I was offered two weeks’ work experience at the firm’s Product and Brand PR team. A vibrant atmosphere complete with a just as positive work ethic meant I had to get a placement at Sky News, and return to Sky Central once more. Now, that day has come. Well, in November, to be exact.

I can’t wait. Bring it on!

Writing Update: The return of my writing mojo

Forgive me if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. You’ll be aware how many times I’ve done this series. I’ve talked about writing my first novel I’m proud of, but then a few weeks into it, I would give up and let the inner critic have his way.

Now, after my first year at university, I was in a bizarre state for a while when it came to writing. I had spent months reading academic books and perfecting my journalistic style, but this meant that whilst I was incredibly passionate about continuing writing, the world of novels and writing fiction became alien to me. This week, however, I like to think that I have my writing mojo back.

Writing Update Notepad
Photo: rimse.nefert on Flickr (changes to the original image have been made). Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

I have always been protective of my ideas, so I won’t go into that part of my writing too much. What I will say, though, is that the idea itself has been so hard to get right. From what perspective I want to write the story (first or third person), to the context in which the plot will belong. Each time I have come to write this novel, the plot has developed, characters have become more believable and the new universe they live in has expanded.

At the moment, I am working on the synopsis. There’s always something worrying when it comes to fleshing out the plot. Whilst I can easily translate the idea onto a Word document or onto paper, it would only be in about fifty words or so, which is always disheartening. How can I write a novel when my idea can be distilled into something so short?

Thankfully, fellow writer Liberty over at Liberty Falls Down was able to offer some tips when it comes to fleshing out my idea. This has since helped me massively, and now as I work on the synopsis, there’s plenty of interconnecting subplots involving numerous characters. I’m just trying to tie them all together, and think of more ideas to develop the plot.

I’ve already had some of these moments, and it’s this sense of euphoria which is what I love about writing. It’s hard to describe, but when a plot-hole finally fixes itself with a new idea, there’s this moment of excitement as this opens up new plot points. It’s a wonderful nuclear fission of ideas, mixed with a sense of accomplishment. The first time I had this whilst writing my synopsis, I knew my writing mojo was back.

Now, to write.

How has your week been? What have you been up to? Comment below!

Liam

Writing Update: An Uncertain Deadline


First of all, I’d like to apologise for the delay in getting another writing update up on the blog. As you can imagine, university life has been rather busy lately – but that’s not to say that I’ve stopped writing!

At the moment, I’ve had to do some reordering of plot points but now the plot is finally flowing! The first important catalyst in terms of the story has also been written so now it’s a full sprint to the end. The only problem now, however, is that I don’t know when I’m going to get there.

Whilst I have the synopsis planned out and I know what happens plot-wise, my refusal to assign certain plot points into chapters (for fear of having a moment of panic and in turn, self doubt) has led to me being unable to measure my progress. Yes, I may have the word count to help, but whenever anyone asks hoe the book is going, I can only give them the current word count, along with a rough indication of how far I am in the book. Right now I’d say I’m only 1/4 of the way through the book, which is worrying considering that I am to finish by Christmas!

Anyway, aside from all that, ideas have finally started to come naturally, and the words flow. I think the issue now though is getting the motivation to write. It’s not that my story isn’t interesting anymore, it’s just that I need to stop procrastinating!

Current Word Count: 13,829 words

It’s a bit of a jump! Hopefully there’ll be another big increase next time! As always, I shall keep you posted.

Liam

Writing Update: Writing Doubts

Despite saying a week ago that I was beginning to understand my characters, I’m coming to the point in the novel where I am having doubts about my work…

But do not worry, this isn’t doubts over the whole plot. Usually, if that’s the case, I’d be worried as that tends to lead to me giving up on the book as a whole. Thankfully, the doubts I’m having are over characters, not the plot. Is this character believable? Are they too cliché? Are they a unique protagonist in a crime fiction novel?

For now, I’ll continue to write in the hope that the characters become more 3-dimensional. If not, it’ll be something I’ll change in editing.

But I’m not going to give up again! I’m still writing and after going back and tweaking a few more things, here is the latest word count!

Current Word Count: 4,261

As for a deadline for when I finish this book, hopefully I can get a first draft completed before the end of the year (preferably December latest so I can meet one of my New Year’s Resolutions!). I can then leave it for six months and then return in summer 2016 for editing! But we shall see how that goes…

Liam

Writing Update: A Sense of Character

So you may remember in my last update that I said I had hit a brick wall or tough section of my book. However, with my Hogwarts notebook to help me I quickly ploughed through the scene and the path ahead for my novel looks fairly easy and smooth.

You often hear writers talk about the point in their writing where the characters direct them on the journey along the plot. For me, I wouldn’t say that has happened yet, but I definitely feel like I understand some of the main characters of the book now, and how they think.

However, the next chapter of my book sees the introduction of another important character. With this character it is difficult because they have a personality which I’m finding hard to translate into words. Hopefully, my idea of their character will translate well in the book so the reader knows how all my characters think as well…

Current Word Count: 3,532

Liam

Writing Update: Openings, Mojos and (Nearly) 1,000 Words

I had started writing ahead of my planned date of last Friday, 19th June, since that would be my first day when I am free from exam pressure. However, for a few more days after that I was struggling to begin. I had the book all planned out and so I knew what the opening scene would be, but I just didn’t know how to write that scene in terms of words. Until finally, after thinking of a few ideas, an opening and first line came to me and I started writing.

Then there also came a point when writing which showed how important it is to read as well as write. After a few paragraphs of the words coming naturally, I felt as though my creativity was stalling, like I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. As I’m someone who loves all forms of creative writing, not enjoying writing my book was a worrying thought! Thankfully, with time on my hands, I returned to the book I’m currently reading, The Cuckoo’s Calling and that kickstarted my imagination – I was able to imagine scenes in my book that I am usually unable to do before.

Lastly, in terms of the statistics I will be posting at the end of these posts, I will only be mentioning the total word count and not chapters. Usually I would be desperate to group my ideas into chapters but that would only take away the fun from writing and make me more likely to give up on the idea. But, speaking of the current word count, I am nearing my first 1,000 words, which is exciting.

Current Word Count: 977 words

As always, I shall keep you posted! Also, if you’re writing a book, let me know in the comments below!

Liam