Posts Tagged ‘Short Stories’

This weeks blog does not have any deep meaning or any analogy or metaphor for why the writing is not working.  No, this week I am continuing on the positive note from last week.  I spoke of the resurrection of a novel that I shelved a year ago and since then I have written an additional 5500 words towards it.  I am very happy with this and I am very happy with how its coming together.

I thought a lot with what went wrong with writing it before.  I was going great guns, lots of ideas, lots of twists and lots to add.  Unfortunately all the things I was researching were detracting from the story and I got myself bogged down in details. I am focusing solely on writing the story I want to tell.  I am developing the characters.  I have learned that by adding events, that although effect the storyline, but are not necessarily needed to be described in prose, is just extraneous, time-consuming and actually breaks the story up.  So instead of describing how an oil tanker is assaulted and researching the Suez canal and tanker security processes, (My thanks to the merchant seamen who provided a vast array of info), I have decided that it is enough just to put in a line or two explaining that the event happened.  It does not break the story up, it does not detract or distract the reader from the flow and pace of the piece. 

I am learning so much.  every day I discover new ways to write, new styles and perspectives.  I think, and it is in my own mind, I am finally back on track.  To write 5000+ words in a week is amazing and I am taking a short break just to write this entry and will get back to the WiP. 

But, I have not just been focused on the novel.  Oh no!  when I say I have been productive I really have.  I have written 2 short stories for competitions.  Stretching my style and also my genre.  The first was a story of lost love and the second a children’s story.  I have never been a mushy type of guy, sentimental, yes, mushy no.  so a love story was a bit of a divergence. I really enjoyed writing it and hopefully it will do well.

And yes i did say i wrote a childrens story.  I exploded the word count of 1500-1750 words and ended up with a piece that was 2250 words long.  I had, somehow, to cut 500 words.  I am actually gals i did because it forced me to edit the shit out of it.  As a result i think i have a much better piece of work that has a much higher tempo and flows better, without some of the extraneous wordiness. 

I vowed, when i started writing in earnest agin, to write a competition entry a week and so far, over the past 6 weeks, i have done so.  Even if some of those were just flash fiction, i have met my targets.  As a writer it is important to have targets.  It keeps you focused, it keeps you determined.  Deadlines are a writers friend.  There are necessary.  My advice of the day is to set targets but importantly meet them.

With that in mind i still have a daily target to meet so off i go. 

I have been pondering recently on what it is to be a writer, and before you all start to groin about me on a downer, I’m not!  No I have been on the next stage of finding out what it is to be a writer, I have been reading guides on writing, from ‘Penguin’s Writer’s Manual’, to Oxford University Press’ ‘A-Z guide to punctuation and grammar’, and many more.  There are a lot out there to choose from and I have six that I am making my way through.  I’m learning new things everyday from these books, but they do tend to cover the same ground. 

What is clear is that writing is like War.  Let me go through this analogy.  A writer is a 5 star general, or if like me your British, a Field Marshall, safely behind the lines of anonymity we sit with our forces laid out in front.  Our troops are made up of grammar, a division of vocabulary, our mounted cavalry of computers and our squadron of research books.  We position our troops strategically, carefully to optimise the impact of them, then we unleash our ultimate weapons our artillery of ideas if you will.   And then the ultimate solution, my solution, my Atomic bomb, my intercontinental Ballistic Missile is the question, ‘What If?’.

What if?  Is a powerful question and is certainly the question that starts off all my writing. I look to the garden and ask what if the sky was pink? what if I saw a plane flying overhead in flames?  what if I look out to the garden and it wasnt there?

It is this line of questioning that forms the basis of my writing and I am sure most people’s writing.  People ask writers where do ideas come from, how do you come up with this stuff, and the answer, for me, is very simple, What If?

A writer must be inquisitive, must be more analytical than Sherlock Holmes, more disbelieving in truth than Fox Mulder, and more obstinate and determined than a blood hound on a hunt.   The attributes of a writer is something that often bubbles to the surface of the protagonist, our main characters can often be reflections of ourselves, they can often show the traits that perhaps we strive to have, or even some of our worst aspects that we dislike of ourselves, and that causes conflicts in our creations.  This is prevalent in the works of Stephen King, often the central character, like King, battles addiction (Revival, The Shining, Doctor Sleep).  Often the central character is a writer (The Dark Half, Misery, Finders Keepers), reinforcing the idiom ‘write what you know’.  When I read Stephen King, and I do, a lot!  I feel that with each book he reveals more of himself.  

It is with interest I read lots and see if I can see through the masquerade of words to the heart of the novel.  At GCSE, A-level we were taught not to take the text at face value but to look behind for the hidden meaning, like in William Golding’s Nobel wining ‘Lord of the Flies’ as every student of a certain age can tell you, it is about the hidden seed of evil within all of us and how, without rules and the constraints of society we are no better than savages.  this is true, but, what if this was just a metaphor for the darker side of Golding, not just his character, what if deep down he rather be a little native.  a little less constrained by the rigours of post war England, or even a reflection on how the world was fundamentally changed in the years 1939-1945 by the acts of barbarism, or from the perspective of an  onlooker, a society withdrawn from decency where such atrocities existed.  Maybe the story tells us more about him?

Anyway I digress, we are talking ideas, as you can see by the above post, ideas run away with me.  No bad thing sometimes, but how about having a look at someone elses views on the subject and who better than one of the worlds foremost ideas men, Neil Gaiman, see what he says here:

 
As always I welcome comments!
 

A writer’s life is not an easy one.  I have spoken in the past of how a wordsmith is beset with rejection.  But there is another issue, and maybe I am alone in feeling like this.  Every writer has a fierce protection of their work.  They spend hours, days, months working on things, even a short story can take so much time and mental agility to reproduce.  from idea to concept to finished article, it is a process that at any stage the ice beneath their feet can crack.

That is the best analogy I can think off.  Imagine a writer’s journey is getting from one side of a frozen lake to another.  Some, take a sensible option and walk around the edge. tentatively writing their work, checking, stopping for lunch, reviewing.  The issue with walking the water’s edge is one does not dip their toe in, and the lake could turn into an ocean and they never produce anything for the public to see.  Most, however, take a more direct route.  They walk straight across.   This is a tried and tested path.  The writer will sit and observe others walk across the lake, they make it look so easy.  Sitting on the bank and watching as the successful wave to you from the other side, beckoning you to join them.  So, you have an idea and take the first steps across the ice.  Your footing is solid, very firm underfoot, confidence grows so you take another step and another.  The idea develops and you start to write.  The ice begins to creak, that artificial straining and cracking sound all around you. So you cautiously walk further.  It is too late to turn back, some do though, they then take the long path, but you don’t you bravely carry on.  Nearing the centre of the lake, which to me represents the end of a first draft.  This is where it gets very precarious.

At the middle is often where the ice breaks for me.  And I am using the ice as a metaphor for confidence in my writing.  I show my draft to someone, doesn’t matter who it is, I show the draft or enter a competition, and when the inevitable criticism comes the ice cracks a little more.  I listen to the help that is offered, and crack, crack splash, I have fallen through the ice.  The water is cold, as is my mood, I feel like I cannot get out, so much effort went to get to the middle of the lake, the water is full of writers in the same situation.  Eventually you get back to dry land.  The process starts again.

This is what happens to me, it is how we react to the ice breaking that determines how successful we are.  I wouldn’t change the criticism I receive because at the end of the day, each bit of advice I get makes the ice a bit thicker.  I do, however, react badly to the advice.  Why?  because of the effort I have put in.  it seems that someone is attacking me and that I have wasted my time. But I look down on the ice and I see my reflection, I see all the hopes, dreams and aspirations in that ice.  I look up, and I see the writers all on the other side of the lake, waving, beckoning me and again I take those steps out on to the thin ice.

It has been an incredibly long week.  I have been working lots, in my job unfortunately.  However, I have had a productive week.  I have produced entries for three competitions, and have submitted to the Alzheimer’s Research Pratchett anthology.  I am very proud of the submission and have been working to complete the story.  I think I am about half way through, which is great, the story has taken  off in a really good way and I am happy with the progression.

I am also going to be making an entry to the MASH stories quarterly competition which takes 3 words and those words must appear in the text.  This quarters words are Congress, Art and Jealousy.  I have written an entry which I am happy with, but I am going to refrain from submitting it as it has developed in my mind to actually a cracking good story.  it is only 500 words long and would make a great synopsis for a novel.  I think that is where that story will go.  Maybe look at writing it as a novella?

I still have 65 days to make an another entry to MASH which is great, I think I have a basis for a story which will entertain.  if you are interested in mash the link is http://mashstories.com/

Last week I told people about the Bath flash fiction Ad Hoc competition which is running weekly.  A keyword is given and a story of only 120 words or 888 characters must be formed using that word.  I have entered my second entry as I did not win last time.  Hopefully it will appear on the site Wednesday for public voting and you can view them here:  http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2015/04/ad-hoc-fiction/

I know that some of my readers are from outside the UK, so I will say a few things about recent events.  Firstly, we have had an election.  A new government has been formed and as it always does causes discussion and debate.  Like it or not, we have a Conservative majority and they are now solely in power.  Good luck to them!

Another major event is the second major earthquake to hit Nepal.  it is not a wealthy country and it was devastated a couple of weeks ago from an earthquake, and in the middle of clearing the first a second hits.  Can I urge all my readers to donate something to the Red Cross to help.  My family struggle sometimes with money, as I am low paid, as is my partner, yet we have found what spare money we have to give, so please, do likewise. http://www.redcross.org.uk/en/Donate-Now/Make-a-single-donation/Nepal-Earthquake-Appeal

Well, that concludes this weeks post.  A bit late as I didn’t really know what to say.  But, it is part of my redoubled efforts to update as often as I can, every week ideally.  and so I have.  As always I welcome comments. 

My message for this week is this:

We are lucky that we have the freedom and capability to express our thoughts, desires, we are privileged.  There are those in the world that have lost much due to war and natural disasters, lets help them out this week.  A little can go a long way!

 

 

It has certainly been a slow but positive start to my new writing lifestyle.  I have invested in writing guides, looking through Amazon at the plethora of self-help guides was, frankly, uninspiring!  Seems that a lot of people who have a single story published miraculously become writing experts and can write an eBook guide.  However, I have settled on a trusted name which was the Writers & Artists guide to writing a short story and novel.  They might be useful, they might not be.  I shall read and review them here next time. 

Another aim was to go on some courses. I have investigated this and decided that I will register in the first instance for a beginners course for creative writing.  This is run by the local arts university and, although a bit more expensive than the local college course may be more of what I need.  The course does not start until September so until then I will examine the writing guides and writing magazines for hints, tips and stratagems.

Now to the slow start.  Following my scarlet fever it has been a hard week at the day job.  Working 10 hour shifts for 6 days has been trying and exhausting.  However, I have written something, i have started a paranormal short story that has ballooned into a longer piece than I thought and I am continuing to write it to see where it goes, I am thinking that it might be more of a novella.  I showed my partner and her comments were very positive.  buoyed by this I entered a flash fiction competition of 120 words at the Bath Ad Hoc Flash Fiction and will see if I am voted as a winner.  The field is very strong, and as a result I am not holding out too much hope, but, it has to be attempted. 

In other news, I have found a submission for entry to an anthology in memory of the late Sir Terry Pratchett in aid of Alzheimer’s Research.  Sir Terry has played a massive part of my life ever since I read Mort and laughed ’til I cried.  The competition is a short story with a humorous bent around the subject of memory.  I think that, by following Sir Terry’s own rules, I can concoct a funny, fantastical story that will entertain and amuse.  I, myself, lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s related illness, I remember seeing him in the latter stages of his condition in the secure ward.  I was about 25 when I last saw him and he thought I was still 14! He kept asking me about school, and what did I want to do when I grew up.  It was heartbreaking to see the Second World War veteran of the RAF reduced to only knowing who I was a quarter of the time, and my father only half of that. 

Which brings me on to the next point that of motivation.  A writer needs to feel motivated.  Motivation can be the difference between a magnum opus and drivel.  It is my weak spot.  things get in the way, work, family television the excuse that I am researching.  I need to be determined, focused and most of all motivated.  and this competition certainly sees me gain motivation.  I am determined to produce a piece of work that will not only entertain but make it into the anthology.  I want to help preserve the memory of one of my literary heroes who showed how bravely one could face up to a terminal illness with dignity and earn the respect of so many, but also to help preserve the memory of my grandfather. 

It is a little bit of a downer speaking of relatives passing away especially with such a disease that eats away at the very core of who someone is.  But let’s be a little cheery.  The focus is on the writing.  and that is what  I am off to do

 

Write this day, write the next day, write everyday!

 

If you have been affected in any way by the issues discussed today, then i do always welcome comment.  Just, i ask, that you keep it friendly.