Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My first (COMPLETED) short story!

I was off sick from work yesterday. Despite the fact that I was physically unwell, my mind would not stop niggling at me to use my 'free' time to get some writing done.

Finally capitulating, I contemplated what sort of writing exercise to partake in. The pile of critique I had gotten from my writing group still nestled comfortably between the pages of my copy of 'Beginnings, Middles and Ends' by Nancy Kress and I had not recovered enough or put enough emotional distance between the critiques and my ability to implement the needed changes. So I did not reach to open them. Instead, I thought about what they had said and tried to figure out something I could do that would feel like I'm doing something active to move my story forward.

I hit a bit of a block doing that because I was still in the 'novel mode' and it seemed too vast to try to change just one thing as know even a small change will have a significant impact on  the whole of the story. That kept me frozen for a while until I decided to think laterally: Why don't I do something else separate from the WIP? But again, this thought led me back to the novel arena and I felt too weak to start up another 'potential' novel.

And then I had an Eureka moment: Why not write a short story?

Now, to everyone reading this, this  might be a no-brainer, 'Duh, that's a much easier undertaking, isn't it?' However, for me, it is not. Here is my confession: I do not read short stories.

Argh! Blasphemy!

Yes, it's true. It's not that I have not read some short stories in the past, of course I have. The problem for me was that these stories I read made me realise just how much I love longer prose. I tend to have too many questions when I come to the end of a short; questions I need the authour themselves to answer for me. I do not like to think about what could have happened because, it is not my story. If it is not mine, then I do not want to have to speculate on the backstory or afterstory. S when I have questions hanging around in my mind when I come to the end of somebody's piece of work, for me, that is highly unsatisfactory. Couple that with the fact that most of the ones I read had been literary pieces that I think, pride themselves on leaving you as confused as possible, you can understand my overall hesitation with the whole thing.

Nevertheless, since I have started to make writing a bigger and more significant part of my life, I am forcing myself to open up to things that I have previously been more rigid about. In order to make this easier on myself, I decided to read short stories in the genres (fantasy (epic and not), YA, romance) that I am interested in writing in, to get an idea of how it is done.

To my delight, what I found out was that unlike my reaction to reading literary short stories, I was inspired by the questions left unanswered in fantasy short pieces. I was driven to try and come up with the different ways the stories could go after they dropped off the end of the page. And I loved it!

Inspired by the few stories that I read yesterday, I decided to write one and several hours later, I had my very first completed short story. I couldn't be more proud of it. I know it is amateur and could possibly be found wanting is numerous different ways, but the fact remains that I completed a piece of work. Something I have never done before in a non-exam situation. My heart is smiling and my brain is fizzing away with more ideas. As a direct result of the buzz of this success, I went back to my WIP. What I decided to do was add in a prologue to provide a bit of back story that would minimise the need for info dumping  in the main story. I wrote and completed that prologue and it came up to just under a thousand words in total.

All in all, during my sick day yesterday, I wrote over two thousand five hundred words. Never before, have I had such a productive day and I got the feeling, however briefly, of what it would be like to be a professional writer.

I am thrilled.

I have not put the story up here because I don't think anyone is interested at the moment nd that was not the really point of this post. I might put it up in the future if I want to or if I get requests to do so.

Until then,


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

One of these days the other shoe will drop.

I had a thought while I was driving to work a couple of days ago. It suddenly occurred to me how comfortable I had gotten with driving. You see, only a few years ago, I was one of those city people who did not see the point of driving. Living in London guaranteed that having a car was mostly more trouble than it was worth. You can get anywhere by train, tube, bus; or if you are feeling particularly flush/loaded/extravagant/manic, by taxi. So it wasn't until I was posted to a much smaller and far less well-connected town, that I realised the error of my oversight. I was routinely stranded; soaked by rain; frozen by unexpected winter chills and rended ill by the ever-changing weather.

I was soon getting driving lessons and impatiently pushing myself to get the hang of it. Unfortunately, I was not one of those that took to the new skill naturally. It was a struggle. Even after I passed my practical test, it took over a year me for me to get to the point where I do not wake up hours earlier in the morning, if I have to drive a new route that day or if I have to traverse the motorway-however briefly.

Now, however, I live thirty minutes for my place of work and happily skip to my car each morning, looking forward to the drive on the motorway, calm as can be. If anyone had told me I would feel like this when I was struggling with it over a year ago, I would have vowed never to trust their lying tongue ever again.

anyway, while driving to work today, listening to Mur Lafferty's IShouldBeWriting (#ISBW) podcast on my phone, I was reminded of a previous episode I had listened to. In that podcast, she described what it means when the phrase that forms part of the topic of this post is mentioned: Waiting for the other shoe to drop. A listener had informed her that it had to do with the situation where, sharing a room with a someone, you are woken up during the night by them stumbling in and crashing into the bunk bed directly above where yours. As you listen, one of their shoes falls to the floor. Then, you lie there, waiting, knowing that until the other one joins it, you will not be able to settle back into sleep.

What has this got to do with writing? This: we all have our favourite author(s). Usually, these men and women have several publications under their belts. We, as aspiring writers, wonder how they do it. How do they get from the initial idea, to words on the page? And more importantly, how do they do it over and over again.

I think that for them, the other shoe has dropped. They started somewhere, just like we have. They worked putting in the 10,000 hours needed to learn their craft and along the way, they got the hang of it. They suddenly understood what it took to transform the raw idea to the finished product and how to use that formula to take each idea, each project from conception to completion.

I long for that moment - the moment when it all clicks together. It will probably not be a sudden flash of revelation. More likely, I will notice somewhere along the way, through the never-ending hours of writing, researching, blogging and despairing, that I am finally comfortable in the process. The time when I do not worry about it all going wrong; about never finishing it; or that everyone will hate it. I do not expect it to be smooth sailing as each project will have it's difficulties; just like I do not get complacent behind the wheel (well, I try not to!), because of the numerous unknown quantities behind the wheels of all the other cars on the road with me.

What I ask is that I  one day, have a method of tackling the obstacles presented by my story; a method based on the confidence of previous success; knowing that having done it before, I could do it again.

After 'the other shoe drops', the thankful roommate can return to sleep confident that there are no more nasty surprises lurking. That's the confidence of the experienced writer.

The time between one shoe dropping and the other following, should not be spent idly waiting. In the case of the aspiring writer, it is the act of writing itself, that is the gravity that pulls the shoe to the ground.

Happy scribbling!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Idea wall

Hello all,

Hope you had a lovely Easter break. I did. After giving up chocolate for Lent, I congratulated myself for getting throught the forty-day stint by eating every single chocolate-related item I could lay my hands on <sigh>  But I've calmed down now.

As always, I continue down my path of self harm by writing. I am editing the first draft of my novel which I have had to admit to myself, is far from the complete story. I stopped where I thought the first book should end. I therefore have to ask: Can I call it a first draft if the story itself (the trilogy such as I thought it was going to be) is not complete?

I am reading and listening to every writing advice blog/podcast that I can get my impatient mitts on. Mur Lafferty's advice to 'let yourself write a crappy book', often keeps me from chucking the whole work (laptop included), out of my first floor window. It is okay that I don't think it's very good. I need to remember that and focus on the fact that I can edit, add, remove and embellish in my own time. There's no rush; no agent standing on my neck while waving deadlines in front of my rapidly diminishing vision.

The main problem with the work at the moment is that I can't 'see' it. It seems to me that because I
haven't held it in my hands it doesn't really exist. The whole world - characters, setting and plot seems very two dimensional. Also, because I have hit a block in my reading wherein, I can't focus on another book without thinking 'I should be writing' (thanks, Mur -_-); I am unable to go back to the books I have loved, the ones that drew me into their worlds and make me live the experience, and study what made them so enthralling.

I want to finish the book first; complete the story, no matter how mangled, then learn how the greats managed to leave their own everlasting marks on me.

I need to finish it. In order to help me feel my story in  three dimensions, I am going to print out all the current pages and stick them on my wall. Maybe when I finally touch the pages in paper, it will become more real for me than it is now, stuck behind a screen. Maybe. I have to try. And I have to keep writing because if I do, one day I might become a very successful write. But if I stop, that will never be a possibility.

Happy writing and blissful to all.