Monday, 24 December 2007

Back in 2008

Signing off now until the New Year. Have a wonderful festive time.



Saturday, 22 December 2007

Sewing a story

I was sewing last night. Not something I do very often but when I do I enjoy it. I was making felt Christmas tree decorations (as you do, last minute and all that) and while my mind drifted in and out with the needle I had a thought, and then another and then a whole run of them - all about my novel and all incredibly useful. A lot of loose ends (to push the metaphor) were tied, several connections made and a whole new lovely character walked in.

So many times I have tried to write and it hasn't come and so many times I have looked despairingly at my pile of sewing projects (rag rugs, half made bags, dresses and tablecloths that I am trying to turn into skirts) and decided that I haven't got time to finish them . The answer it seems is simple, get on with the sewing and while my body is distracted my mind can deal with the writing - how productive is that!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

24 hours from Tulsa

Have had this song in my head ever since writing my last post and just wanted to share the video with you. I thought it really incongruous at first, that amazing voice from a small man in a suit, but then I saw him as the travelling salesman who's done wrong and it all fitted perfectly. Got to be one of the best openings to a song ever.

Got lots of writing done after tearing myself away from The Man in Seat 61. Inspired by dreaming.

I'm only 24 hours from Florence

Not that I'm planning on heading off there right away but I've just found a fantastic website called The Man in Seat Sixty One , which helps you plan your travels around the world using public transport and avoiding flying.

We have family and friends in Italy and we tend to pop out there quite often, usually courtesy (odd word in this context but I can't think of another one that isn't extremely rude) of Ryanair. Wanting to reduce the environmental impact of our trip we did consider driving there last time, but were deterred by the prospect of all being confined in a car for so long and the fact that I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to driving abroad. So I'm now very excited at the prospect of travelling there door-to-door by train. It will take exactly 24 hours, (we live in the semi-wilds of Yorkshire not next door to St Pancras, so that's pretty impressive) inc an overnight sleeper train - very Agatha Christie - and if we book it early enough it will cost less than flying (financially as well as planet-wise). So hurrah for trains.

Of course once I'd found the website I didn't stop at Italy - I have planned dream trips all over the world now - including travelling to America by Freighter.

A bit of a non-writing post this one but that's cos I've been so busy following the train lines that I haven't done any writing - oops.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

A message

The 15th Dec at last, end of vow of silence, I can make public the news that one of my messages for the Your Messages project is going to be included in the published book. I'm extremely chuffed and very pleased with the piece they have chosen as of those I submitted it was one of my favourites.

Well done to everyone else who is to be included in the anthology, can't wait to meet those of you who will be attending the launch of the book and of Sarah and Lynne's Messages in January.

Big thanks to Sarah Salway and Lynne Rees for thinking up such a great idea. Profits from sales of Your Messages will go to the Kids Company charity, which:

"Provides practical and emotional support to ‘lone children’. These are children and young people who experience significant psychosocial difficulties because their parent is unable to function as a caring adult."

A really good cause to support. Follow the link to find out more. I will post up details of how to purchase the book when they are available.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Right words and lost words

I'm back from my residential writing week at an Arvon centre. Been back since Saturday morning actually. So why no posting? Two things: one, I was a way for a week so had a whole load of work to catch up on, not to mention reconnecting with my family. Two, trying to find the 'right words'. Felt a bit lost for them this week. People keep asking me 'What was it like?' And I can tell them what we did on a day-to-day basis and that I 'wrote lots of stuff'. But it's harder to explain what happened in terms of how my writing, my thoughts on my writing and me as a writer have been changed by my experience. It was huge though. So maybe 'huge' will have to be the right word.

What I can say unreservedly is that I recommend an Arvon residential to anyone writing or wanting to write. The tutors were amazing and the accommodation and setting was wonderful.

'Intense' - another right word, but intense in a good way like a strongly infused flavour or a flavour-infused memory.

I have returned with huge enthusiasm for my novel. Not least the fact that I can say or write the words my novel, without putting them in inverted commas. I've got lots of writing to do. One of the tutors told us we would write 100,000 words that we would not use in the final draft. I found this depressing until I realised that most of the 10,000 or so words that I have written so far probably won't end up in my final draft, but they are vital to what I will write and will use. They will not be lost.

Just spent a couple of very productive hours in the library - another thing I learned from my week away is that trying to write at my computer desk isn't great - as a freelancer that is where I do my work. So all of my associations with that space are work related. I found sitting in the library a really good way to write unencumbered with thoughts of emails and invoices (and it saved me a morning's worth of heat and light at home!)

Ok, enuff, back to the scribbling (think I will try the kitchen table - good light and a comfy chair -but a nagging feeling that I should be washing up, cooking, sweeping underneath - may have to go back to the library)

A place and a space and freedom to think- more right words

Sunday, 2 December 2007

An over excited post

Got a lovely surprise in the Hags, Harlots and Heroines newsletter this month. I've been shortlisted in their summer short story competition - '21st Century Woman, Fast and Loose'. Winners to be announced this month. I'm so pleased, as the story that I submitted is one that I really enjoyed writing and its good to know that the judges enjoyed reading it. They gave some good feedback too about the importance of a good opening and following it through.

November was a great month for writing, with Your Message as an inspiration every morning and three stories sent off to the Fish Short Story comp. I'm hoping December will be just as good. I'm particularly optimistic as I am off on an Arvon Foundation residential tomorrow. The week -long course was a prize in a competition that I won way back in June. Its called Enjoying Inventiveness and is described as being 'For new or experienced writers, this course will help you discover your potential and express your individual voice.' It couldn't have come at a better time as I feel it is just what I need right now. I think I will get more out of it now than I would have done this time last year. The course tutors are Jill Dawson and Romesh Gunesekeras and the 'course guest' is Kate Pullinger.

I have packed all my favourite pens in a fluffy pencil case (the only one I could find!) and crammed my backpack with sheets of the scrap paper that is a by product of my day job and which I find particularly good for writing on. Think I'm all set. Just need an emergency bar of Green and Blacks chocolate for moments of insecurity.

I'm also taking my recently begun Dream Diary. Its something I have been meaning to start for ages. Entries are a bit sparse at the moment but I'm hoping that the more I do it the better my dream-remembering will be.

There is no web access at the Arvon centre so I'm signing off now for a week. Will report back next weekend! (Too many exclamation marks in this post I know but I really am very excited.)

Monday, 26 November 2007

There and back again

Just returned from a lovely weekend in Paris. Wowed by the atmosphere of the Opera House, exhausted by the vastness and variety of the Pompidou Centre and dazzled by the opulence and extravagance of Saint Chapelle. Lots of lovely food and wine too.

By a spooky coincidence I chose to take along Wild Boy by Jill Dawson to read. I only realised as we set off that it was set in Paris (I was recommended the book by a friend and hadn’t read the blurb). Couldn’t believe that it was actually set in and around the exact bit of Paris where we were staying - the Latin Quarter, just off Boulevard St Germain. It really added to the trip and my reading of the book to be walking along the same streets and seeing the same buildings that she mentions, especially as the book is set two hundred years ago. I really loved the book and would defintiely recommend it whether read in Paris or anywhere else.

Back home to cold and rain but cheered myself up today, while waiting for my usual Monday morning café to open, by reading the noticeboard outside:

Enjoy Piano! 4 Sale 4 Pressure Barrels - 4 Must Go. Mobile Tattoo Artist. Sing Your Self to Life. Practical Shamanism. Celebration Concert for St Cecelia. Introduction to Open Fidelity Evening. Friendly Accounting. Concert for Tibet. Treesculptor - Figurative Chainsaw Carver. Cabaret Heaven. Calabrian Roast Fig Balls - Order Now for Christmas. Steiner Advent Fair. Do You Play Bass? Do You Want to Play Sax? We Need a Gas Person, A Rayburn Stove Person and A Welder to Do Some Jobs. Female Plumber - Girls Plumb 2. Nine Miles: 2 Winters of Road Protest. ‘Turn Your Kitchen into a Microplastic Recycling Factory’ Workshop. Holistic Reflexology. Alternative B&B. Ethical Business Chinwag. Low Impact Eco-Boating. Do you Speak Italian? Heart Shrine Relics Tour. Indoor Market Bazaar. Land Wanted for Tree Planting. Horse Drawn Festival Carriages. Shaggy Dog Stories. Sewing Machines Serviced. Plant Pots Recycled. Woodland Courses in Old Wives Wood. Electric Eclectic Psychedelic Trance and Chill. Hire Your Aquabirthing Pool Now!

It’s good to be home

Thursday, 22 November 2007

A Nigella rant

Nigella gets more addictive as the series go on. I have to have a large glass of wine to appreciate her fully but once that's down I'm hooked.

She was on a comic roll this week with her quips about chips, collapsing grandeur and squidgy piles. I do worry about her arteries though - when she added the cream to the butterscotch topping for the ice cream cake, I could just hear them hardening.

But, pomegranate seeds in a tub! Come on Nigella, I know you're in a hurry ("Its the express way") but what's wrong with halving the fruit and using a fork. Ooooh that made me cross. 'What did you expect!' a thousand voices less gullible voices cry. Well yes I know, but have you tried her Margarita ice cream, her Sausage, Halloumi and Peppers and her Marsala Honey Pears with Gorgonzola. She's doing something right.

Please someone tell me that she has pinched all these fab recipes, that actually work when you try them at home, from someone who gives a damn about packaging and food miles and I will willingly switch my allegiance, and I won't need a glass of wine to do it.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Writing down the words

2007 has been a really important year for me writing-wise. I have finally got my act together, made writing part of my daily life and written complete pieces and sent them out there. I'm also really fortunate at the moment in having a fair bit of time to write in, as my work load is quite light.

So, where's the novel?

I've realised that despite my newly acquired positive approach to writing and my daily stint with pen and paper or keyboard to hand, part of me is still hanging on to that old idea that my novel will just write itself, while I sit here and doodle. I found the following quote appropriate:

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it. ~Jules Renard, "Diary," February 1895

Well I've been looking for it for ages and it hasn't turned up yet, so I need to face the fact that some hard grafting, some creative juicing, spilling of ink and tapping of fingers is required. Otherwise it will forever remain what it is today - just a damn good idea for a novel.

I'm wondering if my recent forays into short, short fiction are also holding me back, not just because I am writing them instead, but also because I am finding it difficult to think in terms of longer pieces of writing. But maybe I can put this to use. In much of my flash / micro-fiction I have been writing 'moments'. Advice from writing friends and books suggests approaching a novel 'scene by scene', so as not to be daunted by the whole. Maybe I need to approach mine 'moment by moment'. If I write enough moments I should eventually have a novel.

It's worth a try.

Meanwhile, I listened to Book of the Week on Radio 4 this morning and really enjoyed it: the journalist Katharine Whitehorn reading from her autobiograpy, a beautifully written insight into life and love in the 1950s, well worth a 'listen again'

Monday, 19 November 2007

A flash in the pan?

The Leaf Micro-fiction 2007 results are up on their blog, and I am really chuffed - one of my pieces has been 'commended'. This means it will be included in the published anthology - a piece of my writing in a book that sells for real money - a first! So chuffed I had to spill some champagne, but in a refined 'drink as much of it as you can' way not the Formula One racing driver all over the floor method (and it was Cava not Champagne but who's counting.)

So, feeling very inspired this morning. Although I'm a bit concerned that what with flash fiction submissions here and there and the ongoing Your Messages project all of my writing recently has resulted in pieces less thann 300 words long. Will I never write anything longer again? I'm hoping to enter the Fish Short Story Comp at the end of the month so I will have to start practicing getting my word count into the thousands. I have a couple of ideas for a story so will give it a go this afternoon.

The Bridport winners are also up. I was comforted by the writing pedigrees of the majority of the winners - creative writing lecturers, published poets, Toby Litt! Made me feel much better about not making the cut. Looking forward to reading the anthology.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Poetry, Paris and parrots

One of the spin-off benefits of the Your Messages project (yup I'm still doing it) is following links to the blogs and web sites of other writers. I have been really enjoying Oz Hardwick's postings. Visit his website to discover his poetry, if you haven't found it already.

I've got a trip to Paris planned for a couple of weeks time and a friend has loaned me her copy of The Guide to the Architecture of Paris by Norval White. The architectural delights that Mr White has promised me so far include “a bejeweled and bedecked dowager on the way to a fancy dress ball” and “vegetative soffits and cubistic capitals … bedecked in attic finery.” Great stuff, I’m looking forward to spotting the buildings from his luscious descriptions.

I’ve been working in that London this week, hence the brief absence from blogging and messaging. I had access to a computer but not much head space, although I did manage some scribbling on the train on the way down. Journey back was totally devoted to Ali Smith’s ‘Hotel World’ - stunning stuff especially when read in one sitting - the luxury of train travel.

Had to watch lots of Monty Python for research purposes last week (sometimes I really love my job). I'd forgotten just how funny this sketch is (a bit like hearing 'Stairway to Heaven' for the first time in ages and realising that it's actually jolly good).

Thursday, 8 November 2007

As others see us

I discovered today that in someone else’s life I am not Sarah D: aspiring author, freelance quiz writer, charity shop bargain hunter. In the story of their life I am quite a different character altogether. I am not Sarah for a start. ‘They’ are a neighbour, six doors down on a quiet terrace. I am not ‘Sarah’ because they do not know my name. To them I am ‘The running woman, the one with the hats”.

Now ‘running woman’, that’s an epitaph I could live and quite happily die with. I do run; two or three times a week. Often up onto the moors, across fields and bogs. I love it. It is part of my life. But. ‘with the hats’ worried me. When my friend told me that her work colleague (my neighbour) had called me ‘the running woman, the one with the hats ', I felt I had to query the hats. I don’t wear a hat when I’m running. Maybe I should. 30% of heat loss is through your head, and I love running in the cold; but I never run in a hat. My friend smiled, “She says you run past her house two or three times a day, and generally you wear a hat.”

I got it then. The hats. I do wear hats: peaked caps - blue wool, dusky pink velvet, a cable-knot brown with a silky green flower. I wear them on a morning, meeting friends for coffee and in the afternoon on last minute trips to the Co-op or the post office. I’m often late, often reach the end of the street and have to turn back for something I have forgotten (my purse, my phone, my ecologically-sound cloth shopping bag). I am often, in fact usually, running.

I am ‘the running woman, the one with the hats”. I feel like a character in a graphic novel. The one who always gets there just too late - to stop the train, to defuse the bomb, to rescue the hero, - but who is always impeccably turned out, and always wears a hat.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

An 'everything is possible' moment

This 'Your Messages' thingummy is so working for me. Its giving me a new structure to my writing day (and I do really need structure) I got my 300 words off first thing (well first thing after having coffee with friends and a trip to the market scouting for bargains). I was so fired up from having written and posted something that I then had a stonking game of Spider Solitaire and got my highest score ever. And its only 11 o'clock!

I must continue on this up beat for the next few hours - maybe I can finish that novel, write my WEA assignment for tomorrow, edit my story for the Fish Short Story Comp, set up a Ning social networking site for our writing group AND plant out the forget-me-nots that are currently languishing in the shed. Everything seems possible.

But first I'd better feed the cat

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A good start to the day

If you want a really good start (or end depending on what time you're logging in) to your day then get yourself over to the Your Messages blog. Inspirational jumping off points for stories and the potential for publication. I've just posted my first story there and it was a great feeling to have written something new and put it up where it could be read (scary feeling too of course.) I'm aiming to try to post something up there most days this month. Even if you don't fancy contributing something yourself it's worth having a look at the other submissions - there's some really good stuff.

Its Writing Group night tonight. Twelve to fourteen of us meet up about once a month to talk about writing, share our recent scribblings and sometimes do writing exercises together. Last month we had a 'guest speaker', a local author and script writer who did a fantastic workshop for us on dialogue. This week we are supposed to be continuing the dialogue theme. We had an 'assignment' following on from last months session which I have sadly not got round to doing. Never mind It will be good to hear everyone else's pieces, and I might just take along something else to read out. We meet in the pub and its usually quite a jolly affair. I really enjoy having time to talk about writing and to get support and feedback from other writers.

I have a work free day today - a rare and wonderful thing. So I am going to crack on with my children's novel. I'm unlikely to make the deadline for the Times competition but after that's passed I will have to set my own deadline for completion - Christmas? I dreamed last night (in between a dream about a giant rabbit and one about freewheeling on my bike) that I had finished it - the feeling was lovely, so satisfying, I've just got to make it happen.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Competition buzz

I get such a buzz from sending off my stories to competitions. It's that mixture of satisfaction, hope and anticipation, plus knowing that someone out there - a complete stranger - is going to read my words.

I sent off my entry for the Write Space 'Forbidden Friends' comp yesterday. I had been intending to email it in today, today being the deadline and that being the way I work. But yesterday I thought 'No, let's get this thing in a whole day early'. Glad for that thought as when I checked the website I discovered I needed to send off for an entry form and post my story to Cornwall by snail mail. Thankfully the lovely people at Write Space are prepared for last minuters like myself and emailed me an entry form by return. Also thankfully my often truculent printer was in a good mood. So story is off; it has hopefully wung(?) its way south and has dutifully landed on the desk of an eager reader this morning.

I made a commitment to myself this year to make space for my writing in amongst my work load. I'm fortunate in that I work freelance from home and can usually make time for writing. Sometimes though it's tough and at the moment I'm having to make work my priority. So my children's novel, after progressing so well last week has not moved on at all this week - that competition deadline of November 17th is approaching like a steam train (not quite an intercity express though, so there is still hope). Next week should be better as my current work deadlines are all for this Friday.

Didn't come anywhere in the Times Ghost story comp (now I come to think of it my 'spooky house' motif wasn't particularly original!). You can read the winning entries here.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Faster than fairies

I can't put down The Accidental by Ali Smith - what a fantastic book. Makes me (almost) want to give up writing altogether tho' - my prose seems so clunky and laboured compared to hers. Also makes me want to pledge only to read really, really good books and not settle for less - a pledge I know I would break next time I am tired or on a long train journey or both.

Talking of which, I had to go to Cardiff this weekend for work - 5½ hours on the train there and 5½ hours back the next day. I always have such high hopes about train journeys - I imagine dashing off a major part of my novel or suddenly being inspired to write poetry. The reality is that surrounded by mobile phones and chatter, legs cramping in the never quite big enough space and the apathetic tiredness that usually hits me as soon as we set off, I am more likely to just switch my brain off (see above). However this weekend was an exception. I wrote all the way there: give or take half an hour or so of refuelling on cappuccino and M&S salad. I started off jotting down snippets of chatter from the three old ladies sat across from me, and then got stuck into my children's novel. I really felt I got somewhere with it - it's flowing so much better now I know who my characters are(see previous post). I kept up the good work most of the journey back too, but then discovered The Accidental in my bag and got lost in that for the rest of the way.

So a very productive couple of days - and I even got paid for the work I did in between! Aren't trains great. I feel the need for some Robert Louis Stevenson (am I the only person in the world who used to get him confused with Robert Stephenson the train man?)

FASTER than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

'From a Railway Carriage' by Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, 19 October 2007

What age do you act?

Ok so I'm not obsessing about the humungous age that I reached on Monday but I just had to give this a go after finding it on an old friend's blog (Thanks Neil!)

How old am I really? Lets just say the result below was a pleasant surprise

You Are 26 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Shaken not stirred

I've been full of cold ever since the weekend - in fact ever since my big birthday party, where I think the dry martinis weakened my immune defences. Anyway I have found writing to be slow and painful with a bunged up head, so have fallen back on web surfing (see below) and reading (lots of Jacqueline Wilson which I'm loving). Also really enjoyed being at my WEA class this morning and just listening to other people read - some great stuff- without me reading anything of mine.

Meanwhile found this on the web and it made me smile.

Number 65 even made me giggle.
Makes me thing I might have been missing a trick when I lost interest in maths.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Teenage diaries

I've been working on my children's story for the Times / Chicken House competition lately. I thought all had been going OK but then realised a week or so ago that I hadn't done enough character work and didn't really know several of my characters very well at all. I have since compiled a notebook of details about each of them including pictures (torn from catalogues) back story time lines, 'questionnaires' etc. This has been really useful, even though it has inevitably led to massive rewrites

I read A. Writer's blog today and found that she had experienced something similar. I am going to follow her example by interviewing my characters - more in depth than a questionnaire and potentially very useful for finding out things I didn't know about them.

As part of my research / character building I spent part of today (my birthday!) reading the diary that I wrote when I was 14 (my central character is a 12/13 year old girl). According to my closely packed barely legible scribblings I was unashamedly obsessed with boys and music. But my strong friendship with my best mate Vicky is also very evident and there are some references to school work that are quite illuminating:
"Maths homework too hard. Tried for two hours still can't do it. Wrote English essay in bath and while drying hair."

My favourite bit is the much asterisked and exclamation marked week labelled 'The Best Holiday Ever' - a school skiing trip to Italy, which is recorded in furtive hints and half-code that I only half understand - although I think it is clumsily covering up Bacardi drinking and adolescent fumblings. It was enough to trigger some happy memories though and bring a smile to my aged face.

I'm really enjoying this project - just hope I can meet that deadline!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Women who write

Hurrah for the return of snail mail.

Two very welcome deliveries this morning (and no bills!).

The first was the new copy of Mslexia which always cheers me, although I have to eek out my reading of it carefully over the next three months.

Second was a bundle of copies of a writing anthology called Landscape from a Dream - which has a piece by me in it! Ta-dah!- publication at last. The anthology was produced by the Newcastle Lit and Phil Library for National Poetry Day on the 4th October, and the organiser Sheree Mack asked me for a piece way back at the beginning of summer. It's so lovely to see my words in black and white in an anthology of, in my 'umble opinion, 'damn fine writing'. The booklets were distributed in Newcastle on National Poetry Day - let me know if you got hold of a copy and what you think. Meanwhile I will be distributing my copies among family and friends, and of course keeping one for myself.

Mslexia is subtitled 'for women who write' and when I began subscribing a couple of years ago I considered myself 'a woman who wants to write'. I've still got a long way to go and a lot of writing to do but over the past year I have moved on, so that I am now 'a woman who writes', it is part of my life and I love it.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Whoosh - there goes a deadline

"I love deadlines.
I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

-Douglas Adams

Damn it I missed the deadline for the Fish Criminally Short Short Histories Comp. I'd written and carefully edited two pieces, both under 250 words, that I was really chuffed with - then forgot to submit them! I need a better system (current system being a piece of paper on the wall with lists of comps - but I can't rememebr if I tick them off when I've written them or when I've submitted them.)

So now I'm on the look out for a comp requiring a crime story less than 300 words - any suggestions anyone?

Its Thursday tomorrow which is WEA Creative Writing class day. I really look forward to it every week. We have a truly inspirational tutor who is full if excellent ideas and tips and the class is so varied in terms of age, background and motivations for writing that it's a short story/ radio play/ sitcom in itself (though I might have to leave town if I ever got round to writing it.) Ooops that reminds me I haven't done this week's assignment yet - a restaurant review that avoids cliche and adjectives and uses strong verbs and nouns instead. I'll make notes while watching my tape of Monday's Nigella later (mad as mad but I love her food)

Went to a short story comp prize-giving thing last week. My story wasn't placed but my friend Ann came third so I went along to cheer her on and also to listen to the judge Martin Bedford talking about short story writing and what he looks for when judging competitions. In the break when he came over for a chat I did something a bit rash (blame it on the pear cider I drank before I got there): I asked him for some feedback on my story . Fortunately he remembered it and said it nearly made his shortlist; he loved the dialogue (hurrah! - the whole thing is basically a dialogue between two women) and the situation BUT he felt it was a longer piece that had been squashed down. I was so pleased! Obviously he wasn't going to stand there and say it was complete rubbish and watch me crumple, but the reason he gave made a lot of sense as the night before the submission deadline my story was 5,300 words long and by four o'clock the next afternoon it was the requisite 3,000. I have since restored it to its 5,000 word glory and submitted it elsewhere.

OK Wea assignment time and after that a bit more of my children's story for the Times comp - its going well but I have two concurrent ideas and I'm finding it hard to keep focussed on the main one - I certainly don't have time to write two children's books by mid-November, so one of them will have to wait

Friday, 28 September 2007

Poor neglected blog

Oops, I've been away from this page for too long. Partly because of the demands of work but also because I have been doing lots of writing. I sent off my entry for the Times Ghost Story comp earlier in the week. It was great fun to write and seriously scared the one seven year old that I read it to (Bit of a mistake that, still you live and learn (apparently).) It would have been better I suppose to have tried it out on an adult. I do have a good writing buddy Ann whom I swap writings with from time to time -I find it really useful to have someone to pass things by for fellow writerly comments. I also let my Man read stuff occasionally and he is proving to be a valuable editor.

Reading Cally's blog the other day inspired me to look through some of my old writings. I have piles and piles of closely scribbled words that have been whispering to me from underneath my desk for years. I finally got them out yesterday and had great fun reading through some of my adolescent, then studenty, then globetrotting musings. I had forgotten about some of the ideas and people that had inspired me in the past and it has set me off on a few story ideas. There was one character that I wrote about a lot about while I was a student that I was particularly pleased to meet again, she will definitely be making a reappearance.

My novel word counter hasn't budged an inch. I still love the central idea of the novel but I'm having trouble really believing in the characters and the setting (nothing major then!) I have decided to try to reboost my enthusiasm by writing a longish short story based on the central concept and seeing where that takes me.

Ooh also rediscovered my writing diary which I had temporarily lost (under a pile of work on my desk). Made me think about the difference between what I post up here and what I scribble in there. 'In there' is much more personal, experimental, I can write anything knowing no-one will ever read it - or so I thought 'til I left it in the Co-op one day and the assistant who handed it back to me a had a big grin on his face. But anyway the idea is that no-one will read it. If any one did think that the various plot outlines and story ideas were either jottings about my real life, or how I would like my life to be, it could lead to all sorts of trouble.

Good to be back! But now I'm off for more scribbling. I suddenly had an idea for the Fish Short Histories comp and the deadline is Sunday!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Counting the words

Got off to a flying start today - I wrote 2,000 words before lunch (OK, so it was a very late lunch). Unfortunately it was 2,000 words of an entirely new novel idea which came to me while I was reading my emails. It felt good to be writing so fluidly but I wish I could have added to my main novel word count. Still I suppose it's all good exercise and who knows where on or when those 2,000 words might come in useful.

I started to write a ghost story for the Times / Vintage Classics competition last night, but I had to stop 'cos I was giving myself the creeps. This isn't any indication of the scariness of my story, it's just that I am a wimp. It was fun tho' writing something in a genre I haven't tried before. I'm going to try and finish it off later, in the bright light of the afternoon.

I've signed up once more for a writing class run by my local WEA. Its one that I started back in January and I have found it really useful for lots of reasons - excellent advice and tips from our wonderful tutor, support from fellow local writers and adding a bit of structure to my writing life. I'm looking forward to the classes starting again in a couple of weeks.

I've now added a novel wordcounter to my blog, in the hope that it will embarrass me into adding to my total wordage (yeah I know quantity isn't everything but nobody seems to have devised a quality-ometer yet (now wouldn't that be a useful tool!)). I was pleased to find out that I had written almost a quarter of my intended total. Thanks to Sarah *G* for guiding me to the Zokutou Word Meter

Thursday, 6 September 2007

The Kitchen Table

Is my favourite place to write. It's sunny and well away from my computer where the time-wasting temptations of Spider Solitaire lurk. I'm convinced I will never be a published writer until I kick the SS habit. And I do need to kick the habit if I am going to meet my new deadline. I've just discovered the Times / Chicken House Children's fiction competition. They want a complete manuscript of up to 80,000 words by 17th November. Luckily I have one I made earlier, or at least started earlier. It's at the 'can still see the sticky tape and wording on the cereal box' stage." Still, it's only September, plenty of time to add the silver paint and the googly eyes (can you see what it is yet?)

Meanwhile, I have joined the ranks of thousands who did not win the Miss Write competition. I still have faith in my story though and will persevere with it. I've put in a lot of work on it since sending off my 3000 words in the heady optimistic days of May, and I am determined to see it through. (What she's going to try and write two novels at once I hear you cry! Yeah well now that I've given up Spider Solitaire I've got hours of spare time.)

Last word on Miss Write for now - I was half way up the Eiffel Tower last week when my mobile rang - by the time I found it at the bottom of my bag I had missed it- 'caller unknown' Did I miss my chance - was that 'the phone call'? Doubt it, as I am sure they would have tried again, still it did get my hopes up for a bit.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Writing a novel

I’m still writing short stories but I have also begun my first ever attempt at a novel. Inspired by the Cosmopolitan Miss Write competition (Think I would have heard by now - think somebody out there has probably already heard and is jumping around in silent glee, having promised not to tell a soul until the official announcement.)

Anyway I decided I liked what I had come up with for the competition and I’m now busy ‘writing it up.’ Going from my usual 3-5000 words to a potential 100,000 seemed a bit daunting at first but I have found comfort in a book called The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray and Brett Norris. It’s a very readable guide to structuring, writing and completing a long piece of fiction. Having read it on my hols I now feel that it is actually possible for me to write a full novel. I have a plot curve, stacks of character profiles, and lots and lots of scene summaries. Even better I have several thousand new words to add to my original 3000. I have given myself a deadline of Christmas to get a first draft finished (Deadlines you see, can’t do without them).

All very exciting. Still working on a bunch of short stories too (see competitions list below)

Thursday, 16 August 2007

A beginning

So, OK a new blog started (one of 40,000 today apparently). Why? Well I started a diary (the paper and pen kind) at the beginning of this year. I carry it everywhere and have found that just having it makes me write. Sometimes it's just unsharable nonsense but other times odd sentences or word pairings lead me on to characters and story ideas. So, I thought as I spend so much time sitting at my computer I might as well have an online equivalent, an electronic sibling to my paper and pen. Another place to sit and natter to myself and to anyone who wants to listen, to play with words, to try to find the right ones.

In an undusted corner of my room a teetering stack of cardboard and paper sandwiches together years and years of my writing in a giant Scooby snack. Ideas for characters, for plots, for conflict and adventure. Lots and lots of beginnings but too few middles or ends. I began to think as the pile grew higher that I would never write a complete story, not even a very, very short one.

Then I discovered the joy of writing competitions and more importantly - Deadlines! I've known for years that the only way I ever get anything finished is if I have a deadline to meet but I never thought to apply it to my writing. Self-appointed deadlines aren't worth the paper they're not written on - but every competition comes with its own delectable deadline just begging to be met.

Sad, but true, that was all I needed to get me writing in earnest. It's not the winning (fab though that is when it happens), it's the completing, the finishing, the knowing that I have told a story. So, in the hope of inspiring others, and also as reminders to myself, I will post a list of current writing competitions - and of course their deadlines. Let me know if I've missed out any good ones.