Monday, 21 July 2014

Fiction and poetry

Sustainer of like - cake! My courgette and lemon cake.
(The other half is in the freezer)
I've just been doing that stressful thing of online submissions so I thought I'd relax by posting on my blog!

I've gone back to my novel. Having done a quick edit of what I've written so far I'm pleased to say I still like my story, which is just as well as I've spent so much time on it, My method varies between thinking out the next 1,000 words before I write them (not good when doing this in bed as it keeps me from sleeping!) and writing straight on to the laptop with only a vague idea where I'm going. Both methods seem to work but I prefer the former. Am I writing notes? Er.....well if it is something I think I will need to refer to like a make of car, or a place that I need a description for, that sort of thing. I have my profiles (and family trees) which are working well, and a map I drew of somewhere as well as local information and maps collected on a visit.

The problem with not having your own writing space is that all my books and papers are stacked on one corner of the dining table and my laptop on the other. We end up not using the table for eating at as it's such a hassle moving everything (one of my sons has a claimed another corner to keep his keys, odd receipts and rubbish! and hubby the other corner). Everything gets moved now and then for guests (unless they are used to the mess in which case they slum it like the rest of us!). Once things get moved, papers go walkabout and I have to track them down again. One day it will all be worth it.....hopefully.

You may remember I told you that I was giving an episode of my 'online soap' to a friend to read. We met recently to discuss it. She liked the writing and characters. We talked about my concerns about quick changes in scene, the amount of characters, how it would fair on the internet (followers and the like) and where I should go next with it. Nothing was resolved and my friend suggested I put the episode on my blog and get feedback. This might be worth trying, but for now I've decided to concentrate on the novel as switching between two pieces of fiction gets confusing, where as fiction and poetry switch quite happily. Likewise another story which I began editing this year has also been abandoned for now and is somewhere under the pile.

Meanwhile I've been writing a sequence of poems on one particular subject and this is nice to go back to when I want a break from fiction. However, I found myself become obsessed with my sequence poems over the weekend and had to stop. I have some poems I'm really happy with as well as several in first/second draft form. I can't even remember where the idea came from for these poems but it's been good creatively.

Well, time for lunch over an episode of Doctors!  Happy writing.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Character profiling again!

How I long for a room with a huge pin board right now. I've returned to my novel and immediately realised I'd forgotten the name of a character! Flicked through my few pages of notes on my characters to find it and wondered how I could forget such a name......it was my dad's name!

Decided some proper profiling was needed and boy have a got myself into a muddle but I'm getting there. One thing to come out of this is how certain things link together to make the story better (hopefully) and I'm finding that the characters are coming to life more and I'm beginning to understand where they are coming from. Found some good tension spots between two characters which will be useful. I've had to expand on my characters' family trees and I have been going through the first part of the story and editing a little. I need to get a feel for the story again and add more detail before I continue with it.This seems essential at this point, especially now I'm putting flesh on my characters. Of course further edits will be needed but this will be  a better draft.

Another thing that's come out of looking at the novel again is the similarities to my 'soap' style story. I realised that both are mainly set in villages (one not exclusively) and the names of the villages are similar! Not only that but two names appear in both stories. None of this was intentional and I am wondering whether I just don't have much imagination, whether it was subconscious or I like writing things based on similar ideas. Probably it's down to not profiling characters properly first! Well, Victoria Hislop writes similar things - all her books have two timelines (with back story dominating) and look how successful she is! Oh well, I think it's time for a break - my head is overloaded with dates, names and places. I'm off to wash up and then watch the footie - come on Costa Rica!

Friday, 27 June 2014

OU Poets newest Anthology published

Today I have received my copy of Openings 31, the 2014 Anthology from The Poetry Society of the Open University. Eagerly I looked inside to see which page my poem was on - it's page 26. Copies of Anthologies can be bought from their website. You can also see past copies there (but not the latest). Number 30 has a poem of mine in it should you like to go searching!

Poetry and Music at The Ram Jam Club

LiTTLe MACHiNe
Last night I went for a walk through poetry from Homer to Carol Ann Duffy care of the group LiTTLe MACHiNe at Rhythm& Muse at The Ram Jam Club in Kingston. The group, who set poetry to music, performed their show Epic in two sets.  We skipped through 3,000 years of poetry history in sixty minutes which included drama and comedy! Some highlights – an extract from Gilgamesh and Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley and the war poets (Seigfried Sasson and Wilfred Owen). They were brilliant performers, both in musicianship and personality.

The group tour around the country (do check out their website) the visual backdrop to their show includes pictures of the poets and the words to the poems.

Rachel Rose Reid
The evening was part of Kingston Connections Festival of Stories and included two poets from the floor as well as Rachel Rose Reid who is writer-in-residence at the Charles Dickens Museum in London   Rachel has performed stories and songs for Billy Bragg, Southbank Centre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Last night she told stories from Africa, about Woody Guthrie and about London and Charles Dickens, somehow managing to slide between the old and new worlds. She has a lovely voice and recites her poetry and stories from memory. Rachel keeps you listening (and sometimes participating) because you did not want to miss a word. The stories were funny and poignant and she is an excellent performer, knowing how to instantly engage her audience.

The evening was brilliant – a combination of poetry, stories and music that stay with you on your way home.


(The Ram Jam Club is an intimate setting behind The Grey Horse Pub in Kingston.  Comfy seating, a glass of something from the bar and there you are, up personal with the performers – just how I like it.)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Poetry at the Southbank Centre

As part of The Southbank Centre's Festival of Love which open this weekend there are free activities in the foyer for all ages. The Emma Press will be there promoting their latest anthology Mildly Erotic Poetry with readings by some of the poets featured. These will take place in the Royal Festival Hall near the Ballroom from around 12 noon to 5pm. Sounds like a good day if you are nearby and can get along.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

An every-day story......

The BBC ran a news item a day or so ago about a guy who wrote, produced and played all the parts of a radio series. Originally written for hospital radio it switched to BBC Wiltshire and has run for forty years. This is a remarkable achievement and I found it fascinating. You may have seen this already but if not, do take a look here. Sadly the writer/producer/actor is retiring so it will be no more.

Monday, 23 June 2014

What I've been doing since my last post!

The heading for this post sounds like one of those school writing assignments on 'what I did on my holidays'. Well, we never went abroad - Isle of Wight virtually every year! Not that I'm knocking it but I couldn't face going there for many years afterwards. Still in family tradition we did take the kids there one year....only one year! And what I did on my school summer holidays included using my imagination to fill up the days. For example I drew up what today one might call a sort of fantasy football game which is why from time to time I look to see what Hartlepool are doing (sadly still in the same division I believe). I also had a brief spell drawing clothes, thinking I was a fashion designer. Now anyone who knows me will laugh their socks off at this because I can barely thread a needle and have to work up to sewing a button back on. In fact after having to sew buttons on my dressing gown several times I could face it no more. I waited until there was two buttons left hanging and then went out and bought a new one......without buttons!

As usual I am moving away from my subject. The last time I wrote I said I was taking a break. The break is really from courses, which I have done rather a lot of lately (and I've still not finished the final one). I was looking at some of my other stories, looking for something I could adapt for a flash fiction entry and then found a site running a Found Poem competition. I love writing found poems and set about composing one and then looked at my old serial idea. Actually, it is more a soap which I'd love to run online. I printed off the four episodes and hunted down the roughed out profiles and seriously began thinking about profiling with pictures. This came up in the online course Start Writing Fiction......about sourcing pictures for characters and I'd always wanted to do it. So I went out an bought a magazine and a Saturday paper with obligatory bundles on magazines they come with and set to looking for suitable pictures for my characters. I wanted ordinary people, not celebs, because though no one would probably recognise them from my descriptions, I would and it would put me off.

One problem with writing something on the scale of a soap is that you have a lot of characters but I did find almost enough for my needs. I cut them out, wrote their character names and then on my newly roughed out (printed) profile sheet I began adding bits of information. I also looked through what I had written of the story to see if there was anything else useful to add, which there was.

I was actually up at 4.30am this morning and worked on my profiles and editing for the four 'episodes' for four hours -  time flew! I have a hard back book where I will stick my pictures and write out a profile for each character. The course I took offered a website link (actually it might have been a link posted by one of the other students) which had a comprehensive sheet for profiling and I might use that, at least part of it. That was the good thing about the course - all the links and advice. The really useful stuff I copied and pasted into a word document so I can refer to it when I need.

One thing that has become evident from profiling with pictures is that descriptions (always something I struggle with) has become easier and I have begun to bond with my characters! Not only that but now I have matched couples, families and included some family history potential new stories are emerging. One of the reasons I gave up with this project was because I was running out of steam. Suddenly my head is filled with ideas and new characters. I've even thought about writing short snatches of ideas down ready to fit them in when I need them.

I realise that I have left my novel (at about 30,000 words) and although my next scene is there in my head I've not been back to it. I'm thinking that I should profile these characters properly. I have done lots of profiling already but not with pictures. This might help in the long run.

My main worry with the resurrected project is whether it will work in the form I am writing it. As I said it is like a soap so written more direct and the scenes are short, often punchy. There is humour (I do not want it to be a depressing EastEnders soap!) and a play on names/occupations which is left over from my very first idea of writing it as a comedy! I have changes some names but kept some. I wonder about this. All my doubts creep in as I still feel very raw around the edges in writing stories. I think I might run it past a friend of mine who writes mainly stories and has taken courses in script writing and writing for radio to get her take on it. The pieces I am writing are still in novel form as it isn't a play, it's something in between maybe. It would just be nice to get another pair of eyes on it. At the end of the day I write for myself and the idea of writing it for online view also poses problems. Will anyone read it? I'd have to work a long way ahead. How many episodes do I write? Can I maintain it? Is the writing any good? Will it actually work as it is? How frequently do I post? Am I mad? Ah!

All these things are going around in my head but I must admit the characters and their stories are overtaking those thoughts.

I'll let you know what decisions I come to but if you have any thoughts or advice do comment.  Meanwhile I am also writing and editing poetry. A good phase. Hope it lasts!