Monday, 4 December 2017

A gift and learning to take time out

Even though NaNoWriMo is over I am still writing. I thought I'd be written off, so to speak, but I am writing a (hopefully) witty and heartwarming story set around Christmas.

Anyway, on Friday I went along to the last local NaNoWriMo meeting and was presented with a gift for turning up to every meeting. I am very pleased with my gift. I've really enjoyed the meetings and will miss them a lot. The ladies who ran it (library staff) are putting together a reading challenge for next year. I have seen the categories and shall look forward to taking part. We had great discussions on Friday about all sorts of things not NaNoWriMo related over nibbles and a big tub of Celebrations, including graphic books for adults, something I haven't really explored, though my son has read Manga books.

In the latest edition of Breathe magazine there is an article on writing a novel. It comes with a little notebook! I've not read it yet as I'm still working my way through other articles. I love this magazine. It is my time out session and this issue touches on a lot of what interests me - music (as therapy), singing (so good for you), dealing with anxiety, spontaneity as well as  an article on the environmental damage being caused by plastic waste in the sea, and lots more besides.

There are a few of these mindfulness/well-being magazines on the market at present and they are just what I need for that other side of me I know I need to nurture. I'm an 'on the go' sort of person. Two days in the house and I'm climbing the walls, but I know sometimes I run myself ragged, even though I enjoy it. Stopping to do a little colouring (I even have a dot to dot book!) or just unwinding with music and not doing anything at the same time (I'm a dreadful multitasker) is good for me. I should do more of it. Maybe we all should.

Monday, 27 November 2017

NaNoWriMo - The finish line

I'm a winner! Well, of NaNoWriMo at least. I completed my 50,000 words last week and decided I don't need to write anymore for a while!

Of course I did start writing about a week before the start of NaNoWriMo but only four stories were actually written before that time - ones I felt belonged with the theme for this short story collection. So, including the four pre-written ones I have a collection of twenty-eight stories. However, there is one story I haven't included because I still feel that there is much to work on. It's an older story. It has been heavily edited and I think I'm now getting closer to what I want with it.

Some stories need details filling out, explanations or bits need to be re-jigged, and I suppose when I look seriously at them some stories might not be strong enough. During NaNoWriMo it's more a case of getting the word count done - quantity rather than quality. Hopefully quality will come with the edits.

Having completed my 50,000 words and all but packed up, I had an idea for another story. It fitted the theme so I wrote it. Well, you can't dismiss an idea. Ideas have to be written whatever!

I do have a few favourite stories in this collection and the more I wrote the more ideas came. I'm sure I am not finished with stories of the unusual kind. The really long story I wrote set on an island is not included in the word count. It ran to around 15/16,000 words. Not quite sure where that one will end up. I do have another novella so maybe I should publish them together one day.

A friend asked me if I would put any of my published stories in the collection. At first I thought I might, yet I have enough without doing that.

Apart from a piece I wrote for Visual Verse (it was published on their website earlier this month). I have not sent out any other stories or poems. However, the other day I did look to see who had their submission windows open and I might be able to send out one or two stories by the end of the year.

One website quoted a waiting time of six months for a reply. Am I just being impatient....six months? I appreciate these magazines run on a voluntary basis and that they have hundreds of submissions but I'm not prepared to wait that long for one story or poem. If it was a novel, maybe. At least with competitions you have a date when results are published. I'm waiting on a couple of things now. One said 'two months' and it's coming up to four with no answer. Does that mean no? I hate the thought of chasing. I've never yet done that. Maybe I'll given them until the end of the year and try somewhere else. It's a dilemma as work gets caught up in the system.

The local NaNoWriMo meet ups have been great. They are a supportive bunch and we have lots of laughs. The group has dwindled somewhat but we have the final meeting on Friday and I think there might be wine involved. Yes, it's party time! I'm looking forward to it.

Now it's all about editing. I can see my months will be filled with nothing but editing. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

NaNoWriMo update

Twelve days into NaNoWriMo and I briefly hit writing fatigue. Last time I posted I mentioned about writing some longer stories for the collection. There was one story I was hopeful might get to around 10,000 words. Indeed it did and still it kept going. The story is set on an island did actually begin to wear me down. It is rather dark and was affecting my mood. I wanted it finished so I could move on. It finally came out at just over 15,000 words - so more an novella than a short story. I'm now thinking it's too long for the collection. Oh well, at least it bumps up the word count, though I've not added it yet. I have instead been adding other stories including previously written ones that fit the theme (about four or five) and those I wrote leading up to the start of NaNoWriMo.

As well as these I have been crashing away at the keys like a mad women and thankfully even though I have panicked that I'm running out of ideas something appears at the last moment. Last Sunday I had the most vivid and funny dream. It fitted the theme and when I woke up I almost kicked my husband out of bed to get downstairs and on the laptop to write it. It was just what I needed. I can't go long without humour so there will be a few slipped into this collection as light relief.

I have attended two workshops at the local library where we have discussed the highs and lows of this exercise as well as looking at finding characters and plots. We also had a post-it note session writing out scenes we would either like to write or were coming up in our stories. We were then asked to move the scenes around and see how that worked. How did it change things? I concentrated on one story idea that is in my notebook but as I wrote the scenes it was starting to develop into an Agatha Christie yet it felt flat. I had no enthusiasm for it. Maybe this is one story that will end up not being written. While I don't generally use post-it notes I do write scenes down (when I'm writing a novel) and then I pick the order, so similar thing really.

Way back in the spring I saw a call for Christmas spooky tales and I thought, yeah maybe I could write one of those. So I started it but stopped after three paragraphs and forgot about it. Yesterday I opened that file and threw myself into it. I may have missed the deadline for the competition but at least I'd completed it. I actually frightened myself a bit! It is based on something that happened to me and I told a friend. She said 'I bet you'll find a story in that.'  Finally, I have. Of course writing is a licence to exaggerate and change things a little and I've done all that.

When I began this venture I had a tentative title for the collection. That's changed now and I'm re-writing the blurb. Some of my stories are spooky but they are not only ghost stories. I have widened the criteria to include dark tales which cover the supernatural, myths and crime. I have pushed my writing further, gone down routes I have never explored before and that has also influenced what I'm choosing to read now (or maybe it began with the reading).

I have even chosen a cover for the collection. It's temporary and involved me looking through pages of free art online. It just helps to have an idea of where I am going, makes it feel real.

I've done my word count for today so I can take a break and head back to some reading.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Day Four - 10,000 words (NaNoWriMo)

I'm so excited. I reached the 10,000 word mark today and got my next writing badge. Having a free day today has helped. Once I dealt with the ironing, which has been haunting me all this week, I got to it. The weather today has been pretty awful and that helped because when the weather is good I want to be outside doing something else.

Half of those 10,000 words was written today. One complete short story (yes, I'm still going with that collection idea) was written. I'm into another long story and others have titles and basic notes made. I'm feeling quite hopeful that this will work.

Meanwhile, I broke off from NaNoWriMo yesterday (or was it the day before - it's all becoming a blur) to write a 500 piece for Visual Verse.

I'm finding my stories are taking over my life. I'm planning them (or mulling them over) when I go to bed, while I'm walking down the road. I have a special music mix for one story I'm writing. It sets the atmosphere. I also find that the stories affect my mood and sometimes I need a break. This is a rather unsettling collection after all. I think I'll need to put a couple of humorous stories in there to lighten things. At the end of the month (after I've had a chance to collapse and revive) - maybe after Christmas - I should be able to choose the strongest. I'm hoping there will be enough to choose from, and of course they will need editing.

Unlike when I wrote my novel for NaNoWriMo a few years back I have been editing a little as I go. It's easier with short stories. Editing a novel seems so much more daunting than a story.

I said to my husband just now that (and maths not being my strong point) I've completed one fifth of my total word count. Yes, he said (I was so glad he agreed with my calculation), that's 20%. Is it, I asked. That's sounds even better!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

NaNoWriMo - Starts today

I said I wouldn't do it again. Welcome to November and NaNoWriMo. And yes, I'm participating.

This time I am doing it differently. I'm not writing a novel for starters. I'm putting together a collection of short stories on a spooky theme. Of course I have seen some drawbacks. Most of my stories come in at around 1,000 words, 2,000 at a push. That's a lot of short stories to write to reach the goal of 50,000 words in a month. I also think 50,000 words for a short story collection is too many. How long are short story collections? I need to investigate. So I have thought about this.

I am trying to write some longer stories. I did recently write one which came out at just over 6,700 words. While this is a little odd in content I don't think it quite fits this supposed collection unfortunately. I have also thought that if I do reach the target of 50,000 words I can then choose the best for the collection and I might have enough for a second collection sometime (ever the optimist).

I have a few drafts I've been working on over the last week and after a great feedback session yesterday at my writing group the first story has been edited and my first word count recorded on the NaNoWriMo website this morning. I'm off and running! I didn't hit my day's target but I'm more laid back this time. I'm doing it more for motivation (she says) and if I don't get to 50,000 words I should still have a nice collection. (Of course I shall get to 50,000 words. I'm competitive - I have to win even if I'm up at 4am to get there)

Last Friday I went along to a launch event for NaNoWriMo at a local library which was brilliant. Those of us who had done it before were able to give some advice and we had a little exercise in finding story ideas. The library is running workshops all through November and I'm intending to get there. I have recommended it to members of the writing group. Even if they don't take part they will pick up some advice on novel writing and helpful information about creating characters and plotting etc., useful for any type of writing. (See below for a picture of the wonderful goodie bag I received at the launch party)

By writing short stories I've realised that I need to find new characters and plots on a regular basis. It means writing something new everyday, or thereabouts. How will I cope? How indeed!

Contents of goodie bag

Saturday, 21 October 2017

New Poetry Journal launched - Eye Flash

There is a new poetry journal on the block. it is called Eye Flash and the very first copy arrived through my letterbox two days ago.

In these difficult times poetry magazines come and go quite quickly but while they are going their submissions overflow and it seems that soon they are not accepting anymore. Often I follow links to magazines/zines to find they no longer exist or their submission windows are closed for the foreseeable future.

To find a new magazine is quite exciting and I was keen to read this. Printed on thick card it runs to 22 pages and costs £5. The cover art is from Kitty Copper and the cover quote is from The Cormorant by Daniel Bennet. The overall theme this issue seems to be water and death, though not exclusively.

There are short poems - the wonderful four line stanza The flood by Neil Richards (about Noah and God) to those running over two pages. This issue includes poems about the death of Angels by Jack Little (the dumping of them in a park), The Night That Robin Died by Laura Potts (the sentence structure at times made me fall over words and I had to go back and re-read) - and the poems about water, rather a tide of them (sorry!) including The Sign Recreates the Water by Sue Spiers which I rather enjoyed (nice internal rhymes), At the Lido by Suzannah V Evans (lots of colours and sounds you hear as you swim and rise to the surface), Cycling by Ian Cuccask (the result of a comfort break!) and Wade by Ellora Sutton. In between there are other poems - Crabs by Anna Cathenka (likening each type of crab to 'you', I guess a lover), Correcting a stutter by Sarah James and another about angels which made me smile - The Angel of Revelation visits the New Age Centre by Anna Saunders.

Overall it's a nice collection of poetry stories. I would have liked a page with a biography of the poets, though I guess I could google them.

I do hope the magazine survives. They need readers. It often seems there are more people writing poetry than reading it. Small Press magazines need our support.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Wimbledon Bookfest - Tracy Chevalier & Matt Haig

Matt Haig
Wimbledon Bookfest finished last night and I was there to hear the last guest - Matt Haig. I found him a most interesting and down to earth guy and I found myself agreeing with much that he said about the writing world, how we see ourselves in the world and depression.

The first book of his I ever read was The Humans and I loved it. I have also read The Radley's and Reasons To Stay Alive (his book about depression) is sitting on a shelf waiting to be read. He was an engaging speaker - I like the way music plays an important part in his writing (he cited Talking Heads as background to The Humans and Don Henley's Boys of Summer to 'get him out of a fug' - I love that song myself!). And that he isn't a planner - he likes the surprise, though admitted it got him into all sorts of bother at the editing stage.

Matt Haig's books are hard to pigeonhole. I remember the trouble Waterstones had tracking The Humans down for me. He doesn't fit a particular genre and I rather like that.

Matt Haig's partner and children were sitting in the front row and had been promised pizza for being so good and patient. I feared the wait would still be long as the queue for his book signing was back to the door. I haven't read his latest book How To Stop Time but it's on my list. I'll wait for it to come out in paperback or put it on my Christmas list! It sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading it quite soon.

I did have a ticket to see the Rev Richard Coles but he got a better offer and is currently on Strictly (I don't watch that) so his session was cancelled. I still think he made the wrong choice (ha, ha).

However, I did get to see Tracy Chevalier a week ago. She came to talk about her latest book New Boy and I have read that. I was lucky enough to find a copy at my local library by chance, so I grabbed it. I don't think it's Tracy's best book, but then I'm not keen on retelling of old stories. I had some reservations about how sexually aware 11 year olds were back in the 70's and this came up at her interview. She was basing it on her childhood in the USA in that period whilst manipulating the plot to fit that of Shakespeare's Othello. I'm a big fan of Tracy's, having read all her books. I love the way all her books are different and if I had to pick favourites, oh that's tough, I tend to be drawn to her early ones - Girl With a Pearl Earring, The Lady & The Unicorn, Burning Bright and Remarkable Creatures. I am interested in her next book which is set in Winchester (a place I love visiting) and she is already talking about the book after that!

I love hearing authors speak, to learn about how they got into writing, their process of writing, where their ideas come from and the research they do. It's so fascinating.  Apologies the photo isn't great - it's from my phone's camera with a zoom that is laughable!. When I went to a concert recently I borrowed my son's old mobile to take photos - much better - but I had problems loading the photos onto Facebook, yet they conformed to size etc. Blogger had no problem but I didn't want to risk not getting a shot.