Saturday, 9 May 2015

Panic over the first chapter

Having a bit of a panic. Okay, quite a major one. I looked at the first chapter of my first novel today and am now thinking - do I have time to re-write it? I wonder if it's because I've read it so many times that I'm over familiar with it. Yet, there's other bits I still love to read.

I have borrowed a book from the library entitled Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress. I am finding it very useful and am currently reading through the second chapter. My first scene, I think, fits the criteria mentioned. My second scene, I'm not so sure about and this is the bit I think I might try and work on, My first chapter is very short (it is the first chapter I have to submit in advance of the Winchester Writer's Festival for my one-to-one). I wonder if my chapter break is right. Is my first chapter enough? All these things are going through my head. Then I decided that the likelihood of my novel being picked up by this agent are pretty slim (confidence going down), so perhaps I should just use this experience for the feedback I will get. This, after all, is the first full length novel I have written. The more you write the better you become - hopefully. People frequently write several novels before one makes it.

Meanwhile, I have been working on the synopsis and the covering letter. I think both are about there, or the best I can achieve for a first time. I know I'm not alone in these feelings, but sometimes it feels like it. The sad fact is that I put a lot of my thoughts here because I have to have somewhere to sound off. I'm sure my family and my friends are sick of me going on about 'things of the writing persuasion'. Unless you write you cannot understand the high and lows, how you beat yourself up about things and convince yourself that you deserve to be in the slush pile.

Moan over for today! I'll take another look at my first chapter. I really want to get my submissions in next week. I've barely thought about the poem I will submit for my other one-to-one. Still, after all this, sending a poem will be doddle. Or will it?!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

This is what I'm doing

I have been obsessively writing over the last two weeks. I have gone back to an earlier project and aim to finish it by the end of summer, hopefully. More on that at a future time.

This lunchtime I actually wrote a short poem. It's been some time since I did that as poetry has taken a back seat lately. It's just a wee little thing:


I seek the light place
where sun streams,
warming skin,
bringing life to flesh and bone.
Blood bubbles and flows
as I unravel, stretch like a cat,
settle like a lizard, heating up.

I have subscribed to two magazines to get an insight into what is being written and published in the small press, getting to know new writers. Bare Fiction is one, Brittle Star is the other. I have to admit that to save money I opted for the online version of Bare Fiction. This could be a mistake as I tend to forget about them and find the next issue comes along and I've not read the last. I much prefer something to hold and take with me, to snuggle up with. But I must make the effort.

Brittle Star arrived this morning. I love it's size. I could stick it in my handbag. I've already started reading it. It contains fiction, poetry and articles and I like what I see.

I've subscribed to a couple of blogs too, but the biggest thing I've done lately is to book a place at the Winchester Writer's Festival in June. I've wanted to go along for years, but it is only in the last year that I have started writing fiction again, so it didn't seem worth it before. There was little for poets. Of course in September was the fantastic inaugural Winchester Poetry Festival which I attended. I'm pleased to say that is back for this year. Anyway, I decided that this was the year to try the Writer's Festival. Am I ready, I ask myself. Hopefully. I've booked two workshops and a full programme of talks. I have also taken the step of booking two one-to-ones (very scary). The first is with an agent, the second with a poet. I am now frantically putting together a synopsis for my first novel (still in editing mode) and a covering letter. I've had to research both as I've never done them before. These things have to be submitted before the festival. I also have to submit a poem in advance. All this is new to me and I am, to say the least, very nervous.

If you are going to the festival too, let me know.

Finally, I have found a competition for my piece of writing that has so far fallen between the categories, due to its word count. The Penny Dreadful is running a Novella competition (open for entries on 1st June). I shall be submitting!

See you next time.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Another one of those days

Had my usual problem this morning when trying to submit a competition entry - I went to pay and was told my card provider had not authorized the payment. Do they see me coming or what? My heart sunk. I'd already submitted the story and PayPal was the only option for payment.

Panicking (I should be used to this by now as I've had the lot from internet crashes to the 'non-payment' message mid submission) I called PayPal, after I'd checked my card was still valid and trawled around their site to see if it was something I'd done. No, it was my credit card company. So I had to phone them. Both these calls had stupid non-human messages like 'say in a few words what you are calling about'. My requests were not recognised! By this time I was growing angry and as there was no actual person on the line, quite abusive! On ringing my credit card company I gave up and just said something they would understand and hoped they could transfer me if necessary. Luckily, I seemed to be through to the right department. They insisted there was nothing wrong - huh? Well, why were they refusing payment? They looked again. They said PayPal had a 'no pounds' transaction. What? I was supposed to be paying £8. I had light-bulb moment and said I'd probably been timed out of the transaction because I'd been stuck in the system so long. I made them wait while I found the website which then directed me once more to PayPal and I signed in. This time when I pressed 'pay' it went through.

I said to the lady - I don't know what you did but thank you. She stayed annoying calm throughout the whole thing and when I said goodbye she said to keep smiling! I said I'd try. I was exhausted after that. I think I deserve to win the competition after all the hassle and if I don't, I'll want to know why!

Just sending out stories is nerve wracking enough. It's difficult to find a competition that accepts longer stories (I must learn to write to certain lengths!). This one of mine is just over 9,000 words and the limit is 10,000. I was so excited to find somewhere to submit to and the story was ready to go, apart from a title. I've mulled over a title for three days before I found one I was happy with. Titles for stories are as difficult as finding title for poems.

While all this was going on with PayPal and my credit card company, the guinea pigs were having a set-to in the cage behind me and I even shouted at them. I immediately felt guilty because one of them only had an operation yesterday and I'd had the job of medicating her earlier, which is always a bit of trial. She must be feeling better to argue with her cage-mate, which she often does.

I need calm. I need music. Which is why I'm plugged into a Trance mix on YouTube right now still trying to find my sanity! Thank God for music.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Writing for pleasure

All this sunny weather has given me inspiration to write a little poetry. I began writing a couple of poems about a certain part of my garden. Over the days I have been adding to it and now have a sequence of five poems. I rather like them. I even like the title, and for once I didn't have to struggle for ages over the choice.

For the moment I've stopped submitting to competitions and magazines. I've become disillusioned with it all. For now, I'm writing for pleasure with no thought about anything else. I have no plans and that is rather refreshing. I'm sure I'll come back to that side of things some time. I am, as they say. going with the flow and just enjoying writing what I want, when I want. All the rejection slips have rather taken the pleasure out of writing lately and I need to step back for a while.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

A nice post by the poet Jo Bell. Do check it out:

Saturday, 4 April 2015

What I have in my bedside cupboard...

The cupboard - tidying in progress!
For someone who is not actively writing right now, I seem to be writing a lot about it!

Yesterday, in a dull moment, I decided to clear out, or least tidy, my bedside cabinet. I actually managed to put out some things, which is an achievement in itself. One of the things I keep in here are my old stories, hand written in exercise books. Every so often I get them out and flick through them. I'm never sure what to do with them. Perhaps I should edit them while putting them on computer. What I couldn't do is throw them. One of the exercise books is my first go at a sci-fi story. It even has my grandmother's writing in it when she corrected some of my spelling! My grandmother died when I was 21 so this story must have been written when I was in my teens.

The other exercise books cover one story - a love story between an older woman and a younger man. I have a feeling this didn't end well. It's a long time since I wrote it, but even then I was planning a sequel!

This got me thinking. Was this a first novel attempt? I'm not sure how many thousand words this would run to. I had a typewriter later on but I hated typing up manuscripts. Thank God for the computer because I was too darn lazy to type any stories up unless they were short stories!

The evidence - hand written stories.

I found another hand written story, a futuristic one (which if I don't publish it soon, will probably come true!) and ideas for another story which never got past the first chapter (something rather dark and disturbing!).

I gave up writing stories in my twenties. It's taken thirty years to get back to it. I'm not sure what that says, other than writing runs through me - however good or bad I write. I was writing songs in my head at ten and while looking back I realise I invented people, whole families in my head. I played out whole scenes - my own personal soap! None of that was written down but the story continued over years! Did anyone else do this?

Growing up in my era there was no daytime TV, computers and video games. We had to make our own entertainment. Obviously, I did. I invented my own Eurovision and Football League Tables (don't ask!). The stories in my head played out at night or when I woke, usually. Another time I invented a board game. I still have the cardboard, the cards and the rules up in a cupboard. I thought about getting it patented and trying to get it on the market! So, you can see my imagination runs riot at times. It certainly did when I was younger and I'm glad to see that my imagination has reactivated itself.

All this came out of looking in a cupboard and remembering where everything began. What is your story?

Oh and guess what else I found? An old Dream Diary. Bet you'd like to know what's in there. Sorry, it's highly classified!

Friday, 3 April 2015

A poem about mice

Just to amuse myself I wrote this poem this morning. It's based on something that happened a few years ago.

Catching Mice

Seconds after lights out,
I hear the trap drop.
The buggers are in!
I creep downstairs,
pick up the long grey
plastic trap, feel the weight,
feel the movement.

I open the pet carrier,
empty the trap.
So fast, so small.
I shut the lid.
Settle, I say,
I’ve left you food.
The mouse looks back.
Our eyes meet. It knows.

By morning there are three
in the carrier. I ignore them,
but they need not plead,
they already have my measure.
I walk to the wasteland,
open the lid, set them free.

They scuttle through grass
and brambles. No thanks.
No looking back.
At least they are together.

Next day
I have caught
one lonely mouse.
I take it to the waste ground,
my soppy, worn heart strings
plucked by a rodent;
my sorrow dwells
on the aloneness
of this tiny furry being.
I wish it well.

My husband seals up the hole
in the kitchen,
no more little night entries,
no dropping door
as blackness fills the house.
I think of the wasteland
and wonder if mice have GPS.