Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Last Night's Scribble

Do I follow every instinct? Have I the time to feel my way along darkish alleys that might be dead-ends? I say this because I thought yesterday that I had written a complete story. (I rarely think they are good. First I sense that they are finished. And that's quite a satisfying feeling. Then I go back again. At that point I might hate them. Or, with luck, I might actually smile at them.) Yesterday's story was beginning to make its way into my affections. It certainly had a completeness about it.

However, as I was falling asleep last night, I realised it needed another character. There had to be a woman in the background. A mysterious one, whom we may never meet face-to-face, but a flesh-and-blood woman nonetheless. She was vital, my instincts said, for the story to be lifted off the rather flat behind upon which it was currently sitting. She would put a little meat on its buttocks.

Now I am sitting here ready to make her. I have last night's scribbled notes to hand. And I'm dithering whether she is necessary after all. Should I go with last night's feelings? I might waste a whole morning. Am I just itching to start something new? Or shall I go with my gut instinct and then file her away if I don't like her after all? I shall continue to ponder...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

She Who Hesitates...

I have realised that if you find yourself hesitating when writing, you should go ahead and write it anyway. It's possibly something essentially good and you might be holding back through fear or shyness. You have to overcome that reluctance to reveal yourself on paper.

Don't think, 'I can't write that! People will be shocked or repulsed or disapproving. Or they might laugh.' You need a reaction, otherwise there's nothing to elicit a gasp or a giggle from your readers.

You can always delete things at the next edit. So let them go in at first. Then look coldly at what you've written the next time you revise it and you will know if it's good or not. It might mean that you can't send it to the publication you had intended it for. You have perhaps added things that render it unsuitable. But there is always somewhere else where it will find a home.

So, if you hesitate, write it anyway! You'll find out in time if it was worth it. And sometimes it is! Write as though no one is going to read it. And if you find yourself gasping/giggling, then you'll be sure you've got something good.

Friday, 19 March 2010

New Chapters

Well I didn't get into the last ten with the Fish Prize, but the disappointment lasted only a few minutes. I remembered that I was overwhelmed and ecstatic to reach the shortlist. I hadn't expected to get that far. The story in question has been tweaked and hopefully improved this morning and is now winging its way to another competition. And I shall keep packing it up and sending it off until it earns its keep somewhere. I am excited about its fate once again!

Never say die. A new beginning awaits this story. Also, I can't wait to see the Fish anthology so that I can read the top ten and learn from them all. I know they will be very special indeed. I am certain I shall see why mine was not among them. I'll try to read them first as a reader, then as a writer. I sometimes make notes when I read a story that I really love. There are some I have particularly admired which are smothered in stripes of highlighter pen and have comments in the margin. I look back at these sometimes to give myself a lesson in good writing.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Mood Music

Sometimes I write to music in the background and I find that the type of music I choose affects the way I write.

If I am sure of the genre beforehand, I can choose the music to fit the writing. On the other hand, if a particular piece of music appeals to me first, I can let it lead me somewhere unknown and full of surprises. I think that is my preference. I like to have no plan, just ideas inspired by the music.

I use this method for the flash-fiction competition that I take part in on Saturdays. I start the music as I begin to write and let it take me away. That might be a dark place if it's the theme music from Twin Peaks, for example. But if I choose my beloved tacky supermarket music, then some humour will come into the piece. Classical music makes my writing calmer, deeper, somehow more emotional. And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Brian Eno's Music For Airports is a favourite, very unobtrusive and therefore ideal for moments of intense concentration.

A CD I love at the moment is Dark Was The Night. It has an odd assortment on it, by a variety of artists I have never heard of. But somehow it is inspiring and keeps my imagination vivid. Maybe it's the strange mixture of different styles and tempo.

There are times when I prefer silence. Or I'm so engrossed that I don't stop to think about music. I just keep writing, oblivious of anything going on in the background. But I feel at my best and most productive when it's playing and especially when it blends into the words, so that story and music merge.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A Story Writing Itself

Just taking a tea break from a story that is writing itself. I'm not complaining, but it can be daunting when that happens. The two characters will wait for me, I hope.

They are so real that I feel them here in this room, leading me. I can almost smell them. I had to distance myself briefly. I feel a little hunted down.

My fingers were flying over the keys in quite an unsettling way, as though I had less control than usual. I know it's a good thing and will be satisfying when it's finished. I hope it's good. Often these stories that whisk you off on a long journey turn out well.

The editing required is normally intensive, but this time it seems to be editing itself as well, as I go along. An exhausting process, but I love the two people very much and am intrigued to see how it ends. They haven't told me yet.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


The Haiti book is published today. I wonder how Greg McQueen feels? He is the man who began it all just a few weeks ago. It has happened so fast. It was pretty straightforward to submit a story, but the work involved in putting the book of a hundred together must have felt endless and stressful at times too.

So well done to Greg and let's hope a lot of copies are sold. I'm looking forward to mine!