Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Progress Of Writing

For most of the week I’ve been getting out of doing anything by whining, “But it’s my birthday.”  I will stretch this out for another week if possible, since my party isn’t until next weekend.  But, having passed another birthday, I think it’s time to take stock.  Then I can focus.  And then… what is it? 

Oh yes,

What was the last thing I did?
A week ago, I entered a live short story competition.  I had half an hour to write in.  It was the most excitement I’ve had in ages. 

Whenever Hannibal says he’s on the jazz in The A-Team, I never know what the hell he’s talking about.  But after that competition, I was on the jazz.

Just found out I didn’t win.  Irritating, especially since it was on the birthday weekend, but first entry is free, so I didn’t lose anything and I can’t really be upset over a story I spent less than thirty minutes on.  I’ve never spent that little time on a story in my life.  Plus, I wrote it as a cathartic exercise to help me get through an unpleasant experience, and it did help and I suppose, morally, it would be wrong to profit from the death of an innocent.

And yet, I disliked the way the news was broken. 

It said it was a tough one to call.  Not the three winners, they were easy, but the other seven in the top ten.  Well, I got into the top ten.  So what they’re saying is the story was so rubbish, they knew straight away it wasn’t going to win, but that every single other entrant was of the same standard and I only just scraped top ten.  And I know I was somewhere between 7th and 10th place (I don’t think it was a large competition).  Flattering.

Besides, I’ve read the winners and they were over-written; full of description and so many similes I thought I’d drown.  It’s not a style I write in.  I write direct, concise, sarcastic, dialogue-based, character-driven stories.  That’s Hillesque.  And that obviously isn’t the style the judges go for.  So is there any point entering again, when I’ll have to pay?  You don’t send to a magazine when you don’t fit the style; is it the same with competitions?

Hmm, hmm, hmm.

What am I working on right now?
Working Title: The Road To Confidence – originally supposed to be my first novel, about two con artists in World War II.  I’ve been doing some more research.  Really excited to re-edit it with the new knowledge, but have to finish reading a couple of books first and I’m getting impatient.  Enough reading, I want to create.

But when I need a break from war research and that’s often…

I’ve been typing away at Working Title: The Perfect Two.  This is a vaguely pointless project.  I once made up a bunch of characters to entertain myself when I was bored.

And eventually I thought I should probably write them down.  They don’t work on paper half as well as in the head though.  I did manage to get two completely unrelated stories out of it, then recently I took what was left and I’ve now written about four hundred pages of just… I don’t know.  It’s just a story about some people.  It’s heavily flawed, just came out of having three ideas and writing continuously without much thought.  Okay, so no planning isn’t usually my style and that’s kind of evident in an over-inflated word count, but at least I’ve found stuff to say.  I’m sure it must work out eventually.

About half way through, two of the characters get married.  So I've asked my recently married friends (remember them from Time To Wave Good-Bye To Youth) about what it's like planning a wedding.  Hoping to get some interesting responses.  People often seem to think talking about their lives, stuff that is ordinary everyday to them, must be dull.  But as a writer, who doesn't have a life, I find it all fascinating.  A couple of years ago, I had some really intriguing conversations about office work.  To them, office work is tedious; to me, it’s some Brazil-esque landscape of excitement (never did get up the guts to ask old school friends to reminisce about being teenagers though).

What is the next thing to do?
I really need to get back on the ‘sending stuff off’ wagon.  Lurking in the complete folder are twenty-five short stories and children’s stories of varying lengths (246 words to 8,875 words) and the comic fantasy novel I’m trying to get an agent for (two rejections so far) Working Title: Rigor Morris.  Whenever I do send stuff off (to comps), I seem to get told they really liked it, but it didn’t quite make the shortlist.  Is that just lying or is it good?  It’s not good enough.  Anyway, once I’ve bought a new ink cartridge for the printer, I’m going to send Working Title: Rigor Morris to lots of agents at once, instead of this slow one at a time process.

Completely accurate depiction of Working Title: Rigor Morris:

Who wouldn’t want to read that?


  1. Do you write plays? What with your interest in theatre and all. There are loads of theatres that will read work for free and put it on if they think it's good enough. That's my plan for the next few months.

  2. May I ask what the acronyms stand for?

    Oh, and I guess I should mention that I enjoyed reading the blog or something along those lines...

  3. Unfortunately I'm not a scriptwriter. I did try. I took the Theatre Writing module at uni (and the Film and TV and Radio ones) but I, uh, didn't do very well. I'm only really interested in farce and that didn't go down too well in a class of serious theatre students. Plus, scripts, so much structure, I could never get my head around it.

    The acronyms (actually not acronyms, I think they're just abbreviations - acronyms have to be read out as a word, like radar) are the titles of my stories, but I'm not going to name them until they get published.

    1. I got sick of that so went back and just wrote the actual names of everything.


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