Monthly Archives: November 2012

Final Project: Check. Bunch of New Stuff: Your Time is Nigh.

Seven thousand words refined for my final piece.  Seven thousand words.

Seven thousand.

Okay, I’m over it.  So, yeah, my final piece challenge has ended in the formal sense and I got to perform some of my work in the last session of class.  Not enough time to read all that much of it, but reading aloud is most definitely getting easier.  Give me some animated dialogue and I’m well away performing a one-man pantomime.

Now, that’s it: last lesson over until the new year!  Still, my time reading it aloud may be up but one thing’s for sure: I’ll be continuing this piece every chance I get.  It flows so well and I think it’s got some serious potential for publication.  I know everyone says that but, really, it does!

It’s kind of sad the class is over, but in another way I’m a bit relieved.  I have plenty of other stuff going on which needs my attention right now.

For a start, I have a Christmas competition with the writing group on top of my standard five pieces of work.  It has to be something to do with carol singers so I’ll have to pull my finger out if I want to avoid it being cheesy.  Let’s face it: in the writing world, lactose intolerance is a good thing.

Plus I’ve been asked to prepare a short article on a specific topic.  It’s part of an application process for an internship with a new magazine based locally to me.  I hear I’m one of the remaining three candidates and I’m heading to an interview with them in two weeks’ time.  Got to get my research skills on, as well as a haircut.

Nervous!  (For the interview, not the haircut.)  Wish me luck!


Flash Fiction

Hello all.   The final piece progresses nicely.  In the meantime, however, a lesson has taken place: it was about flash fiction.

Flash fiction, for anyone who doesn’t know (which seems unlikely because we are on the internet) is really short fiction of up to only a couple of hundred words or so.  There’s also Twitter fiction, where you fit a whole story into a single Tweet.

I was tasked with coming up with a few Twitter fictions.  I rather like writing them, in the same way I like writing text jokes and funny haikus and thinking of ridiculous puns: because I am an entertainer.  Not really, I’m just super immature.

So expect more tidbits of fiction and humour from me from now on – I plan to write them whenever my heart pleases.

Also this week, I have received 100 likes on this blog.  Yippee!  Thank you to everyone who helped me achieve it!

Until next week!

P.S. See what I did there?  I wrote a flash blog post.  It just seemed right somehow.


Finals!

I jest.  I’m not doing my finals.  I’m British, I don’t even have finals.  I’m not even one hundred percent sure what finals are.

Nope, I’m talking about my final piece for class.  Basically, I have been tasked with coming up with a larger writing project, like a complete short story, to put together over four weeks.

So I sit down and realise that I do not have a clue what to write for this hypothetical short story.  Then I have an epiphany for a much larger idea which would most definitely take longer than four weeks.  With nothing else leaping out at me, however, I go right ahead and write the synopsis I was asked to put together on the off-chance I won’t end up presenting it.  Then I end up presenting it – and get unexpectedly inundated with collective enthusiasm.

So I have to write it now.

Not that this is some huge burden.  I mean, it’s still huge, but it’s not a burden.  It’s actually fun to write.  Funny but twisted, and really easy to fill with snappy dialogue – all aided by my recent, and curiously powerful, desire to watch old Buffy boxsets with their witty one-liners and loveable characters.  So this weekend I went ahead and got started writing it.  I started out a bit slow – a couple of five hundred word stints of dialogue in no particular chronological order – and then something happened: 9,000 words in three days.

It was scary not just because of its sheer quantity.  I’ve actually been writing everything in order this time, from the very first scene.  That never happens for me!  I mean, sure, it’s a first draft, so it needs a heck of a lot more work to be properly cohesive, but I’ve actually carved out a bunch of plot points I didn’t have a clue how to approach this time last Friday.

So, what have I learned, aside from that I am on freakin’ fire this week?  I’ve learned that nothing makes a person more productive than an embryonic concept.  The more you think about an idea, the more solid it becomes – and as Iris Murdoch said, “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”  So if you don’t get too attached to an idea in the first place, you’ll have less expectations of the finished product.  The fewer the expectations, the freer you are to just wing it in prose – and the more pleasantly surprised you are with what you create.

I’m also finally getting into the swing of writing first drafts.  It’s so cool, this almost free-writing task of just moving the story along without getting stressed about syntax and plot and characters.  There’s this passiveness to it, where your brain and typin’ fingers just crack on with it and don’t fuss over the details.

A good week.  A very good week.


Doctor Phew: Going Back In Time

I would like to contribute a groan as I extract myself from the joys of historical fiction, returning to the throes of good science and technology and women’s rights.  And blinding, unbridled consumerism.  I re-enter the 21st Century stage right.

Yeah, this was the latest writing task on the cards.  To place your ancestors – actual or imagined – at an important historical event.  Ouch, I tell you.  Ouch.

My family is not one of those clans where there’s a big helping of exotic blood in the mix.  Nor are we chock full war heroes – not that I understand warfare or military rank enough to wax easily about it, anyway.  For all intents and purposes, my folks most likely haven’t strayed from the Black Country in several hundred years.  There’s Welsh in here somewhere.  (You can’t see me, but I try to point to my blood, grow confused, and wave a hand over myself in a vague gesture towards my circulatory system.)  But that’s not exotic.  And there is every logical chance that they were just coal miners migrating from Montgomeryshire.

Also, I know nothing about Wales.

I’ve never been up on social history either, really.  I studied it once, back before I realised I had to invest my visualisation skills if I hoped to understand any of it.  I roll my eyes at the adorable sixteen-year-old version of me who studied those history notes so hard.  Who thought – took for granted, really – that all that knowledge would have more longevity than a tattoo transfer sticker.  So I couldn’t go back too far in time, Doctor.

I settled on the Wolverhampton area and picked a pretty neat event – a woman who was allowed to vote in a local election ballot before women’s suffrage was obtained, all because of a clerical error.  I placed her on the same street as my family and drew up a chance encounter.  Then I cracked my neck and knuckles, rolled back my shoulders, licked my lips and channelled the Black Country accent of days gone by.  Didn’t even have to buy a new Wolves strip to get into character.

It was painful to write.  It wasn’t a little piece but a full-on 2,000 word story by the end.  However, it was weirdly grounding.  I didn’t get to read it aloud because of how long it was.  But I looked around at my classmates, knowing many are from further afield, and felt pride.  The suburban town I live in now is a mongrel town, really.  It stands in one county but draws commuters from Birmingham and the South and other parts of the country.  I like the knowledge that I’m not just passing through; that I’m one of those playful, loud-laughing working class locals.  I look at my long miner’s palms, holding pens instead of pickaxes, and carry myself on the small miner’s legs which used to carry my forefathers into mines.  I admire the stories of my classmates, but admire my own equally.

It’s not Christmas yet.  But I feel kind of Christmassy.

Here’s a link to the delightful blog, Lost Wolverhampton, where I obtained some of my research.  If any of you are ever interested in the local history of Wolverhampton and the Black Country, it’s a great place to start.


The Mouse Speaks. At the… Mouse Conference

Alarming news, folks!  I am back in education.  Well, evening classes anyway.  That’s right, a creative writing class – as well as a monthly meet with a completely different posse.

(I apologise for, ‘posse.’)

Anyway, this has led me to practise an activity no good capitalist enjoys: sharing.

Yes, sharing.  I have to say, the idea of speaking aloud in front of a bunch of strangers is not something which has ever appealed to me.  I still get the residual palm-sweats from my schooldays, being roped into talking at a bunch of people who didn’t care what I had to say.  Plus I get the residual heartquakes from university presentations – where people did care what I had to say and would readily point out if I was wrong.

It’s also the nature of my personality to remember every unfortunate encounter with the demon of personal self-expression I have ever had.  Every screw-up and poorly fielded Q&A bounces back to me as vividly as the birth of my firstborn.

Okay, an exaggeration: I’m not that bad.  And a fabrication: I have yet to grace this planet with my spawn.

However, it is in my nature to hate expressing my feelings – at all – let alone my creativity.  I don’t even like spouting facts, let alone the dingy recesses of my part-of-the-job-description shadowy writer’s mind.  (I’m sure there is a minimum score one must achieve on a psychosis test to get into a writers’ guild.)

However, all that said, it’s actually turned out to be very rewarding!  After a few weeks I am finally beginning to improve my confidence – in my public speaking and my actual work.  Every time your comedy succeeds in making people laugh, or you manage to get a message across subtly without beating everyone over the head with it, it’s a damn good experience.

I’ve also had a chance to build my portfolio far more effectually than I was managing alone.  You see, these two groups both produce a lot of homework.  Class produces one piece per week; the meet produces five optional pieces per month.  Which, obviously, is pretty much another piece per week.  Working to short deadlines is really pushing me to complete work without dithering too much on the details, whilst still polishing it enough to feel comfortable reading it aloud.  It’s a balance I’ve struggled to establish under my own steam and I’m grateful for it.

Also, the groups help you to find inspiration in places which wouldn’t have occurred to you.  My teacher had one exercise, for example, where you pick a coin from your wallet and write something that happened to you during the year it is dated.  I had never thought of money like that before.  Makes me love it even more.

The groups also help you to gain perspective.  It’s amazing how varied other people’s work is and how differently they write and approach tasks.

It’s not just the writers, either: the two groups do things differently, too.  The class has a specific aim, topic, technique or medium in mind for each homework.  By contrast, the monthly meet involves several short improvisation exercises to get the noodle working.  Then the homework is an entirely different story.  They basically say, “Here are five themes to choose from.  Make them work in a piece of writing.”

Time to conclude.  I guess, what I’m saying is, join a group if you can.  No matter how ill-confident you are or how private you view your writing to be, it’s very important to go out and listen to other people.  It can boost your ego, help you improve and give you tons of new ideas.  Plus it gives you another life experience and lets you tap into other people’s – always a valuable tool.

Final note: the title of this post reminds me of the United Nations meeting between mice in The Rescuers.

Have a good week, guys!