Wednesday 25 August 2010


I'm going to totally ignore that I planned to share the link to my winning short story, on account of the fact that technology hates me. I cannot work out how to get the link into my post, let alone make it a pretty imbeded link that merely says here in a colourful font. (Well, that explains why this post is entitled Hmph!)

Instead, I turned to sending out new competition entries. Last week I sent an entry via email; this week I needed to send one via snail mail, and I admit I prefer doing it this way. Although the web is quicker, cheaper and allows you to submit a story the day before the closing deadline (so perfect for my unorganised self), I do like to hold the envelope in my hand, kiss it quickly (and very suureptiously) and hear that plop into the postbox.

I love entering competitions. Years ago, I'd trawl Writers News for magazines and send unsoliticted stories. This worked, somewhat. But there were always the return of post rejections which had obviously not even been opened. By entering competitions, you guarantee that someone will read your story. And, after all, that's the reason I write. I can't ever imagine not writing, but writing knowing it would never get read would rob me of some of the pleasure. Like an artist who never showed her painting, or a musician who only ever played in a sound-proof room.

So, this is a big thank you to whoever is going to read the short story that I've just kissed!!

Saturday 21 August 2010

The Journalism Question

I remember my careers advice at school very clearly. I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, and the answer was to be a writer. I could see no other choice. Out came all the leaflets about journalism; writing apparently meant journalism.

"No!" I said loudly. "I want to be a writer. I want to write fiction... stories... novels."

I had to qualify what writing meant to me because the poor adviser looked lost, and together we agreed that I should do my work experience in a library. "Well," came her reasoning, "there are novels there."

I see writing as a cosy, warm occupation - waking without an alarm, padding around the kitchen making endless cups of tea, writing curled up on the sofa on a wet and wild winter's day. Journalism, by comparison, has hard edges, stress, deadlines. That doesn't seem like writing at all, to me.

Looking at my last post, I was right to eshue journalism: there are two ideas, in the last post, of being rubbish at updating my blog and writing a diary - and I've managed to collide them together in a way that even I don't understand.

At this point I was going to post a link to prove that I am actually quite good at writing, but my computer is dying, so it'll have to wait until next time. So you'll have to come back - it's like a cliffhanger, isn't it...???

Wednesday 18 August 2010

View From a Tor

At the top of a tor on Dartmoor this afternoon, I realised that I hadn't been near my computer for several days - which, when I started this blog, was never the intention. I had hoped that I would regularly have thoughts to share; in fact, an abundance of thoughts was my expectation. But then, between the ages of about 15 and 23 I kept a diary, and it was always interspersed with gaps lasting weeks, sometimes months. I revived it when I was about 32 when I realised that a lot had changed in my life, but it didn't last.

Because I am currently aware of only 2 people reading this blog (hello Amy and Helen, hopefully you're both still there!!) I decided to treat it as I did my diary. But then I realised that I have never - original diary included - committed anything to paper without running it through my head first, working out the shape and sound of the paragraph. So in fact, I could have been writing this for several days, sub-consciously. Not sure it was worth it, now....

Still, sat at the top of my tor, I did start to feel inspired, so I'm glad I went, and I'm glad I got torrentionally rained upon!!

Saturday 14 August 2010

Summer Slowdown

It had to happen eventually; in fact, I've been expecting it. The kids being off school has finally interfered with my writing habits. Of course it has! I can easily squirrel myself away from 9 until 3 and do nothing but write and eat... (and surf the net when the words aren't flowing... sshh) but it's not so easy when the kids are looking up expectantly waiting to go out for the day.

Ideally, I'd be the type of writer who could write anywhere - I'd take the kids on a wet day out to a play centre, sit and write over a hot chocolate in a small notebook, watching the world pass by and grabbing inspiration. But my inspiration usually appears suddenly and dramatically. I can easily be sat watching old epsiodes of Location, Location, Location when I suddenly jump to my feet and scramble for my latest WIP. Then I write until the idea is exhausted and return to what I was doing previously.

So, I think it's time to just enjoy the summer, and equally enjoy the opportunities to write when they present themselves.

In the meantime, I'm still waiting for a response from a publisher. I hate waiting so very much. In these days of email, I tend to expect instant replies, and obviously that is never going to happen. I'm taking the time to research other markets and maybe send out a few queries, but the novella/short fiction market is difficult to get in to and there aren't too many publishers out there for that length. I'm thinking of taking a leaf out of Fay Weldon's book (literally, hahaha) and putting spaces between every paragraph just to make the whole thing longer...

Wednesday 11 August 2010


Hmm, America?

At the end of my last post, I mentioned the Americanisation of our spellings. This annoys me greatly, but worse - much, much worse - is the Americanisation of our words!

My 6 year old watches TV... a lot. Not so much during the day when I can limit him, but he wakes up very early, as far as I can see especially to watch the channels he wants to. Unfortunately, these are American channels - and American TV for kids is rubbish. There will be the odd cartoon that is very good, but the live action programmes seem to be written and produced in the coffee breaks of the adult programmes.

But worse - much, much worse - is the fact that my English child refers to elevators, stores, trucks etc. No!! Lifts, shops, vans and lorries!!

I admit, I've become a little obsessive about this, maybe in 50 years' time we'll all be using these words, but it jars, it sounds wrong. I've gone so far as to occasionally ban American programmes until he uses the correct words, but I have a feeling he's tutting at me behind my back, and probably doing it on purpose.

Maybe it's my lesson in parenting in general - I have to learn to chose my battles wisely.

(PS. Americanisation or -ization? I've got myself confused now!!!)

Sunday 8 August 2010

Spellings and misspellings

There are many things that I cannot do: I am very bad at any game which involves hitting a ball with another object, I cannot draw, I cannot (comfortably) walk any cliff path that involves a sheer drop on one side.

But I can spell. It's always come reasonably naturally, and when I was at school I wondered why other kids had trouble. Of course, then I'd wander off to Maths and have trouble multiplying a double figure with any other double figure. We all, I discovered, have our strong and weak points. My strength with spelling is becoming more and more useless now that Word will correct me without even being asked.

This train of thought was set off by reading this article:

It also made me wonder whether I judge people by their spelling - as the 46% of people who were questioned do. I don't think I do; I hope I don't. Because it would be as terrible as someone judging me because I can't multiply (or, as in one horrendous interview test for the Post Office once upon a time, subtract!!)

Some words are more difficult to spell; it comes from having a rich and varied history of invasion. But I like the fact we have random letters - apart from when I'm trying to teach my 6 year old how to read - that are either superfluous to the pronunication or can have several different sounds depending on what comes before or after. We should strive to preserve the language we have, to enjoy it even. (Is that going a little bit too far? Am I now just a language geek? - Don't answer that!)

My horror is that one day - and it may not be too far away - we will use American spellings instead.

And now that I've mentioned my real bugbear, there will be more on that next time!

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Time away from the computer

I've been searching for inspiration recently, and not found any... at all. So, I started tinkering with a six-month old story that still needs a final polish and managed to add around 1000 words - not bad, I thought, but even then, that is starting to get a little more difficult. I have one more incident that needs putting in, a paragraph, not much, but I can't find the right words at the moment.

Then, I had an enforced two day break from the computer - one day for errands, and the next to take the family out for the day. Both very enjoyable days, the kind where you feel totally zonked by the end and want to go to bed at eight o'clock.

However, half way through today I had an idea! The title came first. Titles usually come first for me; I feel lost without them, directionless. It may change, that has happened in the past, but normally the title remains the same. They are the easy part for me - they shape the route of the narrative, the voice, everything.

Next came one of the characters, a cute little blonde haired girl with a splinter in her finger, and from there came the vague plot.

All this happened in the course of about 25 minutes, after trying for days to come up with something to write. I always panic when I've finished one project but the next is yet to start - I think that maybe this is IT, the end of my writing career before it's truly begun. But, each time, there's always an idea waiting for that moment of despair... "Oh, yes, what about this...? Any good, do you think...?"

Of course, in a couple of weeks' time, I'll have that same panic all over again, I don't think that will ever change.

Monday 2 August 2010

"So, what do you write?"

I hate that question.

Don't get me wrong - I don't wander up to random people in the street and say, "I'm a writer, don't you know?", but sometimes it comes up in conversation that I like to write. Usually it's because the question has already been, "What do you do?", and when I tell people that I work part-time (14 hours per week), they wonder - aloud and incredulous - what I do with the rest of my time. And I feel compelled to tell them that I write.

So, then the question is, "So, what do you write?"

They ask probably because it's expected, to show an interest, and that's great. I'm not knocking the question. I'm knocking my reply... which is always, "Er... stories, modern stuff, um... just stuff.... er, I like to have a few murders."

"So, you write crime?"

"Er, no... it's..."

I admit that I'm not very articulate for a writer. These poor people turn away at this point, mentally patting my head and saying, "Well, good for you."

The reason I'm thining about this question this morning - and I do realise it's a strange thought for a Monday morning, but it's my day off - is that last week I wrote the word surreal on this blog and the more I've thought about it, the more that seems to sum up my work. It's also a word that defies further explanation, so from now on that will be my answer!

(Due to the way the universe conspires for its own amusement, the stories that I've had published over the years are not surreal - they are incredibly rooted in real life... So perhaps the surreal stuff is rubbish...)