A Few Writing Thoughts

Since the end of September I’ve been going to a weekly writers group most weeks. It’s been good for me to have the space each week which is given over to writing and makes me focus on actually writing rather than thinking about it and talking about it.  It’s also very inspiring to hear others talk about what they’re writing.

Sometimes I struggle to find things to fill the time with and others I struggle to concentrate for the whole time (it’s 2 hours split into two 45 minute writing sessions and coffee breaks).  Sometimes I end up googling things I want to know about for my writing and others I open the Kindle app on my iPad and start reading a review book. I just need to write those damn reviews now.

But over the last few weeks I’ve been picking at writing a fanfic. It’s not going as well as I’d like and I’ve convinced myself I’m bad at writing fiction.  That’s not an unusual stage of writing for me and actually when I went back and reread some of what I’d written I did think it was good.  Admittedly I’m writing slower than I could be and not in a cohesive way but in a slow and somewhat painful few minutes at a time if nothing else way I was writing.  I miss the days when I used to sit and type for an hour nonstop without thinking just to get the piece down.

Locally there have been a few writing workshops.  An evening one on plotting which is was very useful and I could definitely do with looking at the pacing of my work based on the tips she gave us.  And two one day ones on flash fiction in February and character in March.  I got a lot out of both of those but enjoyed the one on flash fiction much more than character (possibly because it was a different group and possibly because I was stressed and tired for the character one).  Using the prompts in the session and free writing techniques made me remember that I enjoy writing short pieces like that.  Flash fiction it turns out may be much more my thing than writing a novel. But I still want to write a damn novel.

Going back to the fanfic, there is a deadline for it as I signed up to write it for a fandom big bang. And part of me wishes I hadn’t. I haven’t written in that fandom before or seen the whole series. And I’m not sure when I last wrote fanfic for any fandom.  I did it for my first nano in 2004 and can’t remember doing so since I stopped playing with that piece in 2005 although it would suprise me if that was the last time.  Hang on, as I write this it occurs to me I wrote a very small piece of Chalet School fanfic and posted it on The-CBB when I was first on there which was 2007 ish I think.  One of the problems I’m finding at the moment is I’ve only written for three fandoms before – two of which are set in the UK and the third was a character driven Star Trek piece that had basically nothing of the setting and very little plot in it.  This fandom is an American show and I don’t want to use too many Britishisms as I know I find them glaring when I spot them in fic (Americans calling each other mate is a frequent one I see in others pieces). I’m sure some will slip through but it’s making me think more about my word choices.

I ended up deciding to use the flash fiction principle and dividing my rough storyline into prompts then writing each one as a separate piece. It’s a work in progress but it seems to be going well because the biggest problem was how to transition between the different scenes. I’m still going to have to figure it out later but at least I’ll have the plot down. And as a fair amount of the story takes place in a hospital there’s not a lot of physically moving around to be had.

I still think this is going to end up a very bad piece of fanfic and I’ll get negative feedback. But I’m really glad to be writing regularly again and especially to be writing fiction again (particularly fanfic).  I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this month and have set myself a goal of 60 hours spent on writing over the month – it feels like it might be out of reach but I think it should be doable now I’m going.  I’ve done a fair amount of writing today inbetween other things as my powerchair batteries were changed this morning so it’s been charging. As always it’s not as much as I’d like but it’s a start. And I do seem to write more in the evening than other times.  We shall see.

Flash Fiction: The Truth About Penguins

I recently took part in a one day workshop on flash fiction. One of the exercises we did was to write a piece inspired by a picture. The photo I got was of a penguin diving underwater. I’ve typed it up to share in this blog and would welcome feedback. I’ve not edited it beyond breaking it into paragraphs and changing the odd repetitive word.

The Truth About Penguins

 

The penguin took the fish from the trainer. She was giving the talk about “penguin behaviour” yet again. And as always she was getting it wrong. Personally he couldn’t understand how humans could be so stupid. Wasn’t it obvious? Still he played the part of the good little penguin and took his fish then dived into the water and swam away.

 

It was his turn to do the work of real penguins so he swam fo the far side of the pool. He vaguely heard the trainer tell the crowd how all the penguins liked to hide in that corner. It was typical behaviour she claimed.

 

The penguin thought they should let the humans see what they really did when hidden but he was just a child and the elders had forbidden him from sharing. It was “too dangerous” they said. But one day he would be king and his word would be law. Then the humans would allowed to see what was happening and would know just how superior penguins are.

A Weekend in London

I went to London for the weekend and I had a busy but brilliant time.

Friday I met up with a good friend of mine who moved to London a couple of years ago.  We went over to the Tower of London to see the poppies.  I wanted to see them again and she hadn’t seen them.  It was strange because in so many places there were more than there were when Mum and I went in September but they were very definitely taking them down and there were gazebos and boxes and people in places doing that.  It was also completely and utterly rammed with people looking at them.  Nice to see them again but definitely a shame that they literally put the last ones down and started pulling them down the next day.

We mooched around a bit as well and went to a couple of other places but mostly it was just a lot of fun and to get he chance to see her and catch up properly because every other time I’ve seen her in the last six or so months it’s been in a big group and not a lot of time to really chat just us.

Saturday was the real reason why I went to London.  I went to a Creative Writing Masterclass put on by Books and the City (a part of Simon and Schuster).  And I was very very very nervous before I got there but I’m extremely glad that I went.

I had a blast, all of the talks were useful (plus the panelists were good at presenting which really helps) and I got a ton of freebies – I think I counted 12 books when I got back to my hotel.  Plus, we had Prosecco to wind the day down.

I loved hearing Milly Johnson talk about writing and her path to where she is now.  It was encouraging to hear that all the struggling and difficulties of writing and the publishing process are worth it.  She was funny and engaging whilst being very honest and telling us what we needed to know.  I enjoyed speaking to her during the drinks afterwards too. Quite a few of the free books  I picked up are hers and she signed one for me.  It’s pretty fair to say I’ve going to be reading very little but her books over the next few weeks.  And if the books I’ve read by her previously are anything to go by it’s going to be very enjoyable.

Lizzy Kremer’s talk about the role of an agent was also eye opening as I didn’t realise they did quite so much.  As a part of her talk she mentioned a couple of books coming out next year that she worked with the authors of and I quickly scribbled down the titles because she’s clearly very passionate them and they sound incredible.  I’ve since seen that one of them is already on NetGalley so I’ve put in a request for a review copy.

The biggest things that came out of all the talks for me were

  • At some point during the writing process you’re going to hate your work and this is normal and happens to everyone. Keep going.
  • That the process is more involved than I had thought and people’s jobs involve more than I would have expected.
  • It’s important to have a team of people that are passionate about your writing during the publication process because it makes a huge difference.
  • Networking with other writers is key and social media (particularly Twitter) was mentioned several times as a big part by various people

I also had a one to one session with the editorial director about my writing.  I’d submitted it in advance and that was the bit that I was most nervous about.  I’m not sure why I was so nervous (now) because she was very friendly and easy to talk to.  Plus she was positive about my writing and the idea behind my novel.  And although I have a lot of work to do on my novel following the feedback the biggest negative thing she said (about my setting not working) was something I’d already been thinking myself and had mentioned to a couple of people.  So it crystallised my thinking if you will and made me think I need to have more confidence in myself and my writing.

I’m really glad I went and I enjoyed meeting all the other writers there.  I feel much more energised about writing now and am looking forward to getting back to my novel.

Random Bullet Points of Life

♥ I got my powerchair back yesterday and I took it out for a very long wander around this afternoon. I came back cold but with the cobwebs well and truly blown away and feeling happier.

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(An Instagram I took as proof I went out and because I thought it looked nice. Road, trees, sky, cars going past and the power station in the distance)

♥ I can’t remember if I posted here that I was going to take the creative writing class again. It was going to be a five week class with the same tutor I had before. The first one was last week but the rest have been cancelled due to low numbers. Which didn’t surprise me. It’s a shame but I’m not as bothered as I was because I wanted to take it to help me find my writing mojo again and I’d already located it.

♥ my GP just called me (at 7:20 PM). My iron levels were back to normal when tested but my stores were still low. I may need to keep taking iron on a very low dose long term however. I feel this is a perfect time to declare “sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…” (Who sang that?) retest in December.

♥ it’s probably over a week and a half since I finished a book.

♥ I actually finished a craft project! Well a couple of weeks ago but the recipient has it now so…

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(Pink crocheted baby blanket, crocheted in the round. Large bright pink stripes interspaced with a few narrower light pink ones)

♥ I have 26,437 words written for NaNo. They are mostly crap.

>101 in 1001 – Item 28…

>

Make a continued effort to become a writer

…has been completed!

OK so this is one I could probably have ticked off some weeks ago when my Disability Now article was published but I wanted that to have it’s own entry.  So I decided to work on NaNoWriMo this year and then tick it off after that.  It’s also an apt time to do because my creative writing course has finished and I’ve decided not to continue it (for now at least).

I think becoming a writer or being a writer isn’t something you ever stop but more of an ongoing process.  Writing is definitely more about the journey than the destination – although we do all want to get published, you don’t stop being a writer once you are published once but continue on the journey to write other things, get better at writing and get other work out there for all to see.

I’m definitely spending more time and writing more consistently than I used to though and that’s definitely worth ticking this off as an achievement before.  Blogging has suffered lately but is something I’ll be diving back into full force in the next few weeks as I have several things I want to blog about.

>A Reading

>The Arts Centre where I do my creative writing class (amongst other things!) held a literary day on Saturday.  Basically they held a second hand book sale for charity and they had readings from “local writers” AKA the creative writing class.  It was actually described in the e-mail that went round promoting it as “readings from local writers” and I thought, oh cool I’d like to know who’ve got for local writers.  Then I realised, oh shit, that’s me!!

So I gave a reading on Saturday which was open to the public!  Scary!  There were 9 audience members and I think they were all people’s family or friends but still they were all people I don’t know as no one I asked could make it (which to be honest isn’t a bad thing!).  And there were seven of us from the class taking part (including the tutor).  So we had more of an audience than we had participants which is always good.  It took about an hour and a half and I think my bit lasted 10 mins (I didn’t time it then but I did when I was practising the night before)

We’d done a group anthology project where the tutor wrote the beginning of a story and we all used it as a jumping off point and wrote our own versions of what happened next with the rule – if you don’t know or can’t remember – make it up!  He then wrote bits linking it together and an end bit.  And that’s what we read out.  It did go really well and it was interesting seeing how we’d all started with the premise of a certified haunted house and the promise of £1 Million prize if you spend the night and went in completely different directions.  I think out of all 10 of us who wrote bits (3 couldn’t make it on Saturday) none of us had similar stories and none of us had a character winning the million – although my main character ended up in the money for another reason.

I’ve entered a slightly edited version of the bit that I wrote into a competition.  Which is a very good thing.  But it also brings me back to a very bad thing – I re-read the piece several times getting ready for this.  And I’ve spotted several mistakes that I know I didn’t edit out in the version I submitted to the competition (basically that version has a couple of extra sentences to explain the “haunted house, spend the night, win a million” premise)

I was a little bit nervous but not a lot.  And I only got really nervous when the person before me was reading.

>Compliments

>I’ve been meaning to post this since it happened because I don’t want to forget about it.  Especially today as I am a bit fed up about stupid things that shouldn’t bother me.  So here goes:

On Thursday one of the newer creative writers (there are several of us who have done the course more than once; he is one of the ones who was new this time round) and I were chatting.  We went out for a meal after the class as it was the last one of the course.

And he described me as a semi-professional writer what with all my reviewing and all that.

How very. very cool!  And definitely makes me realise that I am closer than I was to my goal.

Writing this out has made me feel a bit better now. Hopefully having it here will mean I can use it to remind me in the future if I need it.

>Been There, Done That

>I’ve been writing a piece about a woman in a wheelchair over the last week or so.  Basically, we’re doing a creative writing anthology in the class I go to. The tutor wrote an opening to a story, the premise of which is that this woman owns a haunted mansion and offers £1 Million to anyone who can last an entire night in there.  We’re all writing our own versions of what happens next.

And as soon as I heard about that idea my first thought was “that sort of place probably wouldn’t have wheelchair access”  I took that idea and ran with it for my part.  Writing it gave me fits but it’s pretty much finished now, just needs a decent edit and I might write a bit more of an ending.  I gave it the title of “Unreasonable Adjustments” which, as I mentioned before,  I absolutely love.  I might stick it online when it’s done or I might not.  Depends what I decide to do with it really.

Anyway at the class on Thursday we each got a couple of people’s opinions on our piece.  Three people read mine and I got some useful feedback.  Although strangely I’ve since reread it and picked up on a major mistake which none of them pointed out.  I did get comments about how it helped them to get into the head of a wheelchair user and see what it was like.  I also got told by one guy that he loved my humour and sarcasm and that it was “very Bridget Jones”

I didn’t write it to help people see what wheelchair users experience or anything like that. And I never set out to be funny, I rarely do deliberate humour in my writing.

I wrote about

Needing to ask pointed questions about whether you can get your wheelchair in the disabled loo and does it have grab rails – because I have found ones before where you can’t.  Or where you can but you can’t shut the door.  Been there, done that.  And later on in the story Claire my main character discovers things aren’t as they were described.  Been there, done that as well. Unfortunately.

About disabled loos being kept locked and staff not knowing where the key is. I haven’t had that one but I carry my radar key on my house keys and I have been asked in places to open it for them because they’ve lost theirs.

Looking for the loo before you’re desperate because it takes time to find it and all the other stress that can go with it.  Been there, done that.

Staff not knowing that they have a disabled loo despite others saying they do have one when you ask in advance.  Been there, done that. In fact at one of my schools a staff member once asked me where the disabled loo was because she had a visitor in a wheelchair and didn’t know.  What gets me about that was it was they knew in advance some of the people coming were in wheelchairs.

Wheelchair access being around the back, by the bins or otherwise out of sight.  Been there, done that.  Too many times to count!!

And about finding people having sex in disabled loos.  I just noticed that one of the people who did a crit for me has written “good humour, one hopes it isn’t based on personal experience” by that bit. And you guessed it, been there, done that.  Once.  And hopefully never, ever again.  Although I didn’t actually see anything thankfully…

Yes, a big plot point does revolve around disabled loos.

I can’t help thinking however that this might show them “what it’s like to be in a wheelchair” from their point of view.  But from mine it really doesn’t.  I don’t know what it would take to show that in a story and I’m not sure I want to try.  This piece might be fiction and it might be a lot of fun.  And I’m really pleased with how it’s come out and especially with the feedback.  It’s a huge part of my life that highlights however.  And a part of me does want to go “this is my life!!” and make them see the bigger picture.

But I don’t think I will.  Because that’s a route which often leads to pity and guess what? I’ve been there, done that.  I don’t want to do it again!!

>You know you’re a writer when…

>…you get lost in writing and forget to have dinner

or the long version:

You know you’re a writer when you have a great idea and a fantastic title for your part of a group anthology (that we’re doing in creative writing part).  You get stuck on the how, write the beginning (takes two weeks) and then spend a week trying to figure out how to make what comes next work.  Two hours before the class you figure it out and start trying to get it down.  You do get a rough first draft done but you get so lost in the writing you don’t eat dinner.  Instead you have a quick and very small snack while running out the door.  After the class you then go to the new restaurant in town for drinks and decide to order a small glass of rose and a more substantial snack.  Which turns into them bringing you a large glass of rose (twice as big as what you ordered) and a not as substantial as expected snack.  And as you rarely drink you end up feeling kinda buzzed despite drinking water as well as wine.

It was ALL very fun though!

And the title of my piece? Unreasonable Adjustments.  The anthology is basically a starting piece that our tutor wrote and we’re all doing our own version of what happened next with our own characters.  And I’ve thrown a wheelchair user into the mix, and a setting that isn’t very wheelchair friendly.  DDA requires businesses etc to make “reasonable adjustments” so I thought Unreasonable Adjustments was the way to go.

The tutor commented at one point that not everyone has given their bit a title.  I just went “I’m not getting rid of my title, my title rocks.”