Author Archives: Fran

Sitting on it

Now Richard III’s disappearance may well have been the most successful hide and seek ever (ok, so you’ve heard them all, there are no new Richard III jokes now), but the disappearance of my stories, once written, comes a close second.

And I don’t mean into an editor’s black hole of an inbox. 

I mean their disappearance into the file that should read ‘finished stories that I can’t bear to part with’.

Because that’s what I do.  I write them.  Send them to a trusted group of readers – you know who you are – edit them, make a careful note of word count, intended market, title etc.  Well I tell my husband I make a careful note.  I scribble in a notebook.  And then I sit on them.  Not literally, obviously, if I were doing that my hair would be brushing against the ceiling. 

But I’m a shocker for not sending them out.  There’s a few ‘out there’s’ out there at the moment, but a fraction of what is ready to go out there – headers and footers all in place, title page tidy, cover letter written.

And I don’t know quite why.  Confidence?  Don’t think so.  Can cope with the rejections – you quickly develop a tough skin in the writing world.  Can equally cope with the acceptances – there’s been enough of them to tell me that if I try hard, put my mind to it, and focus on a market I can do it.  Although I’m never complacent.  And it’s not true to say I can’t bear to part with them either.  I write for publication, not to please myself, although I enjoy the cathartic, creative and sometimes vengeful process.  It’s the best job in the world.

And it’s not as though I’m the world’s best editor – like I’m sitting on a story waiting for an idea to fall from the sky which will transform it from good to great.  Or that I revise and re-phrase again and again.  One edit and a cursory glance through, and then I’m bored.

I think I like knowing that I have stories there that I could send out, if I wanted to.  That I have a safety net should my typing fingers not function for a while (they could go a good while – there’s loads of them).  And I think that although I love the process of writing, and I like being published too – not least because the cash comes in mighty handy, I don’t like the admin that surrounds it.  That bit, quite frankly, I find Boring.   

So I think what I need is some kind of target.  I had one for January.  That slipped by unnoticed.  I am going to be tougher on myself in February.  I will sacrifice some writing time and spend it sending them out.

Let’s hope the editors’ inboxes don’t resemble a car park somewhere deep in Leicestershire.

My dark side

To paraphrase Tim Minchin – and it’s always worth doing that – I can have a dark side too. Like everyone. I would say that if you haven’t, you’re in denial – even if it’s only a teensy tiny dark spot. I like writing comic stuff – though there’s a distinct art to that. Something I’ll consider in a future post. But the ideas that have bubbling to the surface lately have been of a distinctly darker, twisted nature. They will wend their way to writing competitions rather than the editors of magazines.

And these ideas have forced me to consider not only where they have come from, why they are surfacing now, but also what is acceptable to commit to paper. Does anything go? What’s fermenting in my subconsious and breaking through into my writing? And can I pull off the darkly comic – I’d love to do that.

I’m currently planning a story based in Birmingham, almost my home town, about a woman with religious faith, superficially at least, whose life hasn’t played out how she would have wished. And, having some power over others, at work at least, she does her best to spoil the lives of others. And spoil them she does, in a bloody, vengeful way. I want it to get very dark at the end – don’t want to give it away, but she will be faced with the realisation that to have had faith is not enough. Actions matter too.

I’ve always wanted to write about Birmingham and I’ve always wanted to get the phrase ‘Back of Rackhams’ into a story.

I hope my ‘dark side’ inspired stories will thought provoke and chill any readers they may reach (if any). And if not I can always drink white wine in the sun.

So, back to Mr Minchin. Next time I use him for inspiration I think I’ll go for the lyrically expansive Pope Song. Can’t hurt, can it?

Fit for purpose

I write lots and lots of stories. And I send many of them out. Some get bought and published.  But if they do get ‘overlooked’ by an editor I’m not too good at re-jigging and re-sending.  They certainly don’t fall through my letterbox and get whisked out in a brand, spanking new envelope in the next post.  They may wait, say, about a year.  Or more.

So, what’s stopping me trying them elsewhere?  Sometimes it’s simply the dreaded need for a bit of an edit to suit a slightly different word count.

Sometimes it’s more drastic than that.  It’s having the confidence in a story that’s been overlooked.  Thinking it will sell elsewhere.  It’s the knowledge that it needs a little bit more of a tweak to suit the editor’s requirments (I do shy away from the editing process somewhat).

But, often it’s worth it.  I’ve sold several stories that have done the rounds in, say, the UK and then get snapped up in South Africa, or Australia.

One recent malingering ‘naughty’ one has been toned down – very toned down – for publication in the spring.

So I guess I shouldn’t open up the laptop each morning and start typing something new and fresh.  Sometimes I should reach into the cobweb encrusted nether regions of mylaptop’s memory, pull back the white sheeting and get to work on the dried parchment that lies beneath.  I may need to skim off 100 words, I may need to sanitize it or spice it up.  I may merely need to re-address the covering letter (important this – forgot to do once – strangely editors appear to be addressed by their correct name, and the for the name of the mag to be right too….).

And I might uncove a hidden treasure.  A story that will sell.

Seeing the wood for the trees

I write quickly.  But this is not necessarily A Good Thing.  it would be a good thing if, when I wrote, it was always perfect and finely tuned.  But, no, it always requires major editing.  And that’s just normal and natural.  Right?

I don’t like editing.  I see the necessity for it.  Of course I do.  It would be arrogant to think one produced the perfect piece first time around (if only).   It’s the getting bogged down in it, not being able to see the wood for the trees thing I don’t like.  And the tweaking one bit so you’ve got to find the corresponding other bit halfway down your work and change that too; that is a pain.  And playing around with one sentence until it is right – so it is a clue in a twist story, that doesn’t give the twist away.  Then you realise the version you had three changes ago was probably just right, but you can’t think of the exact wording to save your life.

I’ve just changed a 2000 worder from past to present tense.  That was a challenge for the terminally lazy person that I am happy to admit I am.  Finding every ‘was’ and ‘did’.  How hard was that?  How hard is that, even?

Off to write a story.  The editing can come later.  Unless I get it perfect first time.

Yeah, right, in my present tense dreams.

What can I write about today?

I’ve been struggling with ‘themes’ lately. Especially avoiding the well-worn variety. So, how do you come up with something new? Something different?

There are only so many stories, aren’t there? But I guess you can approach them in different ways. I’ve tried playing about with form – not in a full on post-modernist way, but just telling a story from different points of view or structuring it like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book (that was, apparently a ‘well-worn theme’). Nothing too radical, but different for me.

And now I’m trying to come at my stories from an entirely different standpoint. I’ve chosen objects to write about – today’s is a handbag, I love a handbag. I’ve chosen jobs to be at the heart of my story. So, I’ve placed a nurse at the heart of a story, and created something happening around her busy day.

And I’m trying to do topical – find those quirky, off-beat news stories, not the biggies, the ones tucked away at the end of the news, or a tiny scrap in the corner of a newspaper, and use it for inspiration.

Off to write about a handbag. Let’s see how I go.

More creepiness – I hope!

Following on from Caroline’s spine chiller, here’s my short attempt at creepiness.  Called ‘Going down’.

“Going down?” a voice hissed.

Jason nodded, weary.

“Ruined anyone today?”

Then Jason recognised the voice – Mark, an ex-client, a victim of Jason’s fraud.  Wasn’t he…?

Only Jason’s reflection appeared in the mirror.  The ‘basement’ button shone red in the dark.

The lift plummeted.

“Going down,” Mark’s voice confirmed.

 

In the interests of balance…

…a poem from my six year old daughter (she quite rightly felt she deserved the same treatment as her brother – see earlier post). She has a strong sense of fairness.

Mummies

Mummies are good or bad

The good ones deserve a sticker

And the bad ones don’t

My mum is the best

Every day she deserves a sticker.