Something sparky (ho ho ho)

I’m far too moany about the books and stories that I read. I always hope to find good things though. ( I do start from a point of optimism, but mainly I am disappointed.) I have worked with Jo Horsman at the Fiction Workhouse, and am delighted to see her rather wonderful story “Sparks”  has just been published at Red Peter

Guaranteed not to disappoint!
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The story that I can’t write

I had this idea for a story well over a year ago. I wrote it but something didn’t quite work. I posted it for critique in The Fiction Workhouse. They said it had many flaws and suggested I concentrate on one part and cut another. I left it to simmer. I have kept on thinking about it, wondering how it could be strengthened. I sat down recently and tried again. I thought I’d had some great inspirational idea. I cut parts ruthlessly, wrote some new bits. I left in the stuff that had positive feedback, expanded it. Then I asked a couple of writers whose opinions I respect to take a look. One said there was too much that was unrealistic and I should chop those parts. I did. I sent it to another 2 writers. They both said, hmmm, not your best work, and it could really do with some more magic. One even went on to describe exactly what I had cut.

Still, nobody actually thinks it “good’. And I have been left utterly baffled. I think I have lost what my original vision was, and in trying to please I may well have cut the heart out.
I’d love to know if any of the other writers who read this have been defeated by one particular story. Does it mean the story is doomed? Or perhaps I just haven’t found the right way to tell it yet.

End of year reflections.

I have always been a sucker for a blank page, ooh preferably in a brand new notebook, lovely. A morning is good, a fresh week is better, a new year is glorious, just full of hope. I am forever full of the same resolutions that I first made as a girl: lose weight, exercise, write more, be a better person. Not much change there. This year has been all right though, I have made progress in my writing if not my weight/exercise/being a nicer person wish. And actually, screw the nicer person thang, I am nice, and a little fucked off with people taking advantage of that!

So, good things have happened with my writing this year, and I can go into the next knowing that some people like my words. I am aiming to finish my novel by the end of 2008, it is a huge goal, and I want to focus and pour heart and soul into it.

I have learnt a fair bit too:

Other writers can be the most generous, warm, supportive, nurturing people. (They can also be destructive, bitchy, thoughtless, harsh and argumentative. So many egos! )

I have begun working with The Fiction Workhouse, and it has been ACE!

I wrote something that I knew wasn’t working, and I showed it to the people I work with on-line at The Workhouse. They critiqued it so thoughtfully and shone light on its flaws, it really brought home to me how solitary it has been, sitting here, typing away, trying to create stories with real depth and meaning. I am not a lonely writer any more, thanks to them. There’s a place I can go for inspiration, advice, critiques, help with craft etc. (Hark, is that the Cheers theme tune I hear starting up?) Anyway, it has been an illuminating experience being part of this team. I look forward to working hard with them in 2008.

The benefit doesn’t just come from sharing my work. By reading and critiquing others stories I get to learn more about what works for me, what doesn’t, why and so on…Invaluable.

Through The Workhouse I have discovered Flash Fiction. It was entirely alien to me before this year, and now I find it exhilarating and wonderful. I am still learning the requisite skills, but whoo, it’s fun and a great way to spark out new ideas and learn how to hone prose so that each word matters.

One must not be too reliant on the opinions of others though. I was told that something I had written wasn’t right, and yet when I read it again and again it was exactly what I meant and I submitted it as it was, with hope, and had a significant success with it. This showed me that sometimes other people won’t magically know what is ‘good’. Perhaps they excel in a different style or area. I must trust me.

I have read a lot this year. Although looking at the reviews here you wouldn’t know that. I made a choice not to write reviews of books that I had nothing good to say about. It was a hard call. I am a stickler for honesty, what’s the point of a wishy washy review? I’d rather read some real vitriol. Hmmm. But, as a writer I know how devastated I am by criticism, and the idea that a precious publication could be trashed by an unknown blogger makes me uncomfortable. I am such a grumpy reader though, hard to impress, hence the lack of reviews!

I have been reviewing for other people too. Pulp net asked me to review some books for them, which has been brilliant, and I have reviewed for The Short Review. In the new year I will be reviewing for the Waterstone’s magazine as well. Anyone else want a book reviewed? Just holler!

I was commisioned to write a piece on being a part time writer too, which was a fascinating change for me. I really enjoyed writing non-fiction, and getting paid for it too made me feel very professional!

There’s some other stuff that is happening, but until it actually does I don’t want to say for fear of, I dunno, fucking it up somehow.

Anyway, I am going into 2008 so much more of a writer than I was coming into 2007, which can only be a jolly good thing!

I’m planning a best of 2007 round up in the next day or so, but just in case I don’t get round to it:

Happy new year to you all