The Writing Process

So, I have finally done what I have been promising to do for the last twelve months. I have started getting more involved on Twitter. I have discovered many writers and have many books on my to-read list. What is most interesting about this is the way it is possible to discuss things with other like minded people. To be fair, one of the reasons I like writing is it is a solitary process. It suits my anti-social soul. But it is good to know that there are people out there who understand and who are interested in the way other writer’s work.

It has made me think about the way I work. I wish I could work in a linear way. I don’t mean the finished product, as such. Choose Yr Future is not told in straightforward chronological order. It moves between events just after the end of civilisation and what happened before. It also retraces events from the points of view of the different classes in society. That’s fine. That is what I want because it means not everything is revealed all at once. What I mean is the process of actually getting words on a page. Even if I were going to write a beginning, middle, end sort of story, there is little chance that it would be written in that order.

Even when I was at university, essays were written out of order and assembled later. This is very much the way I work when writing fiction. I have an overall plan, of course, at least in my head. But I have to hope that it will all fit together eventually and I have a recognisable whole. At the minute, as well as editing Choose Yr Future, I’m trying to work out what I have yet to write for another project which has holes all over the place. A large amount of it is typed up but an equally large amount is scattered about in various notebooks, along with many other half started projects. Pulling it all together is likely to take a long time.

I have problems with planning. I tend not to commit an overall plan to paper or screen. Part of me worries that if I plan too carefully, my creativity would be hampered. I would probably save myself the chore of moving chapters around until the order feels right if I was more organised in the first place.

It has been useful thinking about it. There are things that I could do to make life easier for myself. The creative process isn’t sacred. And as it is a process, it should be open to change. I’m unsure if I should abandon this WIP as being too complicated and start with an idea that is merely that. Then I could try and be more organised from the start. It sounds good but there is at least one part of my mind that is laughing hysterically at the very idea.

Constructive Criticism

I guess most writers feel the same but it sometimes seems absurd how protective I feel of my writing. Putting it out there feels like giving away a small part of my soul. (Y’know if I believed in the notion of a soul but I can’t think of an atheist version of this simile.) So waiting for critiques after I posted the opening to Choose Yr Future on Scribophile was an absolute agony.

It’s a strange experience. For one thing, I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think there was some merit in the writing so it takes a level of arrogance I wouldn’t normally display. On the other, it has left me a mess of self doubt over whether or not I was merely imagining that it has merit. These are the two extremes that I swing between.

On the whole, the response was positive and criticism was constructive which is how it should be. I know I would struggle being a member of an actual reading group but the virtual world means that I can be brave. Of course, not everyone will like what I write and I have to remember that this doesn’t necessarily make my writing bad. I don’t love everything I read and sometimes have the arrogance to wonder how the writer in question managed to get themselves published.

So now I have to review more work before I can post anymore of Choose Yr Future. I like the way Scribophile works. You build up points from critiquing others’ work so you can post your own. Remembering how you want your own work to be treated is a good benchmark for reviewing other peoples’. So far, it has definitely been a positive experience.

Writing is Fun

I’ve just started to read a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury. In the introduction, Bradbury talks about his enjoyment of writing – how the ideas come and take you to a brilliant new place and they spring from your pen and you’ve done it, you’ve created a new world. You can taste this joy when you read Bradbury and the stories I’ve read so far certainly suggest someone who loves the job of being a writer.

I’m not writing this as a review of Bradbury’s book. For a start, I’ve only read about 10 stories so far (and according to my kindle, it’s going to take 160 hours to read the rest of it!). It’s a reflection on some of the things Bradbury says about writing and how I agree with them.

First of all, I quite agree that writing is a really fun thing to do. I love it. I don’t often suffer from writer’s block because I don’t work in a particularly linear fashion so there is always something else to work on or look at until while I wait for ideas to work themselves out. Words are exciting and playing with them can be a delight. There is nothing more satisfying then reading back something and knowing it is good. (of course, there are things that make it less enjoyable. Like the fact that somehow when I opened the most recent copy of Choose Yr future, the chapters were in the wrong order!)

The other thing that Bradbury said that rang true to me was  the fact that he wasn’t completely in control of his narratives. Often it feels like this. You don’t know straightaway how things are going to work out. You have to get to know the characters, chat with them, give them things to do before you can really know how they will feel or react. Sometimes they sneak into the narrative and become important without you really pushing them in that direction, other times they tiptoe away without leaving much of a mark. Sometimes its a surprise to find them gone.

The Irritation of Lost Files

It hasn’t been a hugely productive summer. That isn’t exactly true. I have written quite a bit but it hasn’t felt like going forward. There’s a good reason for this.

Somehow I managed to lose the most recent version of Choose Yr Future. I’m not sure how as I never delete anything – there must be at least twenty versions of Shattered Reflections still sitting on my hard drive – but gone it is. There are quite a lot of versions of Choose Yr Future too, some claiming to be the final version although none of them were.

It is frustrating – not least because I know it is my fault. I suspect that it was some sort of iCloud mixup because sometimes I do remove things from there but that is usually safe in the knowledge that there is a copy sitting on my hard drive as well. I can’t quite believe I’ve been so careless.

The worst thing about this isn’t the re-writing although that has been annoying. It is the suspicion that what I wrote before was inevitably better than the new version which covers the same ground but with second hand footsteps. Of course, it may be better but as there is no way to check so my pessimistic mind insists that the new version is inferior.

Still it is re-done now and although I now need to read through the whole thing again to ensure that it still makes sense, it is satisfying to have the finished product in front of me. It certainly feels better than the despair of the missing file at the start of the summer.

Time, there’s just not enough of it

Well, it seems a long time since I wrote a post that wasn’t a book review. I’m even finding it a bit hard to keep up that end of things. Not from lack of reading. Or from lack of writing. But time is really not working for me at the minute.

My workload at school seems to have exploded. There barely seems to be a spare minute. I decided to work as a supply teacher for exactly this reason but now I am working three days in the same school, I find I am having to do more than I would like. So any spare minutes are spent editing or writing. The blog, unfortunately, is way down the list.

To make matters worse, the school was inspected last week. It is horrible to see the stress this causes teachers. Pressure pushes down from the management team and everyone suffers. It annoys me that most things are now directed towards what is needed for these inspections, not what is best for the pupils. Of course, I understand that these two things are supposed to be the same thing but I really don’t think they are.

Well, it’s over now until the next time, but the tiredness and stress still linger. It makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. Thoughts and ideas are starting to creep back in though and today, I have been writing already and once I have done my school work, then I will do more.

642 things to write about – The Bicycle Accident

I’ve been entering a lot of short story competitions lately – to no avail but you’ve got to keep trying – and as a sideline to editing Choose Yr Future I decided to try some writing prompts to see if I could come up with something that I could develop further so I would have a bank of stories. 

You wake up at the side of the road lying next to a bicycle, with no memory and no wallet. What happens next?

When I open my eyes all below me is grey. The surface is cold and I’m stretched out on it. My arms are over my head and I’m nose down. There is pain but it is non-specific. All over. Everything hurts.

First step, raise head. The world is still grey. Clouds meet the road on the horizon. Pushing up further brings about twangs and clicks. Specific pain runs up and down both arms. What have I been doing? Pause before next step while I steel myself for the pain to come. Deep breath. Onto knees. Now legs are joining in with groans of pain and stiffness. The question comes to me from the side, how long have I been here?

A further look around. The road, the hedges, the bridge mean nothing. Low menacing clouds which threaten and suggest I should get home but where was that?

Final step. On feet and scanning properly. My head spins a little as the blood finds itself on high once again. There is a house up ahead. Was that home? It was still a good walk away. But it was a direction to head in. I look behind me, turning slowly which is wise because everything shifts sideways and I wobble. I bend to put my head between my knees and slowly stillness returns. As I’m bent, I see the means of my getting here. Well, I assume. A bicycle. A vision of the air flying past my head and the ground rushing up to me sends me dizzy again. I sit down heavily and each joint and muscle takes its turn in shouting out the pain.

Time passes. I can’t move. My head is too unreliable. I check through my pockets. I could phone someone perhaps. But they are absolutely empty. No phone. No purse. No keys. Nothing. No bag. Not even strapped to the bike. Had I been robbed? Maybe everything had scattered from the bike. But no chance of finding that until I could stop the dizziness.

A car. It is moving fast and I do the same. Foolishly. Darkness grabs me and the next thing I see is a concerned face, quite close to mine. He smiles and a wave of relief comes across his weathered face.

“Thank God.” His voice is soft. He doesn’t want to frighten. “I’ve no idea how to do the kiss of life.”

642 Things To Write About: A petition letter to save death

Scientists have announced they’ve discovered the secret to immortality. Write a petition letter to save the event of death.

You must support this cause. You think that you’re bored now. Imagine how you will feel at 396. Why would you ever do anything when there is an everlasting tomorrow for all those projects and problems. It would always be ‘in the future I’ll’ and the future would be unending.
This is one secret we must not allow them to tell. We’d never appreciate happiness if we had no knowledge of sorrow. We’d have no sense of the special because it would always be the same.You may think this will be a good thing. You will soon find out you are wrong. And then what will you do? If there is no finish line, what joy can there be in the race?