Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Reaching First Base.

This evening I reached the ten thousand mark. I'm now more than ten percent of the way! 
Ten posts ago, I was upset about blocked and stuck on the idea but now I am back into the swing with regular writing sessions, taking notes for future plot (instead of forgetting them) and also indulging in a piece of flash fiction or two. 

Current word count: 10,378. 

Monday, 30 March 2009

You Get Famous When Your Name Appears On A YouTube Video

I will be in the next Six Sentences anthology which makes an appearance at the end of the month - tomorrow!

There will be flash fiction pieces from writers from all over the world, featuring an introduction by Neil LaBute and a guest appearance by Rick Moody.

Are you ready for six sentences v.2?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Memory Stick that Time Forgot

I rediscovered an old memory stick with files from my previous laptop. And there are some stories on there that I had forgot that I had written. The time between writing, forgetting them and then rediscovering them has given me a detached view and so, hopefully I can edit them at the weekend and sort them into shape. 

I have also submitted a flash fiction piece. Something I haven't done for a few weeks - Well that's what my submission spreadsheet says - I was being organised at the beginning by taking note of what I sent out by recording them in one spreadsheet - less paperwork. 

The editing for the short piece is coming along nicely - The story is the right length and I like the plot too. 

Novel writing is now at 9881 words. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Supermarket chains

I finished reading Dave Gorman's America Unchained last night. Gorman travels across America trying to use unbranded companies. But does he succeed? Well, that would ruin the book. I had never read travel non-fiction before but I really enjoyed this and its made we want to explore the genre more. It also got me thinking about the way chains have injected their way into the market towns of the United Kingdom.

I was only seven when I moved to the area. It was just like any other market town with a weekly market, handful of shops around a market square, a railway station and an outdoor swimming pool for the summer. Our house was only two minutes walk from the future Asda site but that moment it was a Greene King brewery. I remember a lot of the town's population worked there if not they drunk the beer. My school backed onto the brewery and for a long time I thought it was the mash potatoes from the canteen that made the school smell but after I left and was playing in my garden and around the neighbourhood, I realised it was the brewery. They were making mash potatoes smelling drinks, or that's what my nine year-old mind thought.

The brewery shut up after a few years, people lost their jobs but that was okay (that was the attitude from the wives who stood in the queues at Woolworths) because there are always the Jordan factories and people will always want cereal.

The building was knocked down and the site left as a waste ground. Kids climbed over the fences, drunk men would wee against the boundaries. Women would tut at the stain it was leaving on the town.

The newspaper started calling for ideas on what to do with this town-centre location. The youth cried for cinemas and bowling, the older people wanted something for the community but the plans at the council were for a Supermarket. Over the years many chained supermarkets were linked to the location - Safeway, Morrison's, Aldi but at the last minute Asda came to the rescue after another Supermarket pulled out.

The town already had a Sainsbury's just outside the town, an Iceland, a Somerfield (recently rebranded from Gateway) and Co-op (also rebranded from Budgens). The building and car park went up in a matter of months and was ready for Christmas. I think it was four years ago but it feels like its been longer.

At the time my Sister was working in one of the other Supermarkets and they noticed the effects straight away. They used to be busy on Sundays and then they just had dribbles of people through their doors. After my sister left, the shop closed down and now it has reopened as another Supermarket, Aldi but it only ever has three customers on the premises and people use its car park for the town.

Woolworths, the central piece to the town has now gone. Smaller independent shops closed, some have tried to open but shut after six months. Asda was also the final nail in the coffin for the indie bookshop in the town. It was the size of a boxed-room and the staff didn't know anything about books (No, sorry, there is no such book called Rebecca or National book Tokens).

Even the charity shops are now seen as been over priced because Asda is so cheap. Our town used to be full of charity shops but now its coffee shops trying to grab the supermarket shoppers inside to refuel.

The market has shrunk too. The council have tried to drum up some interest with farmer markets and French markets but their stalls take up valuable parking space in the middle of town for people to visit the 'other stores.'

I guess it doesn't help that the local job centre is surrounded by two pubs. I know people who are the same age as me, have left school with hardly any qualifications and have never had a job.
The residents living next door are fighting back. Asda wanted 24 hour delivers and have lorries unloading early in the morning and late at night. But someone pulled together a petition and the town won against the Supermarket.

But shops are still closing - Somerfield is the next one. Come to our town next week and we'll have one less supermarket.

There is more discarded rubbish around the town, abandoned trolleys.


The town I lived before has a massive Tesco sitting on the hill, overlooking the other shops. If you look here, you will find that the empty shops are the ones from other chains that have tried to open and compete and failed. The shops along the high street are independent ones, ones that have been around for decades, have a good reputation and strong customer base.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Curious Case of Editing

I have been carrying around a second draft of short story around in my handbag for the past week and now I feel the urge to scribble over the pages, make indents with my pen across sentences and get angry at myself for even considering those pitiful paragraphs.

I thought I would share my editing process:

Add notes around the page where the plot is too thin and needs more detail, then start crossing out purple prose sections.
Make sure your details are accurate and remain concise. You don’t want your main character having blue eyes in one chapter and then hazel in another.
Check grammar, spelling and punctuation. (I am bad of this one on the blog)
Check sentence structure – avoid overuse of adjective, adverbs and overindulging with run-on sentences that go on and on and on. Also avoid jarring, short sentences.
Look out for repetition unless it is intentional. Reading the same word can become boring, slow the pace and even turn the reader off.
Sometimes you need to consider the word count. Ask yourself: Do I really need that word/sentence/ paragraph?
Are your characters three dimensional?
Take out any clich├ęs.
Can you visualise your location?
Does the piece suit the viewpoint?
Have you picked the right tense?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Cross Stitch

Sometimes, when I am not writing but need to remain creativity, I have recently been indulging in Cross Stitching. I used to do this when I was younger after been shown by my Mother. Stitching is relaxing after a long day of staring at a computer and I have been coming home and doing 30 minutes before preparing dinner.

With Cross stitching there is no first draft. What you create on the canvas (or Aida) is the final draft so all the stitches need to be perfect like a final draft.

Here's my progress on an African sunset with two giraffes:

Friday, 13 March 2009

Book Quiz

I never pay much attention to those quizzes people tag me to do on FaceBook that ask to know my deepest, darkest secrets and bra size. But this more got me interested. I'm not sure about the introduction (if it really did come from the BBC) but here is my response:

Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
4) Tally your total at the bottom.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien - I have tried several times and failed several times. It's not my cup of tea.
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte X+
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
6 The Bible- X only sections though.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell X++
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X - Only the first one.
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller*
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare X only some!
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier X+
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X - I was forced because I needed to write an essay. Didn't tickle me or keep my interest.
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks*
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - I have tried and also failed.
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger X+
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald*
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy X+ - I have read the first three books.
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh*
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame X
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis X - I loved them when I was younger, not so much now.
34 Emma - Jane Austen*
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen*
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne X
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell X+
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X - Forced by the uni for a module in writing.
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving*
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X++
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding*
50 Atonement - Ian McEwanX
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel X
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon X - Over rated with a weak, thin plot
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley X +
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon X +
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck*
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt X
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold X +
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac X +
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding X
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie X
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson X +
75 Ulysses - James Joyce *
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath X+
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome X - I hate this book - the characters are annoying.
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker X - I read half of the book and then needed to return it back to the school library but now have it!
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro*
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert X
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X+
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Alborn X
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton X - I am not a Blyton fan.
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad*
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks*
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl X+
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Read 39
Loved 15 - But some of my favourites were not on the list
Plan to read 13 - but there's millions on my wish list.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Clutch Control

I am currently learning to drive. Now that's a sentence I thought I would never write because of my clumsiness and general confusion with left and right. Don't panic and hide behind bushes every time you see an 'L' plates car crawling on the road because I am only allowed around industrial estates at the moment - that's all I am good for! Plus I am scared of meeting traffic and keep forgetting how to change gear. 

Driving reminds me of writing. You need to always be aware of where you are going, observation is key and you are the one in control. Plus you need to practice. 

I have been re-reading Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life" and came across this nice quote that she found: 

"E.L. Doctorow once said that 'writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.'"

Last weekend I wrote a short story and its currently brewing on my laptop before I edit it with fresh eyes. I seem to be writing a lot about the world ending recently - I guess its the spiral of doom in the news. 

I have also tackled some more of the novel. Not too much but enough to say that the first draft of Chapter Two is done for the moment. 

Words: 8641

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Happy World Book Day

Happy World Book Day if you are from the United Kingdom. I hope you were out there promoting the love of reading and books today. 

My celebrations involved finally spending my Amazon voucher that I got from Work for my birthday. I purchased a lead for my iShuffle, Louise Doughty's Novel in a Year and a Short Story collection by Richard Yates, Eleven kinds of loneliness. I discovered Yates through watching Revolutionary Road (which is fantastic) and I am currently reading the book which is even more vivid and detailed about the sobered reality of the American Dream. It was quite sad to know through this article in the Boston Review, all of his books were out of print when he died. Maybe his ideas were too close to the bone. 

I also submitted a flash fiction piece. My first submission for the year. Good luck little piece. You've been sitting in my notebook, neglected for months, then typed in a frenzy yesterday and edited with a fine tooth comb today. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Weekend Away

I went to Cardiff (Wales) and Bath for the weekend - We had a great time walking around both cities, enjoying the Roman Baths in Bath, Cardiff Castle and Museum and we even had time to go to the cinema with our Unlimited cards (Yes, Geeks!). 

The hotel, however was a nightmare to find! After a two and a half hour car journey, it took another hour trying to find our way around Bus lanes and one way systems to reach the
 building. But finally, we couldn't take it anymore and, ooops, I think we went through a bus lane. 

The hotel was fantastic and very modern with a wet room (that left puddles for hours after), flat screen television on the wall, and sleek design. 

The Top picture is Cardiff as is the bottom one of the 'Keep' but the far one is the Roman Baths. 

I am going to try and add a few over the next month and add some short descriptions and/flash fictions. 

Word count: 8314
I have also written a flash fiction piece, plus making notes on a short story.