Monday, 24 January 2011

Short Story Acceptance and Keeping Stories at Arm's Length

Today I got a short story accepted by Kerouac's Dog Magazine. Kerouac's Dog is an independent UK magazine, inspired by Jack Kerouac and the 1950s Beat generation. My short story will be appearing in issue three. Yay happy dance.

This is a great boost after a series of rejections. Even the story accepted today has been rejected three or four times but each time I refused to retire the story. I grabbed the editing pen and shook the story even more. I didn't want to give up with the story - I really enjoyed writing it too much.

I came across this quote via Twitter the other day and it has been swimming around in my head since:

"You send that work out... If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. ~ Isaac Asimov"

At the moment, I am mulling over a first draft of a short story. I have pushed it to arm's length and have a page of 'new ideas' to add and also reminders to delete some scenes. Later this week I am going to print it off and hopefully look at it with a fresh, more critical eye.

At the moment it is hard to get a regular routine as I am in the middle of packing up the house and cleaning every surface. We are moving out of our current house next week, squatting in a family member's house for two weeks and then, hopefully getting the keys to our new house. I'm really looking forward to unpacking all of my books - they have been in boxes since November.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Creative Writing Books - The Creative Habit

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life


Twyla Tharp's 'The Creative Habit' has been hanging around on my bedside cabinet for nearly a year. (A year in Februay, because it was a birthday present!). I having been dipping in here and there, taking my time, absorbing the great advice. This isn't a how-to on writing but this book looks more at the creativity side.

Tharp is primarily a cheorgrapher and not a writer but her creativity habits can also relate to writing too. One of her ideas is to have a box for each project. In this box you put ideas for this project. It could be cards, posters, quotes, books, etc. I really like this idea but for me, especially as I'm downsizing to a small house in a few weeks, a box would be too big. So I am going to get myself some cardboard folders (or something similar - it depends on what seduces me at the stationery shop) and create an 'ideas' folder for an idea I have had in my head for a while. At the moment the idea is for a short story piece.

Tharp also talks about 'scratching' away a fragments of ideas, trying to tease out a solid idea. I have found this piece of advice particularly when I struggled with 'idea finding' at the end of last year. Tharp says, 'Remember this when you're struggling for a big idea. You're much better off scratching for a small one.' She talks about turning those scratchings into spines for the project. This will help inject speed and attention into the project. It's all about focusing on that idea and teasing it to its full potential.

Something I have now written in my notebook, in capitals, is ' WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?' I think it'll help me focus more on what lurks underneath the story.

Tharp also explores the 'ruts and grooves' that all creative people seem to suffer. Tharp's suggestion to get out of rut is '1. Identify the concept that isn't working. 2. Write down your assumption. 3. Challenge the assumptions. 4. Act on the challenge.' It's all about pushing yourself out of the rut and fighting back against the fear of ending up in writer's block.

Overall, the message of this book is how important it is to make creativity (in a variety of forms) a part of your routine in life. This book helps you look at your creative perspective and the ways you can build on those ideas. I am definitely going to harness those ideas more after reading this book and really sit down and explore them before racing ahead and writing a short story that eventually lands in the 'retired folder' on my Macbook.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Directions For The New Year

I started to write a short story in between finishing my novel and Christmas. It was about a writer. I had fallen into a cliche. A writer writing about a writer. Big yawn fest. All five files (all bits of the story, nothing whole) are filed away in the retired file.

Open new file, start again.

No ideas, nothing.

I was having writer's doubts.

I blogged about writer's doubts and also rejection.

I was still stuck in a rut.

I have clawed my way back out. I think its the new year and the new determination.

I am now writing a story. I have read blogs and on those blogs, people have wrote about the character taking over the story and the writer having to 'deal with it.' I never really understood. I always thought it was the imagination taking over the keyboard and sticking its fingers up to the 'story plan' and not the character. But some how a character has a poodle perm and now the whole story is going to be set in the 1980s. Bloody characters.

Without getting all 'appraisal' - I have set myself some targets resolutions directions for the following year:


  • Write some short stories. (notice the word some - I'm not going to add number. Don't want to scare myself). 
  • Think about that idea I had for novel two - maybe start expanding and maybe write a few words for this project. 
  • Be proactive about that flash fiction / short story collection idea - write some. 
  • Dabble in non-fiction. No pressure.