January has been a long month, as it usually is. But, at the very least, it has got off to a positive start with my writing.
Earlier this month I had my first short story acceptance since 2015. I’m not greedy, but that’s an extremely long drought for me. I don’t really know why either. Sure, I’ve written less in the last few years, but I’ve still been putting my work out there. Either my standards were getting too high or my writing just wasn’t hitting the spot anymore. Maybe it was a little of both.
Either way – to keep the metaphor going – I’m glad I’ve finally found some water. The story should be going live online in March, and I’ll talk about it more closer to the time.
In the meantime I’ll just keep on writing…
I started November with good intentions. The plan was to get up a couple of hours early each morning so that I had some quiet time to do some writing, before I went to work. Well I did that for a couple of days before I fell off that particular wagon. It’s not the greatest plan, but I have done it before, and it would work if I had some willpower.
In the brief time I spent with my horror tale about Alexa, I did decide upon a new name for it, which saves me getting into any trouble from Amazon for infringing upon their trademarked tech… but I did little else of any substance.
I’m busy at work as well, and usually too beat when I get home to put on my creative boots. On my days off – especially at this time of year – I’m thinking about Christmas… or, at least, whatever that amounts to this time around.
Like most people I just want to be done with 2020, even if there’s no promise the next calendar will be any better, because sometimes just the act of turning that imaginary page is all the encouragement a person needs.
Early in the month I started writing a horror tale about Alexa, the smart device. I put the first few hundred words down when I got a break from work and have the whole story playing out in my head, so I know exactly where I’m going with it. I think it should be a good one. It’s tentatively titled Not Alexa.
I submitted my flash piece, I Lost My Wife Down the Back of the Sofa, to the monthly contest over at Secret Attic – probably some time in September – and although it didn’t win they have included it in their printed collection of short-listed entries. They didn’t tell me this, of course, but it’s nice to see my name online again.
The rest of the month has been about raising kittens (because I became a father a couple of weeks ago) and looking for a new car (because the MOT this time around just about bankrupted me). Those two things stole a lot of my limited spare time towards the end of the month. Even reading has proven to be a problem because Tess will sleep anywhere…
I didn’t do any fresh writing this month, which – although a little disconcerting – is not altogether unexpected. Covid-19 has knocked everything into a spin, which is certainly no excuse, because I have absolutely had more time to write, but it has tweaked the way I go about my days. One good thing about the pandemic is that I am no longer having to wake up at 4am. That’s something I won’t miss.
I am slowly making my way through my exhaustive filing of stories, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Starting with all the stuff I did far too many years ago to mention, I have filed and dated everything (in colourful lever-arch folders) up to and including 2012. By the time I write next month’s update I am confident I will have it all squared away and be able to dedicate some time to coming up with new stuff.
Over the last few days I have submitted a lot of stories to various markets, primarily to get back in the habit of doing it. There was a time when I’d get a response from a pubisher every day. Now, I go many weeks between replies, and that is mainly because I just don’t throw my stuff out there the way I used to. Well that is going to change. 2020 has not been a good year, but I’m determined to salvage something positive from it.
In other news, I was officialy made redundant this afternoon, so – with the thought that such an endpoint was coming sooner rather than later – I’ve been looking for other work as well. I don’t have anything yet, but I have a few irons in the fire, and I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back out there earning a wage rather than taking the furlough payment for granted.
Take care folks!
After playing about with editing an existing board game, with my take on Monopoly, and then designing a Scotland map for my extension to Ticket to Ride, I turned my creativity to something entirely new, and decided to build my own board game. You know, this pandemic sometimes gives us silly ideas…
I went with a wedding theme (because there doesn’t seem to be any of those) and over the course of a few weeks I fleshed out the concept, drew out a few trial runs, and spent more time in the crafting section of shops than I would like to admit. In fact, when I went to buy coloured paper the proprietor asked if it was just for my kids to play about with… I decided it was best for all concerned if I just said yes.
Anyway, it’s called Get Me to the Church, and it’s a (fairly simple) affair where the object of the game is to, well… get to the church. We tried it out for the first time this afternoon, and – with the exception of a few teething issues that should be easily ironed out with another draft – I think it went down quite well.
I was hoping to get back into my writing in August, but it seems that I’ll be polishing up this game first, and then trying to find someone who may be interested in taking it further…
Anyone know Hasbro’s number?
It took a long time, but I finally finished printing out all my stories in May. There are a few stragglers – a couple of drafts that for whatever reason I don’t have saved on my laptop, and anything I wrote before I was thirteen or so. But everything is there that should be…
…including all the mistakes I have made over the years. The poor grammar, the missing apostrophes, and my god the flowery language. If there was an opportunity for me to say something in three words you can be assured that I chose to say it in thirty.
The funny thing is that I distinctly remember thinking the more convoluted I could make a sentence, the better a writer I was. The density of the prose is what makes a story sing, right?
It took me a while to get out of that habit – years, probably. Sometimes I catch myself circling that literary drain again and I’m reminded of that teenage writer who thought there was nothing better than the flourish of his own pen.
I was going to take a few examples and slot them in here so you could see what I’m talking about, but once it’s out there online, I can’t take that shit back. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Now I just have to organise what I’ve written, and I can concentrate on the new stuff.
April zipped by, and the only creative writing I have to show for it is carrying on with one of those challenge stories I had intended to finish for Christmas last year. It’s nearly there, and I can probably cross the finish line in a few days.
What I have done though is spent more time staring at a jigsaw than at any other time in my life. It’s relaxing and takes my mind off all the other shit that’s going on in the world… I just wish there wasn’t so much damn sky in every one I do!
I’ve also written a hell of a lot of quizzes for the house. For a while I was presenting one a day, and finding out a lot of things that I thought were common sense were really not all that common at all. Bats are mammals, guys. That’s stuff they teach you when you’re six.
I’m back into my reading as well, which is nice. I am currently in the midst of two books – the Jimmy Connors autobiography called The Outsider, and the Stephen King novel, Joyland. Both are very good for quite different reasons, and they are reminders that I should have been doing more of it these last few months.
Wash your hands, folks.
Unfortunately my short story More of a Wednesday Girl didn’t place in that contest that I was waiting for at the end of February, but I’m all right with that. It was nice to be shortlisted, seeing as it has been so long since I’ve even been that close to success. And more chances will come my way, I just need the right story and the right judge looking at it.
Obviously, the coronavirus has been all-encompassing this month, and rightly so, but the downtime at home has given me (and will hopefully continue to give me) the opportunity to catch up with some writing.
I finished a short piece called Paid in Full, in Plastic, which was a lot of fun and turned out quite well. It’s the fifth tale I’ve completed in 2020 and the 100th short story (upwards of 1,000 words) I’ve done since I started keeping detailed records of my writing exploits in 1995 – some of which are even pretty good!
It’s nice to hit a milestone like that, and I just hope that the inspiration can continue in these strange and uncertain times.
I’ve written a few flash pieces this month, all to fairly strict deadlines, but that is as much of a challenge as the writing process itself.
Row Boat Resuscitation is a dramatic tale about a sinking ship… although I’m not married to that title. Filling in the Blanks is fiction, but it does take a lot from my experience with my grandma. And Maternity Test is about a teenager’s prospect of meeting his mother for the first time. They are all very short, but they each offer a good platform to jump from.
I’ve started another short piece as well, which will see conclusion over the next couple of days, so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.
I also got word that More of a Wednesday Girl – a short story I wrote last year – has been shortlisted in a contest that I had all but forgotten about, which is a nice end to the month. It’s been far too long since I had any competition success, so fingers crossed there.
I’ve come to a decision about Slipwater. I am giving myself until my birthday next year – that’s May 7, 2021 – to find traction with a professional agent or publisher. If I still have made no headway by that time I’m going to self-publish the novel.
I know, I have always been opposed to going down that route. It’s the easy way, right? Any idiot can do that. There are no checks at any point in the process, and certainly nobody to tap you on the shoulder to tell you what you’ve written is trash.
Yeah, I know.
But I wrote the novel for a reason, and it’s good. I believe in it, and I want others to have the chance to read it, and if I have to swallow my pride and do what I swore I never would… then so be it.
Of course, I would much prefer to do this the traditional, tried and tested way, so if anybody in the business is reading this, here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor.
In other news I wrote a dark flash piece called I Am the Cheese. It’s something I put together very quickly – in about an hour actually – that isn’t particularly polished, but has potential down the line once I give myself the room to mess around with it.
I have sent off a few pieces to contests this month. I was going to give myself a budget each month for this, to get me in the habit of sending stuff away, so that may be an idea I can run with. I’ll have to see how it shakes out.