I haven’t posted in a while. To be honest, that’s unlikely to change for a while longer. It’s not so much writer’s block – I’ve got no problem coming up with ideas. It’s more a shortage of passion. The stories in my last two projects, Spiritus and Corpus, burned. I couldn’t think of anything but them. They woke me up in the middle of the night, interrupted thought and work. The protagonists were real people to me, and their emotions punched me in the brain.
Since finishing the last round of edits on Corpus, I have attempt to start three new novels. I knew the stories and protagonists for each. There was a message in each one that interested me. But none of them burned. I’ve managed to get a couple of short stories out but that length of arc is about as far as my attention span will stretch at the moment. It sucks, quite frankly, but I’m too tired to do much about it.
Here, then, is the lesson for this post. It’s not just about having the idea, or the character, or the technical skill. The fourth key component is the emotional energy, the internal resources to live your protagonist’s feelings and world. Currently, I don’t.
To make up for the absent words of wisdom, here’s a list of three current story competitions:
And for London-based types (or those within easy reach), these stellar-looking workshops are coming up. If anyone else is planning to attend the one on 26th June, let me know and I’ll see you there!
This year is the first time I’ve signed up to take part in NaNoWriMo. In the past I’ve always stuck firmly to the idea that being pressured to write X many words per day would take all the fun out of writing. I prefer to do it at my own pace, happy in the knowledge that I’m writing all year round rather than just one month of the year.
Having spent the last year trying to get into the mindset of a serious author, I am now forced to recognize that professional life is full of writing to deadlines and the sooner I get on board with that idea, the better. Writing at my own pace all year round is fine if I’m pottering but if I want to produce enough work to build a readership, I need to improve that pace from an amble to at least a jog. (I hate running – this paragraph needs a better metaphor.)
Also, there’s the question of Book 3. Spiritus and Corpus both filled me up with words to the point where I could barely breathe until I’d got some of them down on paper. Which is both awesome and frustrating (although mostly frustrating for anyone trying to have a conversation with me whilst battles rang in my ears). The point is that I didn’t get scared of the story until we hit editing and I realized where the problems were. Book 3, on the other hand, is the most technically challenging structure I’ve ever attempted. It combines two POV protagonists who never meet or even learn of each other’s existence, but who are both necessary to tell the greater story of the country they both inhabit. For someone who’s inclined to first-person single narrators, that’s quite daunting.
I’ve written up copious research notes. I’ve drawn story arcs and chapter outlines. I’ve even written excerpts from a critical third character’s perspective, to help understand her relationship with one of the narrators. But I’ve been running scared of actually starting the book itself.
This is where I’m hoping NaNoWriMo is going to help. I won’t have time to be scared because there’s a deadline to meet every damn day. And, as previously mentioned, deadlines are good things to get used to. Will it take away from the fun and magic of writing? I guess I’ll find out.
If you feel like following my progress, and/or sharing your own if you too are partaking, come and find me (everwalker) on the NaNoWriMo website. Let’s do this together!
Mslexia are looking for previously unpublished female authors to submit their memoirs. Full details are here. This is a competition, with £5000 as first prize.
And, a bit late to the game but still worth mentioning, there’s an ongoing Write Your Own Christie taking place. It’s organised by the official Agatha Christie website. Whilst it’s a competition, I don’t think there’s any money involved in winning but there is a lot of prestige plus a few bits and pieces. Full details are here.
The title of this blog post is a famous piece of work by Ernest Hemingway – he’s said to have called it his finest. It’s an extreme example of what is now called ‘flash fiction’ and in 2006 it spawned a project called Six Word Memoirs. I’ve talked in the past about the importance of both being concise and choosing the right words. Stories in six words demonstrate just how powerful the two can be when done well.
If Hemingway’s example isn’t emotionally impacting you enough, here are some more to consider (courtesy of lolsnaps, but don’t let that influence their literary merit):
- Dad left; a flag came back.
- It’s our fiftieth. Table for one.
- The smallest coffins are the heaviest.
- Mum taught me how to shave.
I know all these are pretty depressing but you have to admit that they pack a punch. They also tell you a surprising amount in the subtext. It would take far more than six words to explain everything you now know about each story.
So here’s a little challenge for you. See what you can do with six short words. What story can you tell, and what words are you not saying so loudly that everyone can hear them?
Many thanks to Andrew Knighton Writes for putting me onto this one. The magazine Nature are running a competition – write a sci-fi story in 200 characters. See here for full details. You have until 31st January. Good luck!