Archive for November, 2009

Stage Fright

I’ve started thinking about TMA2, and am getting rather worried about it, to be honest. It’s worth a lot of marks!

I’ve realised over the past few months that a really good short story is often only a glimpse: a window of time in an established world. In other words, the author has done a lot of planning, knows everything that happened before and after, and chose to write about a tiny section of those lives.

I’m not sure how to do this, and I’m especially not sure how to do this with the idea I’ve got.

My mind is full of questions: Where do I start? How does it end? Where does it end? Point of view? Narrative voice? Extra characters? Chronological or flashbacks? Does it even need flashbacks or can they be alluded to? Do the characters need to develop? Do they need actual action, or just a slight transition? How can I show what I want to show?

One problem I sometimes have is that my second draft is a lot shorter than the first. So technically, I need a story which fits into at least 3000 words, as I will then pare it down considerably. On the other hand, how much story fits into 3000 words? It’s not going to be an epic tale of a lifetime, but it can’t just depict one moment.

Rebecca mentioned story arcs, and that a story of 2200 words might need two story arcs, or one big one. I wonder what story arcs are? How do I get me one of those?

Most importantly, does anyone have any helpful resources for short story plotting? And how is everyone else doing with TMA2 thinking?

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The Original of Laura

Today marks the publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished work, The Original of Laura.

The problem is this: it was never published in Nabokov’s lifetime and he requested that it be destroyed after he died. Although the destruction of the manuscript seems like a terrible waste, should his dying wishes have been respected?

And, now that it is actually published anyway, we might as well read it, right?

I’m not sure. It seems disrespectful. What does everyone else think?

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Gone and done it

I posted my Activity 6.3 in the A215 Cafe.

I didn’t want to, and I tried not to. I don’t like the Cafe. It’s not as constructive as it should be.

But I posted both activities in my Tutor Group Forum four or five days ago and have only had one response on each. Those responses were helpful but one response for each isn’t really enough.

I’ve tried with the Tutor Group Forum. When I put the messages in order of Name, my name comes up most. It’s quite embarrassing. I don’t want to be one of those people on the Cafe who moan about their Tutor Group. Actually, when people post on my TG Forum they have really interesting things to say. And there are one or two active people, for whom I am very grateful. It’s just not as active as I think it could be.

I even drafted an email to my tutor:


I hope you’re well. I’m really enjoying the course, and thanks for the feedback on the TMA last week.

I hope you don’t mind me emailing you for something relatively trivial. Our TG Forum is really quiet, but I think it would be helpful to have more discussions and Activity critiques. Have you any suggestions as to how we could encourage some of the other TG Members to post on the forum more frequently?

I understand that not everyone enjoys posting their work or participating online, but there are definitely a few people who do frequent the forum and don’t post often – perhaps you have some suggestions for eliciting more active participation?

Thanks for your help,


I won’t send it. I feel like an arse.

And now, posting my Activities on the Cafe for feedback, I feel like a hypocrite too.

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Downhill from here

Today, instead of beginning work on Chapter Whatever-it-is in the BRB, I went for lunch with my mum, who was visiting Birmingham for the day. We battled through the Birmingham shoppers, along with the 27,000 disappointed teenagers. Birmingham was awful.

Despite my predilection to walk into a shop, look around, see too many people in my way and promptly turn on my heel and exit the store empty-handed (and grumpy-faced), I managed to buy quite a lot of new clothes.

Normal women moan into their mocha-latte-cappuchino-frappe-chai-thingies “why oh why have I bought more clothes? This is terrible!”. Not me. Buying new clothes is a veritable achievement for me. Honest!

I HATE clothes shopping with a passion, to the extent that I buy things on the internet and often have to return them, but I don’t mind the non-refundable postage and packaging costs, as that is the tax I pay for the priviledge of not having to forcibly push my way past busty women in the car boot sale they call TK Maxx.

But I do like having nice clothes. Every few months I realise that everything I used to love has become frayed, bobbly or faded and the mounting doom tells me that I might need to go and mingle with the consumers. Yeuck.

The only snag is, now I need some new boots to go with my new skirt. Siiiigggghh…

Oh yeah, TMA result came back at 1030pm Friday night.  At first I was very very pleased, but then I realised… things can only go downhill from here.

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In All Weathers

I write this from my sickbed.

MSN conversation yesterday:

Me: I’m ill. It’s just a cold, but I kind of wish it was flu because I’d have an excuse to be in bed and not at work.

Him: That’s the worst because you feel awful but still have to do everything like usual.

Me: Exactly!

Luckily (or unluckily) my cold escalated after work and I only slept for about 2 hours, so I felt completely justified (and completely rough, I must stress) in having the day off work. As it happened, I was supposed to be travelling to Bath for a meeting, so when my lift turned up at 7am this morning I handed over the printouts and hobbled back to bed for some sleep.

Two loads of laundry, two chapters of Zoe Heller’s The Believers, one episode of The Forsyte Saga and two more hours of sleep later (and it’s still only noon, bonus!), and I think it might be time to think about catching up on some Chapter 6 exercises for A215.

I’m currently thinking about Activity 6.2:

Invent a character who visits a place of historical interest, one with a strong atmosphere of grief or light-heartedness or positive endeavour, for example a site of war graves, a museum of childhood, the former home of a writer. Or choose your own place.

  • Write a 250 word version in which your character feels unwell and is worried about what the symptoms may mean.
  • Write a second version in which the same character has just purchased a ‘dream’ house. Again use up to 250 words.

I got a bit stuck with this the first time I read it, as the second bullet point’s ‘dream’ house seemed a bit of a non-starter. It’s good to challenge yourself though, so off I go!

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Haven’t heard anything yet.


Still no news.


Nothing at the moment.


No new emails.


Maybe I’ll check the TMA service.






What about now?


Still nothing.


Maybe tomorrow.

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Keeping Up

Every week, Saturday rolls around and I realise that it’s a new Chapter on the OU Course and I still haven’t finished the activities from the previous week.

So I rush through them at the weekend and make a start on the current activities. Then, during the weekdays, life gets in the way again and the weekend rolls around and the same thing happens all over again.

I know this is probably because I’ve had a busy time recently, but I hope to get on top of this soon, as I’m obviously not getting the most out of the course if I’m constantly rushing through the main body of the work. I think the main solution for me is to do more writing after work in the evenings.

Is anyone else having a similar experience?

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