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Archive for August, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m quite careful about not posting my writing on the blog, as I don’t want to scupper my chances if I want to get a short story published in the future. However, I can probably unequivocally say that I am NOT a poet. I love poetry, but I’m unable to write it well.

Thanks to the Open University poetry assignments, I have a homeless poem which I don’t think will be accepted anywhere for publishing unless the literary world develops a sudden penchant for slightly childish poetry. My other two efforts have been (very generously) accepted over at The Fiction Shelf, which is launching soon (go and submit your stories and poems to them, I think it’s going to be a great site).

So now, without further ado, here is a poem by my own non-poetic hands.

The Explorer

I dug a hole so I could see

a piece of earth unviewed.

I climbed up high and breathed in deep

and hoped that air was new.

I wrote a song so wild and free

which none had heard before.

And when I swim, my eyes are wide,

they sting to see new shores.

In the snow, my feet are first

to step out through the door.

And sometimes I can dream a world

where none have been before.

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How do you know when a short story is a short story, or possesses the potential to be extended into a novel?

While I was on holiday (just got back, very sunny and lovely with lots of reading), I had an idea for a short story. I sat in the shade of a beach umbrella by the hotel pool for a couple of hours, and ended up with around 1.5k of a first draft. I liked its tone: familial drama, with a little humour. My boyfriend said it reminded him a little bit of Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother. I definitely can’t complain about that!

But then….

“I know the ending’s quite weak, but –”

“Oh, I thought you hadn’t finished it yet. Definitely need a better ending.”

“Ah. Right.”

“But it’s a short story? I thought it was going to be something bigger.”

“Really? Oh. Well, I suppose it could be. Let me have a think about it.”

And over the rest of that day, that short story with a weak ending developed into around thirty possible chapters. There are a number of logistical problems at the moment, and if the plan were to remain as it stands, the reader would definitely have to make some definite leaps of faith. But those issues will resolve themselves as I think about it more. But, I do have some reservations.

Firstly, I liked the lighthearted tone (but dealing with quite a big issue) of the initial story (or first chapter, if we’re looking at it as a potential novel), and there was a strong theme running through it. These would be difficult to sustain throughout a novel, but I think a novel would be better if I could manage that. So this reservation might be just laziness talking. I.e. “I could just polish this into a story within a week or so, or I could slave over it for months and still not be happy. Now, which one do I want?” Hmmmm.

And secondly, how do you even know if an idea has the… well, the substance to survive transformation from a tiny kernel of a story into a huge monolith of a book?

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[Insert Title Here]

The title is an important part of a story or poem (or, indeed, blog post); it often tells the potential reader about the genre, style and content of a story. Really good titles have more than one meaning, and more than one reason for their relevance to the story. Good titles seem to be perfect, and you rarely find yourself questioning why the author chose them, or how they thought it was an appropriate choice.

I have a big problem with choosing titles. Often, I even forget to choose a title until the last minute – until I have ten minutes before my assignment is due, or I need to submit a competition entry before I leave work (ahem). When I do eventually pick one (often with the help of some rather extreme straw-grasping, Wikipedia and Google), it never feels quite right. But then, nor do any of the other myriad possibilities I have considered.

So, how do you choose your titles? And what makes a good title?

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The next month or so might be quiet on the blog, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten you all. I’m currently trying to get rid of extraneous and broken furniture in preparation for moving to Edinburgh next month, along with booking removal vans etc, and trying to finish off things at work. I’ve found a delightful little flat in Edinburgh, and I can’t wait to move in.

I got my course result for A215 this morning, and am ecstatic to find I managed a Distinction! Brilliant! This means (I assume) that my offer for the University of Edinburgh is no longer conditional, and things are moving swiftly.

My End-of-Course Assignment (ECA) was a 2,500-word story, in quite an experimental narrative style, which is quite chilling (think We Need To Talk About Kevin). Now that I’ve got my course results back, I would like to submit it somewhere, a print magazine or competition, I think. Does anyone have any submission suggestions?

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