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Archive for the ‘beginnings’ Category

I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling like I didn’t have any ideas which were good enough to turn into a short story. But then my wonderful writer friend Louise wrote this excellent blog post about writing what you want to write about, and not worrying about what readers (or, more specifically in our case, what our tutors and markers) will think. In Louise’s comments, I began to write something like: ‘You’re right, and in that case, I should be writing a story about a serial killer and a derelict mental hosp –’

I stopped typing. Why wasn’t I writing this?

Over the past twelve hours, I have been questioning why I haven’t been exploring the things which most interest me, why I’ve decided that I need to ignore my morbid and strange side in an effort to write something conventional. You know, about real people and real life issues that could happen to anyone.

The answer I’ve come up with is that I subconsciously thought that writing about what interested me was too easy, and therefore not good enough. Because surely, your best work needs to be difficult to produce, otherwise it seems monotonous, repetitive or samey? Erm… this is quite possibly bollocks.

No wonder I have been having trouble (for a ridiculous amount of time: months) writing things I feel proud of. I am now entering into a new experiment: writing about what interests me.

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The course starts on Tuesday. Well, officially tomorrow, but my first lesson is on Tuesday.

The structure of the course is interesting; we have a two-hour Fiction Workshop weekly, when three members of the group circulate their work in advance, and those pieces are discussed in the workshop.

In the induction meeting, I asked whether it is helpful to give information when we submit work; should we specify if our submissions are short stories or part of a novel, and if the latter, which part? And surely it would be helpful to supply a synopsis of the novel if that is the case, to aid understanding and context? And if we’re looking for specific considerations, can we ask about those: is the tense right, and point of view, and is it a short story, or in fact the beginning of a longer piece? But the answer was no, the tutors think it best if the workshop readers ‘go in cold’ and aren’t guided in their criticism in any way.

To some extent, I think that makes sense. An unbiased reading is best. But sometimes it does help if someone can read a piece with a specific question in mind. But the tutors know best.

Alongside the Fiction Workshop, we also have a Creative Writing Seminar, which I believe will be a more theoretical session on writing. This will be exciting, I think. A lot of preparatory reading necessary throughout the week.

And finally, there is a Literature Option each semester, and we have a weekly lesson for that, which also requires a lot of preparatory reading.

As a bonus, nearly every other week there is a guest speaker who comes to discuss their work. In semester one, these guests will be predominantly writers, and in semester two the theme develops wider, into publishing and the wider implications of writing.

I’m so pleased to be here. And I love Scotland.

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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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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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Plan A

In the pub last night, we were talking about what our “Plan A” career was. Or, what we had wanted to be when we grew up.

“I’m probably on Plan H, or something,” said Nick. He counted them off on his fingers. “Yep, just about.”

“What was your Plan A?” someone asked.

“I can’t even remember now.” And not many other people could, either. We all laughed.

For most of us in that group, Plan A was a pipe dream: astronaut, actress, footballer… And for most of us in that group, there is a still a Plan A(ii): writer, author, novelist… We all write in our spare time, and everyone would love to give up their jobs and earn enough money to live off their writing. Oh, how we want it. But no one said it.

I thought to myself about how my Plan A is beginning: with the Masters I am taking the first step to that goal. When the course finishes, I will step back into real life again, get a slightly boring job again, and continue writing in my spare time. Unless I’m very, very lucky.

I think we need to be lucky. That’s why no one said it.

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I’m a writer.

Or am I? I find it very difficult to say that to anyone… or I would, if I’d ever tried. It’s a form of modesty or self-depreciation which I have to stop, as soon as possible.

I haven’t been published, and writing isn’t my main job, so it seems that I am unable to tell people that writing is what I want to do, unless they force it out of me. I’m scared to admit I want to write, in case I never succeed. A friend might say “This is Rosie, she’s a writer”. And I bluster, “Oh, well, not at all really… no… I’m just… it’s a pipe dream actually… can never be my proper job…” And so on.

But writing is a competitive place. It is difficult to succeed, and those people hiding in the background mumbling that they “do a bit of writing when I get chance… nothing publishable of course…” – they are more likely to get overlooked and remain in the background. I need to stop this depreciation before it becomes a habit.

The people who push themselves forward and believe in their own work, who are constantly thinking of ways they can show people that they are writers – those people will do well, and people will believe them.

I need to have confidence in my own work, otherwise no one else will either. I need to believe in myself, to the point where I can stand up in a bar – at an Open Mic – and read something I wrote. And if people applaud, and say well done, I need to smile and thank them confidently. I need to be assured of my writing and believe I can do well, because no one else is going to do that for me.

I am Rosie and I want to be a writer. And that is fine and good.

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What was three months away is suddenly nearly two months away, and with it comes the phrase ‘only’. I’m moving to Edinburgh, I’ve handed in my resignation at work… it’s all coming closer, and yet it doesn’t feel real yet.

I’m so excited: I know this is an amazing opportunity and I’m already disappointed that it’s only one year long! And yet… I can’t quite imagine myself there – in Edinburgh, studying –  yet. And that makes it feel quite unreal, as if something might happen between now and then to stop me going. Perhaps that feeling always lurks when it’s a life change you really, really want: you can’t let yourself accept it until it’s actually happening.

Now A215 is finished, I find myself with more free time: time to read, time to think about writing, time to submit stories to competitions and other exciting locations. But I still can’t help but wonder how I could be using this time more effectively.

How can I prepare for this Masters course? What should I read? I have two months left before it starts, and when it does I want to be prepared to make the most of it… any advice?

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