Thursday, 12 March 2009

Molehills out of Mountains

Not quite Everest, is it? No, Glastonbury Tor is here as a visual metaphor that our deeds very rarely meet up to the challenges we set ourselves. BUT that doesn't demean what we achieve in any way. Glastonbury Tor is still quite magnificent in its own right, and this picture even has a cow on it. Bet Everest doesn't have any cows.

So, how are the challenges going?
Number one: The Wordcount per Week Challenge. I haven't written a single word of my novel since last week.
Number two: The Exercise Every Day Challenge. Well, between last weekend's Hen Party and, um, baking more carrot cakes than you can count to for last weekend's Hen Party the exercise thing hasn't really happened.
Number three: The Keep On Top of the Washing Up Challenge. Tick! The dishwasher can take all the credit for this one.
Number four: The Blog More Often Challenge. Not bad. Signs of Strangeness has acquired some more posts, thanks to LL's contributions.
Number five: The Write Something Different Challenge. This is what I mean when I said we shouldn't take away from our achievements; my computer currently has four Word documents open, each one with a different piece of writing in progress: a short story destined for a competition, an almost-finished slice of autobiography for Mslexia and another two pieces of flash fiction.
I submitted my Flash Fiction, entitled 'Sculpture' (see previous post) to WriteWords and had some positive feedback. I submitted a poem to a collection with the theme 'Age' I had read about on the same website.

So a big

for me this week.


"For Chrissakes, Janine, turn the volume down. I'm having to shout!"
Eddi needed jazz to work and today she had Duke Ellington careering from the CD player, his exuberance focussing her mind on the flowing form in front of her. Janine always put the volume up too high; she had steady hands and the kind of quick responses that were vital in aiding Eddi's creation of her art but, by f***ery, the girl could be a cretin sometimes.
"Now, concentrate everyone! I’m starting the contouring.”
They leaned in, waiting on Eddi’s commands, engrossed in her effortless skill. When this latest model was unveiled to the public Eddi would be swamped with work and her team would have a job keeping up with the clients.
“Gregory… ready… okay… NOW!”
Gregory slickly passed the precious, fluid globes, faintly luminous under the stark lights, to Eddi and watched as they were incorporated seamlessly into the structure. The woman was a genius.
“And… we’re done. Closing up. Johan… suturing.”
Gregory marvelled at the dexterity and speed with which Eddi and Johan sutured up the patient along the black marker lines that traversed the iodine-tinged skin.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

New Challenges

It's always good to set yourself new challenges.
Generally, I get thoroughly enthused and start a good five or so at a time. This week, it's my new Word Count Per Week challenge, my Exercise Everyday challenge (does walking to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet count?), my Keep on Top of the Washing Up challenge (cheating by buying a dishwasher ha ha), my Blog More Often challenge (working well, thank you) and my Write Something Different challenge.

I have found that blogging has stretched me in a slightly different direction; it is snappy and cheerful and thoroughly unlike my novel writing and poetry. I find this trains my brain in the same way that swimming and resistance work helps with running. Even if I am just writing short snippets, in the words of the Great Vileness Tesco, Every Little Helps.

So my Write Something Different challenge is all about... writing something different. I started writing poetry as a moody teenager but, surprisingly, I was quite good at it. Until a few years ago I couldn't imaging writing imaginative prose. I had written articles for school, university and work publications but one day I sat myself down and wrote a thousand words of a novel. They weren't very good and 900 were swiftly axed, but at least the process had begun.

I have joined a forum on WriteWords (mentioned in my last post) that to me seems like a boot camp for short stories.

Short stories terrify me. I don't know how to write them. This forum kindly nudges you for weekly attempts around a theme of less than, say, 600 words. 600 words! That's nothing! I write paragraphs of fewer words than that.

Which is why I joined. 600 words or fewer on the theme 'the artist' by Sunday.
Left, Riiiight! Left, Riiiight! Go! Go! Go!

Thanks to Let'sGoDigital for the photo of Mount Everest.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


I have to write a synopsis. Actually, I have to write two. There is the chapter breakdown and then there is the shorter summary synopsis.
The reason for this is that a kind friend in America said he might wave them in the way of a literary agent or two over there and see if they bite.

Obviously, American literary agents are better-looking than this nice fishy and they probably eat more salad.

I started it yesterday and went through each chapter and tried to write down the salient points. It sounded flat and lukewarm.

Now, I should have started several weeks ago when he first made the offer but my first attempt was ripped apart so badly (by somebody else) I can't say I prioritised it. Which is stupid. What a wuss.
So I had it hanging over me and thought I should get started. By Chapter Four of insipid prose I was checking ICanHasCheezeburger every five minutes. Ooh! A new kitteh!
Then I checked the weather, the latest news (Gail Trimble's team were disqualified? No!) and the various brands of white tea sold at Sainsburys.
All very interesting stuff.

It is far harder to write a good synopsis than a novel. This is your opportunity to really 'sell' your book and without it your shining novel will never reach anyone. But I can't sell!

(By the way, this is a photograph of a closed-down shop)

And then there is the fear that this is an opportunity I could completely stuff up!
American literary agents want things presented a little diferently than British aagents, who mostly want a one-page synopsis described as a 'book jacket blurb with an ending'. In face, quite a few of these do actually end up as the book jacket.
But Americans want a full chapter breakdown as well as the snappier bit, which apparently can't sound anything like a book jacket blurb with an ending. It has to fully describe the book and the action. I suppose one reason for the difference is that British agents (all sounds a bit 007) also ask for the first three chapters usually whereas the Americans don't let you get that far unless they've been hooked by the synopsis.

And my half-finished synopsis currently isn't good enough to use as toilet paper.

Then this morning I remembered the online writers' community I joined a few months ago, WriteWords. You do have to pay to join but at least there are some friendly souls there who will quite happily give you feedback. It's a good place to start. If they rip my synopsis to shreds then I can have a second chance, something that certainly won't happen if a literary agent uses it to line the kitty litter box.
So maybe I should stop chatting and get on with the f@+$ing thing?