Tag Archives: writing

Confessions of a rubbish typist

I name my story characters very carefully. Their names have to suit their personalities. If I am writing something set in the past, they should be appropriate for the era. And for me personally, they have to be appropriate for my typing inaccuracies.

You see, despite training as a touch typist far too many years ago, I am a rubbish typist. Fast, but inaccurate. Eighty something words a minute, but a percentage of them are indecipherable if I’m going at top speed.

So I naturally incline away from names with the letter Z in them, as it’s one of the letters I’m least accurate at hitting. Half my Zs end up on the screen as Xs or As.

I like the name Zoe and nothing would give me more writing pleasure than to name one of my characters Zoe. I suspect I’d get tired of correcting Xoe and Aoe to Zoe after a bit, however.

I do have a story, yet to load on this website, featuring a major character called Lizzie. Her name required an amount of reworking as the story progressed, but I was so engrossed in writing it I finally surrendered to getting the story written and fixing the typos afterwards. I do prefer to fix typos as I write; knowing those little typos are there sits at the back of my mind, frustrating me.

X is another letter I’m not great with. One of my stories from a few years back had a protagonist called Alix (or Alid or Aliz or Alis, depending on how quickly I was typing at the time). Any name with an X will, in future, be given to a minor character.

Am I alone in choosing character names which use more common letters, simply because it’s easier to type them?

 

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A-muse-ment, at last

A visit from the museI haven’t had a visit from the muse in ages; at least a year. Sure, I’ve blogged a lot, and I write copy for websites, but having the mental space and physical and mental time to create fiction just hasn’t been there.

Mainly, I haven’t been able to think of plots. I have plenty of characters noted down but nothing to do with them.

For someone who from childhood until recent years always had a story or novella on the go, in the planning stages or in final editing, I’ve felt bereft and a fraud to myself.

However, my muse sat on my shoulders yesterday, and she was wearing spurs. A couple of weeks ago I found an entry form for a short story competition in my monthly issue of NewsWrite from the NSW Writers’ Centre. The prize money is pretty good – in fact fantastic for someone whose credit card only has $84 left on it.

The muse dug her spurs in. “Plot,” she hissed. “I’ve got one, use this.” And suddenly I had the right plot for two characters who’d been knocking idly around in my subconscious.

All of us write differently. I get scraps of sentences, or entire paragraphs, at odd times. Washing up, weeding the garden, or any other relatively mindless activity. Get enough scraps and I have the basis of my story’s voice. I am almost embarrassed to say my story’s voice came to me in a flow of sentences yesterday morning after breakfast while I was shit-picking in the courtyard (cleaning up my dog’s poo).

I HAD to get upstairs and start writing. I’d envisaged these characters originally in a third person narrative, but my muse, and the story’s voice, said it had to be first person. My main character Don jumped fully fledged from my brain into the computer as if he were relating his story and I merely taking down dictation. Three hours later I’d written about 3,500 words, an entire draft of the story. The muse was giggling her zany head off for the entire process, prodding and suggesting and magically making words flow, and she did a tap-dance on my head when I typed ‘the end‘.

What a cathartic process writing is. I love being able to turn the world off and just get that first draft done, out of my head and into reality. This is one of the reasons I enjoy writing short stories – I’m way too impatient to write an entire novel.

I’d love to share the new story here, as I do think it’s one of the best things I’ve written in years – my husband, who has seen the first draft, agrees. It’s not inanely silly like some of my stories; it’s not cozy either. It’s unlike any story I’ve written before in terms of voice, but I can’t publish it anywhere until the competition has been judged. So…watch this space! Sooner or later it will appear here. Whether it wins a prize or not, I’m proud of it.

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The clatter of little keys

Just for the heck of it, here’s a blog post I wrote last night on my Olivetti Lettera 32:

Hello old friend. It's been a while. Blog post from my Olivetti typewriter

 

I must have been the last person to use it – the line spacing is set up the way I used to type manuscripts in the 80s.  Heh heh.

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Does one snippet a story make?

How do YOU get your ideas for a story? Do you see an incident you think you could expand on? Is there something in the news that catches your eye? I find both of these work for me, and I immediately start up a conversation between two imaginary characters and see where it leads. Does it have the staying power to make a short story?

snippetsMy mind and my notebooks are full of snippets of ideas. Conversations. Single sentences. Concepts. One in about forty might be worth really turning into something. Gosh, that makes me sound pretentious, but one elegant sentence does not a story make. You should see the In Progress stuff on my computer. Started out well, with that magic first sentence, but fell in a heap a few hundred words later. Plot? What plot?

A snippet of conversation or the perfect sentence is great, but the plot, the whole plot and nothing but the plot is what matters, and the plot has to come in the same blinding moment as that perfect sentence for me or I’m a goner. (This is why I write short stories, not novels. Imagine Margaret Mitchell plotting Gone With the Wind around ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’.)

You can see where this is leading. I had a perfect sentence last week. And I can’t do a damn thing with it. I have half a plot but can’t resolve it. Maybe this weekend, which I’m spending on my own, will turn into a writer’s retreat for me. Bring on the chocolate.

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La belle baguette sans merci – dreams can make good fiction

La Belle Baguette Sans MerciLast night was abysmal. At 2am in our hot little uninsulated house it was still nearly 30 degrees in our bedroom. The kind of night when you lie under the ceiling fan, sans sheets, and long for sleep. When it comes, it’s in bursts of two or three hours, with vivid dreams.

I usually don’t remember my dreams, which is a shame, as they would make fantastic fiction! My dreams are usually of the adventure variety; in my dreams I travel the world, I get caught up in intrigue or danger, I do things I wouldn’t do when I’m awake. Like rock-climbing. One in ten dreams might still be in my head when I wake up, and when I woke up at 4 this morning hot and bothered, I had a grip of the one in the ten.

I had baked a baguette which performed akin to a light sabre. It was a weapon. It shot sparks. If I swung my loaf of bread it whizzed and whirred and electric pulses spat from its warm golden sides. I vaguely recall chasing an enemy (not sure who but probably the God of Hot Summer Nights) and slashing at him with the mighty baguette. Wham! Pow! (Oh, hang on, it’s a baguette. French in origin.) Paf! Ouf! La belle baguette sans merci!

I think the idea has merit. A magic baguette. So don’t steal my idea… only I know what the baguette actually looks like. Only I know how to make it a lethal 24 inches of flour and water and that little something extra. 🙂

Why did I dream about a baguette? I’m a baker’s granddaughter who bakes her own bread and while it’s usually a wholemeal or wholemeal/spelt tin loaf, I had found a baguette recipe to try on French Women Don’t Get Fat. It looks OK but I question not adding sugar or honey to the yeast mix. But I digress.

So back to dreams. Has anyone out there turned a vivid dream into written fiction? Have your dreams given you ideas? Have you dreamed about fiction you’re writing (and perhaps got some good plot twists)?

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The curse of the blocked writer

MoooooWriter’s Block is a cow. I think in my case it’s a Friesian who sidles up to my desk with a loud “Moooo!” and puts me off my thoughts.

I never used to suffer from Writer’s Block; as a child I had a disgustingly fertile imagination and always had a story or two in progress. I was still busily writing fiction in my twenties and thirties. And now I have half-formed ideas which I jot down in note form and can’t take to fruition. It’s very annoying.

I open my half-baked novel, read through it to date with the odd edit or two, decide it’s coming along nicely and then only manage three sentences in thirty minutes, if I’m lucky.

So I procrastinate. I work on client tasks. I read new emails. I look for daft stuff on eBay or catch up with my favourite blogs. I make a cup of tea. I weed the flower and veggie beds, going through plots and imagined conversations in my head.

But still that screen remains resolutely blank when I get back to it.

Clearly I’m not alone. Type in “writer’s block” in Google and you’ll get more than 2.5 million results. Type in “overcome writer’s block” and there are nearly 150,000.

Part of my problem is not being able to separate my non-fiction workload from my fiction work. As a self-employed freelancer I get clients with urgent demands which take precedence. And then there’s the non-urgent stuff which gnaws at me while I’m trying to write, reminding me that I should be doing it. Even at weekends it’s hard to turn non-fiction/business work off; typically I work at least one day of any given weekend as well as weekdays. Websites, meetings and other client projects nag at me, even waking me at 2am. Fiction writing takes a back seat these days.

The end result is that when I’m not working, I just want time away from the computer. I want to switch off and do physical things – exercise, shopping, just getting out and about and enjoying the fresh air. Or reading someone else’s fiction!

For a while last year I tried setting aside an hour every day to write, but the urgent stuff encroached, and then the non-urgent. By mid-February the hour had vanished. I just couldn’t concentrate on writing fiction knowing there was so much else that needed doing and had a more urgent deadline than my novel. By year’s end I was climbing the walls with stress.

I’m now researching tips such articles like this to see what can free my Writer’s Block; I suspect however what I need to do first is to learn to switch off and not respond to client requests outside working hours. Then go back to setting a time each day to write. Treat my fiction as part of my general workload.

Has Writer’s Block ever mooed at you? Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction/business writing? What did you do to overcome it?

 

 

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What, dear? Novel, dear? Me, dear? No, dear.

Over the years I’ve written several novels. Or rather, parts of several novels. I’ve given up half way, I can’t be bothered finishing, I’ve fallen out of love with my plots or my characters, I’ve lost interest or, worst of all, I’ve got writer’s block.

The Dreaded NovelThe reality is I’m one of Earth’s impatient people, and arranging 100,000 creatively crafted words in one location just takes too long. Hence my short(ish) stories. When I’ve got the characters and the plot for a story, I can churn out 2,000 words an hour if I don’t have any interruptions. In other words, I can write the entire thing in a day, first draft, if I’m lucky. If it’s a 2,000-2,500 word story I can start editing the same day, too. Most of the stories you’ll read on my blog have had minimal editing, by the way. So the odd typo may have crept in there, but essentially I like to use what was in my head or heart first time round.

Friends often ask me why I don’t write a novel, and I tell them much as I’ve said in the paras above. I used to tell my friends when I had a novel on the boil, but these days I don’t. They and I know it’s never going to be finished, and I’ll write something short and silly instead to free my creative juices.

That being said, I admit to having a novel halfway finished at the moment. I started it about a year ago and churned out 8,000 words in a couple of days during my Christmas holidays. It’s now sitting at 15,000 words and I haven’t touched it for months. I can’t find the mental brainspace to get back into it; work encroaches on my weekends these days, and in the evenings I truly want to switch off and be mindlessly entertained by the telly.

I’ve mentioned this poor misbegotten thing because in this case I do have to finish it, and finish it this year. It’s a fanfic (do NOT laugh) which I promised I’d complete for the 40th anniversary of the TV show it’s written about. I’m writing it in the style of the author of the books on which the TV show is based, which makes it even more of a challenge to finish.  I suspect it will end up a novella rather than a novel, or a novel with Very Large Print. As it will never be published by a publisher, and I will never earn a cent from it, it’s a real labour of love. It’s also hanging like the Sword of Damocles over my head as my aim was to get it finished by the end of June.

Having admitted publicly I’m writing it, I’m now committed to completing it. (But if anyone asks you if I’m writing a novel, just tell them “no”.)

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