Flash Fiction published – ‘Unsatisfactory’

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This is a nice post for me to write after a brief break from the blog (I’ve been on holiday!)  Remember a few weeks back, when I’d been nice and productive, I wrote that I had submitted a piece of Flash Fiction to an online publication (or ‘Microfiction’, if you’d rather)?  It’s ok, I’ll wait while you scroll back and check.  Well, last week it was published, and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Obviously.  It was published on Microfiction Monday, and you can read it here.

It’s my first publication.  I don’t intend for it to be my last.

I like Flash Fiction.  As a medium it’s in equal measures challenging and rewarding.  For those unfamiliar with the style, Flash Fiction is the art of telling a story within a very limited word-count – often 100 words, but this can vary.  I first encountered the style when I read Dan Rhodes’ excellent book Anthropology; a collection of microfictions detailing hilarious, disturbing and often touching depictions of relationships that don’t quite belong in the world as we know it (a book that I thoroughly recommend, and re-read on a regular basis).  I have written several pieces in this style, and think that if a writer is serious about writing short stories they should try writing in this style at least once.

There’s a myth that writing Flash Fiction is easy because it’s short.  Well, that’s not really true.  Let’s face it, writers, as a species, tend to waffle.  We pound out points, scared that our readers might miss some of our subtle clues, we occasionally get a bit self-indulgent and over-describe, we keep in ‘scenes’ that really don’t further the storyline purely because we feel that they include ‘some of our finest writing’ and are loathe to leave them where they belong – wherever words go when the backspace key is pressed.  Good writers, of course, then go through a torturous editing process and trim away this excess as much as they can, but there is still wiggle room.  With Flash Fiction every word counts.

It’s a good exercise in writing, to be able to look at a piece of word and search for those synonyms that will reduce three into one.  It’s good practice to pour over every single line and paragraph to see what can be cut, what can be re-written.  It’s a valuable lesson in remembering to trust the reader to pick up on the smaller cues.  It’s habit-forming, and we all need to learn these good habits – it’s easy enough, after all, to learn the bad ones.

The satisfaction of being able to complete a whole work in a short space of time is pretty good for the ego too, I can tell you.

So, tell me about your thoughts on Flash Fiction – easy peasy or true art form?  Let me know in the comments.  

  

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The power of the writer – and the reader

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I was going to write about a different topic this week, until about half an hour ago when I decided on a little light procrastination before settling down to the task in hand.  There are a few sites I go on every day to give myself a giggle – funny pictures, that sort of thing.  Nothing too taxing, but everyone likes a chuckle, amirite?

So I go onto Pinterest (because of course I do) and find a site called Factfully – a trivia site.  Whoop whoop!  Now I love me some facts.  I can tell you the most pointless, trivial, good-grief-Gabby-no-one-needs-to-know-that facts you’ll ever hear in your life.  Did you know that rats can’t vomit?  There, you can have that one for free.  Trivia is catnip to writers, so I clicked on the link and started to read.  I wasn’t expecting to cry.

Fact number one was this: 

One day your parents put you down and never picked you up again.

I paused for a second.  I hadn’t expected that.  It was true.  By definition it was a fact – a variable fact, a different truth for everyone but a truth nonetheless.  It certainly wasn’t your standard ‘there are more people alive today than in the whole history of the world’ type fact (which, by the way, isn’t true, although it is oft repeated.)  But I paused.  I thought about the Goblin, still asleep in his bed after yesterday’s busy evening of throwing peas at me.  The memory of the first time I held him sprang into my mind – tiny wee wrinkled thing.  Of all the times I carried him everywhere as a baby.  The way we’ve been encouraging him to walk more because he really can be quite lazy, and how he’ll stop and throw up his arms and ask for ‘big cuddles’.

I thought about the day that I would pick him up for the last time, and how neither of us would know it.

I thought about all the times I’ve asked him for a cuddle and he’s scooted off because he’s two and he’s busy doing everything and cuddles just slow him down.  I thought about the last time my mum or dad picked me up and realised that I had no idea when it was, other than it must have been a long long time ago.  I wondered if they missed me being a little girl.  Suddenly I wanted to feel them lift me up into the sky again.

And the tears welled up.  Thirteen words so carefully chosen that they tapped into my subconscious, exploiting a shared glitch in our emotions that we all can relate to, and they moved me profoundly.  A writer can do wonderful, terrifying things with just a handful of words but the reader can work miracles too.  They can take the slightest hint of description and from that populate an entire world.

Right now I want to pick up my little Goblin and tell him his mummy will love him forever.  I think I will.

 

 

Obligatory ‘update on my progress’ post

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I’ve had a productive week.  In the last seven days I have written, edited and completed three pieces of microfiction, one of which I have submitted to an on-line magazine; I’ve compiled a fairly comprehensive list of journals and competitions that I might be able to submit to; I’ve read exhaustively, and I’ve written two-thirds of a short story that, although in its rough stages, I’m very pleased with.  This is on top of going to work, flirting with some occasional housework, having a cold, going to a friend’s birthday party and nursing the Goblin, who was ill for several days and in danger of turning feral.  Oh, and I totally OWNED dinner this evening – a delicious spicy peanut chicken casserole that has given me a deep and anticipated indigestion.  Still though, it was tasty.

What I didn’t do was remember to write a blog post.  So, umm… Oh look at that over there, did you see it? <backs nervously away from the blog before breaking into a sprint and hiding under the bed>

Can someone pass me my ‘Cold and Flu’ tablets please.

 

The great procrastinator

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Today I was supposed to write.

I’m supposed to write every day.  That’s the advice everyone gives.  No matter what, if you’re serious about writing you must find some time to write.  Get up early, or stay up late.  Go out for a lunch break.  Forget the housework for now.  Just write!

And…yeah, it’s not that easy though, is it?

Writing and parenthood.  They don’t really go together.  I was supposed to write my great novel while I was on maternity leave (forgive me lord, but I was stupid back then.)  I was supposed to go to NCT classes and lose all of my baby-weight by the time the Goblin was six months old, but I didn’t do these things either.  I’m a rebel.  I play by my own rules.

Yet there is, of course, boundless common sense in the advice above.  If you’re not actually sitting down and putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, then it’s all just excuses and white noise.  But it’s a hard ask.  Every single day?  I don’t even have breakfast every single day. 

I’m not, of course, trying to make out that I am a special case – the only person who can’t possibly find the time in their busy schedule to sit down and do the thing they actually want to (and need to) do.  Everyone has a reason for putting it off from time to time, and everyone of these reasons will be subtly different and equally important.  Me?  I managed, to my own surprise as much as anyone’s, to successfully reproduce (I think… I haven’t checked the records, but I think I’m possibly the only person in the world who has ever managed to have a baby, so I speak with some authority on the subject.)  And they’re marvellous, maddening excuses distractions.  You want me to put the kettle on?  Sorry, can’t – baby’s crying.  You want me to give you a quick call?  Sorry – the tiny human that I GREW IN MY BODY just made the cutest noise, and I’m waiting to see if he’ll do it again.  Housework needs doing?  But he needs my undivided love and attention and I can’t possibly pick up the duster in case he does something unutterably adorable and I miss it and he feels rejected and this becomes the first step towards a conversation he’ll have with his children in the future that ends with the words “and that’s why we’re not spending Christmas with nanny this year.”  

And so it goes with writing.  When the Goblin was tiny I was too dog-tired to remember the difference between handwash and toothpaste, let alone remember how to write coherant dialogue*.  Nowadays…  Well, I can’t get up early to write because NO ONE WAKES UP EARLIER THAN MY SON!  Seriously, I haven’t needed an alarm clock in over two years.  Then I either go to work or take care of the child.  Did I mention he’s a toddler?  He just learned to climb things and jump.  Yay.  At the weekends I try to catch up with the housework in tandem with my husband, and in the evenings I am tired.  So tired.  I regret every nap that I ever refused to take as a child.  I try to find time to write, truly I do.  The mind is willing but the body is half-sprawled across the bed browsing Pinterest.

So today I intended to write.  My parents had kindly agreed to take the Goblin for two days and one night – whilst they have him overnight once every two weeks this was one of the first times since I returned to work where this coincided with my days off.  Day one was housework – there was no escaping that one.  Day two would be for me.

Day one went as planned.  Houseworked my little cotton socks off, I did.  All the toys were in their rightful places, the bathroom was sparkling, the dvds were alphabetically ordered (in retrospect, I didn’t need to do that one).  Then things went wrong.  On day two a thought occurred to me: what other housework tasks can I get done without a small fearless opportunist here to thwart my every move?  I won’t bore you with the details (I had to go to the local hardware store three times!  Control yourselves) but the end result is that my oven is now 70-80% cleaner than it was this morning.  But writing?  Not so much.

And…that’s ok.  I’m writing this blog post, so that counts.  Somedays, though, you have to ‘clean the oven’.  And that’s the phrase I’m going to use from now on when I’m trying really really hard not to feel guilty for not getting a bit of writing done each day.  Even if it’s because I’m browsing Pinterest again.

 

 * Don’t worry, I only ended up with minty-fresh hands.

A little secret

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Ok, I’m going to let you in on a little secret right here and now. This post is not worth reading.  In fact, if I were you I’d stop reading.  Honestly, you’re wasting your time.  Why don’t you go and see if there’s something on the tv – there probably will be, this is the 21st century after all.  And if not the tv then watch something online.  I hear the internet’s pretty good for that sort of thing these days.

Seriously, why are you still here? This is a brand new blog – to be honest I’m only writing this post so I have something to look at while I mess around with the settings.  I’ll probably be a rich and famous author one day, sure, but right now I’m blogosphere pond life.  I don’t even know whether there will be a second post yet.  If there is, it’ll be funny.  Hilarious.  You’ll probably write poetry about how awesome I am.  I don’t want to read it if you do, but I’m cool with the whole ‘idolisation via the medium of expressive art’ thing.  If it helps, I have brown hair.  ‘Chestnut’ is a good way to describe it; flecked with grey would be more accurate.

Just please don’t make me read it.