New beginnings

There is something about September that brings me back to blogging. That ‘new year’ feel, I suppose, that I get far more at the start of the academic year than I do each January. This is natural to me. Harry is at school now, James and I both work at universities, and I am studying again. Until my phone took over my diaries would always run from September to August. There is also something about the autumnal days setting in that brings the anticipation of NaNoWriMo and the motivation to write.

So I am giving this blog another chance. This may be a bad idea, what with my Masters resuming in a few weeks time, but right now I am feeling psyched. I put the boys to bed, ate my dinner while watching James’ flight to New York on FlightRadar24 and suddenly within an hour I had written 500 words and submitted it to a flash fiction competition. Last week I submitted a short story to another competition. This needs to continue. I have only entered short story competitions on a few occasions – last year I vowed to do one a month but I got caught up in other things. Stupid of me really as one story was long-listed and the other short-listed, which was obviously a big boost with regard to my confidence and my ability but not, it seems, to my motivation.

I have so many ideas at the moment and my brain seems so much more open to inspiration than it has been in a long time. Writing short stories is allowing me to get outside my comfort zone (fantasy) and explore different genres and writing styles. One big idea I had when reading last month’s Writing Magazine (this month’s arrived today and thank goodness for six hours on a train next weekend because I still haven’t finished last month’s) I think I will adapt to be my NaNo project, partly because it ties in with my Masters so might, theoretically, make it easier to work on both at the same time. Basically, an article in the magazine made me question why I never write about what I know. I’m not sure my stories have ever been set in a hotel or a cafe, or if any of the characters have worked in those places like I have. I certainly have never covered issues of sustainability and social responsibility, even though this is what my Masters is all about. And it is not like any of these topics, settings, and characters are boring! So this year’s goal is to write a story encompassing what I know. Let the planning commence!

I often read advice to new writers that a good starting point is to write about what you know. If you write, do you find it easier to write about what you know or to explore other avenues? If you don’t write, which way would you be more inclined to take?

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Writing outside my comfort zone

I seem to have had a bit of motivation and inspiration for short stories again. I may be a bit premature writing this as the one I am working on is not yet complete (goes to show how hard it is to write something without allocated time, grabbing it when I can. But, perhaps that is what makes it easier with something like this as I am not forcing myself). Anyway, I am feeling positive.

The inspiration came when I finished reading one of my writing magazines yesterday. The competitions are listed right at the end and I scoured them as usual for the ones I liked the sound of. I came across one that had been listed in last month’s magazine too and it had caught my attention then but I had struggled for ideas and the motivation to even just write. Looking at it again I noticed that the story (flash fiction, really, as it is only 400 words), theme: the journey, could be a real life account.

Immediately, I knew what I would write about. It is a tale I have reccounted more times than I can count, each time in different depth and length, although usually really really long and embellished. I would retell it in letters to penfriends, in Harry’s journal, in my diary. It would be the full account from the place the journey started to various points in time, but nothing that ever felt quite like an end as there always seemed more to tell. 400 words, however, seemed a perfect length to tell it more as a story with a very definite beginning, middle and end of the journey.

As it stands at the moment (approximately 400 words but one last paragraph to write) it is quite basic. I don’t get across the suspense and element of surprise at the end like I wish to. It is a continuous stretch of prose and I am unsure how to, if I should, include any dialogue. But the format is there. I have included everything that I believe needs to be included, it just needs a very good polish (and the end to be written, of course).

Writing a novel always seemed second nature to me. Getting through a first draft, editing it to the point of it being ready as ever for submission, has been an achievement for sure, but it just seemed natural. It was something I always knew I could do. Writing a short story, entering it in a competition, is outside my comfort zone and what I will feel once I have done that is something more.