Friday, 26 February 2016

Flash Fiction - a guide to submissions

I've just discovered this blog post and it has all the info on flash fiction that you ever need to know!

An Extremely Helpful, Incredibly Comprehensive Guide to Flash Fiction Submissions

It explains all the weird terminology!

Ever heard of hint fiction? Or an American sentence?

And do you know your simultaneous submissions from your multiple submissions?

There's also an explanation of the Submittable site and, as a bonus, the article also lists a ton of markets and competitions :-)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A million words in 2016 (February)



I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is February's progress diary (I'll be updating it as the month goes on). If you're interested, here's the intro and here's the diary for January.

The red number in the right-hand column is the total word count. Please wish me luck in watching that number tick up to 1,000,000 over the rest of the year!

The Million-Word Diary: February


1st Feb 107,326
Had a manic day of typing! Nothing new written today - it was all just typing up notes from notebooks, apps, and scribbles on the back of my hand. This is all free-writing stuff that I've done in the last couple of weeks, and there's still loads more to type!

My graph dipped below the par line yesterday, so I had to get this typing done today - simply for peace of mind! It's done the job. My "words done" line is once more a healthy amount above my "par" line :-) It's a small achievement but it gives me confidence.

Word count for today was 24,702 which has put me over the 100k barrier. 10% of the way there, already, and only one month in! Total is now 107,326.

2nd Feb 113,593
More typing up, today! This feels like a really lazy way to get the word count done, because I'm just typing up something I've already written, and not actually writing anything new! However, all of these words were written this year so they definitely qualify for the "Million words in 2016" project.

Managed a flash fiction today too. I've been attending a class called "Seeing it Through", run by one of my favourite teachers, Jill Sharp. In the class, we're talking about NaNoWriMo manuscripts, and the not-so-joyful task of editing them into something other human beings might actually want to read. Part of the class involves a quick writing prompt to get the brain working, and I ended up with a nice 150-word piece that I think I might be able to submit somewhere. (This is a good thing!)

Total word count today was 6,267 so the total's now 113,593.

15th Feb225,638
Nightmare! I've been typing like crazy and still haven't caught up! 

The problem with this "million words in 2016" project is that I don't always use the laptop when I write. I've got words on scraps of paper, or scribbled in notebooks, or... well... all over the place! I've nearly managed to get them all together now, but there's still more to sort out. 

I'm buried in words, I tell you! Buried! :-)

Anyway, the good news is that I'm now 34 days ahead of schedule. 

My word counts for 3-14 Feb were 8,389, 8,862, 5,503, 12,493 (this was a really late night!), 18,539 (this was a night with NO sleep!), 12,069 (another all-nighter!), 1,685, 3,330, 1,980, 6,756, 9,430 (what is this "sleep" thing?) and 5,766. 

Does anyone care about a long list of word counts? Probably not, but it feels wrong not to record them.

Today saw another 17,243 which brings the total to 225,638.

The huge problem at the moment is my word count is directly proportional to how late I stay up. There have been several all-nighters, each of which leave me a wreck the next day. I recover just in time to sit up all night once more!

So... I now have a big pile of half-finished flash fictions; loads of short stories; a few beginnings to some pieces that might turn out to be short stories or maybe even full-blown novels; a few more novel chapters; and a muddled collection of poetry attempts.

It's all in first-draft form, and it's all a horrid mess! :-)

At some point I'm hoping I'll find the time to sort all these words out... but I'm currently going through a big house-move, so I'm even less organised than usual. Feeling very positive about the writing though. I'm proving to myself that I can get loads done if I can just manage to keep the momentum going.

I should mention that I had a little bit of success yesterday! A couple of friends were travelling up to Buzzwords in Cheltenham (a poetry evening). I didn't have any poems to read at the open mic so had to cobble something together as fast as possible. Feeling pressured, I used a random word generator to help me throw together some ideas. I ended up with some weird flash-fictiony-poem-thing called "More breath than necessary" (whatever that means). My friends offered to look check the piece over for me, but here's the thing: reading something aloud to an audience is actually a bigger deal to me than having a good poem. Just getting up in front of people... Christ on a bike.. it's bloody terrifying! And I knew that if my friends found issues with the piece, I wouldn't read it. So anyway, I did the open mic with an untested first draft and - luckily - got some good feedback. In fact the feedback was so good that I might try this "random word generator" technique again.

19th Feb260,024
Stories are still pouring onto the page! This desperate rush to get words down on paper (ok, laptop) is so amazingly freeing. There's no time to stop, no time to think, no time to worry about grammar or spelling or even plot. I'm writing like mad, and all I can do is hope that when I look back there'll be something useful that I can shape into a proper story.

This "million words" task has become a form of therapy. Some of my darkest memories are being used as fodder for new stories! This means some of the characters are sooooo warped, that some of them actually make me feel ill. And apparently they don't just have that effect on me. Yesterday, I took one of these stories to a writing group and had much more of a response than expected. Several people cried out in disgust at the twist! And - get this - one of the group members stared at me in disbelief for the rest of the evening. Seriously. I'm not even exaggerating. Not much anyway. It was kinda scary, but at the same time may have been the greatest feedback I've ever received. Producing a strong emotion in the reader is, after all, what a writer wants. However, I'm not sure I'm welcome in that group any more. Oops.

Talking of that group, I had a lovely bit of feedback from one of its members. I knew that recently he'd read the start of one of my stories to his son (a kids' story, not one of the dark ones!) ... and apparently his son asked if any more of the story would be available after this writing group session! So that means:
  1. a 7-year-old liked the story enough to ask for more (fantastic praise!)
  2. I didn't have anything written, which means I just disappointed a kid :'-( 
So now I have guilt. Lots of guilt.

Word counts for 16-19 Feb were 3,247, 6,597, 14,210 and 10,332. Total word count is now 260,024. That's QUARTER OF THE WAY THERE!

I can't believe how well it's going, I really can't.

22nd Feb287,700
Sunday (21 Feb) was a fun poetry workshop. We wrote some random poetical waffle, then chopped it up and created new random poetical waffle. The idea is you cut your paper into strips so that each line is separated from the rest, then you muddle the strips up and lay them out randomly. The result is a nice mix of ideas, and it was really good fun to see how unrelated lines suddenly work together to form a new idea/sentence. It was poetry, so didn't generate a huge amount of words (only 360) but it was definitely good fun.

Word counts for 20-22 Feb were 17,008, 6,893 and 3,775 so the total's now 287,700.

25th Feb300,211
These late nights have to stop. It's not healthy! But at the same time... it's going soooo well! 

I had to write a poem very quickly a couple of weeks ago. I still don't quite understand this poeting lark, and so of course at the time I panicked at the idea of writing one quickly. Surely it would come out as some god-awful trite thing about moonbeams and stardust? It probably would have, but instead I came up with a new method of writing poems. I used a random word generator to help me produce poet-ish-sounding-lines, and to generate ideas. It really works! Since then I've tried a second poem using this method and it really does help produce something that sounds like it could eventually be a poem! I took both these poems to the Lower Shaw Farm workshop tonight and everyone was wonderfully confused (in a good way), especially by an obscure reference to "wooden circles" striking someone's forehead. I decided not to explain (mainly because I didn't really understand it myself) but it was a great workshop because I discovered the poem did actually have a meaning linked to something very important in my life at the moment. Is that normal? Can you write a poem and then have someone else tell you what it means? That's certainly what happened in this case. Kinda confusing, but kinda wonderful all at the same time :-)

Word counts for 23-25 Feb were 1,326, 3,837 and 7,348... and so my total just passed the 300k barrier! I'm now on 300,211 words... woohoo! :-)

29th Feb350,244
Now that I'm doing multiple projects, I'm finding that counting words is proving to be quite an effort. Sometimes I just ignore the smaller pieces - especially now that I'm currently doing well and am ahead of par. Is that bad? It feels bad. I'm probably going to regret this later.

I've not written anything new for a while but the typing-up is going well. Word counts for 26-29 Feb were 2,337, 23,562, 9,711 and 14,423. Total is now 350,244.

That puts me about two months ahead (estimated finish date is now Halloween!) and I'm officially one third of the way through my million words. Is it time for a happy dance? Yes. It's time for a happy dance.






Monday, 1 February 2016

Writing groups in Swindon

I love hanging around with writers, and attend as many writing groups as possible. Recently a few people have asked me to list what's available, so here goes!

The famous blue gate of the Richard Jefferies Museum

Mulberry Arts at Richard Jefferies

The Richard Jefferies Museum is great! It hosts LOADS of writing groups! (And, as a bonus, if you're there late in the evening then the ghost might bang on the floorboards.) Details of their writing courses/groups are here. Some of the courses have already started so it might be best to write and query before paying to reserve a place.

It can be a challenge to find the museum so allow plenty of time for the hunt! Your best bet is to park at the Sun Inn (next to Coate Water). Then walk up the main road towards the Great Western Hospital, until you pass a blue gate (see pic above) set in the wall on your right. The next entrance on the right (a sort of gravelly driveway) is the museum.

Poetry Swindon Open Mic

Poetry Swindon used to be known as BlueGate Poets (because, again, they have strong links to the Richard Jefferies museum - see the 'blue gate' pic above!). Their "open mic" night is very friendly. You can bring a poem or short creative piece to read for your 5 minute slot... or you can just sit and listen to clever people reading clever words! Poetry Swindon also host many workshops throughout the year. See their events page for details.

Writers' Kitchen at Lower Shaw Farm

Also known as the Writers' CafĂ©, this informal gathering happens at Lower Shaw Farm on the last Thursday of every month. The next one's on 25 Feb 2016. Email Matt Holland if you want more info (follow this link to get the email address and full details of the group) or just turn up on the night. There's no need to book. You can bring something to read aloud (aim for a maximum of about 1,000 words) or just sit and enjoy listening to everyone else. the size of the group varies from month to month. If the group is small enough then feel free to ask for crit/feedback on your work. Cost is £2.

Swindon Genre Writers 

An informal gathering every couple of weeks upstairs at MacKenzies in Old Town. Details are here and if that link's not working then join the facebook group to get all the info. We usually bring a piece of work for crit/feedback but don't feel obliged - you're welcome to just join us for a beer!

Swindon Free Writers

I haven't actually managed to attend any meetings with these guys, so please check their site for details. They're a fun group who I believe tend to meet purely to chat rather than swap crit/feedback. There might be a few fun writing exercises as well. Come and vent your editing frustrations over a coffee!

Eastcott Writers

A group of novelists and poets, meeting for writing exercises as well as crit/feedback. They have a facebook group which gives all the details, and the group is also used to share work and feedback/comments. The meeting takes place on the first Tuesday of the month, at Savernake Street Community Hall. Bring a short prose piece (up to 1k words), or a poem. Cost is £2.

New College, Swindon

New College runs several writing courses as evening classes. Log on to their site, look for "part-time study" and then search for "creative writing". If their site hasn't changed, then this link should hopefully do all that for you. I'd recommend the "Creative Writing for Beginners" class to everyone, whether you think you need it or not! It's currently run by Hilda Sheehan (one of the "Five British poets to watch in 2016"!) who is a master at introducing you to new worlds of artistic writing. She'll change the way you write for the better!

Mum's the Word

You need to be a mum to attend this group, and I don't have the necessary qualifications. It happens at the same venue as the Writers' Kitchen (see above). Details are here.