Monday, June 29, 2009

Short thought

The short story has received rather a lot of publicity recently, and I, for one, am glad. I think it is a fantastic medium which suffers - at least it has in the past - from literary snobbery. It is about time it was raised in status to its rightful place. Bring on the short story awards....well, there are two competitions that you, dear readers, may be interested in: the BBC annual short story competition, and the one in my list of fave blogs - over there, on the right.

So, what are you waiting for?

Well, in case you want a little inspiration, here are a few of my favourite short stories to whet your nibs and get those creative juices flowing. In no particular order:

The Bloody Chamber and Peter and the Wolf by Angela Carter, The Dolls House by Katherine Mansfield, The Little Match Girl and The Little Sea Maid by Hans Christian Anderson, Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood, The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy, The Signalman by Charles Dickens, and Mr Loveday's Little Outing by Evelyn Waugh.

Angela Carter's short fiction is so rich I can only read one story in a sitting, and still feel as though I've read a whole novel. She is at her best, for me, when she writes about wolves. She was influenced (see intro by Salman Rushdie in Burning Your Boats) by Shakespeare, and like the Bard, if a thing was worth writing about once it was worth repeating! But she (along with t'old Will - as I affectionately like to refer to him) could certainly pull it off.

Mansfield is at the other end of the spectrum from Carter; her stories are the epitome of reserve and understatement and are as breathtakingly succinct as they are panoramic. Although some of her short fiction is almost novella length, it still leaves me wanting more. I long for the novel length Mansfield, but alas, like Carter, she was cut down in the prime of her story telling prowess. I read somewhere that Mansfield wrote the only fiction that Virginia Woolf was ever jealous of, and it is understandable why. I love the way her metaphors climb out of the pages and grab me. The Dolls House is one of only three short fictions which can make me cry: the other two are by Hans Christian Anderson.

Atwood captures everything that is so perfect about her writing in Bluebeard's Egg. I have to wonder why it takes her so many more pages to say it in a novel. Plus I love anything to do with Bluebeard!

Thomas Hardy was apparently never so happy as when he had written something miserable, so The Withered Arm must have had him jumping for joy and giving high fives to the air! He perfectly captures the real grit and pain behind so many of those beautiful pastoral paintings of rustic idylls. I am blissfully miserable when I read his fiction and his poetry.

Dickens is Dickens! What's not to love? With The Signalman, his writing reminds me of that of his pal, Wilkie Collins - I'm thinking Woman in White here...woooooo - wonderfully atmospheric.

Waugh is the boiled sweet of fiction: his writing will melt like syrup but still manage to slice your tongue with its razor sharp astuteness. Dark and wry, the man was a genius, though in his longer fiction he does, admittedly, become a little tiresome. Reign it in a bit there Waugh!

Hope there's something you like in that little lot!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

No news is good news

So...obviously the wait to know my fate didn't kill me! But writing 75,000 words in four weekends almost did - won't be doing that again in a hurry, though it is good to know I can be a writing machine when I want to. At least I have another novel to polish at my leisure.

I have an atrocious short term memory which means that when I write I have to jot every single idea or thought thread down in a notebook. I can't make little changes as I write without marking in the change everywhere else it will impact, else I will forget about the change and end up with a very disjointed narrative.

This happened with my first novel. I didn't know how bad my memory was then. I wrote it mostly off the top of my head, knowing the basic story outline but nothing concrete, and hoped the story would work itself out. I changed bits willy nilly as I went along, and made mental notes to go back and 'make sure to write that so-and-so has green shoes' (for eg.) Then forgot about those changes and ended up, four months later, with 60,000 words of pure confusion. It was good confusion, don't get me wrong, I was happy with what I had written, well most of it....actually, about a third of it....but the point is (see there I go again, forgetting what the point is...) it took me a further four years to work it into the book I had thought I wanted. Then I discovered that wasn't the book I wanted, and I rewrote and reorganised it again, wrote another 17,000 words, and this year I was happy with it.

Now I have two methods under my belt and I definitely favour the planned route - it works for my untidy brain - but I like the cut and paste, building an idea from scraps, add and change technique too, so I'll be doing lots of this in my redrafting.

It is now over a week since I heard back from the agent requesting a partial (makes me laugh typing that) and still no more news. How long does it normally take to hear back? And now I am convinced that an ever so polite rejection is on its way.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Image is everything...

Just spent a ridiculous period of time trying to create snowflakes, and customise a blog template to take them, only to decide I don't actually like them! They just don't go with my blog title. Well, they do...but they don't. Writing is much easier than creating an image. I am not the most technically minded person it has to be said - give me a paintbrush and I'll paint you a picture; a pen and I'll write one; a computer and I'll... erm... lose one somewhere in the ether...

On a positive note - there's always an upside to everything - I have got some nice snowflaky patterns all ready for when Christmas comes around...except I live in Auckland and it doesn't snow here...snowflakes anyone?

If only you could hear the chipper voice I write with!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


this is my first blog - ever. I am an unpublished, and unrepresented, writer. Hopefully, I will change this, and this blog is my invitation to all of you out there to share my journey.

I have just sent off my first novel to an agent and had a request for a partial. The wait to know my fate is killing me!