Writing reflections

Arts Council logoThis week saw the completion of my short story and poetry collection, which I’ve spent the past year working on as part of the NI Arts Council/Lottery grant, so hopefully it will arrive in the post tomorrow morning for them! As I printed everything off and put the work in some sort of order, however, I couldn’t help but think of something Carlo Gebler (who I referenced last week) said about writing – that the end result often doesn’t reflect the amount of work that went into producing it.

I’ve sent in 16 stories in all, and about 15 poems – not everything made the cut and in truth, the final four stories I included sort of stand alone from the main collection of 12, but were sent along as they were part of the overall work produced over the course of the past 12 months. I didn’t help myself, I think, by getting a flurry of inspiration in the past couple of weeks for stories, which coincided with an extremely busy time with my job, so another 13th story missed the cut, as it just wasn’t ready and I wasn’t sure of how it should end. It awaits me still.

But looking at the writing I amassed, I was both pleased and also a little apprehensive. Was it enough? Was the writing really any good? Would the Arts Council like it? In truth, I know the point of the award was to support me in developing my art – my writing – and to produce the body of work I proposed, which I have, so all has been fulfilled. I also feel more confident in myself now as a writer, and have been published a few times already this year, which I put down to receiving the grant – it motivated and inspired me to write, and gave me the confidence to keep going and to believe in my ability.Flying letters

The end result though, does not reflect the hours of thinking time – the countless edits and rewrites – the scrapping of whole sections of stories, and the read-throughs time and again. I’m not saying the stories I sent in are amazing, but they’re the end result of a lot of work and through that, I hope I’ve improved my writing. That was, after all, the point.

With all now done, I wonder what the next step shall be? I intend of course to keep on writing and to use this experience to push forward and see where it takes me. It feels sort of odd at this point to have lost the ‘reason for writing’ that has followed me this past year – yes, I would have written anyway, but with a hectic 12 months in setting up my own business, I think that without the need to create the collections for the Arts Council, my writing would have suffered.

So, I will keep writing short stories and poetry – and submitting to journals and competitions – I may also try writing a novel. We’ll see. It’s been an interesting year though in my writing life, and I look forward to the next stage…

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Writers unite!

I’ve just finished reading NI writer Carlo Gebler’s latest book, Confessions of a Catastrophist, and I thought I’d share a few quotes from it. Certainly, reading the parts about ‘the literary life’ in the book showed me that in Carlo, there’s a kindred spirit.  And I quote:image

“This was one of the great curiosities of literary endeavour. Work never looked like the product of hard work… Some of my paranoid writer friends have always believed that this was the real reason no one liked paying us… The better something was, the less the effort to make it showed.”

Here’s another that will maybe resound with some of my own ‘paranoid writer friends!’

“…the strange expectation of so many in the world that as a writer, one is happy to work for free. ‘Would you ask a plumber to plumb for nothing, a coffin maker to make a coffin for nothing? No, but writers are endlessly expected to put out for nothing.'”

Anyway, I just thought I’d share those with you! I’m currently editing my poetry and story collection to send to the Arts Council this week, so it’s all go! Why, I ask, am I getting lots more ideas now at this final stage?! But I have quite a bit of writing accumulated over the year,  so I think I’m done. :)

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Literary launches and the like

BENNETT

Claire-Louise Bennett reads from her new short story collection, ‘Pond’.

It’s been a busy week on the writing front recently (hence the late post!), with a bit of the Belfast Book Festival – where I heard from The Stinging Fly short story writers, Claire-Louise Bennett, Danielle McLaughlin and Sara Baume – followed by the launch of the latest Incubator Journal. The week before, I also enjoyed the launch of Kelly Creighton’s debut novel, The Bones of It, so it’s been all go in a good way!

Add to that a spot of rewriting and new writing of short stories of my own, mixed in with a bit of reading and, well, you get the picture. A bookish sort of heaven, punctuated only by writing of the business-related kind – which helps to pay the bills…

With Sara Baume

With Sara Baume

I’ve also been reading Enniskillen-based author, Carlo Gebler’s, latest book – a memoir-type work called Confessions of a Catastrophist – which charts his literary experiences (of which he has many!) and how the writing world has changed in the past few decades. I’m about a quarter way through, but it’s already inspiring and it’s always helpful, I think, to read and learn from another writer’s life. Oh, and a catastrophist (in case you’re wondering), is ‘a person who regards historical or political events as progressively disastrous; a pessimist’, which should give you a feel for Carlo’s particular point of view! But, he’s refreshingly upfront about it all, I think, and puts his own humorous twist to things.

NOCTURNESAt the same time, I’m also currently reading John Connolly’s wonderfully creepy book of short stories, Nocturnes, which was another great find in a charity shop recently. Still, I finally found time to blog in all of this, but now, there’s a short story which needs a bit of knitting together, so until next week!

Happy writing :)

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Reviewing and writing

After having had good intentions of writing a fantastic piece of flash fiction last week, I realised (too late) that I’d, er, missed the deadline for the competition, so I’ve set the flash aside for now as I knuckle down to finishing what I started in the short stories. narrative-794978_1280

It’s good to mix things up with other writing in between, but my red pen has been out in earnest over the past few days to edit two more tales which will hopefully be added into the collection. What happens then, I know not, but in the past year, I’ve managed to compile a respectable assortment of stories (and poems), which I may not have otherwise done, so it’s satisfying to now start pulling them into some sort of order and reviewing all that I’ve written.

That’s not to say I’m enthralled with every word. Au contraire. But I now have a workable collection which, in the next year, may change shape or form, or be set aside in favour of a new one. Last year I did not. This is progress. My writing is, of course, also evolving as I go, and hopefully improving too. I’ve also established (if indeed, I was ever in any doubt) that my writing genre – if we must put labels on our writing, – is definitely in the magic realism/just plain magical category. This I love – others may not. You can’t please everyone with your writing, but then again… you shouldn’t have to. :)

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Keeping going

When it comes to writing, it’s all about keeping going, and this week I’ve managed to get some more short story writing done in amongst the writing that consumes the working week. Flashes of inspiration must be caught when they appear, and lightning can often strike twice, I find. landscape-749681_1280

Speaking of flashes, I’d intended working on a flash fiction piece which never really grew into very much, so that is my task for this week. To tweak and edit and write and rewrite the little sliver of story that I previously managed to get onto the page, with a view to making it shine. So far, so not. But I’m optimistic that my inspiration will continue on into this week and that I’ll get it finished in time for submission to a competition. Deadlines do tend to spur one into action, I find…

I’m keeping going :)

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Writing time

Arts Council logoAfter a period of more intense reading than writing recently (except for some poetry and story editing), I’ve dived back into my short story writing this weekend. Come the end of June, I’m due to hand in my collection of short stories and poetry to the Arts Council NI, so this is the final stretch as far as that’s concerned. It’s certainly motivated and inspired me to create more than I may have otherwise in the past year, and I hope I can continue in the same vein next year!

I also had a useful conversation with my friend, Kelly Creighton, this week. Kelly’s debut novel, The Bones of It, will be launched on June 10 and is a crime thriller set in Northern Ireland, which I’m looking forward to reading. As a fellow short story writer and poet, Kelly told me a bit about her own drafting and editing process with the book and has encouraged me to return to my children’s manuscript and finish what I started with that.Kelly Creighton cover

I’ve already re-edited it and intend to give it another full edit before hopefully finding a children’s editor to go over it. Then, I hope to send it out into the big bad world and see what happens. I did send it to a few publishers a year or so ago, but despite my multiple edits at the time (with months in between), I now see it really wasn’t ready. We’ll see how it goes. This writing lark, as we all know, is a marathon and at some point, if nothing happens with it, it’ll be time to put it aside, or perhaps self-publish (who knows!), but in the meantime, I’m still writing short stories, poetry and have the inklings of an idea for another novel…

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Nothing stranger than fiction…

STRANGEHaving today rewritten a few chapters of my hitherto shelved children’s fantasy novel (set aside the past year to focus on my short stories and poetry), and being on the final leg of re-reading a magical classic (in my opinion), I’ve allowed my head to be filled with all sorts of strange ideas and fantastical ‘facts’ recently. And it’s been brilliant.

There’s nothing so strange as fiction, I believe, and it’s great fun to both read and write. The possibilities are endless and you can always bet on something unexpected lurking around the next corner. Nowhere is this more the truth than in Susanna Clarke’s novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is the book I’ve been re-reading this week. Let’s just say, it’s a bit of a door-stopper, and as it’s been 10 years since I read it last, it’s been like entering Clarke’s world for the first time again. You can imagine how great that is, when it’s a book you know you love – you just can’t remember the particulars of why…

Anyway, for those Strange and Norrell fans out there, you’ll know that tonight was the BBC’s airing of the first episode of the book, which has seemingly taken those past 10 years to bring to the screen. Peter Jackson managed to get Lord of the Rings condensed to film, but he struggled with Norrell & Strange, so it fell to the creator of Sherlock to do the deed. Library

I’m always hesitant when books are brought to life for film or TV, in case they meddle too much and, well, you know, change how you see the characters etc etc. I am, however, pleased to see that Strange, Norrell, Childermass and the gentleman with the thistle-down hair have stepped off the page and onto the TV in fine form and I can’t wait to see how the next bit of the story is shown.

I’m not often one to re-read books, especially long ones like Clarke’s, but when the writing’s this good, it’s worth it. It’s helped to re-inspire my own writing and has served as a timely reminder of those limitless possibilities in creating fiction. Well worth a read if you haven’t yet enjoyed it!

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