Three Out Of Five Stories

Sometimes, when you start to write, the story is never as good as you imagine it should be and sometimes it’s even better. However, finding yourself somewhere in the middle of those two options is a more common achievement and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Everyone has good days and bad days, something which writers are very familiar with and most are willing to tell you that.

As I posted before, I took part in NaNoWriMo again this year and I was aiming for the big 50,000 word target.

I’m not particularly surprised that I didn’t hit it but, I did write. Really, that’s the important bit. The fact that I liked (and still like) what I wrote is a bonus and has left me feeling pretty chuffed about what I achieved in November. Plus, I started a new job (for Christmas, at least) towards the end of the month so real life picked up a bit as well.

What was my final word count for November 2017?

27,205 words.

Yeah, I’m pretty chuffed with that.

Over halfway.

According to the stats, that’s an average of 906 words per day which may not seem too impressive until you actually try to reach it on purpose.

27,205 words is also equivalent to 61 pages on a Microsoft Word document.

If you saw my posts early in November you would’ve seen that I was attempting to write five 10,000 word short stories so, that word count means that I did in fact finish two of the stories. I only have about a quarter of the third story left to write which I am pretty pleased with, particularly because I did hit a little writing slump in the middle of the first one and I was questioning myself a lot about where that story was going (to be honest I’m still not sure but, I love my characters in that story so I’m okay with it).

I am really hoping that I’m going to continue to write these stories once I’ve got some free time because I had a lot of fun in starting from scratch and I’m quite looking forward to writing the next story that I was planning. I would love to reach the 50,000 word target even if it takes me a little bit longer.

I’m also trying really hard not to think about editing until I finish writing all five of the stories. I don’t want to be distracted by that little voice in the back of my head that’s telling me that I have to take a red pen to everything before the first draft is complete

Now, rough as it may currently be, I’d like to share an excerpt from my story – the opening two pages of the third story I’m writing which is titled ‘Level 3’, at the moment. This story is one that I’ve been mulling on for a while but I haven’t tried to seriously write it before now. I thought that the idea of a mother being forced into taking part on an adventure, years after she’d left the world behind when she’d had a daughter and started a different life, would make an interesting perspective.

 

Level 3

The knock at the door couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Caroline growled wordlessly at the flaking chicken in her hands and in the tray. Making dinner had been going so well up until that moment.

Taking a deep breath, Caroline yelled, “TANYA! Get the door!”

“I’m busy!”

“Get the door or you can make dinner and I can pretend to do your homework!”

“Urgh! Fine!”

Smirking, Caroline turned her attention back to her chicken.

A moment later Tanya yelled again, “Mom! There’s some guy at the door who says that he’s my uncle!”

“You know what your uncle looks like!”

“That’s why I didn’t say that it was Uncle Mike!”

“Oh for goddess sake! Fine, I’m coming!”

Caroline washed off her hands and stormed down the hallway to the front door, “Who the… Rick?”

“Hey Caroline. You look good.”

Reaching out, Caroline steadied herself against the doorway, “Oh my, Rick… you… you… SON OF A…”

Tanya yelped, “Mom!”

“Oh hush Tanya.”

Rick smiled at them both, “So grown up.”

“Yeah, well that happens when you don’t visit for fourteen years!”

“I know. It’s been a while.”

“No, a ‘while’ is no longer than a year. You have got a lot of nerve showing up, out of the blue, while I’m trying to make dinner and…”

“I missed you.”

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shut this door right now Rick. I’m not messing around.”

“Kolya.”

“Tanya, go upstairs.”

“Mom?”

“Tanya, just… please. I will explain later.”

Tanya glared at Rick but she went upstairs and Caroline pulled Rick inside so that she could close the door.

“Come on, you can explain while I finish making dinner.”

“We don’t really have time…”

Caroline whirled around to glare at him and it was a lot more effective than the expression had been on Tanya, “It has been fifteen years. It can wait fifteen more minutes and if it can’t, then you can leave right now and we’ll never find out exactly what it is you have to say. I can live with that.”

Rick sat down meekly at the kitchen table and waited until Caroline’s hands were occupied with the chicken again.

“I found him.”

“So I gathered. It took you long enough.”

“There were complications.”

“That meant you couldn’t even write a letter?”

“Ummm… yes.”

“Ok, putting that issue aside for the moment, you found him?”

“Yes, we did.”

“We?”

“Yeah, there’s a lot about this story you’re not going to like. I guess that the fact I’ve been working with Sienna isn’t going to be the worst news.”

“SIENNA!”

“You yell a lot more than I remembered. We ran into each other about three years ago and she joined me on my search.”

“You are lucky that we have a ‘no murder’ rule in the house and for someone who claimed that we didn’t have a lot of time, you sure are taking a while to get to the point of this story.”

“You want the long story short? Fine. Your husband is in the Labyrinth and has been there for the entire time that he’s been missing as far as we can figure out.”

“The Labyrinth? You were right – there is a lot about this story that I don’t like.”

“Do you want to hear the rest of it?”

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Leaf By Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien is a short story, first seen in the Dublin Review in 1947 and was first published in the small book Tree and Leaf in 1964.

I bought my copy of the story this summer and my edition, with the lovely cover as seen above, was published for the first time in it’s own volume in 2016 with an afterword excerpted from Tales from the Perilous Realm by Tom Shippey.

Tolkien himself said that this short story was in his mind when he woke up one day and in the afterword Tom Shippey proposes that the story stemmed from an ‘anxiety dream’. One of those dreams where you know that you have to do something but, you also know that you don’t have time to do it.

I can absolutely see where Tom Shippey is coming from and the story itself does have a dream-like quality to it wherein it never lingers on the details but, the important parts are all there. The main character Niggle knows that he has a journey to take but he never really prepares and Niggle’s experiences gently jump from event to event as the story unfolds. Though, the journey seems to take Niggle rather than the other way around as he has very little influence on the destination or the steps along the way.

I found that it was in the final few pages that the story really started to make sense and all of the pieces fitted together – much like Niggle’s painting that becomes ‘the Tree’ in the end. Although it is only a short tale it contains a lot of meaning and is full of big ideas. There are in fact two endings to the story, in a way, where Niggle becomes important to some and is forgotten by others.

Other character’s such as Parish, First Voice, Second Voice, etc. are seen sparingly but, are there with purpose and that’s a wonderful thing about a short story in my opinion, that it almost becomes easier to see the purpose behind the written word. They are also quite distinct from each other in description and voice which is unsurprising to me from a writer who valued the way that a cast of characters could fit together in a created world.

Tolkien, as well as others, have written their opinions about this story – what it’s purpose is, what it really means and where it fits in the scheme of things – and I like that the extra information is out there if I choose to search for it, though I believe that the story loses nothing if I choose not to. As for the story itself, I can honestly say that I found it to be clever, complex and slightly easier to read once I’d read through the tale the first time in this instance.

Whether it is really an allegory of the creative process or a faerie myth, either way I enjoyed reading the story and there was a line on page 10 in particular that stood out to me:

He was the sort of painter who can paint leaves better than trees.

Sharing Stories

It might be a little bit of a cliché but, I do like the idea that every person has a story to tell and I love it when a person shares their story with me.

There’s nothing quite like sharing story ideas with someone who understands that it is genuinely something to get excited about because, it comes from us. Our stories. Our imaginations.

To tell a story, people will tell you that you need a lot of things: a pen, lots of time, etc.

Yet, I’ve been told amazing stories – both creatively fictional or absolutely true – by someone who has just sat down and started speaking to me.

I love that moment.

Being trusted with someone else’s idea is pretty special and I know that talking about my ideas out loud tends to make planning a little bit easier. Bouncing ideas off one another is a great way in my experience to expand the world of your story and figure out what works because, if it doesn’t make sense when you’re talking about it then it’s probably not going to make a lot of sense when you write it down.

At the moment, as I blogged about towards the beginning of this month, I’m taking part in the National Novel Writing Month event by writing five short stories that all have a link to one another. The downside of writing five stories instead of one means that it really takes more planning if you want five distinct stories.

Last week I was flipping between writing my blog and my story (the second story) when someone sat down next to me and asked, slightly shyly, if I was doing NaNoWriMo. That conversation was so encouraging because she was positively attempting the reach the same goal and she was happy to talk about it. She was so nice and it was wonderful to just share that moment of swapping stories.

I may not be completely on target to finish NaNoWriMo – again – but I have reached 18,707 words today and I’m really happy with what I have. I’m really enjoying writing my original stories and I think that NaNoWriMo has been great for getting me started again after a short break from novel writing. I also really hope that I can finish all five stories even if I don’t finish them by the end of this month.

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

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Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris is the first in the Midnight, Texas trilogy – a paranormal fantasy series first published in 2014.

I read the entire book in one afternoon and though the plot gets rather dark at times the story overall was pretty gripping.

Honestly, having already watched the TV series Midnight, Texas on Syfy I did find that I was a little bit distracted from the book when I came across plot points that they’d used on screen – in a ‘oh, so that’s where that came from’ sort of way – but, I wasn’t so distracted by the parallels or lack of in terms of the characters and their descriptions which was good in my opinion.

There is a real variation in the characters and the way that they’re introduced is lovely and steady, it’s almost like being introduced to people at a party one at a time but you’re among a group and you pick out the most memorable thing about them first. I love the idea that they all have some sort of secret that’s kept from the reader because the unknown is so interesting and adds a sense of depth. Also, the secrets that are revealed are usually seen by Manfred Bernado, the new stranger who has moved to Midnight, so it feels like you’re learning things about the world at the same time as him. In this case, it made me feel a bit more connected to the story to know that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure about what was going on.

As for the other characters, there is plenty of variation from the people to the animals. I didn’t think that there was a ‘main’ character as much as there was ‘important’ characters, which increased the sense of a small town community who revolve around each other.

I liked Manfred who was a character that doesn’t give away too many big details about his own life in the first book, as the plot focuses and brings secrets about more established characters in the town to light but, the small pieces that he shares hints at a character who does and could fit in well with the community of Midnight. The last page of the book is possibly the biggest indicator of the possibilities of Manfred’s role in the town. Mr Snuggly is also one of my favourite characters because of the way that he’s unexpectedly important, plus he has a rather distinct ‘voice’ that is just delightful because it sounds so right.

I loved the writing itself, because it almost felt like you were wandering among the discoveries and the next thing was always another reveal that made the story richer, even as it grew darker.

I have read some of Charlaine Harris’ work before as I read the Harper Connelly series a few years ago so, I did catch the subtle reference on Page 12 to Harper which I loved to see. It was the series of films, however, that made me catch the reference on Page 289 and remember that she also wrote the Aurora Teagarden series, currently there are 10 novels to date. I love how she was able to integrate these details almost as if they’re extra treats for her readers who she does dedicate the book to, at the front of the book, ‘As always, this is for my readers. I hope you like this new world and its people.’ which I think is just lovely.

My favourite lines in the book definitely came from page 57, after a conversation between Fiji and Manfred, because they made me laugh:

But he stored a new fact in his mental file about women.
They liked it if you told them you were sorry.

 

@RealCharlaine

http://charlaineharris.com/

 

1st Anniversary

I’m so excited to be able to say that it has been one year since my first blog post. It’s been an entire year of writing one post every week and I’m so pleased that I’ve reached this milestone.

I originally started this blog last November because I missed talking about writing and reading on a regular basis which is what I had while I was at university. I also wanted a place where I would be sure that I was writing regularly and I could share my creative writing, as well as what I’d learned about writing itself in my own experience.

I really think that I’ve had all of that this year but I’ve found that it’s been a lot of fun for me as well.

From my personal challenge to write 28 poems, one for every day, in February to Inktober last month and NaNoWriMo this month (I’m at 7,644 words at the moment, a little bit behind but, I’m doing ok 🙂 ) I’ve tried to keep writing and being creative and it’s been some of the most enjoyable parts of the past year for me so it’s been great to share my work.

 

Looking towards the next year I’ve decided that I’m going to add a few new things to the blog to make it more interesting.

I posted recently that I had entered the Celestial Bodies poetry competition at Platypus Press and although I wasn’t shortlisted (again, congratulations to everyone who was) I am excited to be able to share some of my poems here on my website. You can find it under the ‘Poetry’ heading on the menu above where I’ve added a selection of mine and my friend’s favourites from my collection with the title ‘A Sky Full of Stories’.

I’ve also decided that I like the title of the collection so much (which is slightly surprising because it took a me until the last minute before I thought of it for my collection) that I’m going to use it as the main title at the top of my blog instead of it simply being ‘Writing’ as it has been for the last year.

As for my main, weekly posts, I’ve decided (and been encouraged in my decision) that every two weeks, my blog post will be about a book I haven’t read before. So, that means that my first book review will be posted next week.

A part of me is hoping that this will help me to get through my to-read pile but I would also love to hear from anybody who has a book to recommend, even if they’re only recommending it because they don’t have time to read it themselves. If you do want to suggest a book then please feel free to comment below on this post or you can find me on twitter @TeganMStevenson

Not all of the books I’m reviewing will belong to the same genre because I love a mix but, the first story does belong to one of the genres that I read a lot when I was a teenager (alright, so I still go back the genre now and again obviously) and that is paranormal fantasy.

The first book I’ll be reviewing is Midnight Crossroads by Charlaine Harris.

midnight-crossroads

I was partway through watching the TV series Midnight, Texas, based on the books, when I saw them in the bookshop and I decided to buy them on impulse. There’s three books in the series: Midnight Crossroads, Day Shift and Night Shift and I did buy them all (there was a really good deal) so I think that now’s a good time to start reading them (before they get pushed to the back of the bookshelf and forget all about them. I promise, I am trying to get better).

 

I’ve really enjoyed blogging for this past year and I’m looking forward to the next year as well. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading any posts so far and I hope that you continue to like any future posts. 🙂

 

First Day of NaNoWriMo 2017

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Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo and I’m glad to say that I’ve actually started to write my story today. So far, I have 1,842 words and according to the NaNo website writing 1,667 words per day will allow you to finish on time so I’m very happy with my good start.

Last week I said that I was either going to write five separate stories or a story in five parts. Now, it turns out that I’ve decided on something inbetween those two options. I’ve decided that I’m writing five 10,000 approx. word stories and each story will have one small connection to the other whether that’s through a character or a place. I’m hopeful that this is going to work.

In preparation for the event I did make a vague plan via a bubble map. I initially tried writing my plan down as a list but, sometimes I just need to be able to throw my thoughts across the page and see what sticks. Plus, I got to use my new brush pens from Paperchase and they are so lovely.

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My plan may be a bit vague, with room for me to fill in some gaps on the page as I go and I’ve already scribbled a couple of things out but, it did give me a good start and it went a long way to confirming that what I really wanted to write this November is a fun, adventure-fantasy story.

So, in that spirit, I’d like to share the opening of my first story featuring my two original characters Hallie and Jane:

——————————

Five

Level 1

“Hallie, don’t touch the dead guy.”

“I don’t think he’s dead.”

“Even more reason for you not to touch him.”

“Jane.”

“Hallie.”

“We should do something.”

“So, we’ll tell the Guards when we reach the town.”

“Jane.”

“A mostly-dead body is not a potential pet Hallie. Just walk away.”

———————————

 

I am happy to say that in October I completed a drawing for every single day of Inktober and I had a lot of fun.

 

In other news, I unfortunately didn’t get shortlisted for the Celestial Bodies poetry competition but, there is a little bit of good news in that because it means I can pick out my favourites to post here on my blog.

I’m planning on uploading the poems in time for the 1st anniversary of my blog which is next week and I’m so pleased that this year has gone so well. Blogging every week for an entire year is something I can really be proud of. I’ve also been doing some planning for how I can spend the next year of blogging so I’ll be happily sharing those plans next week.

Looking Towards NaNoWriMo 2017

Next week on Wednesday it will be November 1st which, for some writers, also means that it will be the 1st day of National Novel Writing Month (often referred to as NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo is one big non-profit event where any writer can join in if they like and the main goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. As it says on the website’s ‘About’ page:

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

I first signed up on the website in 2011 and to be perfectly honest, I have never managed to reach the final target in the past six years. It’s a big task and November just hasn’t seemed to be a big, productive month for me in the past as far as writing is concerned.

Will this year be different? I have no idea, but I do have a plan.

Instead of trying to write one piece of 50,000 words in 30 days (the thought alone makes me cringe a little bit) I’m going to break it down a little. For me this means that I will try and write in five parts. 10,000 words seems like a (slightly) less scary target. Right now, I’m not sure if this means that I will write 5 separate stories or a story in five parts but, I’ve got 6 days to scribble down a vague plan involving plot (and character and setting).

Not everyone starts from scratch and I’ve found it to be true that a little bit of planning goes a long way when you’re attempting to write a lot in a finite amount of time.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure a few days ago if I was even going to participate in the event this year but, if I reach one target of 10,000 words in one piece then I think that I’ll be pretty pleased. I’ve always found that there’s not a lot pressure, beyond my own wishes, involved in NaNoWriMo to reach the ultimate target but, there is a lot of encouragement from the organisers and the other writers who take part in the event which is nice.

 

As for this month’s personal goal of participating in Inktober I’m happy to say that I have still not missed a day and I’m still having fun sketching, colouring and inking. I’m not the only member of the local community art group who is participating and everyone is doing really well. Being part of the group has proved to be really positive for all of us this month and we’ve been doing a good job at keeping each other motivated.

Buying Philip Pullman Books

Most Wednesday’s I’m in the café of my local Waterstones bookshop for an art group and, of course, this means that I have to walk through the books to get there.

Tomorrow is the release date of La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. I know that the next story expanding the world of his previous His Dark Materials series has been eagerly awaited by myself as well as thousands of other readers so it was no surprise to see the stand showing off previous Philip Pullman stories as we walked through the entrance to the bookshop.

On that stand I saw one of the most beautiful hardback copies of a Philip Pullman anthology titled Four Tales. The book includes his stories: The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, I Was A Rat! or The Scarlet Slippers, Clockwork or All Wound Up and The Scarecrow and His Servant. The book is illustrated beautifully by Peter Bailey and I already owned one copy of The Firework-Makers Daughter which I bought last year because I remembered liking the story when I was younger but, this book was so pretty (and there are three stories included that I haven’t read, after all) that I went ahead and bought it.

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I love Philip Pullman’s style of imaginative storytelling and I remember that I struggled to put down any of the His Dark Materials books without finishing them in one sitting every time I picked one up. He is an iconic fantasy writer and I love the way that I can get swept up in any of his stories.

However, it’s not just his creative writing that I love. Philip Pullman has written many articles and been interviewed about the writing process and he has some wonderful advice for any aspiring writer. I think that it’s a wonderful thing for a writer to be able to share his experiences in the hopes that it will help someone else to reach their goals. Plus, I think that his prologue in Four Tales where he talks briefly about putting the book together is funny and it was the first thing I looked for after cooing over the pretty silver-and-blue cover.

I’m really looking forward to reading all of Four Tales and when I get my hands on a copy of La Belle Sauvage I’m sure that I won’t be very good company to anyone until I’ve finished it.

 

It’s now the 18th October and I haven’t missed a prompt for this year’s inktober so far. I’m having a lot of fun and I haven’t posted today’s drawing in response to the prompt yet but, it’s almost finished and it’ll be on Twitter later today.

Fulfilling Goals

It’s just less than one week after my birthday and already I’m fulfilling goals from the list that I made last week: Turning 23

On Sunday night I entered the Celestial Bodies poetry contest that was being run by Platypus Press.

Sunday 8th October was the deadline and I consider myself very lucky that I was able to submit for the competition. Especially because, I only had about half of the poems I wanted by Saturday 7th October. Sometimes, no matter how much we want it or how hard we try, if the words aren’t there then we can’t scribble them down.

Yet, faint hearts never won fair maidens so I buckled down, put pen to paper (literally, I was using a nice notebook for initial drafts) and I wrote no less than 19 poems in two days.

Don’t get me wrong, it was difficult. I never write poetry without feeling emotionally drained afterwards and it took all of Monday and most of Tuesday before I felt steady again after that outpouring of words but, I am so pleased that I reached my goal. I’m also pretty proud of the work I sent in. 

Not only was it challenging to write enough poems to be viable for submission but, I don’t enter a lot of writing competitions (hence why I made the goal to enter at least one this year). Platypus Press was definitely offering one amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Entering the competition meant that I knew I had to be brave because sending in anything that you know is going to be reviewed can be a little scary but after I clicked that send button I was so relieved that I’d taken the chance.

I knew about the publisher Platypus Press before I heard about the competition because I was introduced to the amazing poet Elisabeth Hewer a couple of years ago via a friend who loved her work and I have her book Wishing For Birds. She wrote so many great lines for that collection. I think that Love Letters From Helen Of Troy and Space Race are two of my favourites from her first book.

As I look back at my own work, I’m still really happy with all of my poems (not always the case with writing but, it’s really nice to feel this way about it) which made it a little bit harder to pick out a couple of my favourite lines to share but I eventually chose these from a poem called Reading The Sky:

such a long time ago and we still
navigate our way through the dark by
telling each other the same old stories.

 

 

I also wanted to say that I’m on day 11 of #inktober and I’m having a lot of fun as I try to come up with something new for the prompts every day.

 

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