Where is the end?

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been in that ‘hey, that’d make an interesting story’ kind of mood.

This usually means that I write a couple of pages of what could potentially be the beginning of a story and then it’s put to one side or saved as a vaguely titled document (I’m trying to be better about titling).

I know that writing nothing except from the beginning of a story is not the best way to write if you have an intent to finish anything but, honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve been this interested in more than one or two ideas at a time. It feels strangely normal to me to think of a few ideas without intending to write pages and pages about every single thing. The better ideas tend to continue on without hours of agonizing over the tiny details and the worse ideas tend to fizzle out before I get past the initial plotting stages.

The endings of my stories might not be numerous when they’re compared to all of the ideas I’ve had in the past but, starting something and then putting it to one side is how I tended to write for quite a while. It worked for me at the time.

Not finishing a story doesn’t happen because there is a lack of interest or will. Sometimes it just doesn’t flow right or the idea dries up. I’d rather not tear my hair out or spend hours looking at an empty screen when I could be more productive elsewhere. Going back and picking up where I left off was always tricky though.

It sincerely hope that everything I’ve written lately won’t end up gathering dust or never be seen again. Of course, the responsibility of doing something with the scraps of stories lies solely with me.

In my opinion, it’s pretty promising that my 200 words a day project has been successful so far. That’s seventeen days of consecutive writing and 3,400 words in total so far. If I’ve ever written every day like that before, it’s been quite a while and I think that it’s definitely a good thing.

I want to be writing but, I also like to feel positive about it and at the moment that’s working together and resulting in some promising words. I’m finding it interesting that writing one particular story has also put me in a better frame of mind for tackling some of my other projects because I know that I’m being productive.

I’m still not entirely sure where the overall story plot is going  but, I’m glad that I’m not having too much trouble in finding 200 words to write on a daily basis. It’s been pleasantly surprising so far but there’s a long way to go before the end of the year.

 

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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

the phantom tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is a children’s adventure novel first published in 1961.

This was another book I received for Christmas (pretty much every book on my wish list related to the fantasy genre in one way or another) and it was never a story I knew personally as a child. I actually only saw the book referenced for the first time a few months ago in something else I was reading. If I’d heard about it before then it had never stuck in my mind. I was completely unfamiliar with the story but the reference was interesting enough that I looked up The Phantom Tollbooth online.

Since then I’ve been told that it’s actually quite a popular story – it was made into a film in 1970 – but even as I put it on my Christmas wish list I still didn’t know a lot about it. I’d only really looked enough to know that it sounded interesting but not enough to know a lot about that plot.

I was very pleased to get the 50th anniversary edition for Christmas which includes a lovely, positive extract in the front of the book from the renowned children’s author Dianne Wynne Jones which says how much she loved reading the book to her children when they were small. Another thing I was happy about was that the text of the book included the original, quirky illustrations created by Norton Juster’s friend (and flatmate at the time he was writing) Jules Feiffer.

It was a joy to read in Norton Juster’s ‘Note From The Author’ at the back of the book how he and Jules would turn it into a little game as Jules would draw things the way he wanted and Norton would suggest things that were impossible to sketch. This included the Triple Demons of Compromise—one short and fat, one tall and thin, and the third exactly like the first two who appear in chapter nineteen. Feiffer got his revenge by depicting the author as the Whether Man, clad in a toga (page 22 in my copy of the book).

So, first impressions?

I thought that The Phantom Tollbooth was delightfully absurd in a slightly confusing sort of way. Quite quirky.

As I tried to get into the rhythm of the book there was a fair bit of repetition and wordplay in the writing that wasn’t the easiest style to follow when I was so tired. However, I did get into the swing of things after a short while and I use the word delightful for a reason. I found the book rather charming and endearing overall.

Oddly enough, it reminded me a little bit of the first time I read Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy in that I had no idea where the story was going and it was vaguely absurd but, I was enjoying all of the little stops and developments along the way.

The Phantom Tollbooth is about a boy called Milo who is extremely bored and doesn’t really see the point in anything but, he receives a toy tollbooth in the post and playing along results in an adventure in the Kingdom of Wisdom.

Admittedly, as someone who studied English all of the way up to an undergraduate degree level I don’t think that it’s much of a surprise to find that I found the city of Dictionopolis, where words are everything, less confusing than the city of Digitopolis, where maths is considered to be the best thing ever. Although, I’m not sure that everyone would be as calm as Milo was in Dictionopolis if they met a giant bee that could talk and spelled – s-p-e-l-l-e-d – out every other word. At the very least, I’ve got to say that the book is wonderfully imaginative which is exactly what you want from a children’s story.

In particular, I really liked the section beginning on page 121 about Chroma the Great, conductor of colour, maestro of pigment, and director of the entire spectrum. I found the concept of colour being played by an orchestra and the creation of the sunsets and sunrises, etc. coming from instruments to be a rather beautiful and enchanting idea.

After reading the book I took a look and there is a lot out of information proposing that the book is about learning, the purpose of education, the importance of common sense and other themes and you can definitely see that in the book itself but, it doesn’t stop anyone from simply reading the book as a charming adventure story.

It certainly made me giggle more than once at the characters antics and I thought that it was lovely to read.

I personally found that a lot of the book is rather quotable, but I settled on choosing a small section at the end of page 46.

“I never knew words could be so confusing,” Milo said to Tock as he bent down to scratch the dog’s ear.

“Only when you use a lot to say a little,” answered Tock.

Milo thought that this was quite the wisest thing he’d heard all day.

New Stories/Old Stories

I hope that you all had a lovely time over the last couple of weeks – whether you had big celebrations going on or not – and if you received any lovely books in the process then that’s great.

Personally, I did receive a lovely, small collection of books and graphic novels for Christmas (I reviewed one of the graphic novels in last week’s blog post) and I’m looking forward to reading all of them.

I’d like to mention that this time of year is good for book sales and although I haven’t found any I wanted, so far, I did have someone tell me as I was browsing the other day that they felt a little guilty for paying so much less for a book. Please don’t.

As readers we all want to support authors because we know that writing can be a tough gig to succeed in but, it really is okay if you buy it at a cheaper price from a legit bookshop. They’re the ones who’ve lowered the price. You’re just the person who is having a lucky day when you find it.

I love to read (you might’ve noticed) and if I didn’t buy books in sales as well as buying them at full price there is no way that my bookshelves would be as full as they are (no, that would not be a good thing). Plus, if you know me in person, you know that I love to save my money and books are one of my only indulgences. Quality and quantity please.

As for my writing, a part of me thinks that I might be crazy but I’m attempting to write one book by writing 200 words for 365 days. That’s 200 words written every day during 2018 – approximately two paragraphs to half a page every single day.

It doesn’t seem like a lot at first but that adds up to 73,000 words at the end of the year which is a pretty decent length for a novel.

I’m positive that the challenge will be in sticking to one plotline but, if I’m particularly inspired I do tend to just keep writing so, making myself stop at 200 words per day is going to be a challenge. If I kept going past 200 words while attempting to write this novel I suspect that I wouldn’t leave myself with a whole lot of time for other projects. Still, I think it’ll be interesting to see if I can possibly rise to the occasion.

Plus, I have a habit of doing shorter bursts of intense work and I’m curious to see if a different method of writing is going to appeal to me in the long run.

As for what the book is going to be about – I honestly don’t have any idea.

For all of you ‘planners’ out there, tracking down a wild idea in the middle of nowhere with no compass or map probably doesn’t sound like the best (or the most sensible) way to write a novel but I’ve not been put off by not knowing. I own pretty good hiking boots and I’ve picked up the beginning of the trail. To be honest, even if I had a plan at these early stages I can’t imagine that the story will resemble any plan by the time the middle of summer hits us.

Right now I have 600 words, a couple of characters and a low-key excitement about writing something original.

It’ll be interesting at the very least.

As for what else I’m hoping to write this year, I’m definitely going to finish the NaNo project I started in November and I’m looking forward to crafting the last two stories of the set.

I also said a little while ago that a new friend of mine has encouraged me to take a look back at my final project from university. I’m still interested in the characters from the short excerpt, as well as other characters that I couldn’t feature because there was simply not enough words. However, I’m feeling a bit wobbly over the plot. I haven’t read over my original submission yet but, I already know that I’d want to make a couple of medium-size changes to the structure of events. I’ve reached a stage now where I’ve had some space from it (the project was submitted about a year and a half ago) and I can make those changes without clinging to the original too tightly.

Sometimes a bit of space can be a great thing, especially when you’re moving from the headspace of being a writer to being an editor.

 

On a completely personal note we had a decent snowfall the other day (a rare thing these past few years) so in the spirit of trying to get better/do more photography I grabbed my camera and took a few shots.

 

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This was the best (a.k.a. least blurry) photo I could capture of our cat in the snow because she was running about and playing 🙂

 

Pirates of Pangaea by Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron

Pirates of Pangaea

Pirates of Pangaea by Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron is a graphic novel first published in 2014.

This book was put on my Christmas wish list in early December after I saw it in my local bookstore. To be completely honest I was convinced to want it mostly by the front cover which combines pirates with dinosaurs and looks cool (and a little bit ridiculous). I read the book today and I agree with my initial reaction that it was cool (and a little bit ridiculous).

The story is set in 1717 (very specific) and based on the idea that there is a newly discovered landmass where dinosaurs are still alive and the ‘civilised’ people are threatened by pirates. Also, most of the drama takes place on ships which are hoisted onto the backs of some of the largest (and most easily tamed/drugged into being calm with ‘snuff’) dinosaurs which is inventive at the very least. Sophie Delacourt (the main character) pretty much has to have everything explained to her along the way because no one had thought to tell her previously that dinosaurs were real and she was going to live on an island with them because her uncle was governor there and he was pretty much her only living family member left. It’s convenient for the reader but Sophie seems to catch up with events miraculously well.

It definitely stretches the bounds of reality in many ways (Sophie claims that she’s only twelve but I think that she looks older). There are moments of blatant cliches and humour that are actually funny and the close escapes and hijinks were pretty much what I expected so, I wasn’t disappointed to see them there although they never really stopped happening at any point.

As for the other characters, I can’t say that there were any real surprises. The reluctant, kidnapped cabin boy Kelsey wasn’t happy, a pirate called Ten Guns was stealing from one captain for the benefit of another (plus, everyone seemed to genuinely believe that he only had ten guns) and both of the pirate captain’s were greedy and selfish. I was a little disappointed but not surprised to see the character Master Bosun killed close to the beginning, if only because he was the best at keeping Sophie (and the reader) in the loop about what was going on.

I did enjoy the short ‘information’ pages inserted between each section, supposedly written by the background character Dr Shaw who is only ever mentioned and not seen, about the various dinosaurs that were on Pangaea. The scribbled notes by Kelsey were pretty amusing and they were eventually joined by Sophie’s scribbles as well. I must admit though that I’m still not sure how I feel about Sophie’s insistence on naming the T-Rex “Cornflower” (the dinosaur shown in the forefront of the front cover). Quirky or just plain weird?

The art by Neill Cameron was quite expressive and colourful which I liked. Instead of picking out a line or two like I usually do in my reviews I thought I’d share a picture of a set of panels that made me chuckle.

IMG_20171227_200047

Gingerbread

It’s Christmas day on Monday and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is hoping for a couple of books underneath the tree.

I’ve been drinking gingerbread hot chocolate, making Christmas baubles and my Christmas cards have been sent and received via the post (cards to be handed out in person are a different matter but ssssh).

So, I may not have had time to write these past couple of weeks due to work etc, but I have been considering projects that I’d like to look at next year. Thanks to some lovely enthusiasm from a friend I’m considering taking a look at my final project from uni that I’ve not touched since I handed it in for evaluation. I’m also looking forward to continuing my NaNo project and maybe I’ll write a little more poetry as well.

I’ve also been inspired by my Christmas job at a chocolate shop to consider a new character with an interesting job because I’d never considered a travelling confectioner to be a real job before but it is and it sounds like an awesome story could be spun from that starting point. So, here’s a little short story in time for Christmas introducing a character I’ve not yet written about anywhere else at this point other than here in this post.

 

Gingerbread

For some people Christmas was one of the most productive time of the year for trading.

For others it was a more inspirational time of year.

That’s why Jo was practically in the middle of nowhere rather than at home behind the counter of the shop that she’d left in the capable hands of her son and daughter.

The snow was thick beneath her feet and she trudged her way up, following the smell of spices but making her way through the thick snowfall was worth it when the door opened and Harriet greeted her with a smile and the offer of a drink.

“Jo, we’re so glad that you managed to make it.”

“I wouldn’t miss your Christmas party Harriet, you know that. Now, hand me that glass of champagne and let’s head to the kitchen. I’m hungry”

There were coloured lights and tinsel everywhere in the cabin. The brightness surrounded photographs hung on the wall as they walked down the corridor and emerged into a bright white-and-chrome kitchen that was full of familiar people who were chatting merrily.

“Jo!”

Jo stepped forward to hug Harriet’s grinning husband, “Gino, how are you?”

“Fine. What did you bring?”

Harriet took his glass of sherry off him, “You have a goose to baste. Go.”

Jo laughed as Gino rolled his eyes and squeezed past two top chefs so that he could reach the oven.

Happily enjoying the small party were no less than seven of the top head chefs in the world as well as five maître pâtissier, three confectioners, including herself, and one particularly talented bartender. The rest of the people were a mix of critics, general food lovers and good friends. Nobody was rushing to leave the kitchen but, the only people tending to the food were Gino and Harriet, the hosts of the party.

Harriet and her husband Gino were not master chefs and they’d not earned any official food-related titles. They were, instead, simply good friends who knew a lot of people due to their love of travel and good food. They also loved to spend time with their friends.

Every year their Christmas party was for the people who usually worked behind the scenes of a good time. It was a tradition started long before Jo had first been invited to join in on the festivities after meeting the outspoken couple in a market in Germany but, making the trip out to the mountains had proved to be more than worth it every year.

It wasn’t just because she’d created a new recipe every time shortly after she’d left the cabin but she did find that the cheer sparked creativity.

She never knew what the inspiration would be but her daughter had reported that plum and cinnamon spiced dark chocolate truffles had proved to be popular (much to her son’s surprise) the year before. However, she doubted that she would be drinking the mulled wine this year for inspiration after the headache it had left behind.

Robert was watching warily as Jo drifted towards the desserts that were already set up on the side table. She kept reaching out to pick at what was on offer because she’d not been joking when she told Harriet that she was hungry upon arrival.

Thea elbowed Robert in the stomach when she caught him frowning at Jo. She might’ve been the only grandmother in the room but Thea was practically baking royalty. Both feared and revered, Thea’s sharp gaze had Robert cowering more than her sharp elbow but he was stuck in the corner so he couldn’t escape.

She waited for Jo to reach them but before she could say anything Jo was grabbing Robert by his festive red tie and demanding, “What did you do to this gingerbread?”

“What?”

“I know that it’s yours – It’s the smallest portions in offer – so what did you do?”

“The last time…”

Jo let go of his tie and stepped away with a smirk, “Robert, it’s Christmas. Let it go and tell me what you did to make this gingerbread melt in my mouth or I’ll tell your grandmother what you told me when we were seven years old!”

Robert looked at his grandmother with nothing short of fear.

“Fine, but only because it’s Christmas.”

Harriet popped into the conversation with a beaming grin, “Robert and Jo are exchanging recipes, it’s a Christmas miracle.”

“A miracle that will have to wait.” Gino announced, “The goose is ready. Let’s eat.”

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Texas Gothic

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore is a YA (young adult) paranormal novel first published in 2011.

Full disclosure – I’m cheating a little bit with this post because I didn’t actually read this book for the first time in these past couple of weeks. I actually first read this book about six years ago and it quickly became one of my favourites. Between work and the holiday season right now I really have been too tired to focus on anything new so, I did what I usually do and I found something comfortable to re-read.

My copy of Texas Gothic has a cracked spine and the pages are definitely not as crisp as they used to be but, even on my book shelves there aren’t that many books I’ve bought new that have reached that stage of life. It only comes from re-reading and as nice as it is to see fresh pages it’s also nice to be faced with gently worn edges now and again.

Texas Gothic may make me jump out of chair at times – the first time that I read the book I was on my own in the house and I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye. It turned out that it was just my neighbour moving around outside but I was so absorbed by the book that it still freaked me out at the time, haha – but it did become one of my favourite reads very quickly.

The book is a little bit spooky, sometimes funny and full of great quotes. One of which is the opening line:

The goat was in the tree again.

Simple, fun and intriguing. It’s exactly the kind of casual hook that I aspire to in my own writing, because coming up with a first line is never as easy as you’d like it to be in my experience. Brilliant.

I might’ve mentioned (it’s even more likely if you know me in person) that I grew a bit… bored with YA fiction a few years back but, this book is definitely not off my favourites list just because it falls under that category. Rosemary Clement-Moore is almost eerily good at creating an atmosphere that draws you in – I felt the same way when I read her book The Splendor Falls and I hope that I’ll get the chance to read Spirit and Dust at some point (when I eventually remember to actually go and get it).

Obviously, being a paranormal novel with a bit of a gothic vibe it jumps the bounds of reality but, there’s something very grounded about the characters despite their involvement with ghosts and magic. Amy, in particular, tries very hard to ignore her family legacy because she wants to be ‘normal’ – possibly one of the biggest staples/concepts in YA writing – but it does provide something relatable for the reader since that most people wrestle with the concept of difference and conformity.

The book is written in first person p.o.v. and we see the events of the story unfold via Amy. She may not be the most graceful girl, which makes her rather hilarious for the reader, but she’s also rather pragmatic about herself and others even in the face of absurd circumstances – page 14 is a great example. Due to this p.o.v. we also meet all of the other characters, including her sister Phin, as Amy sees them. I’ve got to say that I’m a big fan of Phin and one of my favourite moments between the two sisters happens on page 58 of the book.

When it comes to other characters in the book, I’ve got to be honest that I was always a bit ‘meh’ about Ben. I didn’t object to him being Amy’s love interest but he just didn’t seem as interesting or quirky (despite the obvious ‘cowboy’ aspect) as Phin or some of the other minor characters who tagged along. I think, in my own mind, it’s one of those YA symptoms where you know what to expect so you just tick it off as being there and move on.

As for the overall plot, it’s both typical and atypical of what I used to read at the time when I first picked the book up. I was reading a fair amount of paranormal fantasy at the time, not just YA, but I’ve never really been the kind of person who liked to be scared just for the sake of being scared. However, Texas Gothic does give me the heebie-jeebies a bit because there’s a lot of spooky and dangerous encounters for the characters. It’s never put me off reading the book though and I’m glad that it doesn’t. The writer part of myself wants a reader to actually feel something in response to my work because, as a reader, it’s the reason why I keep turning the page.

For me, Texas Gothic is a great read for when I want to put up my feet and stay curled up in the corner for a while with a blanket and a big mug of hot chocolate – one of my favourites feelings in this world.

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?”

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.

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