Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not.

#FridayFictioneers – 24/3/17 – Providence Hall

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Every Wednesday Rochelle Wisoff-Fields publishes a photo prompt to inspire writers to write 100-words of flash fiction or poetry.

At any point during the following week, the Friday Fictioneers post their 100-word tales. Read the other stories by clicking below.


When I first saw today’s prompt I thought of escape, then saw gates as security, and wrote something unrelated to either. This is my first Friday Fictioneers in a very long time and I’m rusty, but that’s no excuse to be gentle with me. The below doesn’t work for me, but I’m posting anyway – criticise away.

 

With thanks to Rochelle for hosting and J Hardy Carroll for this week’s photo.

 

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

© J Hardy Carroll

 

Providence Hall

(Genre: general fiction; 100-words)

As the gates clanged shut, Stan gazed towards the house. It pervaded timelessness, hewn from the ground on which it stood. Hospital, asylum, workhouse, barracks, hotel. Whatever its function the building’s grey facade suffused all who approached with desolation.

The site had closed, following its recent failure as a luxury spa, and was to be redeveloped as a school. The developers had made no provision for external decoration. Still, Stan had requisitioned vats of masonry paint. It had to be better for prospective pupils to be blinded by whitewash, than their expectant souls crushed by the weight of inky despondency.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

March 24, 2017 at 4:02 pm

I am not a plotter

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Last week, while house-sitting for a friend, I had the opportunity to write/ edit unhindered without feeling any guilt at closeting myself away or needing a quiet space. I did not read much of the reading book I had taken with me as, once my brain was back in the writing groove, I didn’t want anyone else’s thoughts in my head for fear of contamination.

On the train journey home I didn’t want to read either, so forced myself to concentrate on a short story prompt. I had a picture of a hare to work with. This has been on my list of jobs to do since the start of the year, if not before. I have thought about it a number of times, and even written down a few trigger words, but got no further. Sitting on the train there were no distractions and I made myself think about hares – boxing, spring, new beginnings. A female character emerged recovering from a broken relationship – boring. I looked out the window at passing countryside – green emerging from brown gave me new beginnings again. The weather was overcast and yielded no inspiration. What else had I spent the previous week doing? I’d looked after a child and made some enquiries about dance classes. My character became a child dancer. I zeroed in on the boxing hare. My child dancer became male, one who had had prospects, but no longer. He was taking up boxing instead. Why?

As you can see, I am not a plotter and my story grew as ideas changed through the initial scribble: uninterested parents became loving ones; the father developed a job as a risk assessor in order to be fanatical about insuring everything. After an hour, and my first change of train, I estimate I had written 700-words of a story needing lots of work, as well as research about ballet. Once redrafted the story might still be full of holes, but it doesn’t matter because, with notebook and pen, I wrote a story. It has a beginning – a boy in hospital; a middle – how he got there; and an end – what he’s going to do next. I was happy to have achieved my hole-ridden story because I’m good at filling holes and by the eighth draft they will be.

Train journeys being what they can be, I also wrote two blog posts, including this one, and a haiku, before picking up my reading book and finally allowing my writing brain to relax.

 

Priorities for the next fortnight: re-draft synopsis of novel and submit; work on short stories.

Ongoing projects successfully met: I have blogged a week after my last post; I have drafted my novel synopsis and edited it once; I have written a new short story.

Fails (as before): blog reading is too low; Italian’s make great pasta; what’s a piano?

 

Written by Sarah Ann

March 22, 2017 at 9:08 pm

It’s a Pitch

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After two days of pacing a friend’s kitchen reading my manuscript aloud, I have decided that it is good enough for me to send off to seek agent representation. My friend is away and I’ve been house sitting. The neighbours hearing me repetitively tread bare floorboards, and a constant chatter in an otherwise empty house, must think I’m mad.

It is two years since I completed the last draft. The time gap allowed me to read without knowing what every next line would be. I even read sentences and sections I don’t remember writing, which was gratifying. Thirty pages in, I was pleasantly surprised and decided the book was good enough to go.

Reading out loud enabled me to find the missing words and letters, the sentences cut off during the previous edit, and missing punctuation. However, even with this slower, more careful pace, there were still typos and the odd missing word when I ran a final spell and grammar check after I made my current edits, all of which were minor and mostly word or flow related. I wonder if I will be ever rid of the need to tweak, but feel the book is ready for a professional edit. I lack confidence in the starts to my chapters; the ends are better and have a neatness or hook that pulls the reader on. I still have difficulty describing the plot succinctly, but there is a story with characters who are different from one another, and dialogue that flows and sounds real. I now have to write a synopsis in order to be able to get someone other than friends, family and fellow writers to read it. There is a synopsis based on the previous draft but at the moment I plan to start afresh and then compare with what went before to see how my approach and what each version says might differ. Tomorrow I will start the process of summarising 84000-words on one side of A4.

 

Priorities for the next fortnight: write synopsis of novel and submit; work on short stories.

Ongoing projects successfully met: I have blogged only a week and a day after my last post; I have crocheted 3 Easter eggs, although my other half says they look nothing like real ones. I can only say I followed the pattern.

Ongoing projects partially addressed: short stories have been considered and the odd word written; I have started to read my old boating diary project.

Fails (as before): blog reading is too low; Italian practise is non-existent; the piano is dustier.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

March 16, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Preparing to read

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Next week is the week set aside to read 85000 words I think form a book. Other people have read the words and encouraged me in the belief they are a book. After a long period when the manuscript and I have done nothing, it is time to decide whether to leave it alone forever and move on to develop new ideas, or to concentrate on getting the work published.

I have packed the manuscript in my rucksack, along with the diaries that are Priority 3 on my wish list of things to get done this year. I always give myself more to do than I can ever acheive, and write similarly over-long lists of jobs to do. I’m not sure why I do this. It seems a silly idea as I am always going to fail, but it would be worse not to have anything to look forward to.

Here’s looking forward to a week of productivity, one way or the other.

 

Priorities for the next fortnight: read putative novel; work on short stories; read through boating diaries.

Ongoing projects successfully met: I am now crocheting eggs for Easter; this is my second blog post in as many weeks.

Fails: blog reading has not increased; Italian practise has gone by the wayside; the piano is getting dusty; short stories have been neglected.

Written by Sarah Ann

March 8, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Accountability

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When I blogged in January, for the first time in 18-months, I didn’t have huge ambition for the coming year. I wanted to get back to writing and I needed to plan and organise. This was helped by a fellow blogger, Erin Leary, who commented on that initial post and suggested we become accountability partners. The concept was new to me, but made perfect sense for two people with a number of ongoing projects. As accountability partners we would report to each other, keep each other on task, support and maybe chivvy a little. This idea focused my energies and I listed what I wanted to achieve during the year. I then ordered projects in terms how long I estimated each would take to complete, and the ease with which it could be completed. The combination of these two factors enabled prioritisation. The last task, and the one I have still to complete, is to set deadlines by which each job should be completed. There are 8 things I hoped to achieve during the year, which I share with you below, along with my progress 6 weeks later. After all, the more people to keep me on task, the merrier.

Task & Priority   Ease of completion   Progress 6 weeks later (end of Feb)
1. Keep up with blog   Variable on time allowing/ having anything to say. Hopefully on the easy side.   Not great.I’ve not posted as often as I would have liked.
2. Read 85k word novel and decide whether to pitch or ditch.   Easy and relatively quick if I decide to ditch.

Time commitment if I’m going to pitch and it needs editing.

Time commitment if start sending to agents.

  I have allocated the week of 13-17th March to do the read through. I’m away from home and will have the head space.
3. Edit diaries of living and travelling on a narrow boat and self-publish.   Hard. A lot of editing and additional writing to be done. Self-publishing is new. Large time commitment and learning new skill.   No progress
4. NANOWRIMO story from 2014. Work up 51k words into a novel.   Medium. Big time commitment.

Hopefully enjoyable to do.

  No progress
 

4. Write short stories to go with friend Jan’s paintings/ prints/ illustrations.

 

  Relatively easy if I come up with any ideas.

Enjoyable. Able to do between other things as shorter time commitment.

  I have drafted one short story and am looking at the other pictures chosen. I need to re-visit the project with Jan to see if she wants to paint to my words.
 

 

4. Continue with novel-length abuse story started 2014.

 

  Medium. Need time and space to pick this up again. Has a beginning but needs a middle and an end.   No progress
7. Short stories for competitions   Quite hard. Time commitment to look for competitions and then write themed stories to deadlines.   One short story submitted. No other competitions identified to enter.
8. Friday Fictioneer stories   Easy to do if have nothing else on. Requires time and concentration. Can be addictive so need to limit or will get caught up and carried away to the detriment of other things.   No progress. I wrote a story to one prompt, which I was pleased to have achieved, but didn’t manage to post it.

 

Priorities for the next fortnight (as before): work on men-on-bench story; get into a routine of blog reading and writing; start short story based on picture of a hare.

Ongoing projects successfully met: I have finished a crochet project (see below); I am bouncing Italian possessive adjectives around in my head; piano scales have been practised and an old piece rehearsed.

Fails (as before): blog reading has not increased.

 

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Written by Sarah Ann

February 27, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Priorities met, almost

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Of the three priorities I set myself in my last post, there are two successes and one fail:

I have married the first and second halves of my competition story and submitted it.

I am not sure of its worth, but I never am. I emailed it to two writer friends asking for their opinions, and I let it sit for a few days before I read it again. Unfortunately, neither of my friends was able to get back before the deadline, and I was still tweaking the fourth time I read it aloud just before hitting the send button. It’s not ready and won’t get anywhere, but it has shown me I can get things done with enough forward planning.

I have written more of my story based on a picture of men sitting on a bench.

I have changed the tense – past to present – to increase the energy in the story. I now need to add in more emotion and feeling, as well as doing some research on Ukrainian food, which features as a comfort for my protagonist. The story is currently 1000-words and might increase to 1500. At the moment it is possibly more a vignette than a story: it starts in the middle, goes back to the beginning, and the ends with the characters about to live a new life that the reader has to imagine. I’m not sure this is enough of an ending. I’ve left the story alone for a week so it’s time I looked at it again.

X

I haven’t blogged my progress until now. I had drafted a post to put up a week ago, but life intervened and this is my first free time in a while. I wonder if I should give myself deadlines for posting in order for me to keep them regular.

 

Priorities for the next fortnight: work on men-on-bench story and get it ready to show colleague on 25th Feb; get into a routine of blog reading and writing.

Ongoing projects successfully met: my crochet learning has been facilitated by some very long car drives and my understanding of patterns improved. I should be making things soon.

Fails: both piano practice and Italian study have been neglected; blog reading has not increased enough.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

February 15, 2017 at 9:12 pm

A mixed bag

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Writing progress has been made of sorts. After writing 1000 words of a new short story and feeling very pleased with myself, I roughed out a second half on paper and then typed it in. However, marrying the two together hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not sure about the ending. I keep reminding myself that the deadline is 13th February so I have plenty of time, but I know I don’t. If I want to get it finished and leave it a while before editing, then I need to get on with it.

On the plus side, I did start to write a story based on my friend Jan’s picture of two men on a bench. This has been on my list of jobs to do since the beginning of the year and was facilitated by a train journey to London. After a break of possibly two years, and at least 18-months, I had lunch on Tuesday with a couple of women I met on a writing course in the autumn of 2014. One of these now has an agent for the book she was writing at that time, but has since largely re-written, and we heard how friends and acquaintances helped in that process. The other has ditched the book she was writing when we met, the cathartic one she needed to write, and started afresh, and we were all excited by her new departure. Only I have not developed my book of the time, it having been re-drafted but still sitting waiting for the re-read that will determine if I continue to pursue its life or decide it was my cathartic book and needs to be laid to rest.

Lack of routine has always been an issue for me getting around to writing. I had pencilled in Thursday to be my writing day, as currently have no clients booked on Thursdays. However, my hours at work have increased and I worked 10am to 6.30pm on Wednesday, which meant I spent Thursday writing up reports. I am sure that when I get used to my new client list, I will find the pockets of time free to write, but even fashioning a daily haiku has been a struggle this week.

 

Priorities for the coming fortnight: knit the putative halves of my short story together; type in and finish my men-on-bench-picture-inspired story; blog my progress.

Ongoing life goals slowly being achieved: I have leant a bit more Italian and emailed an Italian colleague mostly in Italian; I have completed my first piece of crochet and gifted it to the aunt to whom I made the promise to learn.

Fails: there’s been no piano practice; I’m still putting off reading my novel, the excuse being I need to get these short stories written first; I haven’t upped my reading of other’s blogs.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

January 28, 2017 at 11:33 am

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