Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Insomnia wins for a change

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I have written many a story whilst lying awake trying to go to sleep. Worry about what has to be done tomorrow is usually the main culprit for keeping my mind ticking over. The more I try to get to sleep (breathing exercises, stretches, day-dreaming) the less it seems to come, and the riveting tales I concoct have disappeared by morning. But last week I resurrected a short story I wrote many moons ago. The story is the same (about a woman finding her lost family following her father’s death), the setting is the same, the sentiment is the same, but the approach is different. Instead of writing in the present, I have her looking back. Lying in bed, as I held on to the new structure of the story, I rehearsed the lines over and over (and over) so I would remember them in the morning. I didn’t sketch the whole thing, but had three or four scenes etched into my brain before sleep finally overtook me. Come morning I was able to get most of them written down. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something vital, but hope that will come back to me as I fill in the wall of the story around the bricks I have already laid.

My return to the short story came after visiting a screenwriting friend who has given up. Following a (paid for) critique of three of her screenplays, she has been using the avoidance technique of genealogy to escape dealing with the review. There was nothing specific said about faulty story structure or technique, but her efforts didn’t fit the critic’s view of a blockbuster. (Apparently he re-writes scripts for Hollywood.) While at first upbeat by the comment, ‘you write such good prose,’ said friend has since become disillusioned. Instead of accepting the comments as one person’s, and developing her stories as she wants, she has let them drift. It was in an attempt to reinvigorate her that hubby and I suggested she enter her scripts in to competitions – cheaper than paying for a critique and a way of getting her name out there.

While I was searching for links that might be of use, I came across a couple of short story competitions that I thought I would go for. It’s been a while since I’ve tried the discipline, but now my long story is finished, it is one I feel the urge to dip into once again – to write and tell a story in a matter of hours or weeks instead of over months and years. Hopefully this isn’t my way of avoiding having to deal with the dreaded chapter 13. I don’t think it is and I was busy again Wednesday with editing…

I have been back into Chapter 1 and finished (for the time being) its latest incarnation. The word count has grown from 3500 to just over 5000 and presented me with a new problem – is Chapter 1 one chapter or two? I had started with each chapter being written from one character’s point of view, but chapter one seems to want to cut itself in half. Both sections are from the same character’s POV: the first covers Stacy’s response to hearing her friend is dying; the second is the conversation Stacy has with her husband in the evening. They previously sat in the same chapter quite happily, but now seem to be two distinct scenes. However, giving Stacy two chapters at the outset would upset the rhythm of the book that follows – Pippa’s emails followed by a chapter of description. And so, for the time being, I have Chapter 1A and Chapter 1B and will decide when I get back to the beginning again what to do.

Moving on to the second of Pippa’s emails, I added 200-words and then tackled Chapter 2. As with Chapter 1, much of it has been added to or changed. I have been living with the characters, off and on, for a year now so I’m comfortable with them; their words are more familiar, and it stands out when my healthy eater (Adam) orders fish and chips in a pub. He still drinks real ale, but he’s got to go for something with fewer calories than deep fried fish and potatoes. Chapter 2 also seems to want to split in two with distinct sections: the first being Dan preparing himself for his meeting with Adam (to tell him Pippa is dying); the second being the meeting itself. By the end of the day I hadn’t finished. Hopefully next time, a re-read of the whole chapter, will settle the issue of to split or not to split.


Written by Sarah Ann

January 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

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