Sarah Ann Hall

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

Posts Tagged ‘writing

#amwriting – honest, I am

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It’s difficult to blog about writing when one isn’t doing much. I have (mostly) written a weekly flash and am tweeting haiku most weekdays. I’ve also been doing a bit of reading about writing, but still have a big pile to work through, and there hasn’t been much progress on short stories or other move substantive works.

On the advice of a new, and proving to be dear, writer friend, I am heading back to my currently-with-agents novel to look again at chapters 1 to 3. These are the ones that need to hook and grab and sink in claws that cannot be removed until the remainder of the manuscript has been read. I have never been happy with the opening lines of my book – they stink. So with Lou kicking my backside, I will be tightening, shaping, and giving these opening 7000-words a perfection makeover.

As clients fall but the wayside I have lost 11-hours a week of paid work and will have more time to write. I have divided this week in to days on which to complete different tasks, and subdivided in to mornings/ afternoons/ hour-long windows. For example, today (Tuesday) I wrote up my work reports in the morning and scheduled writing this blog post for the afternoon, as well as catching up on emails hanging over from the weekend. Wednesday morning I will re-read chapters 1-3 of the aforementioned novel before getting out my red pen. At some point during Thursday or Friday I will revisit the short stories I plan to have finished by the end of July. However, I feel that with the lack of progress made during the past month, that deadline might slip by. I have even timetabled an hour of Italian practice for later in the week. I need to master, or at least revisit Italian personal pronouns if I am ever to move on.

 

Priorities for the next fortnight: read and sharpen chapters 1-3 of novel; edit and write short stories based on friend’s picture prompts; prepare more agent submissions.

Ongoing projects successfully met: Friday Fictioneer stories have been posted; I’ve crocheted some flowers.

Ongoing projects partially met: blog posts about writing and blog reading are both too sporadic.

Ongoing project fails: learning Italian and piano practise have been non-existent.

Written by Sarah Ann

May 9, 2017 at 1:21 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

And she’s off

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This morning I wrote 1000 words of a new short story. The incentive is a competition with a deadline of 13th February 2017. There is no theme and no chance of me winning. However, I am still committed to writing upto 2000 words and sending them off. Procrastination is my greatest problem, ideas float around in my head and there is always some reason, usually something inconsequential like housework, that prevents me writing. In this instance I had a vague idea on Monday, scribbled on some paper on Tuesday, and sat at my laptop this morning turning those two initial paragraphs into my character’s background. I haven’t quite worked out how sinister she is, or whether she is at all. The story hasn’t ended, there are two deaths and a visit to A&E to describe, so with only 1000 words left, I suspect the story will grow quite a bit before I do some much needed paring. But the point is, I have started and could be halfway through. More importantly, I didn’t want to stop writing, but also didn’t want to run out of words or get to a point where I couldn’t see which way to go, got bored, or didn’t like the character any more. Instead, I noted down some possible plot developments that I can pick up when I go back to it.

I am not someone who can carry too much at a time. I take on too many tasks, spread myself too thinly, and end up getting nothing done, so while there is a list of things I want to get done, I am starting small. As well as the competition story, I want to write one inspired by a friend’s print. Many moons ago a visual artist friend, Janice Hume, and I decided to collaborate on a joint project – I’d give her some stories to illustrate; she’d give me some pictures to write stories about. We both made the exchange, and I worked up a story to one of her pictures, although I wasn’t happy with it. At the moment I am working on the picture below and have two character names – Elena and Pavel – and a comment about it always raining in the UK, and that’s it, but I know it’s going somewhere. There is something about the angle of the shoulders, or the way the men are sitting, that tells me there is a story here waiting to be written. The other things on the list can wait until these two pieces are done and dusted, or at least have each reached their fourth drafts.

men-waiting

Copyright Janice Hume

Written by Sarah Ann

January 12, 2017 at 8:01 pm

New Year, New Me? Probably not.

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After a year of no writing or blogging, my head seems to have made room for both. I have changed jobs, from one where I looked at documents and computer screens all day long and all but gave up reading for pleasure, to one where I see families for short periods and writing is limited to an hour-long report per visit. This work is also part-time, giving me space to do some much needed decorating, practise piano, learn to crochet properly – something I promised my husband’s aunt I’d do 18-months ago – and get back to reading.

There is something else spurring me to write again. One of the women I met two years ago on a writing course has got herself an agent. True, her writing is very different from mine, more on-trend and much tighter, and she got an agent through someone who knows her husband, but I am an eternal optimist/ eternally deluded. If she can do it, so can I. And so, over the next weeks and months, I will be reading across my bookshelves to get my head back into the groove, and hope, in time, to get on with editing my own work. I re-commenced reading on New Year’s Eve with Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, a birthday present from a few years back, and was blown away by page two by her detailed and fluid descriptions. Her prose is nothing I can ever emulate and, if I weren’t so deluded, might have sent me straight back under my writing-free stone.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

January 2, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I get there eventually

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Ever since Love the Bad Guy and Mike at Short Stories posted about Haiku Deck, I’ve been meaning to have a go. Well, it’s only taken me 18-months to get round to it.

Here are some of the 33-word stories I wrote for Trifecta, re-visited with images.

 

title

 

Also have a look at Love the Bad Guy’s Twitter stories and Mike Jackson’s 33-word stories.

 

Normal service will resume …

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I had intended to write that, after weeks of feeling as if my head’s not been on my shoulders, life and writing are returning to normal. My muse has peeked out from the recesses of my mind, and descriptive imagery has flitted across my consciousness instead of just lists of things to do. I had planned to pick up the flash fiction baton once again, but I’m not sure I can yet do two things once.

Clearing my late aunt’s house, organising the funeral, liaising with bank, estate agent and family, has taken more of a toll than I had imagined. When I went on holiday in the summer, I itched to be writing, fought not to check flash fiction challenges and read blogs. Over the last couple of months, there has been no time, and I have lost my drive and inclination. The quick-firing neurons that dash off flash fiction stories have turned tail and disappeared. Over the last few weeks I have looked at the prompts, and even scribbled down a few lines, but nothing has fallen into place. If I came up with a story, it wasn’t finished before the challenge deadline.

While my writing has faltered, I have been reading. Following various sources of advice, I have looked for books similar to mine, found agents’ websites, and read books of the authors they represent. Reading for work rather than pleasure has been a release, enabling me to see the author behind the words; where they use a particular word or technique frequently. I gave up on one book when the writer used, ‘It was as if X had read his mind,’ to circumvent character dialogue twice in the first 20 pages. I noticed the plodding, over-bearing language of one historical novel, the continual repetition of another, as if the reader had the memory-span of a goldfish. I cringed at character dialogue designed to let the reader know a character was away at school that was written in such a way it informed the mother who had sent him there. And I got caught up and rushed through a contemporary crime novel, only to groan five minutes after I’d finished. I may be wrong, but are people really imprisoned on confession-only evidence these days? Would only one policeman know that the forensic evidence pointed to self-inflicted stab wounds while everyone else thought otherwise? I just need to adopt the same critical eyes and editorial mindset when I read back over my own WIPs.

I had so many plans at the end of the summer  but all deadlines have been passed. On the positive side, my recent reading has shown me how to end Pippa’s story. Beta-readers were concerned the book ended with a funeral. I have added an extra page or two so the reader can enjoy a happy ending, knowing life goes on. Over the next month, I plan to draft a ‘letter to agents’ and seek comment and advice on that from a friend’s mother, a published writer of many tomes. I will read and edit Pippa and polish it ready to send out come January.

A Year in 200 Words has suffered with me writing 200-words/ day for only two weeks out of the last two months. Still, I have 271 200-word entries and enough emotion and character development to work with in the future. And I have three weeks of December left to write about my character’s impending wedding.

My plan to publish my short stories has gone by-the-by. I might return to it, but for now I do not have the time or energy to commit to self-publishing and marketing. Maybe once the agent-ready draft of Pippa has been sent and is being read and rejected, I might revisit my short stories.

And I hope, slowly, to return to the blogosphere. I have an email account for my writing, separate from the one that copes with day-to-day correspondence. It has been neglected. My blog reading and commenting has been non-existent. Do I yet have the headspace to be able to focus on getting my work published traditionally, AND take up once more the pleasure and challenge of flash fiction? Watch this space.

Written by Sarah Ann

December 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm

#Trifextra: Week 76 – writing, in three words

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I think Trifecta are playing with us this weekend.

This weekend, we’re asking for you to sum up your own process with just three little words.  Give us dry wit, pathos or otherwise.  And remember, we like your blood on the page.  Put it there.

–––––

The first thing that sprang to mind was ever so obvious – Write. Write. Write.

A little more thought produced something slightly more boring – Write. Read. Edit.

The mechanics of the actions add-up to more than three words – Scribble. Cross-out. Re-write.

So I tried a little harder still and arrived at:

 

Imagine. Rehearse. Perform.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

July 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Trifecta/ Trifextra

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