Thursday, 20 June 2013

National Flash Fiction Day 2013

I hope you've all been thinking about how you're going to celebrate National Flash Fiction Day as June 22nd is nearly here! OK, so maybe you've not felt like putting up the literary bunting yet but like all these "days" (I'm still waiting for National Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwich Day) it helps focus the mind on something we may not have thought about for a while.

Actually, I'm thinking about Flash Fiction quite a bit at the moment. Despite my good intentions to stick to only working on my various book projects, the lure of the flash fiction competition and the urgent need for something other than plastic with which to pay the milkman, has proved too strong. I'm currently working on several pieces for the Earlyworks Press Flash Fiction Competition which has a first prize of £100 (not bad for 100 words or less) and closes 31st July 2013. Details can be found at http://www.earlyworkspress.co.uk/Competition_flash_details.htm  

I do enjoy writing flash fiction and have blogged about it before. I really enjoy the challenge of telling a complete story in such a short number of words and also because I think you can be more "poetic" (whatever that means) with flash fiction than you can be with longer fiction. In fact some of my favourite flash fiction pieces started life as poems.

If you are interested in writing flash fiction or just learning more about it, there is a great website (http://www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/) that seems to have been set up specifically to promote flash fiction and National Flash Fiction Day. There are some really good quotes from writers defining flash fiction (I particularly like the one that describes flash fiction as being "a shot of espresso or tequila - punchy and direct") and a comprehensive list of magazines and websites that publish it. There is an A-Z of prompts if you're stuck for ideas and a shop! I really loved the flash fiction postcards and was very tempted to buy some but then remembered that milk was probably more of a priority.

Also, if you'd like to read one of my previous blog posts on flash fiction and pick up some tips on successful flash fiction writing, you can find it at http://www.melissalawrencewriter.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/micro-fiction-fractured-west.html

And if you'd like read one of my flash fiction pieces, here it is. (Warning! Contains some strong language.)

Bloody Rabbits

She pulled the covers up tight around her throat. She could feel her heart beating like an automated clock. Maybe, she thought, if I could just push my head underneath the covers, whatever it is will go away. But when she tried, she discovered she was completely incapable of movement, in exactly the same way as she knew she was completely incapable of speech.

***

He slammed his foot down hard on the accelerator. Fucking rabbit, he thought to himself. It deserves to be squashed to smithereens. He clutched the steering wheel tightly, trying to control his breathing. He could feel the bile rising in his mouth. Bloody women, he said to himself. Why do they always screw with your head? Bloody women. Bloody rabbits.

Copyright Melissa Lawrence 2013

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Writing Too Slowly

"Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Sprout?" is the working title for my second collection of poems for younger children, the sequel to my first collection "There's A Gorilla In My Pyjamas".

I reached a milestone with it this week as I finally finished the second draft. It's only taken me three and a half years! OK, so I have been writing a lot of other things in between and I also had quite a long break from working on it when I decided it wasn't worth spending time on a second collection when I hadn't had the first one published. Oh and I also took a year's sabbatical from writing during that time to concentrate on my crafting.

Even so, I was a bit shocked to realise how long it had taken to get to this stage. Add that to the two and a half years it took me to write the first draft and I've already spent six years on one project that is not even ready to send out or self-publish yet.

I know I am a slow writer. Not a slow "writer", as in I can write extremely quickly when I have to, even if I can't always read it afterwards. Years of doing phone interviews for the Guardian without having shorthand taught me to "speed-write" pretty efficiently. No, I'm just very slow when it comes to completing long-term projects and I think there are several reasons for this.

Firstly, I tend to leave a lot of time in between drafts, usually so long that I end up starting other long-term projects. I'm also a terrible perfectionist so I'm not good at letting things go without spending hours and hours (and hours) perfecting them. I'm also ashamed to admit that I get bored very easily so I'm hopeless at working on something for long periods of time without changing to something else. Finally, I use a method called the "salami" technique for every major project I attempt, including non-writing ones. Although the idea of breaking things down into small, manageable "slices" is good in theory, it does mean that completing projects takes a much longer, if not larger, chunk of time.

Finally, I think that not having a definite deadline for completion, ie one set by an editor or an agent, makes all the difference. I've tried setting my own "mock" deadlines but it never seems to work. I either set a ridiculously tight deadline which means I usually give up when I realise I can't possibly meet it or no deadline at all and end up taking far too long to complete anything.

So, if anyone has any thoughts about how I can spend six months on something instead of six years and still be satisfied with the quality of work, I'd be really interested to hear from them.

In the meantime, here is the second draft of a poem from "Who's Afraid Of The Big, Bad Sprout?" which might arrive on an editor's desk somewhere around 2019!


GOING TO WATCH CITY WITH DAD

When I go to watch City with Dad,
Mum drives us both down to the ground.
We walk over the bridge with the rest of the fans
And buy a programme for nearly four pounds.

When I go to watch City with Dad,
There is always a bit of a crush.
Dad shouts very loudly "Now please mind these eggs!"
And I feel dead embarrassed and blush.

When I go to watch City with Dad,
It’s quite a long walk to our seat.
But it doesn’t seem such a long way coming back
Unless the City get beat.

When I go to watch City with Dad,
Mum makes us a flask for half-time.
I like it best when it's tomato soup
And Dad doesn’t try to drink mine.

When I go to watch City with Dad,
There are often some grown-ups who swear.
Dad covers my ears with his icy, red hands
And gives all the swearers a glare.

When I go to watch City with Dad,
I shout ‘til it hurts in my chest.
Dad waits for the ground to go quiet,
Then shouts really loud at the ref.
 
When I go to watch City with Dad,
I like to stay right to the end,
But Dad likes to leave several minutes from time,
Which drives me a bit round the bend.

When I go to watch City with Dad,
We cheer at the end of the game.
Whether we’ve lost or whether we’ve won,
I like it that things stay the same.

Copyright Melissa Lawrence 2013

 
 
 
 
 
 




   

Saturday, 1 June 2013

What Do You Think About Most When You Are Doing The Washing-Up?

Hi everyone.

This post is a quick quiz, not to be taken too seriously. Your answers might help you decide what sort of writer you are. On the other hand, they might not!

What do you think about most when you are doing the washing-up?

1. Plots and characters.
2. The next book/article/poem you are planning to write.
3. How you are going to pay the gas bill.
4. What you are having for tea tonight.
5. How you can get more friends on Facebook.
6. What your next tweet is going to be.
7. The washing-up.
8. Other. (Please specify.)
9. All of the above.
10. None of the above. I have a dishwasher.

I look forward to reading your comments/answers!