To me!

Audience of One: Daily Prompt

Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

Dear Fibi,

If you’re reading this then you’ve probably gone a bit mad – because you’ve only just written it. Seek medical assistance immediately.

But I want you to remember how you feel right now. That fizz of excitement from laying tracks in front of a moving train. The MS is moving forward, track by track, week by week. Every time you come back to it, you’re amazed that you can keep moving forward. Well I’m going to tell you something important, something that you tell other people all the time. Have a little faith in yourself.

Yes, you might feel like you’ve been running uphill for far too long. But at least you’re halfway up now. Not only that, but this is the easier part. The home stretch. Continue the journey and then wrap it up. The giddiness growing day by day as the word count keeps creeping up. Not only are the words going down on screen – but they’re pretty good too. One day soon, you’ll take that next step of sending it all out again. Maybe you’ll even print out a full hardcopy to share with your mum.

Remember that at all times that the ‘Spelling’ is not your friend. It will deceive you. The computer, also with occasionally shut down and magically lose your work. So back it up with an obsessiveness created by the fear of impending doom. Delete all inclusions of the phrase ‘a little’ or ‘for a moment’ because these are pointless.

Pay attention to dialogue. No one ever says what they’re really thinking, so the characters should either. And how many times do you call someone by their name in one conversation? There is never a good reason to have a flat, uninteresting chapter. Invite tension and wibbly wobbly plot lines and at the same time, cut out anything unessential that is doing less than two things to the story. Either developing the world, adding depth, providing information, momentum or joy. But nothing that is only one.

Most of all, you must never give up (even if you run out of coffee.)

Love me.

What would you want to tell yourself?

Edit out the habits: How to Improve Work

There are certainly a few recurring ‘snags’ as it were in the cloth of my carefully constructed words. By editing and work-shopping I’ve been lucky to identify the trends in my work that make it less accessible to the reader. If you have to work hard to read something, then you’re more inclined to give up part-way though. For my rambling thoughts on what puts me off reading a story, there is a post here: Scared of Reading – actually funny story. I started writing this blog post and it originally turned into that one. So I decided to split it into two complete and hopefully coherent articles! Fingers are crossed.

But here are the trends that I learnt to look out for in my work.

  1. Passive verbs passive verbs.

My characters had many limbs that did things for them, but instead I needed to just write, that the characters –did-the-thing- much simpler, much clearer. So for example: Her hand reached out toward the glowing embers. – Passive. What would be better is: She reached toward the glowing embers. – Active. It’s just easier to imagine what the protagonist is doing.

  1. Did uh…did that just happen?

A lot tends to happen to my heroine as she goes about her journey. But I was informed, and then realised that although she reacts physically to the things around her and says things, the reader was being cut out of her thoughts. This was causing a second problem in that my reader felt disconnected from her and therefore my storytelling was less effective. The manuscript I’m working on, was supposed to have a close-third person narration, but too often it was just narration and I wasn’t as close in the third-person as I thought I was. Cue thoughts and responses! It sounds very juvenile but I listed a number of responses such as:

‘She was surprised’, ‘shocked, Sarah turned,’ ‘torn between’, ‘relieved’ etc and then used them as a prompt sheet to include things more in my writing. The result has so far been successful and feedback very positive. Hooray!

  1. Too many wonderful, amazing, blue, sparkling adjectives.

Description is a beautiful thing. However, going through everything with a cut-happy pixie on my shoulder I realised something else that I’d been previously told. I have a tendency to repeat myself. With repetition and a build-up of adjectives, some of the writing was getting lost in itself. Cut, cut, cut! And the work made more impact. I kept the best phrases and descriptions or reworked the ones I really loved and couldn’t bring myself to part with.

  1. For a moment she was a little afraid.

In a final bid to avoid unnecessary repetition in the manuscript I did a ctrl-f word search for a few phrases such as ‘For a moment’ and ‘a little’. I’ll tell you something, I use those tags far too often! I think within 30,000 words I ended up deleting them over 50 times. They didn’t add anything to the story, the plot, the description. They were filler! All they did was water down the writing and stop the protagonist committing to any particular emotion. If she was ‘A little afraid’ why is she just not afraid? If ‘she paused for a moment,’ why doesn’t she just ‘pause.’ Cut!

Everyone has different version of these phrases that they fall back on. My nemesis as I’ve started to refer to them. They’re things I don’t even remember writing! Maybe I don’t, maybe they just appear… That must be it. Those and spelling/grammar errors.

It may be worth going through any work under editing and seeing if you can find one or two and then doing a word search to find out just how many times they sneak in, pesky little things. I definitely go through additional phases of ‘word of the day’ that will sneak in over and again in a chapter if I took a shine to a certain sound when the chapter was in construction. Thank goodness for editing!

The best thing about recognising (the latest) failing of you work, is that when you go on to write new things, you are aware of them and so you make them less often. This does open up the path to making shiny new mistakes, but I like to believe that by slowly eliminating bad habits and trends I’m improving every time I do a thorough edit.

I’m sure there is even evidence to support this as whenever I write I feel it’s better than what I was able to write 6 months ago. I still need to edit the draft, but the process is less painful. I know what I’m looking for, what needs to be edited for clarity what is actually my style. Maybe I still use too many adjectives- but that is because I like long and rambling description. That is a choice, it’s not just the adjectives sneaking in a little.

What are the writing habits you have learnt to look out for? Let me know 🙂

Fibi xx

I believe!

I’m sure you’ll all be sick of me talking about this, but thank you Daily Prompt for a perfect oppertunity! Another reason to believe….

Currently my reason to believe is the generosity of the people around me. A few weeks ago I put out a call for poems, stories, artwork and photographs to pull together in a book. The purpose of this book was to help raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis and the fire fighters charity via Alex’s Adventures.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of work I received back, and the immense quality of so many of the pieces.
One of my favourite things is a poem written by my three year old niece about her favourite person. Honestly, it’s inspired! But there are also some gorgeous short stories and many poems dedicated in love to those who have passed on from this world. I’m so proud of the collection and just feel so grateful to all of the contributors who helped make it what it was.
It’s been an emotional journey, pulling it all together but it’s worth it. I hope it does well as all proceeds will go to charity and help raise awareness for things that are close to my heart.
One final, enormous thank you has to be to a friend I contacted, out of the blue just two days before sending the book to print. I asked, because I knew he was into arty things, if he had any illustrations that would fit the theme. His response was just incredible. He managed to get three amazing pictures back to me, for three poems. They are amazing and so beautiful. His website is Unknown Creatives and they come very highly recommended.
If any of you lovely bloggers would want to review this raw and heartfelt collection that would be amazing! Please contact me 🙂

And here it is! You mean the world to me… a collection made and dedicated to love.

I can’t stay mad at you – Occupational Hazard!!

My cousin Alex is doing ten amazing challenges in ten months to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis and the Fire-Fighters trust to mark ten years since his sister passed away due to this destructive disease. In the past four months he must have walked, cycled, horse ridden and kayaked more than 300 miles! Not to mention the miles put down by everyone joining in with the cause. So, to help him I decided to pull together a collection of poems, short stories, flash fiction and art work from friends, family and fellow creative people and create a book that we will be able to sell; all profits donated to charity.
I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the submissions I’ve received and they’re still coming in! The theme is You Mean the World to Me. Now, this post is supposed to be forgiveness based and I’ve named it Occupation Hazard. I’ve come a long way around, but I’m finding it hard to read the submissions. They’re so beautiful and so many of them are raw. I’ll be honest; the first reading of each submission is tending to leave me in tears.
I’m not usually an emotional person. It takes a lot to choke me up and I’m certainly not one to wear my hearty on my sleeve – well, that’s what I like to think anyway! But I keep choking on the words that other people have sent to me, in honour of this amazing cause. Don’t get me wrong by any means. I am LOVING pulling everything together and working on something physical which will both help the charity’s and act as a kind of record for what my cousin Alex is undertaking. I didn’t expect to need a box of tissues when reading through though.
Luckily, after the initial waterfall-inducing whammy of the pieces, I’m able to step back a little bit. Or at least, I know enough of what they each are to put them into a cohesive order for the book. Make me cry once, shame on me, make it happen twice – well…well done your creative geniuses for creating such moving pieces.
I forgive you all though.
Thank you.
Fibi xx

Daily Prompt – 1950’s Pirate Chic?

What do I love wearing? – Response to Daily Prompt which was ‘Tell us all about your best confidence outfit. Don’t leave out the shoes or the perfect accessories.’
Wow. Well I love my heels. I have a favourite 4 inch-platform pair which are gooooorgeous – see below.
shoes
See, they are lovely… pretty pretty shoes.
A couple of years back in my twenies (late teens, super early twenties) I had the ability to run in such shoes, in snow. It was pretty awesome. I’ve always been co-ordinationally challenged however had the theory that in the big heels I had to concentrate on walking and so fell over less often. 99% of the time this proved to be the case. But that skill is sadly slipping away and I’ve exchanged my 4 inchs for well, currently some rather lovely flip flops. (I’m taking advantage that today IS the British summertime)
On the other end of the spectrum, I also love wearing bandanas. When I’m really focused on getting some words down and getting some writing done, I bandana up!
bandana
It’s so useful to keep my hair out of my face. When you’re bent over a manuscript wrestling with the dreaded comma, the last thing you want is an all-out battle with your hair (which I never win). I was first introduced to the wonders of a bandana as a Girl Scout Camp Counsellor in New Hampshire, one summer many years ago.
But back to the confidence…
The best outfit.
If I had to go out somewhere right now and be dressed to impress. I’d run home and change into a knee length dress. It was an absolute bargain and was perfect for what I was looking for at the time. It’s a deep blue with a pale purple detail. It fits beautifully and works well for evening wear or work wear. I love it.
So combine all three items together?
I guess I’ll end up as some kind of strange 1950’s housewife-looking-pirate. Arrr!

Third Rate Romance – Surprise!

Another response to a daily prompt.

I used to make pancakes on a Sunday, for me and my flatmate. Slice up the strawberries, whip up a batch – not too much or it’ll lose all the air – and make myself a decent cup of coffee and hang over from my student year abroad in the states. Good coffee is hard to find, but pancakes for breakfast? Easy when you know how.
I was slouched in my hoodie, enjoying each creamy sip of caffeinated delight. The sunshine was streaming through the window, making the dust in the kitchen dance in the air. I had my nose in my coffee cup so I could inhale the sweet sweet nectre when she snuck through the kitchen door, turned in her socks and shut it behind her. It was a tiny room, with a cooker, fridge, sink and a singular cabinet as a worktop. Then squished in the corner was a fold-down wooden table for two, and a chair. The second chair lived in the hallway to save space. But it was such a small room. That as I sat, she stood right in front of me.
“Eh?” I’m not one for words in the morning…
She planted her hands on her hips, and frowned at me.
“Everything…okay?”
“Mmm…”
I was starting to worry. I put my coffee cup down on our tiny table. “Can I get you some tea?” Tea could fix everything.
“You know Mike?”
Mike? “The boy that was a bit…the one who you went on a date with?”
“Yeah. Mike…”
“Yes?”
“I think he’s my boyfriend…” The frown on her face deepened. I stood up and ushered her to the now vacant chair. I filled the kettle, splashing my hoody front and sweatpants with water. I flicked the switch on it and turned back to her.
“…really?”
“I think so?”
“How did that happen?”
“He stayed over – nothing happened but- …well…”
“Yeah?” I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She wore a hoody like me, but green and pyjamas tucked into fluffy blue socks. I hopped backwards, onto the cabinet and perched. Reaching for a mug and tea-bag.
“Well I was asleep-”
“Yeah?”
“He woke me up, in the middle of the night-”
“Oooh –ouch.”
“And he, well he asked if he could be my boyfriend!”
“What did you say?” The kettle boiled. I filled the mug and stirred it.
“Who does that to a person in the middle of the night?”
“Mike apparently.”
“I was asleep! I just wanted to go back to sleep!”
“What did you say?”
“I think-…I think I said yes?” She was running her hands over her forehead in confusion “Maybe it was just a dream?”
“What are you going to do?”
“I can’t ask him if he asked.”
“Noo…nono…”
“Yeah.”
I handed her the tea. Swapping it for my coffee. I cradled it again.
“Well…I guess – congratulations on your new…boyfriend-ness…”
“Thanks.”

Memory lives

More than her years
So forevermore she will remain
More than one who has left us
Because she stays
In the words that we say
And the ones that we don’t
She’s the prayer on the motorway
For everyone to come home safe
She is the one that we ask
To make things okay
She is the hope in the night
That there will be a new day
We remember a smile
The most beautiful face
She is with us
And with us she’ll stay

This is dedicated to the memory of my cousin Melissa Mould who ten years ago passed away due to cystic fibrosis at the age of 19. Her younger brother is doing ten challenges in her memory to mark this and raise awareness for CF. More information about his adventures can be found here: http://alexsadventure.wordpress.com/

 

This is part of my contribution to the collection of poems and short stories I’m pulling together for Alex’s Adventures. The theme is You Mean the World to Me. I’m currently working on a family related vilanelle but it’s a tricky devil.

This was originally posted on http://poetreecreations.org/ and I would have reblogged however the picture put up with the poem doesn’t quite fit! Sorry guys!

 

Fibi xx

The Great EDIT of 2014!

Yesterday I printed off all 169 pages of my manuscript (sorry trees but it was double sided), I bought myself a coffee…and I locked myself in a silent study cubical for the best part of two hours and got down to editing. I was fortunate enough to speak to a literary agent over the weekend who, after reading a sample of my MS and the synopsis, which apparently wasn’t completely dire anymore (woohoo!) requested I send the rest in.
I know I know I’m breaking the golden rule and this MS should be on its way already! But she was also kind enough to offer a few small pointers; which I am implementing like crazy. They included the comment: your dialogue is brilliant; really believable – should there be more of it? This is a comment I’ve heard before, and I remain confident that the only reason my dialogue is believable is because I detest writing it and so I write as little as possible –giving my characters believability as they don’t say everything that they’re thinking…
So – two hours locked in a room with no distractions, especially as my phone had died…
I feel really good about the work I put in and the changes I made. I’m being a bit ruthless and putting my toolbox of new (improved) tricks into play. What is driving every scene or chapter? Does the difficulty of my protagonist reaching her goal for each scene and the overall novel, increase in every scene? What sentences aren’t working, what chapters can I completely cut? I’m 6 chapters in out of 42 and I’ve cut about 4000 words. This is quite worrying as I would like to add more words, instead of taking them away.
But it seems to be working. I’ve set myself a deadline to get all the work done andsent to the agent by the end of next week. Despite having two very busy weeks! For the first time since setting the deadline; I can imagine reaching my goal. It all seems achievable and the manuscript is going to be so much stronger for it. I feel so motivated. I can’t wait to get back into that head space tonight and continue being ruthless and improve my work.
Lesson learnt:
No distractions + Quiet room + Phoned turned off + Motivation + Achievable Goal = good work, excitement and improved motivation to continue.
It also gets rid of that nagging guilt you feel when you havn’t gone back to that words for a few days.

Looking out my back door: Spiders in the Toilet.

Another Daily Prompt 🙂
The back door is ancient, thick and warped slightly with age. Flakes of red paint fall away when you slide back the bolt. Well, you jam it back with as much force as you can manage, because it likes to stick. It’s got black plastic handle which doesn’t turn anymore. You just have to pull it towards you, sharply, and try not to punch yourself in the face. I find that ducking to the left is usually the best option, but try not to tread on the cat who is inevitably sat on your feet, refusing to go through the flap.
The back door opens over two concrete steps, the edges chipped with age. Stepping down, your faced with the outside lavatory that was built with the house. The flush chain dangles lifeless and half-snapped off. The toilet seat is dark and thankfully shut. Who knows what could crawl up from the pre-war plumbing. We used to use that toilet, when we were children. In the summer time we’d run in, skidding with our bare feet on the icy on the concrete floor, vision green and speckled from the sun. It was a favourite habitat for spiders, even then. Once, I forgot that we shouldn’t lock the door and I was stuck. My own, white-washed cell and a lock that wouldn’t budge. I panicked and my poor father tried to climb in through the skinny window. He must have been standing on a ladder because even now, the window is well above my head. Just as they were about to cut the door away from its hinges though, the lock gave. It’s game was up.
After that summer, it became a home for kittens. Our cat made her bed there and had her litters. I remember sitting on the dusty floor, cradling fluffy bundles on my knees.
Next to the toilet is the coal shed. I think, it was only ever used for coal one winter and then never again – because we gas installed. It’s still lined with the dust but it’s where the ice-cream freezer lives. Yes, we make you work hard for your dessert in my family.
There’s supposed to be another door, between the outside and the shed and the toilet. But it came off years ago.
Now you just step out, into the garden. Overgrown, filled with flashes of pink, purple and yellow wild flowers. The giant hydrangeas’, the strawberry plants, sweet pea and blackberry bushes. You can lie on the soft green grass and imagine you are anywhere in the world.

I have a challenge for you, should you chose to accept it…

Apologies to those that have already seen this on Alex’s Adventures in duplicate 🙂

You’ve all seen my discussions, posts and encouragement of my cousin Alex who is undertaking Ten Adventures to raise money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and the Fire Fighters Trust. Alex has completed 3 out of the 10 adventures in memory of his sister Melissa who passed away 10 years ago.

He’s going up all mountains, kayaking, riding, cycling etc and as I have all of the athletic skill and agility as a two-legged epileptic donkey. I’ve been doing my best to support my little cousin (okay, he does somewhat tower over me these days…) but despite wracking my brains for about six months now, I’ve been struggling to think of what I can ‘do’ to really really help out.

But then, I ordered a gift for my Mum for Mother’s Day. A small, self-published collection of short stories, poetry, flash fiction and musings in a cute little hardback and paperback format. They’ve just arrived and I’m so pleased with the quality of the printing and aaah it just looks lush!

It’s like a genius moment.

I’ve realised what I can do.

I can’t climb a mountain. (I can barely walk in a straight line without injuring myself!)

I can however, pull together a collection of poems, short stories, pictures and art. Publish it with the same company I used for my mums gift and pass on any profits to Alex’s chosen charities.

This is a very good idea!

The title of the collection will be ‘You mean the world to me…’ and all of the collected works will reflect this theme in some way.

It could be a story about a loved one, or a poem someone who has passed away, someone that you just couldn’t be without, a friend or family member. It could also be about your favourite teddy bear or a goldfish. It can be as happy or as sad as you like and any length so long as it’s under 2000 words.

So long as it fits the theme, I’d love to see it!

If you’d be interested in submitting a piece then please e-mail me at inkycygnet@googlemail.com

Fibi