100 Not Out – A Review

100 Not Out100 Not Out by Gordon Lawrie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Searching for something to read for your commute – whether that’s for work or for a flight out on summer holidays? Try 100 Not Out. The author has collected together examples of his flash fiction, i.e. very short stories, grouping them in categories such as love, crime, politics and more. Many of the stories will make you laugh out loud – they will certainly make you think.

A light, but satisfying read. I’d thoroughly recommend it.

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Annoying Habits

RockyDear oh dear oh dear… recently, I thought it would be a good idea to add another cat to our household. Now, cats are notoriously territorial and my resident cat in particular is King Bee of the Area. He took to the new cat like a duck to… a shotgun? The Sahara Desert?

Cats that are confined indoors, rather like the new cat we adopted, find all kinds of ways to amuse themselves. One thing they like to do is knock stuff off shelves – and it was this particular habit that inspired some Friday Flash Fiction.

Annoying Habits

“My precious – where are you?”

Sod it. Lucia had lost her wedding ring. Some might argue that her fidelity had gone eons ago, but the ring bound her to a long-ago promise. The naked fourth finger of her left hand was too obvious for her liking.

The Cat sniffed. One of his little – some might say cute, some might say annoying – habits was knocking things off shelves. Spectacles, kirby grips, the occasional wedding ring* taken off for cleaning…

The Cat didn’t judge, but Lucia’s last affair had pushed certain boundaries. Tom’s youngest brother.

Who also happened to have a dog.

©Emma Baird 2016

 

*My wedding ring went missing for a week. It tuned up six days later, resting near the toilet. Hmm

 

Writer’s Block – Apply the Word Count

I promise you the ones I wrote were a bit more interesting than this.

I promise you the ones I wrote were a bit more interesting than this.

There’s only one solution to so-called writer’s block – just bloody write. You might have to resort to clichés and other lazy options. Your sentences may be so appalling you’re embarrassed to read them back later, but at least you have something on a page. It can always be fixed.

I’m writing book number four. Perhaps that impresses you – and sorry, I don’t mean to book-drop, how very vulgar – but my disclaimer is that only one is published, and numbers two and three need serious re-writing.

My point is that I employed a different technique for writing book number four. I’ve read a number of interviews with writers over the years and 2,000 seems to be the magic number. Those couple of thousand apply to the word count professional writers demand of themselves to produce every day. If you are lucky enough to be able to make your living solely from writing books, then 2,000 is your target word count for the day.

Word Count

I like word counts. I make my (paltry) living from blogging and copy writing. The metric for blogs, articles, website content, white papers, sales emails et al is word count. My clients look for anything from 150 words up to 10,000 and more. Sometimes you pad and fill. Sometimes you construct sentences you hate because you are trying to add in keywords and yet need to make the text sound conversational. The skill lies in making the padding and insertion stuff unnoticeable.

Often, you worry that your writing skills are being undermined and compromised. Or that you are developing nasty habits that will spill over into other area of your writing life. The padding thing. The weird sentences. A general feeling of ennui.

Anyway, it works both ways. The discipline of having to write a certain number of words for other people can be applied to your own writing. I decided that if people who write full-time make themselves pour out 2,000 words a day, I would go for 1,000 words for book number four. Six days a week.

Details, Details

I started the book on 16 May – if you don’t include the original idea that came to me in two stages: a short story, and then a vague idea of how that short story could be developed further. Anyway, thanks to sticking to the 1,000 words a week, I’m now up to 45,000 words. One bonus of writing the story so regularly is that you remember details. Today, for example, I started to write about two of my characters setting off for hospital in their Vauxhall. A quick check back revealed I’d given them a Peugeot originally.

You also remember how you’ve described people – dark-haired, receding hairlines, tall, stout, slightly sleazy, that sleeve tattoo…

One thousand words takes me roughly an hour, less if I’m really inspired and I’m writing about part of the story that I know precisely what I need to do. Sometimes, little details appear out what seems like nowhere. I enjoy that. I love the “nowhere” bits and the intrigue they create. Well, where did that come from?

Ditching Words

The_Waves_Burn_Bright.270There is no doubt the whole thing will need a lot of tidying up. In my haste to stack up that word count, I know I’ve overdone it in places. I listened to one respected writer talk once (current book pictured left) and he said he’d ended up ditching 250,000 words from his first novel. My jaw dropped open, but I applauded him at the same time – what courage it must have taken to ditch the equivalent of three novels. Maybe he’ll find some use for it elsewhere someday.

I’ve set myself a 1,000-word count, but I’m also a believer in the small goals win rule. Choose a goal and make it tiny. At one point when I was writing a book, I chose a 100-words per day, five days a week goal. I wanted a goal that was really easy to achieve. Achievement makes you feel good, so if you set goals that are very easy, you get that lovely glow of having ticked something off the to-do list. Maybe you write 200 words one day. Hey, you over-achieved.

If you are suffering writer’s block, then apply the small goals rule. Set it even lower than 100 words. Fifty words will do – it’s something. Pretend you are a professional copywriter or blogger and your client needs his or her 50 words. By 5pm. We can argue about quantity versus quality, but in the end consistency always wins.

 

 

Big Moll Rules

office cleanerYou don’t mess with big Moll…

Literally. She is our office cleaner and her baleful glance takes in our slovenly habits. Dirty coffee cups littering surfaces. Food eaten at desks. Banana skins discarded in wastepaper bins.

She thumps her broom on the floor.

“Things are gonna change round here.” She points at all of us, and lights up a cigarette.

“You can’t – ”

The glare silences me. The last two decades’ no-smoking rules don’t apply to Moll.

“I’ll stop smoking when you b*****s clean up after yourselves.”

“Aren’t you supposed – ”

I fish the banana skin out of my bin.

 

For more Friday flash fiction, please visit the website: www.fridayflashfiction.com or the WordPress blogPic thanks to Leigh Marriner on flickr.

©Emma Baird 2016

 

 

 

 

 

One IS Fun

This week’s Friday flash fiction is a little wishful thinking on my part. I’ve just acquired another cat and I’ve spent the last few days stressing about it. Cats don’t need company – FACT. 

two cats“If one is fun, two must be amazing!” Alice trilled to The Cat.

The Cat regarded her balefully. Typical human. Imposing its wants on another species. Anthromo… Anthromorphos…

What was the darn word, anyway*?

The new companion arrived. Alice opened the carrier and he emerged, blinking.

The Cat sighed. Humans needed company. He didn’t. Who wanted more competition for food, water and places to sleep?

The little one sidled up. “Hey I know you are worried, but I promise it’s all going to be fine!”

Oh this was worse! If there was anything The Cat hated, it was a sook.

 

 

*Anthropomorphism – i.e. the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human species. It’s  considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.

Getting Older in 4 Words

My Friday flash fiction story for this week was inspired by something that was trending on Twitter yesterday (2 June 2016). #GettingOlderin4Words inspired plenty of witty and wise comments. Here’s my contribution to the discussion.

Getting Older in 4 Words

wrinkles“Sixty is the new… 50.” Or was it 40 at the moment?

At L’Arreal Cosmetics HQ, the marketing team battled with slogans for the new face cream. At £100 a jar, they had a lot of work to do to women it was worth buying.

Luckily, they’d booked an actor who was ageing well. She would need only the tiniest touch of photo-shopping.

 

“Age –  just a number.”

“Older, bolder, better, beautiful.”

“Confidence in a jar.”

Brought in to bring consumer focus to the discussion, Jane stuck up her hand

“I’ve got two. “F*** you face cream? Looking young doesn’t matter.”

 

 

©Emma Baird 2016