The Modern-Day Super Power

And today’s challenge is… I listened to a podcast earlier, where the guest was Tim Ferris known for books such as The Four Hour Body/Working Week and others.

During the podcast, which centred on self-improvement, he quoted someone who’d come up with the line that in today’s world, if you are able to focus on one thing only for two to five hours, it’s the modern-day equivalent of a superpower.

What do you get if you focus solely on one thing for two hours, then? I’m on a mission to find out. When I write, I seldom, if ever, complete any piece of writing without doing something else at the same time.

Mostly, I’m listening to the radio. But I’m also watching the email icon, and if I get a new e-mail, I’ll come out of Word and read it. Then, I might write something and feel the need to look stuff up—whether it’s fact checking or the thesaurus as I seek an alternative to a word I keep using. Or I’ll just look up anything random that pops into my mind.

There’s one piece of work I do every week that I never manage to write without doing something else. I wander off to see if my cat wants attention, or I check on the washing hanging outside. I fold up clothes or change the sheets on my bed. As I don’t find the work inspiring at all, it’s an effort to finish it. It would be much less of an effort if I just concentrated, wrote the whole lot at once and got it over and done with.

Ah, procrastination… thine embodiment is the writer.

The radio? Switch it off. My inbox? Close the mail app. Checking things—highlight them as a reminder to verify or refine after the words have been written. Housework? It will wait.

Here goes…

 

Pic thanks to Topher McCulloch on flickr

 

A Little Flash Fiction Fun At The Expense of David Cameron

After a long absence, I’ve decided to revive this blogging account. Well, it doesn’t really make sense for me not to have my very own personal blog. And I do need to sell books as I’ve discovered I’ve got this allergy to office work (symptoms – unrelieved boredom/borderline suicidal feelings on a Sunday or after returning from holiday and general lethargy most evenings) so I’m trying to find a way of keeping myself out of offices for ever and ever…

So hello there once more. Highheelsandpinkglitter tries to blog mostly about writing (having briefly entered the foray as a wedding blogger ahead of my own nuptials), but is easily distracted by food and skin care. As so many people write and produce much better content on the last two topics, I try to resist that distraction as much as I can.

To start off my new blogging life on highheels, here’s a little fiction effort. I’ve been chortling at Twitter’s response to pig-gate of late (more about that story here), so I thought I’d write a little back story for one of the memes:

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Man* Enough to Make That Call

The phone on his desk seemed to mock him. In his imagination he heard the words, “Are you man enough for this…?”

He shook his head slightly, “Well I’m not, but –”

The voice cut him off. “Pathetic! Excuses, excuses… Just pick up the phone and call him!”

With a sigh, he decided to obey. The inner voice wasn’t always right, but on this occasion its veracity rang clear and true.

He listened as the number rang and a voice confirmed: “David Cameron.”

His mouth dry, he barked into the phone: “It’s Kermit. Do.You.Love.Her? Do you? Do you? DO YOU?”

As you might be able to deduce from the above, one of my other regular projects is flash fiction – writing an original 100-word story once a week, preferably on a Friday just because the alliteration works. If you’d like to see more examples of flash fiction, check out the Friday flash fiction website.

 

 

*A friend disputed the use of “man up” in this story and I do get her point – why do we use the phrase “man up'”to mean bravery and fortitude? I hope you will forgive me as I used the phrase in an ironic way because Kermit’s a frog.

Words, Words, Wonderful Words (and a commendation)

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Amidst the chaos that is my in-box a wee gem surfaced this week, telling me I’d been commended in a short story competition.

The Federation of Writers in Scotland ran a competition some months ago and I entered the flash fiction class. The competition was looking for a 500-word short story, which, as I’m used to 100-word stories through the weekly Friday Flash Fiction challenge I set myself, felt like a NOVEL.

Anyway, I hummed and hah-ed and then entered anyway. I’m sharing the results below and I hope you like it…

 

WORDS, WORDS, WONDERFUL WORDS

Nathan Crutchlow prided himself on his verbosity. Words were his stock in trade after all, so why shouldn’t there be so many of them? Those oh so plentiful words buzzed around in his head and they needed an outlet – they deserved to be written down, lovingly crafted into the sentences, paragraphs and pages he adored creating.

Nathan’s wordiness had stilted his initial progress. His first approaches to agents had met with flat refusals. After a while he had sought out further explanation for their reluctance to consider what he considered his works of art. What could possibly be wrong with his wonderful words?

One of London’s kinder and more patient agents explained eventually.

They’re just too long,” she said. “I read your covering letter where you referenced the length of your manuscript – 200,000 words, for heaven’s sake! The modern-day reader does not want to read a book that long.”

Nathan listened, and then discounted her advice. The modern-day readers of the time (1970s) he felt, should not be patronised by London agents determined to determine their word count for them. Surely, the modern reader was only awaiting words of which only Nathan could conjure up in his own inimitable way? They were eager to be intoxicated by the exuberance of his verbosity, he was sure…

He stuck to his wordy principles. His eventual signing by a more individualistic agent led to publication of a series of fantasy novels. The 900-page books gained a select following and Nathan achieved cult status.

From time to time, he muttered to himself – wondering afresh at his lack of ability to sell millions of novels. There had been talk in the mid-1990s of turning his first book into a film. Hollywood was mentioned and flights to Los Angeles were days away from being booked, but it all came to naught.

Nathan reverted to rejoicing in his small but select following. His fans were the type to seek him out at the smaller book festivals having travelled from Sweden, or the far flung corners of the US.

Once, he overheard one of them discussing his books with a friend. “It took me a year to read y’know, but it was worth it in the end. I feel like I’m an ultra-reader now. Everyone else does 5ks and half-marathons, but I’ve done the Marathon des Sables.”

He thought it was a compliment.

And then in the midst of online research (or procrastination, depending on your view point), he’d stumbled across the notion of flash fiction. He found websites where stories were limited to a mere 500 words. Another 30 minutes later and he had uncovered fiction which took place within 100 words.

What on earth..?

Nathan’s fingers twitched. The words rattling around in his brain slowed to a stop, as the inner editor finally made his appearance.

Nathan picked up the phone and called his agent.

Daryl,” he roared down the phone. “I’ve seen the light! Tell me, do I have a Twitter account?”

 

 

 

 

Back Blogging!

back blogging

Oh hello! It’s been a while and I’ve sorely missed the company of you my fellow bloggers and those other dear people who once upon a time signed up here to keep up to date with moi…

I am back in the world of blogging for myself as well as others, which means lots of self-indulgent nonsense… And regular self-indulgent nonsense seeing as I make a living these days by writing regular blog posts and articles for other people and preaching the benefits of writing such items on a regular basis. You know the old saying of the cobbler whose children are always the worst shod, or that so many people teach what they want to learn…? Both sayings apply to me; time to start taking one’s own advice.

Anyway, for those who have managed to bear with me so far (muchos gracias), here is a quick re-cap of the last four months:

1. I have revised and edited my book numerous times – as per the advice of professional writing experts, and those kind people who have read the book for me. Despite snivelling and crying as I did it (awwww, I loved the bit where the teenagers got drunk and then changed themselves into cats to see what that would be like), I have cut out a lot of the dross.

2. I have met up with a publisher on a regular basis and taken on board all of his excellent advice.

3. I have written a synopsis several times (and there is excellent advice about how to write a synopsis here).

4. And I have approached agents. Here I would like to offer up lots of little-known help and advice – agent such and such, for example, really loves submissions which use the comic sans font, whilst agent other such and such goes wild for proposals which reach her in-box on a Tuesday at 11.16am precisely. If only! My only advice for writers approaching agents is – the first rejection stings, the subsequent ones, not so much.

5. I have had enormous fun contributing on a regular basis to Friday Flash Fiction (a website for 100-word stories), and also the Friday flash fiction blog site.  These websites welcomes regular contributions and I promise you writing 100-word stories is brilliant fun and brilliant discipline.

Anyway, a final development has been the creation of a proper professional website – jetcomms, a partnership with another professional blogger, and from this we are hoping to generate more writing and PR work. Here’s hoping…

All I Have in My Life is Flash Fiction

A more accurate pic would of course be fingers on a keyboard...

A more accurate pic would of course be fingers on a keyboard…

It’s true dear reader. Some weeks ago I hit on the idea of a regular Friday Flash Fiction challenge to give me regular material – and I’ve now forgotten how to do all the irregular material.

What to write about on a Wednesday, I pondered to myself a couple of days ago. And Saturday scribblings, what might they involve? Monday meanderings too, it would be unfair to dismiss this day just because it doesn’t begin with an ‘F’ and therefore doesn’t meet the alliteration criteria.

In my defence, dear reader, life has been rather busy of late. Much scribbling on many subjects has been done, leaving me a little jittery at the end of the day and in serious need of time away from the laptop. “Urgh,” my poor fried brain sighs to itself, “no more blasted writing for goodness sakes! Reading only, and reading of the loveliest, lightest of topics* must ensue, perhaps adding the odd sprinkling of lovely Prosecco and a teensiest bit of reality TV via Strictly Come Dancing.”

This week’s offering needs some explanation. I started up a flash fiction discussion thread on LinkedIn several weeks ago and it is still running. This was my response to a 100-word piece someone contributed which used ‘thread’ in a different, but clever way…

The Trouble with Fridays

Aunty Em agreed with her niece; Fridays were indeed difficult and blasted bobbins running out were a pain in the neck.

Is it time to start a new thread, dearest Jane?” she asked, “you may be right you know. This one has run its course.”

The two of them nodded sagely. From outside the house, though a rustling was heard.

The FFC friends stood at the door. “We have more threads for you,” they told the twosome. “Can we carry on?”

*OK, I may have said I can only read the loveliest and lightest of topics these days, but one book I read recently which I absolutely loved was Gordon Lawrie’s Four Old Geezers and a Valkyrie. It’s gorgeous and I really recommend it.

The Many Adventures of Flash Fiction Writers

So, some weeks ago, I started writing flash fiction on a regular basis. Mainly, it gave me a regular topic to blog about it. Always a bonus, as when you start out on blogging you usually fire off blogs left, right and centre at the beginning of your online life. Two months down the line and you get to the stage where you can’t bear to switch on your computer, so racked with guilt are you over your failure to write, entertain or annoy the masses.

I hit on a regular topic idea and heaved a sigh of relief. Heaven, I thought to myself, I have at least one thing I can blog about once a week. Folks may read it, folks may not, fellow bloggers may like or comment… or they may not notice. But my conscience will be squared. Hey, I signed up to this blogging deal, which meant writing when there is theoretically nothing to write about, and doing something on a REGULAR BASIS.

LinkedIn Flash Fiction Challenge

Actually, those preceding two paragraphs friends? I wandered off on a tangent. My main point is – at the same time as starting a regular Friday flash fiction post, I also started a flash fiction challenge on LinkedIn, asking fellow writers and editors to contribute to a 100-word flash fiction piece on a Friday as a kind of relaxing way of switching off.

It proved to be incredibly popular – lots of people joined in, lots of people contributed on a regular basis and I really enjoyed everything that I read. It takes talent and skill to write a 100-word story, and people also made their contributions topical. One lady chose to plagarise existing stories in a really witty way, another person went for plays, whilst several people opted for seasonal themes such as Halloween.

Publish, Publish, Publish

Three weeks in and people on LinkedIn started suggesting I take it further. One person said a website, another dreamt up a book of flash fiction stories for charity, another individual gathered together most of the stories for me and in general people seemed willing to sign over their permission for stories to be published. (I thank you).

So watch this space. It looks as if a Friday Flash Fiction challenge website may well appear. Here is what I hope. We post up lots of stories, which people like and then hundreds, if not thousands, of people all over the world start to contribute…

And now for this week’s Friday Flash Fiction challenge:

The Glamour of Writing

In her youth, Jenny had imagined the life of a writer as glamorous.

As she scribbled out her endless short stories which detailed the adventures of a teenager not dissimilar to Jenny, she imagined a grown-up writer’s life to be more or less the same. She would wait for the muse to strike and she would write about whatever took her fancy.

And get paid for it.

Alas, reality had since bit. Writing jobs often involved creating thousands of words about display cabinets or toner cartridges. And getting paid more than a pittance was the exception and not the norm. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction – a Winter Warning

Hello once more friends. It sure is getting cold out there, so I urge you to come in, pull up a seat and help yourself to a warm drink or two. I have hot chocolate on offer, but there is also mulled wine for the alcoholically-inclined (I include myself within the latter group).

Ah, the task of personal blogging has become 300% easier since I hit upon the idea of a regular feature and the Friday Flash Fiction challenge is just that. I also have to thank the Friday Flash Fiction challenge for keeping me sane. This week, for example, I have written out an awful lot of words about display cabinets. The joy of dashing out a mere 100 words of lovely fiction is a joyful escape.

Anyway, here is November’s second 100-word* flash fiction story…

WINTER WOES**

Marcus viewed the approach of winter with dread.

You know it will soon be time for your nightly duties,” Rachel had told him the other night as she pulled the curtains shut. Marcus tried (and failed) to look enthusiastic.

She’d told him years ago that this was the duty of every husband. Marcus wondered if this was true. He’d never dared raise the subject with his Wednesday night drinking pals.

That night, Rachel slid into their bed with an inquiring look. He assented with a sigh. A pair of ice-cold feet attached themselves to his much warmer legs.

*The diligent amongst you may notice this particular flash fiction story is a word or two over the 100-word limit. Tsk! Brevity will be back next week.

**Most of my flash fiction stories aren’t autobiographical. This one definitely is.