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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

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.

Another Friday Flash Fiction Challenge…

Better late than never on the regular (ahem!) flash fiction feature, eh?

I certainly needed a 100-word brain break this week as readers I have worked like a SLAVE. I’ve written one cook book, edited a diet book, written 12 blogs (14 if you include my own too), applied for various jobs and indulged in a little light banter on various social media networks.

I have sweet Fanny Adams left in me and plan to spend my weekend doing nothing more stimulating than reading celebrity gossip mags (I’m desperately behind on updates to the progress of Kim’s post-baby diet, and as for Kerry Katona pregnancy news, the lord only knows what has happened in the last two days…) and watching famous folks try to dance. A soupcon of Cava or five may accompany these reading/watching efforts and I may well do all three in bed.

Anyway, without further ado here is Friday’s flash fiction challenge…

All Bagged Up

“Mercy me!” cried the old lady, “please don’t take my bag. It’s got all my belongings and savings in it.”

The thief paused. Conscience wasn’t usually a consideration, but today his own granny had gone into a home and he was feeling more merciful than usual. On the other hand, that care was going to be expensive. He pulled out a handful of notes, thrust them at the old lady and ran off with the bag.

Sadly for him, he’d just had his first (and last) encounter with a witch. The bag twitched ominously. An enchantment had been triggered…

Take a Brain Break – the Friday Flash Fiction Challenge

Greetings friends, I thought I’d introduce a spot of regularity to my blogs. It’s what experts recommend after all…

Usually, my blog modus operandi is to wait for the muse to strike me. Honestly, that lady hits hard when she eventually gets here, but she is a fickle creature; I leave the door open for her and she only deigns to appear on rare occasions. T’uh! So I remembered the lessons of my newsletter writing years where regular columns, features and photo caption competitions were the stuff we editors and writers relied on to fill our pages.

Participation – from you, you and YOU

Hence, lovely audience, I am hoping for a little participation from you, yes you, in the Friday flash fiction challenge. I stumbled upon this idea one Friday. Having spent several hours writing about products for a client, I felt my brain needed a break. It needed to shift from research, facts and key word placement (subtly done, I promise) to fictional creativity. But only a little.

I opened a new document and typed out a 100-word story. I rather love flash fiction (and there’s a great guy out there who posts a 300-word flash fiction story every day) and its neat exposition, rising action and climax, otherwise known as beginning, middle and end. I then posted the story on the LinkedIn writers and editors group and asked for contributions, so thought I’d try the same idea here in lovely, lovely blog world.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

There are writers amongst my esteemed and valued audience, but then aren’t we all to a certain extent? Someone replied to my Friday flash fiction challenge with Veni, vidi, vici – which of course counts as it falls within the 100-word limit.

Anyway, here’s my own effort and a promise to post one a week every Friday. I’d love it if you could contribute – post your efforts below. Thank you!

The Case of the Disappearing Cat

Alice loved her cat. He was everything to her – friend, companion, substitute child and hot water bottle, so when he went missing she howled.

She paced the streets seeking him out and sticking posters on lamp-posts, but it was no good. He had disappeared.

She was, however, approached by a private detective agency. They had noted her patience, tracking skills and determination to leave no stone unturned. Would she like a job with them?

Would she ever! Alice signed up with joy. A day later, her cat returned. The agency was glad to see the back of him.

Grateful Thanks and a Writing Plea

Gimme a 't', gimme a 'h' etc etc

Gimme a ‘t’, gimme an ‘h’ etc etc

Once upon a time, I worked for a company whose unofficial motto was: “Never Knowingly Original”.

I have tried to stick to this ethos throughout my blogging experiment, shamelessly ‘borrowing’ ideas from other much more experienced and knowledgeable folks and this evening is no exception.

I’ve recently signed up to follow a gent who blogs a 300-word piece of flash fiction EVERY SINGLE DAY. A marvellous idea certainly, but it is not this one I’m, er, nicking. (Though I do think it might be an interesting and educational exercise if I were to embark on such a process. For your sakes dear readers, I would keep such scribblings private.) No, said gent thanked the newbies who have recently started following him – c’est moi and others – and I thought to myself, “Aha! What a jolly good idea.*”

I THANK YOU

So to all those who have recently ticked the ‘follow’ bit on my blog, thank you ever so much. And to all those who have been following me for a while, thank you too ever so much. I am very grateful and I hope I bring a tiny bit of something to your life, even if it’s only a sigh of irritation as a ‘new blog alert from highheelsandpinkglitter’ hits your inboxes. (Does anyone know the correct plural of inbox, btw?)

As I have bored myself witless over the last few months with my own musings (the situation has been exacerbated by my work situation which means I spend a great deal of my time on my own speculating aloud on topics such as the weather and feeling hurt when the cat doesn’t want to be in the same room as me) I would welcome guest posts with OPEN ARMS.

RE-BLOG, RE-BLOG, RE-BLOG

Fellow bloggers may think to themselves, “Lordie, lady laziness, why don’t you just re-blog something??” I know, I know – but I’d really love some dear person to think up something which would fit with my very loose set of topics… Actually, scratch that, write about anything you like and just throw in the odd reference to anything I’ve written about – even if it’s just one word. ‘The’ will do, to be honest.

Best case scenario – I am flooded with enough guest posts to keep me in thrice-weekly blogs from now until Christmas. Worst case? No guest blogs at all… Reader, have mercy on me.

 

 

 

*For some strange reason, blogging brings out the Nancy Mitford in me.

Picture courtesy of nursingworldnigeria

Clearing the Decks – And Trying Not to Puke

Words, words, words

Words, words, words

Recently, I heard someone opine that the first draft of a novel was basically a ‘word vomit’.*

Ooh, I get what she meant, but as someone who has just written the first draft of her first book, ‘word vomit’ made me want to cry. I must endeavour to toughen up if hearing some other person’s description of the writing process makes me react in such a pathetic way.  It was not a personal comment on my own attempts, for heaven’s sakes!

Having triumphantly typed out ‘The End’ almost 14 days ago, I have ignored The Book ever since. I didn’t dare look at it and, as I had really galloped towards ‘The End’ at the rate of knots, not caring about casualties such as spelling, grammar, credibility or sense, I certainly feared to view it again.

So, adopting my best school prefect voice, I said to self today – “You MUST look at this. You MUST read it again. You MUST change stuff if necessary.” So in between writing bathroom blogs and bugging the editors of air conditioning websites (yes, really), I read Book Part 3.

And, er, it was not quite as bad as I feared… Now, next week’s Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is reading parts 1 and 2. And perhaps putting chapters up on Readwave and asking for feedback.

Declutter – It’s Good For You

In another bid towards encouraging creativity (or putting off bidding for jobs online – you decide…) I finally got round to clearing out the spare room. I now have the dedicated office I promised myself way back in April. It’s a minimalist space where creative energy will flow, uninterrupted by endless tripping over of piles of washing in various states of dryness and dodging piles of paperwork. That’s the theory!

A women’s magazine I’m rather fond of (Woman & Home) had an article about de-cluttering in its latest edition. The aim, apparently, is to own no more than 100 things if you want to be free. Store all your music, books and pictures on your PC or online, go for a capsule wardrobe and the rest is easy. Idly, I wondered to myself, do ‘toiletries’, ‘skincare’ and ‘make-up’ count as three things, or should one count up the individual items? If the latter is true, I may well have reached the 100-item limit five times over. Woe!

Just to demonstrate that I can do a 100 limit, I did recently write a piece of flash fiction. It was for a competition. I didn’t win, or get mentioned or anything really, but it’s the taking part that counts, don’t you reckon? Here it is:

I’m a Deelan – Oh My Lord!

On Thursday I came home from work, disheartened.

My cat didn’t greet me at the door, but a handsome stranger was waiting in my kitchen. “Bobbee,” he said, “do you recognise me?” I shook my head. “Who has kept you company all these lonely months? Who has slept on your bed every night while you cried yourself to sleep?”

“You are Jazz?!” I exclaimed. “My cat?”

“I’m a deelan,” he said, “a human who can change into a cat and you are one too. Look!”

He clicked his fingers. I changed into a cat.

If any of you have your own examples of flash fiction, I’d love to read them so please feel free to post in the comments.

 

*LinkedIn – the writers and editors group. Very good for brain storming, and asking for advice on the creative and the more prosaic, such as ‘hey, what printer do you use and why?’

Inspiration and Exasperation… Along with Teacups

What has this to do with today's post? Read on...

What has this to do with today’s post? Read on…

I think, I think in blog these days…

Bear with me. I find myself in the kitchen mindlessly drying dishes. My brain – I would say ever alert, but that’s not always the case – flits from subject to subject, hits on a few flights of fancy and goes: “Aha! Light bulb moment! Next blog post coming up!”

And then words sort of start coming, sentences, phrases and some urge to remember them and write them down appears from nowhere.

“Do you know what, insomnia – so interesting!”

“Procrastination – I can spin a tale or two out of that!”

Cakes – there’s TONNES of material in them.”

Dear reader, you are the unfortunate victim of such sorry witterings. I apologise. Good lord, what the internet has unleashed on human kind…

THE NAUGHTY STUFF

What I also do, which is kind of naughty [HUH – you at the back there! Were you hoping for full-blown blue stuff? Not a chance my friend.] I look at everything that goes on around me and I kind of suck it up, [Grr, you at the back – STILL looking for the naughty stuff??] chew it up and use it. So a phrase, a story, a recollection I heard years ago will often resurface in what I write. I keep my fingers crossed that the originator doesn’t recognise the gem they told me that I’m now regurgitating.

Recently, I used two phrases/ideas I’d heard. One was about shoes. I was doing freelance work, writing about Louboutins. I ‘borrowed’ an idea to create an amusing intro for the article, where a woman I once worked alongside used to describe how she visited department stores and talked to the shoes she wanted to buy. “Hey girls, mummy’s going to take you home very soon.” That kind of thing.

Next, I was writing my own book and I’d recently seen this fantastic phrase on Facebook – “Who shat on her cornflakes?” Said lovely wasn’t looking too cheery in a pic. I saw the phrase and said to myself, “I’ve got to use that. It’s sublime.” And I did.

MOUTHS WIDE SHUT

I shouldn’t confess to this. My family and friends may resort to zipping their mouths shut in front of me in fear of their every uttering being sucked out and used up. I promise, dear all, to use only the occasional piece and I will thank you extensively, should I ever be fortunate enough to be in the position of writing ‘Acknowledgements’.

And finally… Lovely Sharon who blogs at sunshineandcelandines ran a competition recently, offering one of her gorgeous creations as first prize. I entered and won! The picture illustrating today’s blog is that prize. Isn’t is absolutely beautiful?

A Top 10 List to Help with Writer’s Block

Oh, oh, oh! I have a deadline to meet dear readers. Once it seemed like many moons away. Now it gallops towards me faster than a…

Stuck for a metaphor here. Faster than my own attempts to neck a glass of red wine come Friday evenings? Faster than the cat comes screeching into the kitchen when he hears the fridge door opening?

Trouble is, it’s a self-imposed deadline and we all know how they work – or don’t work, truth be told. I’m still writing, but The End doesn’t seem quite as nigh as it did the other week when I was flushed with the glory of 8,000 words.

So as I lay in bed last night battling insomnia (again, though my friend Kylie’s good advice to concentrate on saying one word over and over again in your head has proved useful), I came up with a good old Top Ten list in my head and thought to myself: “Aha! I can procrastinate, blogger-stylee, while hopefully helping my fellow writers battle their own bouts of writer’s block/lack of self-discipline.”

  1. Drum roll… Ahem, just write. Set yourself a target of a number of words which you think you can easily achieve. Write that number – and only that number – and bask in feelings of achievement.
  2. Have an imaginary conversation with your lead character. I invited Katie to sit down across the table from me. I asked her how she was and how she would like the book to end up. ‘Happily,’ she said, ‘oh and can I snog one of the big boys from Year 6?’ I tutted, but said I would look into all options.
  3. Write your ending in synopsis form. I’ve actually written plans all the way through writing. The basic structure was always there, but as the book has developed, sometimes I’ve needed to add things in so I would write another detailed plan. It was useful because it included background on characters and why they were doing what they were doing.
  4. Go back over other chapters and tweak. It makes you feel as if you are doing something worthwhile.
  5. Go for a run. Or a walk, or a cycle ride. Basically, just get out in the fresh air and puff and pant a bit. Physical energy often stimulates mental energy.
  6. Think around different options for your book. I’ve been talking to my brother-in-law about an app which would serve as some kind of publicity tool, but thinking in different ways is good for creativity in general.
  7. Join a writers forum/group. I’m part of the LinkedIn writers/editors group and the people on there do have incredibly fascinating conversations. There’s all kinds of help and advice available, even if you just want to get a few people to shout at you online: GET WRITING YOU IDLER! (They wouldn’t; they’re too kind.)
  8. I’ve had a few astonishingly patient people reading my book for me as I go along, and I ask them from time to time if they think a chapter works and if they think a particular storyline is plausible/credible.
  9. Go and read other people’s writing blogs. I follow a few of them (the bottled worder,  Daily (W)rite thebookofalice, writings of a Mrs, Gabriel LocateroFrancis Barann, Sophie Bowns and a few others and it’s heartening reading about other people’s writing methods and practices.
  10. Drum roll… Ahem, just write.

What do you think? If you have any top tips for continued creativity, I’d love to hear them.

The Sun-kissed Freelancer

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn't...

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn’t…

Ah, the sunny day is the enemy of the writer hmm? We who are already experts in the art of procrastination gird our loins, set up our laptops in the far corner of the room, hidden away from any hint of sparkling and enticing sunshine outside and buckle down…

Still, beats working in an office though! So here I am trying to carve out my living as a freelance writer and keep myself in wine and cat food*. There are kind souls who have contacted me and offered me their advice a la blogging tips to make money, so thank you the two Joe’s (Warnimont and Seeber), Glenn and the Daily Phil; I do find your newsletters most useful.

Then there are the freelance sites, elance and People Per Hour where I can flog my services to the whole wide world. “Yes, yes, I promise I can write about almost anything, I’ll make it original, it will pass Copyscape no problemo and, thanks to my skills with key words and SEO techniques, three trillion people will find your business as a result of my words!”

(And of course buy whatever you are flogging…)

Blimey, selling yourself is hard work though and occasionally dispiriting especially when hirers post jobs where they will pay you $2 or less for 500-word articles… (Seriously).

Having written some 50,000 words of my own book – a fantasy adventure aimed at young adults – I dilly dally with tidying up those pages most days. I had got a bit stuck; two-thirds of the way through and I had bored myself, I hated my characters and I wished them out of my head for ever. “You lousy lot,” I muttered to myself, “stop bothering me with your foolish adventures and your lacklustre dialogue!”

Then I found myself a writing buddy – a gent with far more experience than I who has written books and screenplays before and we began exchanging emails about the writing process and even – gulp! – swapping chapters. I challenged him to write a synopsis for the remaining part of his book and then thought I had better take my own advice and write one myself.

Off I went and researched the narrative arc, investigated the seven plots and looked into characterisation. Et voila, a synopsis was born. I swapped it with my writing buddy. He made an extremely good suggestion and pointed out where the story didn’t exactly work. I gave it to my mum. She was kind and constructive, as the best mums should be.

So, I now have the complete story in my head and on paper. Better keep writing hmm?

And now for a little interaction… I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips on writing a book and what forces you to keep going when motivation is lacking?

 

*Reader, fear not. Life has not deteriorated to the level where Whiskas whets my appetite on a daily basis. It’s just that as well as myself and husband, we do have one greedy cat to feed.

Words Vs Cake: Cake Wins

 

Delia Smith's Sachertorte - yum...

Delia Smith’s Sachertorte – yum…

Post wedding I need other topics to write about (*sighs*) so I decided to make my blog about cooking and writing.

Should the two pair together you ask? Writers, I believe from a quick straw polls of friends, are the kings and queens of procrastination… They have turned it into an art form and cooking is the ideal tool for procrastinators.

Picture the scene. You sit in front of your screen staring at the blank document in front of you. You stare into space for five minutes or so. You write 15 words. You re-read them. You discard them as utter, banal rubbish, highlight them and delete. Repeat ad nauseum.

Picture the scene two. You do all of the above, but after the 15th time of staring into space, you think to yourself: “Aha! My partner/family/friends/cat has always hankered after a home-made pork pie, one that needs many ingredients, complicated pastry techniques, tricky meat jelly developments and HOURS AND HOURS in the kitchen.”

As a writer, you abandon your screen with joy. “Hooray!” you say to yourself. “My partner/family/friends/cat need me to create said, complicated home-made pork pie. The demanding so-and so’s! I must jump to it and get myself into the kitchen ASAP. This could take DAYS.”

Do you see then the natural affinity that writing has with cooking? Baking seems to be a particular favourite. In theory as the writer cum baker allows their home-made pastry to rest in the fridge, a good 500 words or so could be bashed out while waiting.

I think not. The baker cum writer hovers by the fridge, tidies the kitchen surfaces so that said pastry can be rolled out and does a quick check of friends’ social media updates.

Which leads me neatly to complex recipes. I have scoured the internet for the complicated, the multi-ingrediented, the tough of task and the time consuming. Here they are (writers you can thank me later):

Macaroons
Sachertorte
Millionaire’s shortbread (well, of course I’m going to reference my own recipe)
Gravadalax
Christmas cake 
Swiss roll