The Great Beta Reader Turns Enforcer

IT’S BEEN TOO LONG.

After a long spell of essay-writing and reading-for-study (which is still ongoing, until early June at least), there has been very little writing for fun.

Fortunately, I have a very hands-on assistant who we all know as the Great Beta Reader, i.e. I’ve mentioned her before. She’s a real person, not a voice, although in some circles she’s known as The Mouth.

Over a cup of tea and a ciggie (otherwise known as an informal meeting), and with both of us bored of my whining about my apparent lack of enthusiasm for anything anymore, it was decided that I needed a set of regular, enforceable goals.

Enter Goals.

The new goal is to write 500 words of fiction, whatever takes my fancy, and have it on the Great Beta Reader’s desk (virtual or physical desk, whichever’s most convenient) by 5pm on Friday or I have to pay her five pounds. Every week.

And that’s it.

For the past few weeks, it’s been working quite nicely. I’m excited about writing, and it’s so small, and manageable, and doable, that not even I can find an excuse not to do it.

Plus, it saves me five pounds.

 

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New Stories and Sir Peter Ustinov

The Sea Children

I’m writing this after a long hiatus of not writing. I feel like I’m always saying I’ve not written anything for a very long time but… and then very little happens. I blame this phenomena on studying and a sudden, inexplicable lack of confidence over the past year and a half.

So.

I’m writing this after a long hiatus, but, there have been movements, and I should celebrate them instead of focusing on the negatives.

Back in February, my short story ‘Automaton’ was accepted for the fourth issue Phantaxis Magazine February 2017of Phantaxis Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine (see a handy illustration nicked from the Phantaxis website to the right). I loved writing this story (lots of virtual window shopping for increasingly ridiculous products) and was inspired by Mac McClelland’s article over at motherjones.com. In the piece, McClelland goes undercover and describes the back-breaking and thankless work for what she calls “Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc”. Wink wink.

Also this month, my contemporary short-story ‘The Sea Children’ found a home at The Saturday Evening Post for their Fiction Friday slot. This started life as a fisherman-themed competition entry for Writing Magazine and gradually evolved into a longer story after positive feedback from Granta and other publications. You can read it online here.

In other news, I finished up my latest uni module with a staggeringly bad exam. My answers were… lacking. Despite this, I’m glad to see the back of forced reading for a while; on my to-read-for-fun list this month is Expanse: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey and Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories. Like most people, I binge-watched The Expanse on Netflix and pinched The Great Beta Reader’s copy (she’s heavily into space operas now, and wants to be a Space Pilot; nothing else will do).

I’ve also set myself a seemingly impossible goal of writing a pilot script for this year’s Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award, starting now with a July 1st deadline *gulp*. I won’t lie, I’ve spent a lot of today staring out of the window, eating a Pot Noodle, inwardly freaking out. I’m telling you lot so I can be held accountable. Happily, there’s the flickering image of a potential opening scene in my mind, so things are in motion…

Onwards and upwards.

 

What I learned about writing without the internet

On Wednesday evening our internet cut out because the bill hadn’t been paid. We only got it back this morning (Sunday for anyone in a different time-zone).

After the initial shock of not being able to check Facebook 14 times in an hour, I got pretty bored. Bit my nails a lot.

Typewriter
Okay, it wasn’t exactly like this.

That night, I set myself a goal of writing 500 words of a work-in-progress. Small and achievable. When I hit the 500-word mark, I just kept going. And going.

On Thursday, I opened up a file, a short sci-fi story I’ve been chipping away at for a long time. It’s the longest story I’ve written so far and every time I went to work on it, it seemed like such a mammoth task I chickened out and did something else.

This time I felt the same anxiety about getting stuck in, but printed off the whole thing and went through it page by page, making edits with a red pen.

On Saturday I sat at the kitchen table with my laptop, propped up the pages with a stack of books and a bit of blue-tack, and went to work, editing, cutting, re-wording sentences. Adding scenes and taking out ones that didn’t work. I think I started at around 2pm and didn’t stop until I’d reached the last page at 9:30pm.

Even in between the writing, I did things like make breakfast for everyone and offered to go to the shop for trash (if you know me well, you know these are not things that happen often).

Now the internet is back, and while I’m glad I can look up whether or not they make secret cameras that are undetectable to security scanners (they don’t) and what the word ‘runnygazoo’ means (n. nonsense), I’m a little sad. I have absolutely no willpower, so avoiding the internet completely is a hard sell. What I am going to try though is giving myself an allowance of internet, an internet-free zone during the day and only double-clicking that little icon in the evening. Can I do it? God knows.

Tomorrow is Day 1…