Writing

The Sea Children

New Stories and Sir Peter Ustinov

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.

 

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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…

READING & RUM

This blog post started life suffering from depression.

It opened with the sentence “Let me begin by saying that 2015 was, for me at least, like a silent fart in an elevator.”

There was a completely asinine title: “New Year, New Me (Or Something to That Effect)”

There were cliches: “picking up the broken pieces” and “dotting the i’s”.

There was evidence of failures taken to heart: “I made big plans at the start of the year…”

There was passive voice.

It wasn’t working. It read too much like someone else, some cookie-cutter type who Googled the phrase ‘a deep and never ending sadness’ and regurgitated the results verbatim into a text box.

I became twitchy, easily offended, a touch insane. I asked a friend to read a story of mine. He said “Sure – but I’m busy right now.” I stomped around the house for a bit. Drank two glasses of milk and ate three Drifter bars in quick succession. I belly crawled to the Playstation for help, diving into GTA V and unleashing an artistic rage bomb on the artificially intelligent people of Los Santos. I drove around aimlessly, got a terrible haircut, smashed up a bus stop with my (Michael’s) bare fists. I lit an oil tanker on fire at a petrol station with a jerry can. I met up with two members of the Epsilon Program in the mountains, was abducted, drugged, robbed of my clothes and left in a field in the hot sun, stumbling around like a sick antelope. I got a text from Marnie of the Epsilon Program asking me to donate $500.

I donated the $500.

Then I switched it off. Nothing seemed to appease me.

Then I picked up a book and started reading. I’m a writer. I should be reading, a LOT. Or at least a lot more than I’ve been doing.

But, Netflix. You know how it is.

FUCK IT, I said. Off went the TV. And I felt sort of, kind of, a bit better. Also, I held a games night and got people I liked round and drank rum and shouted and let off steam.

So let it be known:

READING (& RUM) SAVES LIVES.