Thursday, 29 September 2011

Writing School Leicester short story course, Weeks 2 and 3

Yes, I know. I missed a week. It's been busy. To recap:
The homework got done and handed in, albeit I had flashbacks to school when I left everything to the last minute and had to hastily re-write it during the break thanks to not having a printer. In the end I continued my imaginings from the group discussion in class and sort of grafted a description of my nan's front room onto a character called Barbara Morris, who was loosely based on the idea of that woman who insulted Gordon Brown that time. The piece had an MP - with an appropriate sounding name, as learned in the lesson - visiting The Morris woman's bungalow to heal the breach. If I get round to typing it up I'll post it. it was good practice in just DOING some thing and then handing it in, rather than my usual doing it then hiding it away becausse I fear it's not good enough.
To my complete and utter surprise and delight, week two of the course started well with good feedback from Bead - hooray! - and an opportunity to do some free writing in class which I was brave enough to read out to good response. I hope this does not sound like boasting, but it is so great to finally get some encouragement after what feels like forever writing into the wind.
enthusiasm suitably increased, boldness mustered up, I left week two abounding with ideas and...promptly did not do my homework. life conspires against me yet again. or is it just laziness?
still, week three has offered another twist in the road - poor Bead has a problem with her eyesight and has had to withdraw from the rest of the course. Her replacement, Rachel, is completely different and has a very different style. she's lovely quite quick-moving which I like and very open to discussion. she encouraged us to share and work in groups as she doesn't take homework home and give personal feedback. I have to say this is disappointing as surely that's the main thing new writers need? But it motivated us as a group to share our work, so I have set up a forum for us to do just that. my fellow course members are turning out to be a lovely bunch and there s a lovely sense of camaraderie by the end of the leson which I really hope continues.

homework this week is mixed, nothing that really inspires me so I'm going to return to something I started for Bead but didn't finish. It's the story of a dystopian future middle England, where the financial crash has landed society in post war conditions, with rationing, shops shut down, electricity turned off, disease rife. we pick up the story from the viewpoint of a little girl, queueing to get some medicine for her sick father, who we learn was once a government scientist. Like the idea of a child caring for a parent and at the same time coping with extreme adversity with stoic, childlike acceptance. but of course, and I already feel sorry for the poor little thing, something has to go wrong.

It's actually good because in the class this week we discussed short story structure and the used of conflict to move a story along. I really needed this because this idea I feel has potential but when I first wrote it there was no conflict, no idea of where the climax or resolution would come. I discovered from the group work in class that unlike some of my fellow students I struggle to find the resolution in plot planning. Rachel suggested that maybe I'm the kind of person who can't Decide in advance and just needs to keep writing and see where it takes me. I like this idea although I've always thought it's not very productive. but she has given me confidence to give it a go, so I will see where it takes me.

Until next time, then.

P.s. Sorry about poor spelling, punctuation etc. In this post! It pains me not to amend it but I'm using a borrowed iPad and it's a nightmare! Can't work out how to edit! so will have to amend another day! SO much for 21st century gadgets......

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Writing School Leicester short story course, Week 1

The plan is backfiring.

This morning was the first session of six with the lovely Bead Roberts at Writing School Leicester. We’re writing a short story. Or few. And already I’m floundering in a sea of unimaginative excuses as to why I have writers’ block, even when the other nine individuals in the room can come up with SOMETHING, upon request. Whereas I can’t. Or won’t. I’m still not sure which.
It’s like Scrabble. All my friends and family have always assumed I’m great at Scrabble. And crosswords! “Oh Tash, she’s into books, she MUST be brilliant at Scrabble.”

Couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’ve always thought it’s the reporter instinct – give me a happening, an event, or whatever, and I’ll re-tell it. I’ll make it sound better or more pithy or more entertaining or just straight if that’s what you want. But ask me to INVENT something, for no reason at all, other than for the purpose of inventing, and I just draw blanks. Which as dedicated Scrabble players will tell you, score nothing.

The other students in the class are a varied bunch, some brave, others shy but everyone, every single one of them, when prompted, came up with something they weren’t so embarrassed not to share with the group.

Still, it was fun, and everyone was nice, and Bead, the tutor, is lovely in a sort of no-nonsense Radio 4 play writing sensible shoe wearing good humoured academic kind of way. Which is a good thing – as already covered on this blog, I’m a big R4 fan.

So I want to please her, I really do. Impress her, even. But I won’t do it unless I get over this stupid “I can’t think of anything” phase. A phase which has lasted ooh, YEARS now! Ridiculous. I listen to radio. I read newspapers. I speak to people, real people, all of the time. I have been places and seen things and observed and commented and memorised just like everyone else. So why can’t I recall any of these things and use them creatively when prompted?

Hopefully this course will help me find the missing link. If nothing else, the sheer brutal experience of being asked to come up with something in minutes then speak it to the whole group without chance to self edit or prevaricate or equivocate or any of those lovely words, and this week after week, should bludgeon my reluctant brain into something approaching obedience.

So then, what better place to start than homework?! Which, if you're reading this to see if you want to do the course, I should point out is optional and given in the kindest and most constructive terms possible, with a promise from Bead to give personal feedback which is actually the single most terrifying and yet desired outcome of this whole exercise. What does someone else, a professional storyteller, THINK of my writing?


The homework is to imagine a familiar setting, then have an unexpected character (for whom we have to get the name right, see earlier post) walk into the setting, notice three things, and react. Additionally, we need to write a paragraph or so in that person’s voice, first person, explaining what they want and what’s standing in their way.

Simple you may say. Endless possibilities!

That’s what I’m struggling with.

I may post the results, and Bead’s comments, here. Seems only fair.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Short story course starts tomorrow!

The bullet has finally been bitten. Tomorrow I start a course with Writing School Leicester in 'How to Write a Short Story'. I'm mainly interested in getting some feedback and tips on how to define my personal style of writing, and hoping I'll meet at least one like-minded individual to share the ups and downs of writing with! Well, I can hope.

In the meantime, although this blog hasn't been updated, I have been working on the first short story from a collection I hope to write based around little stories about people I've picked up in recent times. I'm calling it 'Nomads', as these are people in that weird middle ground between 'normal' and 'freak', not necessarily in the depths of despair or bizarre lifestyles but people who are lost, for whatever reason, and have a story to tell that deserves to be told.

I'm hoping I'll be able to develop some of these ideas at the writing class.

Well that's progress, isn't it?

The Battered Suitcase - Winter 2010

The Battered Suitcase - Winter 2010
In the never-ending quest to find like minded souls in this lonely world of 'secret scribbling', I've found this. Might be worth a pop...