Welcome to my blog. The home page will always display the most recent blog post so please use the tabs to navigate your way around. Keep up to date by visiting the 'News' area. The 'Short Stories' area and the ‘Flash Fiction’ area contain everything produced thus far, and comments would be much appreciated! Be sure to check out the 'Three Words' area that will explain how you can get involved in influencing the written work to come, or for details on contributing your own artwork visit the 'Artists' area! You can read my 'Blog' (in the truer sense), additional content is also available via the 'Other' section and don't be afraid to leave a comment in the 'Guestbook'. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Month That Was... July '16



So yes, this is a monthly blog post once again! I figured I'd go back to doing a roundup of events, partially because with new things happening or announced, stretched across different Media platforms, it can be easy to miss one or two things. The idea of doing it like that is to catch a different audience at different times, spreading the net as it were, but I've found recently that when following other peoples' endeavours it can get a little overwhelming, or annoying if they repeat the same thing across a different platform but mark it as 'new', because technically it is, but it can leave a little bad feeling of being duped. So, if that's the case for you, I've included this roundup so you can ignore all the stretch media and just catch up on events from the month past in one sitting! Have you missed my voice!? All two or three of you!? (That might be wild optimism!) Haha.

One of the reasons I stopped doing a monthly blog was because there was nothing to report on, and it just became an exercise in rewording excuses. Yeah, that might happen a lot this time around too, but I want to see if I'm more encouraged to maintain accountability if I'm more transparent with my achievements. Plus, I'll keep you informed on what I'm reading, a couple of things I'm planning / have done that wouldn't normally get mentioned elsewhere, and even answer questions should any of you throw them my way! :)

I'm going to be tempering with the format a lot, and I have a sneaky feeling I may have lifted the title from somewhere... but without further ado, welcome to, The Month That Was - July '16 !



At least I get to kick of the reintroduction of the blog posts with an actual achievement to shout about!

You well may be aware by now that I take part in MorgEn Bailey's 100-Word Free Competition every month. It guarantees you guys some monthly content and me some practise in writing more concise fiction. The competition is small, and as such I have a fairly decent track record of at least making the 'Highly Commended' list. (8 placings out of 10 is no bad thing!) Well very occasionally I get that little higher, and this month, my entry June entry,  'Mummy's Knight' tied for third! :)

You can view the winners' tales here - http://bit.ly/29rKITv


New Content This Month - (What can you actually read this month!?)

All three entries to MorgEn Bailey's 100-Word Free Competition have been added to the site. The theme this time was 'close'. (Although, like a foolio, I wrote down the theme wrong as 'closed' in my notes! Fortunately, they were still on point, but it did stop me including an entry about the word in the sense of 'nearby'!) Don't forget, 'Mummy's Knight' finished joint third in the competition! :)
You can find them here - http://bit.ly/29smA0o

Two of the Micro Fictions have been turned into my Social postcards, and hit Media on the first and fifteenth of the month.

(I'm still yet to receive a single entry into the Micro Pic Competition ! You could have your artwork seen by a wider / different audience AND win a free coupon to an online Writing Course!)


The Graft - (Daydreaming is well and good - you've got to have goals. But what have I actually done this month?)

I generally tend to stick to a four draft system when it comes to writing short pieces. That is a first draft, (which I write by hand and then type up making minor corrections),  a second to make it readable and think of ways to change or improve it, a third in which I implement the changes and incorporate feedback, and unless I come up with multiple alternative options that require experimentation or radical change as a result of further feedback or new ideas, a fourth or final draft.

It doesn't always work out this way. Some pieces require six or seven rewrites; pieces from alternate versions lining alongside each other, different points of view, selective plotting from larger first and second drafts that are way over the word limit (as always seems to be the case for me) - that kind of thing. On the other hand some can be fairly settled after the second draft. It's also worth bearing in mind that most of what I write is for competition - upon rejection, I might use the same piece in a different competition that requires another round of editing to fit a new word limit or such.

A bit of insight / disclaimer there to decrypt what I'll call my 'Done' list.

Monthly Micros (Three pieces at 100 words each, set theme)
- Draft 1, Draft 2, Draft 3, Draft 4
- Submitted to Competition

Project 4 (Competition Short Story - 1500 words)
- Draft 1, Draft 2, Draft 3, Draft 4
- Submitted to Competition

MFS (Ongoing fantasy series, broken down into events, plus any note overhauls)
- Nada! :(

Bigger Project (Aside from MFS *MFS1 currently occupies this slot until I can finish the first draft!*)
- Nada! :(

TfTT (Special project)
-Nada! :(

Micro Pics (One Micro Pic taken from last month's best reaction to recent three Micros, plus one pic generated from archives)

This month, the popular Pic was of course 'Mummy's Knight', and the archived Pic was 'Ultimate Penultimate'. Don't forget, by voting on the Twitter poll each month, you can have an impact on which Micro gets 'The Complete Treatment'! :)

Peripheral Tasks of Note
- Devising this very post / series!


What I've Read

I feel that as a budding writer, people assume I must have a critical take on anything that I read and that I must have a solid understanding of what's 'good writing' and what isn't. I feel like it's my 'job' to review anything I read. Well let me tell you now, I don't. I don't like reviewing fiction for three main reasons;

1 - People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Who am I, as a struggling writer, to say anything about a piece that's made it to print? It's better than anything I've ever achieved! Also I'm not formally trained in any sense, I'm technically 'just having a go' and hoping to make it through will and gathered experience. I don't feel qualified to say anything critical, because I can't back it up with anything other than opinion.

2 - I want to read to read, not evaluate.

As soon as I made the change from casual reader to aspiring author, I'll admit, everything changed. I stopped reading for pleasure, and eventually just stopped reading altogether. I got it into my head that I couldn't unwind with a book anymore, and instead had to be paying full attention to technique and structure, language, flow, character forming... it just got too much. It's taking a long time to detach myself from that line of thinking, and progress is slow, oh so slooooowwwwww.

3 - I should be writing

It's a guilt as a writer that you just cannot shake! Yes, as Stephen King is often quoted as saying

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

but it's so hard to justify the time! I am somebody who enjoys reading, but the crushing weight of creating my own worlds, and finishing ALL the stories I have ideas for, before Father calls Time is something Atlas would struggle with...

So, don't expect me to review the things I list here. I don't care if you think me spineless. It's why I've put this kind of thing off for so long. I might mention a few points I like or found interesting, but I'll never outright criticise.


When a new book comes out in a series that I like, I feel I MUST re-read the entire series up to that point. It's just me! One of my favourite authors, Mark Lawrence, released the final book in his second trilogy, set in the same world as the first, The Wheel of Osheim, in June. I've been a bit slow with my reading recently, even by my standards, but the release of this final installment got me excited to drop the other series' I was reading and go back over to catch up. So far I've only managed to get through the first, Prince of Fools , and part way into the second, The Liar's Key .

I love this world, and I love the parallel series. I've said before that the crossover moments are something I hope to emulate in my own writing in MFS, and give me a clear example of how it can be employed successfully. Although I've said above that I don't like to review structure as I read, reading Prince of Fools has been really interesting for me, because it's now the third time I've read it through, so I am noticing more writing structure and techniques adopted.

Beginning - Middle - End has been the thing that's struck me most, especially looking down at the percentage read on the Kindle. It actually feels like clear sections in the writing. Sometimes as a writer you feel that basic premise like the three section story are beneath you, but this was a clear indication that done right, basic can sometimes be best.

The other thing that struck a chord was that he's effectively re-skinned the structure from the first series. In 'The Broken Empire' series the main character, Jorg, has his memory locked away and it's gradually revealed in a clever '5 years ago' type parallel story that leads up to the present expertly. In this series, a similar tactic is adopted through the secondary main character Snorri, who has a penchant for recounting old tales around a campfire or in a tavern which does much the same function. There's similar scenes in slightly different settings, such as both of their first encounters with a particular enemy in a remote area (No spoilers!) that could almost be synonymous, but you don't feel duped by a re-skinned or re-hashed piece of writing, it's done really, really well.


This is also a re-read, and I've only read the first two stories. Call it geeky, but I must have cost my dad a small fortune collecting these models as a kid. I was never any good at the modelling or painting side of it. Battling was exciting, but by very design it cost too much to do without turning to a life of crime. 'What are you in for?' 'Wanted to add a couple of plastic archers to my disgustingly expensive regiment box set. Might even be able to play a 500 point battle next year if I can hit a couple more banks in the next week or so...' It was always the world building and literature that had its hooks in me. They've never let go, I think about this world all the time. It's the idea of carving out a little empire of your own in an already established setting. Oh the campaign ideas I had! Haha. Watch this space... It has a huge, and I mean gargantuan, bearing on TfTT that I hope to achieve some time in the future...


Part of the introductory material I got with signing up to the Writing Group (more on that later)  recommended reading more about what you intend to emulate. Having signed up with the intention of writing shorts, it led me to this book compiled of some of the best short stories released in the past year. I've not really got stuck into this yet. The opening piece was longer than I'd anticipated called 'Black Dog' by Neil Gaiman. I've heard a lot about this author without having read anything by him so my curiosity was peaked. But having bought the book for short stories I felt a little underwhelmed. The story was... okay. Written well but research heavy in my opinion. The next was shorter, more the length I'm looking for and I enjoyed it, but that's as far as I've got.


Useful Articles I've read

I don't read enough articles on my craft. What's more than that though, is that I don't ACT enough on any good ideas I've read. Articles can be very hit and miss. A lot of the time any article you read comes at the wrong stage of your career or process to be immediately applicable. You file it away as good advice for later, maybe even go so far as to digitally file it in a folder, but then it slips from mind, and when the time comes for it to be useful it has lost its impact on you or you've forgotten about it, or in the world we live in, is no longer relevant. I have tonnes of folders like this, full of little details that might come in handy 'one day'.

The other problem is that I'm always behind my intended schedule, so reading an article seems even more unjustified than reading generally. You could argue it's a few minutes out of your day, but I'd counter that even that can become a daunting commitment when it occupies a whole space on your to do list at the start of the day. 'Finish this, edit that, read that, create that, file that, respond to that, read that' knocks more puff out of your will than the comparative 'finish this, edit that, read that, create that, file that, respond to that, then if finished read that possibly if you want to'...

That said, I've been enjoying reading a series of articles by Dan Purdue that I'd highly recommend. He's going through the alphabet with a topic on writing for each letter and giving great advice and insight on a regular basis. You may remember Dan as the writer I found via a shared experience in a disappointing competition fiasco called Chapter One Promotions... My first real competition placing marred indefinitely and a warning to all budding writers.

You can read back on our accounts of events here - My Experience - Dan's Experience + Dan's Resolution
You can jump into the latest release in his series - G is for Genre
Or back to where it all began - A is for Adverbs


Competition Results + Reader Contributions

I've yet to receive any entrants to the Micro Pic Competition that I run on this site! :( Don't forget you can get more exposure for your artwork, and even win a free coupon to a online writing course!

At time of writing, the current Competitions that are open are;


Any Other Business

- Project 4 has been submitted to its contest! It's a themed contest that guarantees publishing for all entries. Although it bore a hefty entry fee (for me), sometimes it's nice just to have something out there. I expect exposure to be minimal, I mean, who actually wants to sit and read a bunch of stories deemed not good enough to make the shortlist... but most of the fee is because I chose the option to have feedback from the judges. This may seem a rip off to most of you, and you're right, it certainly will be. I don't expect much more than very general suggestions that could apply to any story regardless of the plot, but you know what? I've been pretty bummed out recently at the lack of reaction to ANYTHING I've created. Woe me, it's hard to get an audience. You could write the best thing ever, (totally subjective, mind) but it's a waste if nobody sees it. Think in stock phrases like 'speculate to accumulate' and you're where I'm at, paying for views. But at this point, I just needed a boost.

On the back of this contest, I made an unusual decision to sign up to the associated site's writing group. Again, it is monetary. The idea that appeals to me is the rule that for every draft or piece you upload you need to offer feedback on at least three other peoples' work. I'll admit, I'm not convinced it works in practise. The two main problems I can see are that there's no enforcement of the rule, it's just expected, and that not everybody (myself included) is good at giving critique. I've already seen lots of 'I think that was good!' without actually helping in any way and of course it's difficult to slam somebody you don't know (especially when the sole reason for looking at their work is just a non-subtle 'critique me back!' plea). I'm just using it, for now, as a means of getting better at making a subjective judgement on a piece of writing that isn't my own, to see if it changes the way I look at my mine. Plus, Scrooge is practically my spirit animal, so the fact I'm paying ANYTHING means I'm hoping it'll keep me committed to more regular uploads for my money's worth.

- Also this month saw the next set of archived Micro Fiction stories generated into the competition schedule, so be sure to have a look for extra time on your entry in the Micro Pic Competition !

- Right, so I constantly fight this battle between focussing on a bigger project, or creating more consistent output via shorter pieces for exposure. But after talking to Dan in the comments on an article in his series - F is for Finishing, I'm pining to actually complete something bigger! I can't believe I've been calling myself a wannabe 'writer' since 2009 and only ever finished one first draft on a single Novella! It's not acceptable! :(

It may not seem like it, but I have a big to do list at the start of each day that I must run down before I can even think of creating. Maintaining a presence is a lot of work, and unless I get a PA (haha!) it's not going to change anytime soon. As things stand, I rarely get time (or more accurately, lack the willpower and sustainability) to run through the list and go onto creation - and when I do there's a smaller project or rewrite blocking the path to anything bigger. On the rare occasion I do break through, the entire session becomes about reacquainting myself with the project, by which time another day has gone, and another small thing has cropped up that puts things back on hold indefinitely and so forth. I dream of the days I used to get up, think about writing the one thing I'm working on, and just dive straight in where I left off! :(

As such, I am aiming to tone down the smaller projects for the rest of the month! I've not actually committed any of the current smaller pieces to any competitions (in the sense I've not prepaid for entry) but it does feel wasteful to have the ideas for a specific competition in mind relegated to general use! :( Also, the timing is bad because I've just committed money to the writing group... And, I've just started this blog going again... But! I want to get slightly back on track, so for August - I'm ignoring shorts, scaling back some activities, continuing the Micros, maybe having a stab at TfTT (hopefully) and spending the rest of the time on MFS1! Yeah, I know, we'll see how that pans out...



So uh yeah, sorry for the long post! The first was always going to be! In future I'll aim to get these out on the 3rd of each month! Make it worth your while though by letting me know in the comments if you like a feature, any reaction to what's happened and whether you yourself prefer monthly installments like this over stretch media! It all helps! 

Until next time, buh-bye!


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Dan Purdue said...

Hey Paul, many thanks for the mention, it's much appreciated.

Sounds like you're being pretty industrious (I really liked the story with the snowman; great image of him reaching up to grab his hat), but by the same token you're spreading yourself very thinly across all those projects. I think you've made the right decision to cut back on some of the smaller ones. Flash always seems like something you can just knock out quickly but even a couple of hundred words can take up the best part of a day once editing, etc is taken into account.

You talk about your daily to-do list and how that gets in the way of your creativity. I'm not sure how much older I am than you (I'd guess at least 15 years, probably more!) but believe me, that's only going to get worse. If you want to keep making progress, you're going to need to find a way of bumping the writing to the top of that list. I'm a fine one to talk, as I often find myself cleaning my teeth at night and thinking, "Oh crap, I planned to do some writing today", but when I'm in the groove, so to speak, I manage to clear a little room in the schedule to get some words down before anything else crops up. It's the only way I ever get anything done!

You'll find what works for you - it might not be a case of writing every day, sometimes it's better to leave it a couple of days to get the important Real Life tasks out of the way. Actually, giving yourself 'permission' not to write can be incredibly freeing, and avoids that not-writing guilt we all know so well.

I know we talking about curating an online 'presence' over on my blog, and I think it's worth saying that it's not worth putting social media ahead of writing. Twitter, Facebook, and the like can be great but they're definitely something to rank lower on that to-do list than writing. Some fantastic opportunities have come my way via Twitter (not so much Facebook, I really don't know what I'm supposed to be doing with my author page), but 100% of those have been because somebody has read something of mine they've liked somewhere, and used social media as an easy way of getting in touch. I think blogging is well worth doing, to keep people up to date and engaged, but I'm yet to hear of any fiction writer being offered a publishing contract on the strength of their blog. It's a matter of keeping everything in proportion.

So, prioritise those stories, keep plugging away at the longer projects, and good luck!

By the way, if you miss out on the prizes, I hope the feedback you get on your competition entry is useful. Those kind of critiques can be a bit hit-and-miss, but I've certainly had some helpful comments over the years.

Paul said...

Thanks very much for your feedback, Dan! And for taking the time to read my post! It all helps! :)