Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dreaming up stories

I've blogged before about the idea of using dreams in writing and stories, although it's a sad fact that with four children, I don't get to remember many dreams. The days of hitting the snooze button, or even having one of those long, lazy lie-ins are so far in my past that I can barely remember them.

However, I'm just suffering (not very bravely) through my third bout of tonsillitis in three weeks. Google tonsillitis, and you'll be informed that it's largely a childhood affliction, but never mind. I finished one course of  penicillin on Christmas Day, and here I am on the 30th, in day two of another bout. Last night my sleep was very disturbed, and tainted with the weirdness that comes with a high temperature.

I dreamt I was reading a story; it wasn't a genre that would usually appeal to me, and in the weird way that dreams work, I was watching it rather than scanning words on a page. There were many sets of characters, including an extremely sinister man called Nick (I wonder where that came from), and two lesbian couples, and it was set in the 30's, a period about which I know practically nothing. But  it was gripping and compulsive - I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I woke up straddling dreamland and reality to the extent that I knew I had to write this dream down (though it was quite epic in length) but I was afraid it would be plagiarism because I was convinced that I had read it.

Of course, a few hours later, not only do I realise that it was rambling and confused in the way of all dreams, and that it wasn't the wonder I thought it was, but that most of it has faded. I'm not sure dreaming is the way to go for inspiration for me...but if you're lacking the creative spark, I can recommend a dose of tonsillitis to mess with your mind!

Saturday, 22 December 2012


What do books mean to you? Do you have any really precious ones? I have just picked up Birdsong again (Sebastian Faulks) and it's a treat in every way.

I love it so much, I can't lend it to anyone. I don't revisit it as often as some of my other favourites, such as Gone with the Wind, but the physical object itself means a lot to me. When I was a teenager, I saw it in a local bookshop (remember those?) and wanted it. For two years, I coveted it, and whenever we visited,  I would go to that shelf, take it off, read the reviews, fondle the beautiful cover (which I was judging it by, of course). When I began Saturday work (for a ridiculously small wage) I saved for the first month, then went to the bookshop. I bought myself an Oxford English Dictionary, which I also still love, and Birdsong.

It could so easily have been a different story. I was lucky that Birdsong was the book I had set my heart on, because it didn't disappoint.

This is the first time I have read it with a real 'writer's head' on. I am in awe, trying to watch how Faulks does it. The atmosphere, the sense of setting and time, the characterisations, the story....all magnificent. I read chunks and want to re-read because the words are beautiful.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Writing off December

I'm having to come to terms with the idea that not much more work will be produced before the 25th. The five year old's birthday is looming, and we haven't yet finished shopping or bought a tree, so I have a feeling that this week will disappear in a puff of smoke. I have four out of my twelve stories for next year's challenge (a short story entered into a comp every month) in first draft form, and ideas for all twelve. I also have a 100 word story cooking for a Reader's Digest story.

One or two of my stories unsettle me - they feel lazy and underdeveloped, even though they are embryonic. I'm sure I'm learning something from every attempt, however, and hopefully it is all valuable experience.

I'm looking forward to the New Year, and new routines, and more sleep (ha!) which might enable me to get up earlier than the children and write in the mornings instead of the evenings when I am so jaded....

Wishing you a happy and productive Christmastime 2012, too!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Feeling positive

It's been hard focusing on writing when such a lot else has been going on in family life - S being away for a week, my Uncle having lung cancer operated on, not to mention the looming of the unmentionable Christmas. (There's quite an art to living in denial that Christmas is around the corner while also panicking because there is so much shopping still to do and simultaneously pretending great excitement for the children. I'm pretty proud of my attempts, though my hair will probably whiten in the process).

Today, I had to force myself to sit and write - it's surprising how quickly the routines falter into nothing. I made life easy for myself and worked on a first draft of a story that's meant to be 750 words. It stood at about 1200, and I gave it a good old polish and edit, then read some of it aloud, which gave me goosebumps (it really seemed very good - but won't by tomorrow, so I can risk appearing arrogant, as I'll be humbled by morning). But it still was 1100. When I next go to it, I shall have to see if it has already found its perfect length, in which case I will submit it elsewhere. It's based on an experience my Grandad had during the Second World War, and it has a wonderful flavour of the period to it, which is entirely thanks to my Grandad, and the way he always told stories with vivid detail.

In a change of pace, I also went into school and met the children I will be teaching in a few weeks. (The countdown has begun...) They are all lovely, of course, and I wouldn't admit it if they weren't. It surprised me, how much I enjoyed being with them. I'd forgotten that I like teaching, a lot, and that I'm really quite good at it. (My, my, what a big head you have, Grandma. Ask me how I feel in a couple of months, when I've had a few bad days to tuck under my belt, and I might be feeling differently....but we all rush to embrace our negative thoughts - what's so bad about sharing the positives while they last?) I even had the slightly unbalancing thought that I might spend a lifetime striving to be a good writer, and never realise that in actual fact I had already found my vocation, and wasted the time I should have been spending on that on this futile writing dream instead.

So I walked home, took a couple of deep breaths, and reminded myself that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive, and that yes, writing really is IT for me, despite what traitorous little voices whisper. I think I was just intoxicated by the change of scene, even though the change isn't pronounced at first glance - there are giddy little people at work and at home.