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Posts Tagged ‘Short Stories’

Ernest Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is shit.” I’ve been drafting short stories this week and this quote is always in the back of my mind. It’s disheartening to read back a draft and see how poor it is. I often feel panic coming on at the thought of the hours that stretch before me to work through subsequent drafts. At that moment doing anything other than writing appears an attractive alternative. I know from experience that at some point I will read a future draft and it will look like its taking shape. At that point I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the bulk of the work has been done and all that remains is to refine it. The satisfaction that comes with knowing how bad the initial draft was and recognising the improvement in the final copy makes the process worthwhile.

I drafted a story called The Bridge. Coming up with ideas I find easy; a good title is something I struggle with. The draft was written out quickly and remembering Hemingway I sat back to read through the story. I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was shit, but the initial draft was better than expected. It has taken a number of rewrites since, but I still recognise a lot of the initial inspiration. This could be a fluke; it could be I’m becoming more skilled at writing. I certainly believe the practice I put in has helped. I know I will always treat first drafts as shit; it would be naïve of me to assume otherwise. Writing takes effort and good writing doesn’t simply happen without hard work. On the days when, for whatever reason, the words flow easily, those days should be thanked.

Small Print Vol 3 has now moved from first draft status to one that is approaching final copy. I’m hoping to put this out by end of August. I’m flitting back and forth from story to story as that seems to work best for me. The stories are complete and at this stage I happily jump into the middle and start editing. If I stall, or struggle with a sentence or phrase, I move on to another story and continue with that. This will continue for some time until I realise I have to take each story in turn and sign off each paragraph as complete. That may seem an odd way of working, but it works for me. I don’t like sweating over words for more than a minute or two. If I can’t resolve a phrase I know has to go, then I move on and return to it later. I find this an efficient use of time. I find naming characters a problem. Rather than stress about it, I use the first name that comes to mind and write using that. Once the story is complete, I usually have a clearer idea of what the name should be. I can see from this current draft I have used the same name in two different stories. Again this doesn’t cause me a problem. I will have made the changes by the time my deadline comes round.

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I’m pleased to announce that I made my deadline of the end of March and published a second volume of my short stories.
In keeping with Volume One, Small Print Volume Two explores our relationship with technology and the impact it may have on us in future. These stories have a dark edge. My characters suffer as a result of computers; they rely on machines and experience catastrophe because of their dependency. I see flawed individuals behind these machines, with man-made processes which are frail and subject to failure. It is the human element in their creation and operation that makes reliance on technology problematic and challenging.
I am not anti-technology; far from it. I rely on it on a daily basis and have no hankering to return to a time when it was less pervasive. How we use it in future and how we allow ourselves to be used is something I feel worth considering.
I was asked to write a sequel to Shelley which closed Volume One as readers were keen to discover what happens next. Although the sequel stands on its own, I have included the original story so they can be read together.
Dream Dredger dates from the writing session last summer that led to Volume One. The others were written while commuting by train and waiting in station cafes during the first quarter of 2015. I enjoy this downtime between work and home, as it provides me with the space to consider the “Small Print” that shapes our lives.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-Print-Vol-GJ-Scobie-ebook/dp/B00VC21D1U/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1427577617&sr=1-1&keywords=small+print+vol+2

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I am finishing up volume two of Small Print, my series of science fiction short stories. As with volume one I have struggled with character names. If a name doesn’t come to me the moment I start to write, I use John or Hollie and then proceed to write out the draft. I find it odd once I have lived with my characters with those names to see them change as the draft reaches its finished state.

I know many writers choose names that have significance to the character or plot and I feel I should be doing this. However, I have very few names I like – I don’t like my own – and am very reluctant to choose names of people I know. Looking back I have in fact done that, but I was desperate by that point. There have been occasions when friends have asked me to use their name, and I’m okay with that – makes life easier for me.

For me a good example of how not to do names is Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. A great book, but for someone who is not good at remembering peoples names, this proved challenging. Take a look, I can recommend it. Not only could I not remember who was who, I couldn’t pronounce them either.

There are thousands of names to choose from and perhaps I should look them up with their meanings. There is part of me however that is lazy, likes to procrastinate, loves looking out the window, especially in cafes, so having to deal with names is one thing too many on my list. Perhaps it doesn’t matter in my writing. I certainly don’t want to distract from the flow with a name that attracts attention every time it appears. That would be unhelpful.

In Thoughts on Writing Part 71, I discussed my short story Shelley, which is one of the rare times I have deliberately chosen a name because it has resonance and was relevant to the story. I would like to do more of this.

I am interested to know how other writers go about selecting names for their characters; whether they decide before they begin or whether they are open to change as the character develops on the page.

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As in previous years I will add to this page as I finish up each book. These brief notes are not reviews but are simply some personal observations. There are no spoilers.

Autobiography by Morrissey
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Richard by Ben Myers
Exodus by Drew Avera
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
How Not To Write A Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark
Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair
Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
2,000 to 10,000 How to write faster by Rachel Aaron
Writing about Villains by Rayne Hall
A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss
Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf
A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Lady Susan by Jane Austen
THe Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog by Chad Orzel
On Writing by Stephen King
Black Sands by Carl Goodman
Black Vinyl White Powder by Simon Napier-Bell
Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin

Autobiography by Morrissey

I liked how this was written for the first hundred pages though it was very dense at times. It then changed and spent a few hundred pages going over the court case. The last part of the book jumped from gig to gig providing impressions of being on tour and how he felt.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I found this difficult to start with (I think I was really tired at the time). I left it after 20% and picked it up again later. It then started to make sense. What a great story.

Richard by Ben Myers

Reading this was like looking into a mirror and thinking there for the grace of God. A fictional account of the last movements of Richie Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers. The book switched between his journey and that of the rise of the band. Very difficult subject matter. I feel the book could have been a little shorter and I’m going to have to read it again as I haven’t made my mind up how successful it was.

Exodus by Drew Avera

Indie science fiction book. I liked the story.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Entertaining at times and infuriating at others. I feel he could have edited it to make it shorter. Having said that when he got it right it was brilliant. I love how these authors would just stop and say that what their characters were going to talk about next is of no interest so let us follow these ones instead. Never get that sort of stuff past an agent today.

How Not To Write A Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark

Sub-titled 200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published. This was hilarious and invaluable. I will keep this book on my desk to refer to.

Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair

One of those books I wish I had read last year. However, maybe it wouldn’t have had the same impact if I had. I think this is invaluable and another book I’m keeping on my desk.

Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock

Really enjoyed this. This is the first time I’ve read him and it was recommended to me which was nice. Always love a bit of time travel.

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

I loved this. What a story. Brilliant. One of those books that will live with me forever. Hardy is just one of those writers that everyone should make the effort to read. I didn’t know anything about this story and I’m glad of that as some of the twists took me by surprise. I would recommend not reading any spoilers and get on and enjoy the book. Despite its age it’s surprising how much there is to think about.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Such a lovely story. Completely captivating.

An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield

So many good things in here to take on board and work into my own life. Makes you want to try harder and do your best. As someone who is interested in space it was a must read and didn’t disappoint. Putting the details aside about space, the relevance to his journey to all of us and how we behave is truly inspiring.

After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

I hadn’t realised I was yet to read this. Weird. When I noticed it I immediately started reading. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s like he is looking inside me and picking up on parts of my life and using them for his stories. I’ve said before he is my favourite writer and this again reinforces it. This is a volume of short stories, set against a background of an earthquake. Quite astonishing and inspires me to continue to write and do better. Reading such great writing doesn’t dishearten me, it only spurs me on which is as it should be.

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It has been awhile since I last blogged. Part 69 on Short Stories was three months ago and a great deal has happened since then. I have continued to write short stories and have produced my first volume which will be made available in December 2014.

The plan was to put out one story and see how it fared. As it was being drafted, an offer of a cover came in and after seeing the artwork and having written more stories, the idea of a short collection came into being.

The final draft is now complete and ready to begin the formatting process to turn it into an ebook. I find it hard to believe that having come up with the random idea of writing short stories – not having written any before – I should now be ready to put my work out.

I decided to write science fiction and I am glad I was able to continue writing in this genre. It has taken many years to come round to the realisation that I am comfortable writing in what is a busy and talented market, but it has been hugely enjoyable making the effort. That I think above all else has been key here. Despite the effort and the difficulty in having to continually edit and rewrite until each line is acceptable, the writing and the realisation of each story to completion was fun. That is what I am taking away from this process. I’m enjoying what I’m writing and have started to prepare a second volume.

SmallPrint06

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I haven’t been an avid short story reader until recently and I never wrote any until this summer. I have no idea why. I see now they are an ideal platform for realising the ideas I have and seeing whether they could be worked up into longer pieces of work. I am aware other writers swear by them. For example Murakami published a book of short stories some of which were explorations of ideas that he may return to in the future for full length novels. Other writers use the format to advertise their writing to potential readers in the hope that if they liked the story they may wish to consider buying their novels.

Earlier this year I downloaded Rayne Hall’s book ‘Writing Short Stories To Promote Your Novels.’ This was a revelation and triggered in me the desire to write short stories. I now have six stories in draft with one ready to put out next month. The genre is Science Fiction and I have loved switching to it. The stories all deal with our relationship with technology and the effects it may have on us in a future society dominated by computers. I have always enjoyed writing but this has given me the boost I was needing to take my writing to the next level. Short story writing has provided me with a direction and focus I was beginning to doubt I had. I am genuinely excited I can do this and can already see the improvements in my writing because of it.

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