Adam Bird


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Sunday, 23 October 2011

In the Write Place


At the beginning of the year I explained about the agency I work for; Archibald Ingall Stretton - how they give each member of staff £200 every twelve months to go off and learn something new. I also explained that I’d be enrolling on a writing course and using my allowance to see if I had it in me to write something greater than the words you find inside of my blog. With that allowance now expired, I thought I’d share with you how it has been and what I hope to do next.

With anything new, when one enters a space that is outside of ones comfort zone there comes a period of time where everything encountered comes as a surprise - my first few lessons were just like that. My first piece of homework, set after we’d spent two hours talking about famous fairy tales and were asked to retell a fairy tale from the perspective of the first person I went off and wrote a version of Hansel and Gretel which came in as a 10,000 word story! I later found out that this was in fact around 8,500 more than what was expected and subsequently the tutor has had to start adding word count limits onto homework tasks so that I don’t spend another sleepless week trying to get things done in time!

Shorter writing and short stories are very much the name of the game when it comes to this particular course. And as things have started to become clearer and as time has gone by I’ve started to become aware of the wide world of short story writing and the competitive nature of the community in which this is built around. There is a large market of magazines which writers of classes like mine can be published and earn money for doing so. There are also magazines written specifically for those who want to write for those markets. There are also competitions both online and in those publications which offer good financial incentives for winning and other prizes such as holidays or the opportunity to have manuscripts reviewed by editors from large publishing houses.

The irony is, all the time that I’ve been taught how to perfect the art of writing a short story, I’ve spent all my spare time over the past four months writing something a little bit more substantial in the form of a novel, which I’ve mentioned through the pages of this blog on two previous occasions. I am now nearly at the 70,000 word mark, which is around three quarters of the way through through this project and goes by the working title of “The Bicycle Man”. As I work towards its conclusion, in ways that are new and alien to me, working in a manner that I feel comfortable with, plotting on the fly and very much each word being written in response to the one before it.

I realise that this technique is hardly refined and is unlike the one being taught to me on a week by week basis. But I am pleased with how the novel is progressing, even if I am aware certain areas will need to revisited and rewritten to make them shine - its the nature of the job, which for me has been the toughest lesson to learn.

At the moment, all of the members of The Write Place have been invited to submit a short story for inclusion into an anthology of ghost stories, to be titled “Things that go bump in the night” - which is to be published at the end of the month on the Kindle. Not being particularly fond of ghost stories I decided to try and lighten the tone with a story for children, which although well written needed much work to be suitable for publication, as also has been my second submission - an adult, darker version of the same story.

It may well be back to the drawing board for now, but if at first I felt offended and upset that my work had been so critically pulled apart, I’m now grateful that it has - even for a second time. If I want my story to appear in a publication I at least want it to be at the best it can be, even if maybe I cannot see where the issues lie straightaway and that my story doesn’t meet the required “formula”. It’s about taking on board what is being advised by people who do this professionally day in, day out. More importantly, it’s about growing a thick skin when it comes to finishing my novel and putting it out in the real world for people to review and make decisions upon its suitability for publishing.

Which is why next year when the Me, Me, Me fund comes around again, rather than spend it on something new as it is intended, I’m going to spend it on learning how to get better at what is that I’ve found this year and have loved doing. After taking an enforced sabbatical next month for when the baby comes and then December the tuition fees I’ll pay myself. But next year, the ambition has to remain high, else there is no point in doing it. Getting The Bicycle Man published and hopefully writing novel number two and why not? If you asked me this time last year would I have written some of the things I have this year, I would have said no - so who's to say what this time next year will bring?

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