Writer v Inner Editor

Image by Jan Steiner from Pixabay

Ed: God, what a clunky sentence.

Me: Never mind, it’ll do.

Ed: It’ll do? That’s the sort of attitude that leads to lazy writing!

Me: I meant it’ll do for now. We can tidy it up later.

Ed: You can’t keep putting things off till later.

Me: This is a first draft. I just need to get the story down, OK?

Ed: OK, whatever. Don’t mind me.

Me: Don’t worry, I won’t.

Two sentences later

Ed: You can’t put that.

Me: Why? What’s wrong with it?

Ed: It’s an adverb.

Me: I know it’s an adverb.

Ed: Adverbs aren’t allowed.

Me: They are sometimes. Where it’s appropriate. And I happen to think it’s appropriate here.

Ed: Oh, you think so, do you?

Me: Yes, I do. Adverbs are fine as long as you don’t overuse them.

Ed: It’s a slippery slope, though. You start using those things and you won’t be able to stop.

Me: I’m aware of that. Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control.

Ed: OK, if you say so.

Me: I do say so.

One line later

Ed: Oops! I spy a crutch word.

Me: I’ll kick your crutch in a minute.

Ed: There’s no need to be like that.

Me: So stop distracting me! You’re breaking my flow!

Ed: Sorry! I’m only trying to help.

Me: Well, you’re not helping. Go away if you can’t be quiet.

Ed: Where d’you want me to go?

Me: I don’t know – go for a walk, or go on holiday or something. I don’t care where you go as long as you wait your turn.

Ed: All right! I won’t say another word, I promise. I’ll be as quiet as a mouse.

A paragraph later

Ed: Oh really, I can’t have this. You’ve used ‘began’ once, ‘that’ twice, ‘was’ three times, and four ‘-ing’ words.

Me: (leaping up and wrestling Ed to the floor) Listen, you pedantic pain in the arse! If you keep questioning every word I write, you’re going to be out of a job, because there won’t be any words on the screen for you to edit! Or do you have some wonderful new idea for editing a blank page?

Ed: No! I just thought we could save time later if I did some of the editing now.

Me: I don’t want you to do some of the editing now. I don’t want you to do any editing until I’ve written the story.

Ed: (sadly) Not even a little bit?

Me: Not even a little biddy bit.

Ed: (even more sadly) OK. I understand. No editing until you’ve finished the story.

Me: Good. I’m glad we’ve got that straight.

Two paragraphs later

Ed: Better ditch that passive voice…

Me: AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

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The Frustrated Hunter

Hi, Keith here! Annabelle has been telling me about Millie and Pearl, the two dogs who used to live here before. She said they used to leave their bodies and astral-travel to Storyland to hunt down ideas for her stories. Of course, all dogs can astral-travel – that’s what we’re doing when you think we’re asleep, and our paws are twitching – but Millie and Pearl must have been very clever to find their way to Storyland and bring back ideas. All I want to do when I astral-travel is chase astral rabbits.

Let’s face it, all I want to do is chase rabbits, full stop. I was born and bred to do it, and for the first four years of my life that’s what I was trained and encouraged to do. I love my foster home and I enjoy my walks, but it’s a bit of a pain having to wear this silly face mask when we go out – it’s not like I can catch or spread that scary human virus.

Annabelle says all Greyhound Rescue Wales foster dogs have to wear a muzzle because GRW would be responsible if we bit anyone. I’m used to it now, and it’s not uncomfortable, but having this basket over my face makes it impossible to catch anything, and it’s most frustrating to see the rabbits sitting outside their burrows laughing at me.

I suck at wildlife photography, but this really is a rabbit

The only consolation is that my friends Snip and Frieda never catch any rabbits either, and they don’t even have the excuse of a muzzle.

So I won’t be hunting down story ideas on the astral plane unless the muzzle comes off when I’m hunting on this plane. My astral time is muzzle-free and I intend to use it all for catching rabbits!

Where dat wabbit?

 

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Luxury Obstacles

Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In a recent blog post, Marquessa posed the following question: “If you could choose your own life obstacles, would you keep the ones you have?”

My answer was absolutely not! I won’t go into them here, but given the chance to ditch my current life obstacles I would do it without a second thought.

I realise every life has to have some obstacles, and if I were to trade in my current ones I’d have to accept others in their place. Here are some suggestions for life obstacles that would be acceptable to me:

  • I can’t find a reliable mechanic to service my private plane
  • My swimming pool could do with being a bit bigger
  • I’ve only got 20 pairs of shoes
  • I’d like 5 holidays a year, but my well-paid and wonderfully fulfilling career only allows me to have 3
  • Everyone thinks I’m just a pretty face
  • If I wanted to write a story about going to the doctor’s I wouldn’t have a clue as I’ve never had to go

Call me shallow, but I’m sure these challenges would make me a better person. If I was going to “learn and grow” from the ones I’ve got, I’d have done it by now!

Scott Webb from Pixabay

NB – Apologies to anyone looking for Keith’s post from yesterday – I had to take it down because Keith pressed the Publish button before it was finished. The full post will be published when he’s finished it.

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The Joy of Tinkering

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Editing is my favourite part of the writing process. The first draft is like pulling teeth, and marketing is a wall-to-wall stressfest, but tinkering with a story is pure unadulterated fun. I love fleshing out characters, colouring in scenes and tweaking the whole thing until it’s as damn near perfect as I can make it. Sometimes I think I only write a first draft so I’ve got something to tinker with.

Some years ago, I felt compelled to write a series of surreal comedies. It started off as a short story, but the characters came to vivid life and wouldn’t let me leave their world. The stories were unpublishable – the humour was too childish for adults, and the material inappropriate for children – but writing them was like an addiction to laughing gas. I felt terribly guilty because I knew I was neglecting my day job and other responsibilities for something that would never make me a living, but I got such a buzz from it, I couldn’t stop. And when they were finished, I couldn’t stop tweaking them. I was like a man who keeps a motorbike in his front room for tinkering with – a motorbike he never rides.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time, though, because I learned a lot about the craft. I learned the importance of leaving a first draft to ‘marinate’ before I started tinkering. Coming back to it with fresh eyes, I could approach the story with the clarity of a potential reader and mine the diamonds from the dross. I discovered that setting up a gag is like climbing a hill, while the gag itself is like skiing down the other side – the uphill walk mustn’t be too steep for the reader, or the downhill ride won’t be worth the effort. I learned that, with a little persistence, I could turn the messiest first draft into a story that worked for me. Best of all, there were ideas in those ‘motorbike’ books I could use in stories that might work for others.

Since my humour is so childish, I decided to adapt some of those ideas and write for children. I remember what it was like to be a child, reading books that took me to a world I wanted to live in and made me laugh along the way, and I’ve attempted to do that in my own stories. I’ve now published two middle-grade novels, and written drafts for five more which I intend to publish as a series. These are currently ‘marinating’, awaiting tinkering.

Bereft of something to tweak, I’ve recently dug out the first drafts of two old ‘motorbike’ books I never got around to editing and spent a glorious few weeks tinkering with them. I’ve rediscovered the joy of working on something that doesn’t have to please anyone else, taking pleasure in the process without worrying about the result. I don’t feel guilty this time, as it’s helping me hone my editing skills and reminding me that a first draft doesn’t have to be perfect – a good thing to remember if you want your first draft to flow.

And at least it’s not making an oily mess all over the front room.

Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Header image by nile from Pixabay

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Change: a new anthology inspired by the #pandemic

What if humans are the disease? What if Hell is real? What if minds and memories could be recorded on a microchip? If statues had consciousness, what changes would they see? What if lockdown deprived you of all mod cons? Would you take self-sufficiency too far?

Jacket design steve@ebookcovers.uk

These are some of the questions addressed in the new anthology from Swansea and District Writers Circle – 20 original stories and poems by amateur and professional authors, partly inspired by the 2020 pandemic, approaching the subject of change from a wide variety of viewpoints. Ranging from the humorous and heartwarming to the downright disturbing, these stories make an entertaining and thought-provoking read. The anthology includes an introduction by bestselling author Catrin Collier, who is an active member of the Circle.

Change is now available on Amazon

 

 

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Season’s Greetings from Keith

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Yule and a happy and healthy 2021!

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A “Gateway to Magic” for the Holidays!

Many thanks to horror writer Willow Croft for her lovely review of my book. Visit her blog to read the full review – you might like to check out her writing while you’re there!

Willow Croft

Happy Hanukkah! Happy holidays! etc etc.!

(Featured Book: Gateway to Magic by Annabelle Franklin which I purchased not too long ago.)

Oddly enough, even though I wrote middle grade manuscript, and tried to read as much as I could in the genre beforehand, I still feel that it’s one of my cutoffs in regards to actual reading-for-pleasure. (In my defense, it probably was even back when I WAS a middle grade reader.)

Luckily for Annabelle Franklin, there are now kids among all us grumpy old people in our family. So now I can say, “they are going to love this book”. 

Well, I don’t really know if they are going to love it, because I’m sure kids get tired of hearing what they like and don’t like and what they should like, but I’m still going to pass on this book to them, in hopes they like it.

After all…

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The Slob’s Fate #ShortStory #amwriting

Here’s a short story with a timely warning – don’t get too cosy in your comfy chair this Christmas!

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

THE SLOB’S FATE

Gordon was lazy.

He’d always been lazy. As a child he’d refused to clean his room when his mother asked him, and he never helped with the chores.

‘You spoil him,’ his father told his mother. ‘If you stopped his pocket money, he’d soon brighten up his ideas.’

‘Aw, he’s an only child!’ she said. ‘And his childhood will be over soon enough. Let him enjoy it while he can.’

For a long time, Gordon got away with being lazy. He would spend most of his time in his room playing video games, and in school he would sit at the back of the class and nod off to sleep. In spite of this inactivity, he didn’t put on weight straight away; he was an attractive child, tall and slim, with dark red hair and sea-blue eyes.

His father would look at his school report and shake his head. ‘ “Could do better”,’ he read out. ‘Your reports all say that. It’s such a pity.’

Image by Mote Oo Education from Pixabay

‘I hate it when they put “could do better”,’ Gordon grumbled to his friends. ‘I wish they’d put “terminally stupid, no hope”, then people wouldn’t expect me to make an effort.’

When Gordon was sixteen, he fell in love with a girl at his school. He’d always known her, but he’d never noticed how attractive she was. Now he noticed her auburn hair (which he’d always thought of as ginger), her dancing green eyes, and most of all her breasts, which seemed to have grown overnight.

There was only one problem with Kim: she wanted him to do more.

‘It’s not good for you to do nothing,’ she told him.

‘You sound like my dad,’ he complained.

‘Well, he’s right. You’d be happier if you got out and about and did stuff.’

‘I’d be happier if you’d stop nagging.’

Kim ignored that. ‘We never go anywhere together.’

‘That’s because you’re always out visiting old people.’

‘Not always. And on the nights we see each other, all you want to do is stay in and watch Netflix.’ Then her eyes lit up. ‘You could come with me to see old people!’

Gordon looked at her like she’d suggested he jump off a cliff.

‘Seriously,’ she went on, ‘I love you, Gordon, but I can’t stay with someone who never does anything.’

‘You’re not going to dump me, are you?’ he said in alarm.

‘I will if you don’t make a bit of effort.’ Her face softened when she saw he was about to cry. ‘Just come with me once to Final Retreat. You might find you enjoy it.’

Gordon looked dubious. ‘What, visiting a load of old fogeys who smell of wee?’

‘They don’t smell of wee… well, not always. And it’s very rewarding when you know you’ve brightened up their day. It gives you a lovely warm fuzzy feeling inside.’

In the end Gordon agreed to go, on the proviso that he wouldn’t have to go again if he didn’t like it.

He didn’t like it, of course. ‘That was grim,’ he said afterwards on the bus. ‘Don’t they ever get out of those chairs?’

‘Yes, sometimes,’ said Kim. ‘But they’re old, Gordon, and it’s hard for them to move around without help.’

‘I’d hate to be old. Imagine being stuck in a chair all day – you’d end up turning into a chair.’ Gordon began to giggle. ‘That’s what happens to old people – they end up turning into chairs!’

Kim didn’t find this funny at all. ‘Sometimes, Gordon, you can be very silly.’

All the same, she was besotted with his good looks. She didn’t dump him, even though he never went with her to visit old people again; and when they were twenty-one, they got married.

At first, married life was good. They had a wonderful honeymoon in Tenerife, and Gordon even got off his backside to go dancing with Kim in the clubs at night. They’d put down a deposit on a house that was being built on a smart new estate, and they moved in in time for Christmas.

But things started to go wrong when Gordon said he didn’t want any children. ‘Kids are too much trouble,’ he told Kim. ‘Things are great as they are. Why spoil it?’

She didn’t press the point; she knew it wouldn’t do any good, and hopefully he would change his mind later.

But Gordon didn’t change his mind, and he soon fell into his old lazy ways. He bought a massive green leather recliner chair with special compartments for food, drinks, and remote controls for TV and gaming. When he wasn’t at work or in bed, he spent most of his time in this chair.

He had a good job in an estate agent’s, but it wasn’t long before he got fired for not pulling his weight. Now Kim was the sole breadwinner, and Gordon spent the whole day lolling about in his big chair in front of his big screen. When Kim was home, he demanded she bring him food and drink. She wasn’t happy with this, of course; but like his mother before her, she loved him to bits and found it hard to refuse him.

‘You spoil him,’ said her friend Mel. ‘If you stopped waiting on him hand and foot, he’d soon brighten up his ideas.’

‘Aw, I don’t mind,’ lied Kim. ‘I enjoy spoiling him – and he makes up for it in bed!’

At last, though, Gordon began to put on weight.

Image by Sedat Gunduz from Pixabay

Once the process started, it escalated at an alarming rate. He stopped being good in bed, and found it harder and harder to get out of the chair. His body ached, and things started to go wrong with it. He became too lazy even to play games, and spent the whole time watching crap reality shows and bingeing on box sets.

Kim was losing patience. ‘You’ll take root in that chair one of these days,’ she told him.

‘Don’t nag, woman,’ he growled, through a mouthful of cheeseburger. He turned up the TV and took a swig from a can of lager.

The next day, Kim came home from work and noticed there was something different in the living room. The TV was on as usual and the big green chair was in front of it… but where was Gordon?

Then she noticed it was the chair itself that was different. It had great big bulges in the seat and the footrest. A pair of pudgy green hands grew out of the armrests, and a horrified green face stared out of the headrest.

Kim screamed, as she realized it was the face of her husband.

Gordon had finally turned into a chair.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

©2020 Annabelle Franklin

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What I Drew #inktober #inktober2020 #inktober52

A few weeks ago I posted about artist Jake Parker’s Inktober challenge, which involved making a drawing every day through October and posting it on a social media platform of your choice (Twitter in my case). I didn’t quite manage to make a drawing every day, and I certainly didn’t post all my efforts, but I had fun with my doodles and I enjoyed seeing how other participants interpreted the daily prompts. Most of them were better than mine!

Here, as promised, are a few of my efforts, with prompts.

Chef

Crawl

Radio

Shoes

Sleep

Slippery

Storm

Teeth

Wisp

October may be over, but you can still participate in Inktober52 and post a drawing once a week throughout the year. Drawing – and looking at other people’s artwork – can open channels into the subconscious  and unlock great ideas for stories!

Keith’s dream girl

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Ghosts: A Horrifying Camping Ghost!

Many thanks to Jan Olandese for posting my true ghost story on her blog – I hope you’ll check it out!

Book 'Em, Jan O

Readers, I recently offered a post about ghosts and camping. A reader, Annabelle Franklin of The Literate Lurcher blog, kindly shared this chilling story in response. One can’t begin to think how scary this must have been to experience. Enjoy the following tale, with thanks to Annabelle (do stop by her blog, it’s great!).

“I had my first experience of the supernatural as a teen, when my friend and I were camping in her back garden on a hot, still, summer night. We were pestered by an entity that punched the tent all over, as if with huge hands, at regular intervals throughout the night. At one point, a garden fork came right through the tent’s double wall, narrowly missing our heads. Worst of all was the feeling of evil that accompanied these phenomena, which only stopped when it began to get light. When we told people about it, they…

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