Category Archives: How I Write

PUBLISHING THE DEAD

I’m splashing about in Kindle Direct Publishing, making a mess, trying to keep it light and dismissing stress – don’t think I’ve used any real swear words, yet. Doing April-poem-a-day this year sent me down this path; I sat up one sleepless night with the idea of settling the best of my old previously published poems in a book.

These poems are set in their decades, the 60s being full of childish memories and teenage troubles with a hint of the history of the time. The collection is thick with memoir but there are oddities thrown in; it’s a bit like a packed suitcase where other minds might boggle at the mix. In the 70s and 80s innocence meets up with experience and discovery, and the 90s are steeped in those nasty political upheavals. My intention was to paint a picture with old published poems so there has been a lot of dragging in and chucking out. I think these poems should live together, forever, and hope readers will feel the same.

Some of these poems were written almost thirty years ago, when I was an energetic and wild woman – impulsive. I’m a different being now and most of my recent work doesn’t blend into this picture. If I don’t allow them space in the light they might languish in a document deep in a file system forever. There’s just something about swimming in nostalgia; here I am writing thirty years ago about the previous thirty years, loving the images and characters. That carnival is well and truly over and all the songs sung, but selective memory is a fantasy in itself. The dating of these poems (in this setting) relates to the time in the poem not the time of writing, except when it does.

Of course I forgot to include the copyright notice in the first attempt, and made such a mess of the paperback process that I decided to make a few changes. It’s good to have a little space to see how a project works out before seriously advertising the product; I nipped away one and added four re-formatted poems…and changed the cover. I know poetry won’t pay the rent but the poems are better out than in, lying around like old sloths, and, I seem to be in tidying mode which, apparently, has me re-writing, re-formatting/structuring old work…and it is interesting fun. I have achieved something and think that satisfaction will be guaranteed.

…and, here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071NPRZP8

Advertisements

Writing with the Tarot

I posted a while ago about using tarot as a prompt, and that I was expanding the exercise to create a stream of characters, names, places and events/plot/situations. So now I have recently returned to the first story that came out of this project and am expanding it. I’d stopped at a thousand words, thinking that it was a short story, but as the months passed I questioned that. It had occurred to me that this may be a novel. Now I think it should be a novella, and it’s sitting somewhere around 6k. The first thousand words sets up the atmosphere of a happy home expecting a late baby, and the expectations of change hitting the mother in an unexpected way; at first she was the key figure and the major change happening to her, and everyone else in the family being satellites who would, of course, respond to what she had done…but I had left the reader to imagine that response.

I myself, even though I’d created them, was charmed by all these characters and that’s probably why I couldn’t get them out of my head. So when I was writing something else I realised that the two girls were Violet and Melody, so I changed the names and moved the pieces over and found the perfect situation to slip their story onto the already written one…and because I’d done that it was natural to continue on with yet another character from the household after that.

So, the tale appears to revolve around one morning, and the choices each character makes and how they affect the dynamics of the family and its future. I did think of killing someone but that would halt the onward progress of their choices. I’m more than half-way through the third section and faced with real action in a building site (which I know nothing about) so I’m faced with the prospect of having to go photograph some of the doings of house-building – luckily, there’s one near me… I just need to wait until the stormy weather calms down so I can go spying.

In this section there are two of the characters, the oldest daughter and her father, coming together really just to show a more stabilising unit within the unit, but during this time something unusual comes to light and perhaps we get to know what’s going on inside this pleasant man’s head…some of the time. It is a very female crowd, and he’s the only man – although, the mother is expecting their first son.

If this exercise is anything to go by, I should get a ton of work out of the whole thing: this set-up came from only the first card in a spread – there are six more to go!

Link to tarot exercise

PROJECT SOUP

This was supposed to be a writing day and I cannot be too surprised that I only dragged a thousand words or so into the net, but I’m not complaining. There were a lot of very interesting thoughts being pickled on the inside. I am full and brimming over with projects, and they just keep coming. Right now, the one taking over is the creation of a pack of tarot cards to use in readings in a book I’m writing about how to read the cards…so all of last night was captured by the search for the tarot people in my photographic pile, and then there was the manipulation and artistic doodling. My version of the Chariot is a dump truck grumbling along the expressway out of the city on a wet Monday morning. I can’t wait until I get to the printing and gluing together stage…I have even chosen the print for the backs.

So surprise didn’t catch me when procrastination dragged me into themes to change the look of the place here, and I found this lovely blue with the swirl on top, but it might be time to attempt sleep. I’ll be back with photographic evidence of the crafting. Meanwhile, here’s a wee link to the blog that covers the publication of an anthology of short stories including one of mine.

 

 

Tales from Elsewhere

our book

It’s launch day for the anthology, Tales from Elsewhere, which includes a story written by meeeee. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Elsewhere-Sarah-Thomas/dp/1522725628/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452170228&sr=8-1&keywords=tales+from+elsewhere

Once upon an internet writing group, actually there were two, some folk just wouldn’t be parted so we joined Facebook and set up our own group.We like the freedom to post rantings and creakings of our different gates, and have now known each other for about ten years…and some of us have met. There have been a few get-togethers but as we are spread about the UK and some a little further, not all of us can make it.

In September of 2014, thirteen of us landed in a Suffolk country garden for the weekend, and what a time we had, what with the talking and the wine, and the trampoline, and the wine, and the food, the talking, the wine, the weather…everything was completely fab. It wasn’t until much later that we talked (back online again) about a collection of work that might have sprung from notes we’d taken, or inspiration gleaned while immersed in the excitement of meeting each other, and spending time in such a beautiful place.

I was all about the table and chairs set out under the trees; that is country living for a city girl like me…even though I now reside only seven minutes walk away from Loch Lomond. My hermit life-style keeps me close to home but I do wander over to take photos of the water at least once a year. The Maid of the Loch, must be the most photographed vessel in Scotland, mostly because Ben Lomond is directly in the background.

For me, Facebook is a tool that works perfectly; it saves me time keeping up with family and old friends, acquaintances…and, has the wonderful accessory of creating groups. Gone are the days when artists and writers were alone and crazy in their garrets – now we can do crazy and chat, moan or celebrate with others without leaving our chairs/beds. I never thought I would do the meetings thing – my son met his old sweetheart on FB and they got together again, sailed between Glasgow and Newcastle, back n forward, several times before finally settling down in Tyneside and now have a son! But, when the weekend in Suffolk was suggested, I knew that I wanted to meet at least some of the people I’d been talking to, and had supported me through feedback on my writing. So we did it, and felt as if we’d already met. Facebook works for us.

And now, after a year of throwing work up to be read by fresh eyes, it was re-worked, edited…and edited again, until just right, a story good enough for publication, polished.

We have a blog here

SATISFACTION GUARANTEED

Today, two of my poems are up on a poetry site called Nutshells & Nuggets  and I’ve spent quite a bit of time this afternoon subbing. Ah, the thought of work sifting its way through the airwaves makes me feel as satisfied as a traffic warden capturing a Porche out of time.

For the first time, after twenty-five years of writing, I am deep in the habit. The inspiration from Jo Bell’s prompts every week this year has brought me to choose poetry over prose – I will still work on the novels languishing on my laptop, and hopefully get to finish at least one of them, but I fear I am a poet at heart. I always knew I wasn’t the same as all my novelist friends; I don’t suffer the way they do after submitting and I think that’s because a poet submits a hundred times more than them so we tend to just get on with it and let the poems go for months at a time before we receive a yea or nae; we often have multiple packs of six in the wind.

I’ve hardly sent any work out in the last few years and now that I am prolific again I find myself trying to keep the files tidy by using up the old stuff – but the old stuff is different and some of it can’t be bothered changing. Yesterday, I made up my mind to let them lie and go with the new work that is appearing every day. I sorted a few to salt small memoirs and am now growing into a new writer. The old published work can take a back seat, I’m giving it a long holiday, maybe retiring it altogether – there’s so much coming out of most of these prompts that soon it will be redundant.

Last week’s prompt was erotica and what a wild week it was – I think we lost two members who seemed to be not-amused at our abundant enthusiasm.

 

52

I used to be on the brink of being totally horizontal, but I think I’ve skated across that plateau now and am being pulled upright – good God, I might be standing already! It wasn’t my fault but I know who to blame – Jo Bell and her Project 52. Write a poem a week she said – little did she know that we’d all be writing a poem a day, sometimes more, and her notifications box has gone mental and there she is just sailing up and down canals in her boat, leaving us completely obsessed with a new prompt every week…and we’ve got to do this for a year. She’s cured my procrastination; halted my lovely horizontal progress and addicted me to a Facebook group that produces hundreds of poems a day…and now, I’m caught up in submitting mania, and regaining that old addiction, blogging. This is the third post in barely an hour.

 

I’M BACK

If man can drive a
mountain like a juggernaut,
is there vacancy
where brain function should lord it
above simple bowel movements?

(what the * does that mean? I wrote this in spring 2011 and have forgotten)

I love finding stuff that the fairies have written on my laptop, and always take the credit and dismiss it as if I don’t care…I believe, I believe – this is me clapping my hands. I believe. I know that there is a thought somewhere deep in that there piece but my head is three years older and much more decrepit – now that I’ve reached the big 6-Oh. So, now that time might be of a certain essence I suppose I should do somethin. So here I am doin somethin. I am actively producing action; throwing poems out left right and everything; they’re being accepted all over the place and making me feel aaalllright…I’m getting down on it.

BEGINNINGS

I couldn’t sleep last night and got up about 4am and had a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. My head had been running with an idea for a few hours; I wanted to analyse the first episode of the second series of Last Tango in Halifax. You see, I didn’t know there had been a previous series so thought I was watching the beginning of something my friend had advised me to watch, and I was so impressed with the way it just leapt into the story and everything was illuminated. Innovative writing, I thought. Yes, that’s the way to start a story or a novel, and I said so to a writer friend on a forum thread and she informed me that I’d missed the whole of the first series! But, I don’t need to go dig them up and trawl through all those episodes to see what I’ve missed because the writers did such a good job at the beginning of the new series.

So, I watched it again in the early hours of this morning, scribbling notes, numbering scenes, going back and back until I got what I wanted. Later, I went through my notes and made the comments/descriptions more general, and here they are. I haven’t tried it out yet but plan on using it to shape the beginning of my new novel; it takes place on a long train journey in the first person and present tense – the comments below concerning flashes of memory are because of this.

ANALYSIS

  1. An announcement, the background and responses.
  2. A flash of memory and a wish.
  3. A different memory giving information.
  4. Dialogue about a past event.
  5. Conversation; someone voices a real worry.
  6. New scene taking the announcement forward.
  7. Awkward scene showing a character’s weakness.
  8. Flash of memory blaming someone for something.
  9. A phone call.
  10. A caring scene.
  11. Happy, friendly scene but with an underlying awkwardness.
  12. Confessions. A demand for food. Someone texting.
  13. Someone hiding info and pretending all is well.
  14. A private chat – two characters, one confession, one reaction.
  15. 3 people together, all on different wavelengths.
  16. A change of plan. A piece of news.
  17. A flash of memory and a question.
  18. 2 main characters talk.
  19. A walk to a favourite place, memories laughed over.
  20. An appointment is made and kept secret.
  21. Someone feels left out.
  22. 2 main characters laughing and chatting.
  23. A journey.
  24. Arrival – an explanation, an argument, information.
  25. A secret revealed and an old anger revived.
  26. Small nice scene.
  27. Another tale is told – quite a shock.
  28. Gossip overheard.
  29. Flash of memory and future projections.
  30. A bit of sneaking around, with humour.
  31. Someone is ashamed.
  32. A new day. Something else turns up.

Why Can’t We Do It All?

Someone asked the question, ‘Can’t we do it all?’ on one of my writing places, as if there was only one path and he was asking permission to leap off a cliff. It’s a grouping of novelists, and they seem to think that they must stay on the path or they won’t reach the gates to heaven. Focus, is their mantra, and who am I to say that they’re wrong. I don’t want to live in their world. No, not for all the tea left in China. I am a writer; I write stuff, lots of stuff – I’m swimming in stuff. Most of them plod along with one project and don’t dare deviate from it. I like to dip, to swoop in and out of projects.

Publication is their goal; it sits at the end of their road like an advert for the Big Mac, a golden arc, so good they do it twice. All they can think about is getting their work read and published; they’re full of angst about agents and publishers; all they seem to want is to do that for their living, and yet, look at all that stress! I’m a writer but I don’t want that stress in my life. When I send work out I forget about it until it comes back either accepted or rejected. But, if I finish a novel and send that out will I instantly become one of them? Will I beat my chest and mark the minutes off inside my head all day, every day until I drive everyone mad? No, I know that’s not me. I’ve sent a collection of poems to a competition and never think about it; I’ll hear if I’ve been short-listed in February, and that will be that. Meanwhile I’ve got other stuff to get on with.

So what’s wrong with me? Or, am I right and there’s something wrong with them? I am comfortable inside my skin; I know that every day I learn something either by reading or writing. So why am I not charging at those gates too?

I think that because I am the eternal peace-maker, I can always see two sides to any story – sometimes many sides. I don’t take rejection personal, and I know that I have been guilty of sending work out too early, and still do it, but not often. There is also another reason for my fortitude in this matter: perhaps I’m made of stone, or was born in a lab somewhere and there are circuit boards in my head and heart; or perhaps the struggle to bring up three children as a single mother has killed me stone dead inside, and I am just a great big cynic and nothing can hurt me ever again.

We could die tonight in our sleep and where would all that stressing have got us? Life is too short to fret it away. I write and enjoy it. I read and love that. Lots of my poetry is published in literary magazines and I’m confident that my stories will eventually follow but I am all about the natural flow. I know all the so-called rules and when and how to break them, and I know just how I want to write, so if they want me they’ll have to come get me – bones and all.

 

NAGA-UTA: The Long Song

 

November-poem
-a-day-in-2012 tripped
along, a 60s
hippy, living the dream; my
fingers worked, a team
laying down thoughts, building blocks
into solid walls
of inspirational sense,
a touch of incense,
threads of smoke scenting the air.
Thirty days, living
the necessary effort
to think of work, to
capture that devil, Insight
swift as silverfish
in a barrel of flour.
I caught it sailing
air, grabbed lungfuls, swallowing
quickly translating
through my fingers into words
to predict my text
and vex the Jonah complex
that ate at time scraped
from my knife. Damn strife.
Inject visions, conclusions
into my veins, push
intentions like drugs, smother
me in graffiti.
Give me deadlines, fine-tune my
actions put me in
traction – stretch this old limo.
Be ruthless, extract
the gold from this soul, sell me
down lazy rivers,
in fact, drive me off a cliff.
Start revolutions…
make me join the roiling swarm.