2018 so far: Productivity Up. Quality…

I started this blog with all the best intentions. I thought that if I had a place to talk/write about writing then that might inspire me to write more. Turns out, actually writing inspires me to write more, yet here I am with another sporadic blog post.

At the turn of the year, I decided that I wanted to write more and that I would force myself to be more productive with my writing in 2018: I wanted to enter more competitions and in doing so, would be forced to write things outside of my comfort zone which is important for anybody who wants to be creative. Break out of your safe zone. So this year I have put forward entries in flash fiction, poetry and short story competitions. The feedback I have had from those entries has been more useful than you could ever imagine. What’s more, when I’ve read said feedback, I have found myself wondering why I didn’t spot those “improvement needed” areas before sending them off in the first place.

Anyway, whilst working on smaller projects in the background (a short horror story for another competition), I am also writing my first feature length screenplay since leaving university in 2013. Maybe it’s not my first since then actually, but I intend to make it the first I have finished. And it may be down to the passion that I have for it.

I love superheroes and everything the stories about them teach us and tell us about society. The script I am working on at the moment (potentially titled Rust) centres on a man with a unique gift – a superpower if you like – but rather than being a galaxy-exploring, shield-wielding billionaire playboy with big explosions and super-suits, I’m attempting to make a more grounded and a more personal story. That being said, I am having some trouble injecting the level of emotion I’m after, but that can be amended in a later draft. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

For Christmas I received Write a Script in 10 Weeks by Tim Clague and Danny Stack which has come in super handy. It’s helped me to break down a daunting 90-100 page screenplay idea into manageable chunks week by week and it has influenced me in making a definite writing timeline that I can stick to easily, no matter what is going on around me. And my writing is all the better for it.

I’m about halfway through those 10 weeks now and I have 47 pages of my first draft written and am reasonably happy with the direction in which the story is heading which is a real positive for me. I’ll keep on writing short stories on the side, but I’m looking forward to completing Rust within the next five weeks too.

A New Writing Year

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I remember a few years ago sitting in the living room telling a friend of mine that “next year is the year I’m really going to do something with my writing” and of course, said year came and went without me making any significant inroads in my writing career at all. This has been the case for the past four or five years now and I have said it again about 2018, but something feels different about it this time. Perhaps for the first time, the sentence has meaning behind it and, more importantly, passion.

A few months ago I found myself wanting to give up on writing and just try and get on with having an ordinary career and forget about the dizzy heights of publication and Hollywood. I could finally throw away that Oscars acceptance speech which had been in my drawer since I finished the first draft of my first ever screenplay.

As I sit here at the beginning of 2018 though, I am hesitant to call the feeling I have right now optimism. My girlfriend bought me a few writing books for Christmas which has helped to ignite the dormant spark inside. In my new writing diary I have made a list of competitions that I intend to enter throughout the year. I have selected six focusing on short stories and flash fiction (I feel like the length of flash fiction will challenge my writing styles so I want to give it more of a try) but I am also aiming to enter all twelve of the monthly flash fiction competitions ran by Writer’s Forum, my favourite magazine about writing.

Whilst I am not expecting to win any of the competitions I enter I am looking forward to having deadlines for my writing and embracing the challenging limited word counts. This will also force me to come up with new ideas which I could then even expand and build up to become something more.

All the time I’m working on submissions for competitions I intend to have a larger project going on in the background: projects I have had in mind for some time. There are four main tasks I want to complete for what I deem to be “bigger projects”. The first is completing the first draft of a novel I have been working on since November and should really have finished by now. This will be followed by a screenplay for a television pilot influenced by the works of Tony Jordan (Hustle, By Any Means). Waiting for me for over a year has been the first draft of a fantasy novel that I need to revise and polish into a more coherent and better developed second draft. And the fourth project on my list is a screenplay for a children’s television pilot that pays homage to the likes of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and W.I.T.C.H (an animated series from the mid-noughties based on the Italian comics of the same name).

I must admit, writing this it appears to me that I have a lot that I want to do. And that is just my writing, I’ve not even mentioned that I’m looking to also get a board game idea developed into the prototype stage by the end of the year. It looks as though I’ll have less time for LEGO, the PlayStation and watching TV this year, but here’s hoping that by the 31st December 2018, I will have achieved all of my writing aims for the year.

Happy new year folks!

How Short is a Short Story?

How short should a short story be so a story is still seen as short? It’s up there with how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? as one of the great philosophical questions of our time.

A quick Google of the question will give you varying answers. On the first page of results alone you can find answers that give you up to 30000, 20000, 7500 and 6000 words; most of the sites seem to agree a short story should be at least 1000 words. The most scientific attempt to answer this question suggests that 5100 words is the prime total.

Whatever the answer is, everyone agrees that once your short story is a certain length (what that length is depends on the website you’re reading from) your writing is now a novella. Which poses yet another question: how long or short should a novella be?

The reason this is on my mind at the moment is because the ‘short story’ – as I am referring to it – I’m writing at the moment is threatening to be twice or maybe even three times as long as short stories I have written previously that have just about pushed the 2500 word barrier. While I see it as a short story, I recently found out about a writing competition asking for novellas where the word limit is 6000-17000 words, a category I can see my short story being able to fit.

Of course, when writing for yourself it doesn’t really matter how long your writing is or in which category of writing you define it as. Perhaps the best answer – and the most infuriating – is simply: as long as it needs to be. If you develop your characters well and the story moves at a good pace, never dying down then it doesn’t matter if its 400 words or 40000 words. It just matters that you’ve achieved something when you’ve finished.

As an aspiring writer still looking for a break, you’re at the mercy of competition rules and publisher guidelines where word counts are concerned but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve managed to cut stories before to half the length when imposed with competition rules and it challenged me to only keep the finer details and I do have a tendency to really ramble on in some cases.

I’ll finish this short story and see how we go on the word count. I’m hoping I do manage to make it over the 6000 word mark because I think it might actually stand a chance if I entered it into the novella competition I mentioned above. However, I’m conscious that every word has to be there for a reason and that reason can’t be simply ‘I need it for the word count’.