“Florrie Moore is Innocent” – Short story shortlisted by Writers’ Forum Magazine competition

Today I heard my short story Florrie Moore is Innocent has been shortlisted by Writers’ Forum Magazine.

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This exciting news has come at the perfect time, as I’ve recently been feeling disheartened my collection of “lockdown shorts” have been struggling to find homes.

Although being shortlisted does not mean the story will be published (only if it wins one of the top three places), this is still a massive confidence boost. It reminds me of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago about how important it is to celebrate all successes, however large or small.

Florrie Moore is Innocent is set in Victorian Bristol and was partly inspired by the BBC programme A House Through Time. I love reading historical fiction, but this was my attempt at writing historical fiction for an adult audience. I’m therefore thrilled the story has been shortlisted, and in a reputable magazine at that.

Should I use archaic language when writing historical fiction? You can find my earlier blog post on this topic here.

This weekend, I’ll be back to cramming in novel rewrites (more on that soon). But for tonight, atleast, I’m going to be putting my feet up and delighting in my shortlist success.

Short story A Dog called Rupert on the radio! BBC Upload

I have some really exciting news to share this week. My short story, A Dog called Rupert, featured on BBC Radio Somerset last night! I was invited onto the show by radio host Sarah Gosling to chat about my writing in general and read the story out.

The radio show is available to listen to at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08jbr39 (I’m on around 33mins), but only for the next 29 days (as of 12/7/20) – so listen quick!

A Dog called Rupert was originally published in the June 2020 issue of A Spot of Writing Magazine, by Weston Writer’s Nights. You can find my original post here. I wanted to create a story set during lockdown in the UK, which highlighted the way communities and neighbourhoods have pulled together during the pandemic.

stack of books placed on seat of wooden swing

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BBC Upload

BBC upload offers artists a chance to showcase their talent on the BBC. It encourages uploads from all genres, including music, poetry – and I was delighted to discover they accept short story submissions too.

The submission process was super easy. Simply visit their website, find your local radio station, upload a file, and send off your work. I was so surprised (in a good way!) that less than 24 hours later I’d received an email, inviting me to be on the show the following evening.

As my submission was a short story, submitted in text form, I was asked to send in a recording of me reading it aloud. This was the scary part, as I’m not that confident reading my work aloud! But it was nice that I could do this from the comfort of my lounge, recording lots of takes, until I was happy with the final product.

Sarah (the radio host, not me), then called me yesterday evening for the live interview part of the show. Although I was slightly nervous beforehand, this part was fun! I’ve never been on the radio before, and it was a fantastic opportunity to get my name out there. Sarah was really encouraging and complimentary of my writing, and asked questions such as what inspired the story, and what advice I’d give to other people who were thinking about writing.

BBC Upload was a really positive experience. The submission stage was so much simpler than many others I’ve experienced – it took less than 2 minutes to upload my piece, and I received a reply almost instantly – again, pretty unusual, as authors are usually kept waiting weeks for news! So, whatever you’ve written, or if you have any creative work to share and you’re based in the UK, I encourage you to send it to BBC Upload. You never know, you could be on the radio the very next day!

 

 

 

 

How to find inspiration for writing short stories [during lockdown]

Last week I posted about how I’ve been writing more short stories during lockdown. Sometimes I find the trickiest part of writing short stories is coming up with the initial story idea. Often, I find myself thinking up ideas that are too complex or long-winded to fit into a few thousand words. Other times, I’ll come up with an interesting concept or character, but I’ll struggle to create a proper story with an opening, middle and satisfying ending.

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Lockdown itself, for me, has provided a lot of writing inspiration.  For instance, imagining what lockdown is like from different points-of-view, such as people who are alone, self-isolating, or for people struggling without the routine of work. These ideas have formed the basis for a couple of my short stories, including my recently published ‘A Dog called Rupert’.

The more I write short stories, the more I’m beginning to understand these don’t have to have outlandish, action-packed story lines. They can tell the story of simple things, everyday life, internal struggles, and challenges individuals may face.

In this blog post I’ve explored 10 ways to find short story inspiration. And the good news is, most of these can be used during lockdown.

  1. Eavesdropping

So, we might not be able to sit in coffee shops anymore to eavesdrop into conversations, but conversations are still happening around us all the time. Next time you’re in a long queue waiting to get into the supermarket, listen to the conversation happening next to you (subtlety!). The short story I’m currently working on was inspired by a rather loud conversation I overheard taking place just outside my house.

  1. Dreams

Ever wake up in the morning thinking that was a fantastic dream, only to find it slip away from you in seconds? Keep a notepad next to your bed so you can jot down interesting dreams before you forget them! I also find the time spent just before I fall asleep seems to (rather annoyingly) be the time when my brain is best at coming up with new story ideas.

  1. The News (TV, radio, newspapers)

Watch, listen, or read the news and imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes (whoever the news report is about). This doesn’t always have to be the main headlines. Look out for those little stories in local newspapers.

  1. Journaling

I’m a huge fan of keeping a journal/ diary. I have one of those five-year ones, and I just love reading back over what I was doing on the same day in previous years. Keeping a journal isn’t only a great way of getting in the habit of writing on a regular basis, it also can be a great source of inspiration.

  1. Random Word Generators online

These are easy to find with a quick internet search. There are even short story idea generators online, although I don’t personally find these too helpful.

  1. Old Photographs

Old photographs hold so many stories! I love imagining who the person in the photograph is and what their story is. You can find old photographs online. One of my favourite places to start is to look at old photographs of the area I live and go from there.

black and white photos of toddlers

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  1. Read like a writer

Reading more will help you to become a better writer and can also help spark new ideas. When you’re reading, think about the plot. Most plots follow a very similar pattern. In fact, there’s an argument there are only really seven basic plots all stories will fall into, these include rags to riches, overcoming a monster and quests.

  1. Keep an ideas jar

This is something I came across whilst on a creative course in Toronto. It works well with writing groups, but you could do it by yourself too. Jot random words, phrases, ideas for characters on a piece of paper and pop them into a jar. If you’re in a group, you can mix them between yourselves and pick a certain number of pieces of paper each ‘blindfolded’. Put the pieces of paper in a jar. Add new ideas, interesting characters you met, interesting places you visit to the jar as and when. And pick a piece of paper out of your jar when you need a fresh burst of inspiration.

  1. Just write!

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pen, give yourself ten minutes and write continuously. It doesn’t matter if what you’re writing doesn’t make any sense. You could just write, ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over again. The idea is to let your subconscious flow and hope something that flows out of you that could be turned into a story.

  1. Talk a walk/ visit a different place

This one is slightly trickier to do during lockdown, and for some may not be possible. But if you’re struggling to come up with a new idea for a story, I find the best way to find inspiration is to visit a new place. For me, historic places are the best. I love imagining all the different people who may have passed through a place over the years.

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What I’ve been writing during lockdown

I wrote a blog post towards the beginning of lockdown about how I was struggling to write. My mind just felt too busy to be able to focus on a big writing project or mapping out a new novel.

antique crumpled crumpled paper dirty

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But then I got thinking. Why not write about lockdown? Short stories based on real everyday life. Stories that record memories and reflections of this unique and slightly surreal time.

For some reason, I’ve been finding it much ‘easier’ to write short stories now. These capture emotions, the focus being on the characters, rather than huge action scenes or shocking drama. I’m finding these stories are coming more naturally to me, and I’m now working on my fourth since lockdown began. For me, who usually struggles to finish anything, that is quite a lot of fresh, new content in a relatively short space of time.

I’ve been enjoying having multiple stories out for consideration simultaneously. It feels good to have not all my eggs in one basket and makes me feel much more optimistic about getting work accepted.

I’ve also noticed lots of calls for submissions for short fiction set during this time – so I haven’t been struggling to find places to send stories to!

In fact, the first lockdown story I wrote, ‘A dog called Rupert’ is due to be published in a brand new, Somerset based magazine tomorrow! More details on that to follow 😊

I’m not sure why it’s the stories which feature dogs that always seem to do the best, but it does seem to be part of the winning formula!

I still have dreams of becoming a novelist and hope to get back to the bigger projects soon. But for now, I’m enjoying the instant satisfaction and the freedom that writing shorts brings.

What are you writing in lockdown? Have you found the change to normal routine a writing help or hindrance? As always, get in touch.

 

 

Diary of an Aspiring Author: 2019 Roundup

This year seems to have been a year of starting and stopping. I began the year wanting to progress with short stories and write a second novel. Yet mid-year, after receiving feedback on my first novel, I decided to put my other projects on hold and re-write that first novel instead.

book stack books contemporary cup

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I guess that’s the nice thing about being an aspiring author. You still have the absolute freedom to write what feels good, free from scary deadlines and mounting pressure.

The target I set myself at the beginning of 2019 was very broad: be my own competition. This basically meant committing to taking my writing seriously and trying to progress beyond what I accomplished the previous year.

In some ways, my progress this year has been disappointing. I’ve achieved a grand total of 0 publications. That is less than 2018.

But it isn’t as simple as that, or so I hope. Despite my disappointing publication count, I have been writing, and I have been pleased with the writing I have completed.

So, what have I been up to in 2019?

  • Back at the beginning of the year, I received my first review for a short story I published in December 2018. It was really encouraging that someone had taken the time to write a letter to a magazine, saying how much they enjoyed my story.
  • I’ve completed a few more short stories – I just haven’t focused on ‘getting them out there’ yet.
  • I got feedback on my first novel – and am becoming better at the process of asking for and receiving feedback (and taking it on board).
  • In fact, one of my short stories is being rather publicly critiqued in February 2020s issue of ‘Writing Magazine’. (Yikes!)
  • I’m still writing blog posts, and the number of views is slowly creeping up.
  • I’ve “finished” the revised draft of my first novel, ‘Lost in Galderwood’.

Last week, I printed my manuscript, ready for final edits and proofreading. It’s so nice to have a hardcopy to read. I find it much easier to spot those pesky typos when reading something on paper, rather than looking at a computer screen.

Once that’s all done, I need to write the dreaded synopsis, ready to send out to agents in the new year.

It feels like the right time to start thinking about 2020, and to set my targets for next year. I want to keep being my own competition, but I want to be braver and more daring, to put my writing out there more and just give things a go, without worrying so much about whether I am good enough.

A few general goals are:

  • Get my novel sent out to agents.
  • Keep writing
  • Keep submitting.

What are your goals for the new year?