Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose and poetry

Archive for the category “Writing”

#NaNoWriMo 2017: Two Winners In One Household!

Yay! We did it. My son Joshua and I managed to write the opening 50,000 words of our novels between November 1-30 during National Novel Writing Month 2017. This was the first time either of us had participated in NaNoWriMo, but we both felt the urge to do something that stretched us to the limit.

At one stage I was about a week behind with my word count and thought I wouldn’t make it, so had to do some mad 3,000 plus sprints per day to catch up.

Joshua managed to be more consistent in his progress but was a bit erratic in updating his word count on the NaNoWriMo website, so his final stats and graph looked a bit strange, which is why he wanted me to post mine and not his. In case you are wondering who Wolery Wol is, that is one of my online author usernames/pen-names.

My novel, which will probably end up at about 75,000 words in length, was inspired by a short story I wrote way back, titled The Parable Teller, so this is what I chose as my working title during NaNoWriMo but ir won’t end up as my final title as it is no longer suitable. This, my sixth novel, was intended as an exercise in shutting off that pedantic inner editor and recapturing that creative energy and dynamism that went with writing my first novel years ago. It worked, but doesn’t mean that I will skimp on the editing during revision 1, 2, 3, 4, or however many it takes.

When I started the novel I thought it was science fiction, but after writing the first three chapters, it dawned on me that it wasn’t science fiction but mainstream satire, which happens to be set at an unspecified time in the future (think Ben Elton meets Jonas Jonasson). In fact, it is possible that I have never written true science fiction, or true fantasy for that matter.

[Thank you, Bob Shaw for your book How to Write Science Fiction, which has been lurking on my bookshelf since 1993, and became my only reading material throughout November. It would have saved me from a lot of marketing problems, if I had read your book properly in the first place. Next on the list is Writing Fantasy Fiction by Sarah LeFanu, on my shelf since 1996].

My enlightenment has proved a liberation, as I am now free to embrace my quirkiness without the strictures of rigid genre.

My son’s novel is his first, although he has written plenty of short stories (you can read one of them here), plus he has a BA in History, English and Creative Writing. He likes to write fantasy: real fantasy, unlike his mother! His novel, which also has a working title that he intends to change, will end up much longer than mine and sounds potentially epic.

Lastly, I want to award my husband a medal for his patience and encouragement throughout November. It must be hard enough for anyone living with one NaNoWriMo maniac for a month, but to live with two, you have to be some kind of saint.

Friday Fictioneers — Magenta and Cyan Equals Purple, Right?

Folks, I’m disappearing off into the sunset throughout the month of November and not participating in Friday Fictioneers during that time. During my absence I’m going to attempt to write at least 50,000 words of satirical science fiction as a participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The novel’s working title is The Parable Teller.

This is my first attempt to write a starter draft that fast. My record is three months, following three months of research. You’ll only see me back at FF before November 30 if I flunk the challenge. Meanwhile, I hope to post once-weekly progress reports on my blog, perhaps with the occasional excerpt if I have time to edit it, as nobody gets to see my raw drafts of anything!

If any other Friday Fictioneers are participating in the madness and want to link up as a NaNoWriMo buddy, my username over there is Wolery Wol. I’ve one buddy so far, and that’s none other than Dale!

So here’s my story for this week’s Friday Fictioneers (in which the colour purple features … especially for Rochelle, of course!). And many thanks to Roger Bultot for the wonderfully picturesque photo prompt.

Genre: Mainstream
Word count: 100

MAGENTA AND CYAN EQUALS PURPLE, RIGHT?

“Sunsets aren’t purple.”

“The one was at teatime yesterday, Miss.”

“Viewed through a glass of blackcurrant juice, you mean?”

Robbie’s ears and cheeks burned with a mixture of embarrassment and anger.

Sophie threw him a sideways glance and started to giggle.

“What’s so funny, Sophie?” asked their art teacher.

“Robbie’s gone the colour of a proper sunset, Miss.”

He tore up his painting and stormed out of the classroom, yelling, “Everybody can eff off!” Then headed for the headmaster’s office, determined to get in the first word.

“Sir, I’m here to lodge a complaint against the curriculum.  It murders imagination.”

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To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.

Friday Fictioneers — Yumi and the Gods

This week’s photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers, courtesy of Ted Strutz, brought to mind one of my poems (a secret favourite of mine) that I published on my blog a couple of years ago. The poem is a progressive haiku centred around the phases of the moon and contains the names of two Japanese Shinto deities: Tsukuyomi the Moon God, and Amaterasu the Sun Goddess. I’ve sandwiched this poem between two short pieces of prose, producing a story within a story.

For newcomers to Friday Fictioneers, the challenge requires you to produce a story of 100 words (maximum). It’s worth noting that according to WordPress and to my word processor, compound adjectives and nouns count as one word and not two, although only if you hyphenate them. As a Brit, I love hyphens 😉

YUMI AND THE GODS

The ghost-ferry headed for the shore, each of its passengers’ experiences unique en route to the afterlife and dependent upon their main focus at the moment of their taking.

Yumi was looking heavenward…

under cutglass stars
she dreams of Tsukuyomi
new moon love potion

nocturnal circus
leg draped over crescent moon
girl hangs upside down

gibbous halfway house
shadow night crickets gossip
she needs sedating

full moon tree-trunk spin
naked dancing on silver
she coruscates dew

blackbird sings her home
waning moon ambushed by dawn
Amaterasu

The gods awarded Yumi first prize for her dream and allowed her to live.

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To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.

Allow me a little hoot!

In my June post #Tanka 33 — Light and Shadow (plus some scintillating “shades of”), I mentioned the Highly Commended awarded to me in this year’s University of Winchester Writers’ Festival for the first three pages (+synopsis) of my unpublished 90,000-word speculative fiction work, Counting Magpies. Since then, I have gained access to a working scanner, hence the images I’ve shared below.

It’s possible that a few of my blog followers have already clicked on the new widget in my sidebar titled “Latest News” and arrived at the relevant page, but for those who usually access my blog through WordPress Reader, or are email subscribers, you may have missed a chance to see the two fabulous certificates mailed to me by the competition organisers.

Four months on, I’m still touched and humbled by the feedback I received from the judges. So thank you, judges, whoever you are, for giving this author a much-needed boost to her confidence 🙂

For those who missed my three Friday Fictioneers’ posts, with adapted standalone 100-word excerpts from Counting Magpies, here are the links.

Snow Baby

The Ancient School at D-wh-n-e

A Rare Specimen

Friday Fictioneers — Beyond Comprehension

Oooo, how exciting! I’ve just discovered that the photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers this week is one of my pictures 🙂 That being the case, I had better get cracking with posting my 100-word contribution to the weekly blog challenge hosted by the grand lady in purple, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

The shoes, by the way, were discovered lurking under my son’s bed during a recent tidy-up, but it was with his agreement that I photographed these cobweb-strewn antiquities and sent Rochelle a copy of the picture.

For my literary contribution, I’ve adapted an excerpt from my 1960’s crossover young-adult science fantasy novel Desiccation, the first draft of which I wrote a couple of decades ago but indie-published in 2015. As you will see from the excerpt, the creatures in question are not arachnids but crustaceans, although doubtless there are some husks of the latter hidden among those spiderwebs in my son’s old shoes.           

BEYOND COMPREHENSION

The polished black crustaceans retreated. They crawled out of the door into the night or scuttled up the walls and out through the broken windows, leaving behind a tangle of humans, many of whom had been out of sight inside the minds of other humans for various lengths of time. Some were limp, bedraggled, and lifeless as rag dolls; others were crazy as demon-possessed Jack o’-lanterns. It was science turned on its head a million times over: a total impossibility akin to squeezing size fourteen feet into size two shoes, succeeding, and then returning them to non-mangled size fourteens again.

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To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.

 

Friday Fictioneers — A Girl Named Ivy

Genre: Metaphorical fiction
Word Count: 100

A GIRL NAMED IVY

He was the rock upon which she depended, and she the roots that kept him grounded. Her shoots started out tiny and controllable. He drip-fed them and kept her all to himself, pruning her into shape with his clipped truth.

Over time, his credibility diminished and her urge to grow escalated. “I want to see the sun,” she told him, as she clawed at his shade.

“It will burn you up,” he said, knowing that she was about to knock the top off his world.

She reached for the sky, eroding and suffocating him.

Behold that ruin she can’t escape.

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 Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: copyright © Roger Bulltot 

Author Interview: J. S. Strange

I’m delighted to welcome British author J. S. Strange (otherwise known as Jack) for a return visit to my blog. Jack writes zombie apocalypse novels featuring a feisty young woman called Winter Smith. You can read my review of his first novel, Winter Smith: London’s Burning, which he self-published in 2015, as well as an excerpt from when Jack featured as my guest storyteller last year.

He’s due to to publish the second book in the series, Winter Smith: The Secrets of France,  on August 17. Meanwhile, there’s a Goodreads Giveaway to enter for a chance to win a copy of the first book.

   

Jack, what age did you start writing stories/novels?

I started writing from a young age. I was always writing stories, whether it be brand new ones usually involving all of my cats, or stories adapting existing films and plots. I used to love sitting there drawing and writing, because I found it so much fun. When I was about sixteen, I started writing one book, and I finished it. I wrote it by hand. But then at seventeen I started writing the Winter Smith series.

Have you ever scared yourself with your vivid imagination?

Sometimes I’ve managed to spook myself out with my own thoughts. I’ve grown up on horror, so I’m always picturing horror scenes. It’s easy to imagine something going wrong, and there’s been a few cases where I’ve freaked myself out by convincing myself there is someone in the house with me, or I’ve heard a ghost.

What inspired you to write a zombie apocalypse novel?

It was the first thing I thought I could really tackle and enjoy doing. I’ve watched a lot of zombie films, and always loved them, and I find zombies really thrilling. I’ve heard people say they’re cliché, and it’s a shame to see people rule out zombie novels and films as just another zombie story. I get what they mean. A lot of the books I read never explained where the dead came from, whilst others were just blood and gore and nothing else. I also found that a lot of characters in these zombie books and films weren’t very interesting, and didn’t seem to have anything to them. So I thought, because there’s a whole world of zombies already there, I can have something to base my stories off, but I want to change it as much as possible. I want a zombie novel that has the zombies we recognise, but I wanted characters with personality and depth. I wanted more problems and flaws to these characters than just surviving and avoiding being bitten. I wanted to explain where the dead came from and why. In London’s Burning, I kept a lot of original zombie elements, because I think you need that. You need people to have something to latch onto and recognise. But in The Secrets of France, my next book, I’ve explained where the zombie virus came from, and I’ve also introduced a new breed of zombie.

Why did you choose to have a female as your main character in Winter Smith: London’s Burning and Winter Smith: The Secrets of France and how easy did you find it to write from her point of view?

I’ve always found females empowering, interesting and easy to get along with. I grew up with a lot of female leads, and I love nothing more than a kick ass female doing her thing. I grew up with Lara Croft, and I always found her appealing, because I loved the adventure and I love that it was led by her. She had so much depth and a great backstory. I also really love female led bands and pop stars, because they always seem to have an edge, and it’s great to see them doing their thing. So I just decided that in the process to change the zombie genre, I wanted it female led, as most of the ones I’ve seen or read or heard about are dominated by a muscly man, normally with a fighting background, fighting his way through the dead. I wanted a female character who was young, fresh and flawed, but could handle herself well. Saying that though, I never really went out intending to have a female lead for the sake of a female lead. Winter Smith came to me before the idea, so it was natural to include her as the main protagonist. I didn’t find it too hard to write from her point of view. Most of my friends are female, so I based some traits on some of them, very loosely. I hate stereotypes, and know humans are very complex, so I just tried to avoid making her too ‘girly’, and I tried to forget I was a young man writing as a seventeen year old female. I did read recently, however, that many male authors are now writing under female pen names, especially when writing female leads. Maybe I should have done that with the Winter Smith series. Who knows what would have happened?

Who is your favourite character in the novel and why?

I think my favourite character is Violet Black. She’s quite a flawed young girl, but she’s ballsy and has a lot to say, and knows how to stick up for herself. I love writing her, and I love making her witty and trying to make the reader laugh. I think you either love Violet or you hate her.

What’s your rationale behind choosing Gay and Lesbian Fiction as one of your two book categories for Kindle Direct Publishing, when there are no gay relationships in book one?

There are very subtle hints at sexuality in London’s Burning. I’m a gay author, and it took me a while to discover who I was and who I liked. When I was sixteen/seventeen, I mostly knew I liked guys, but there would be days where I would feel conflicted, and thought I liked girls, too. So writing sixteen/seventeen year olds, I had that in mind. So Winter Smith is trying to work out who she likes and who she is. I plan to explore the LGBT themes a bit more in books two and onwards. They’re not key parts of the story, at least not yet, but they’re there. I also chose the gay and lesbian genre because I’m a gay author, so I thought it might be good to try and fit in that category, in case people are looking for works written by authors in the LGBT community. I also thought that maybe, amongst all the erotica and romance novels, a zombie novel would stick out as well.

Do you intend to stick with this genre after you’ve finished the Winter Smith series?

I plan to write another two or three Winter Smith novels. There will definitely be a third, and more than likely a fourth, but I think the fourth might be the last one. I don’t plan to stick with the zombie genre. I think I need a break from that. As I mentioned earlier, people tend to write off the zombie genre as nothing new. But whenever I have tried to write something fun, it always has dark twists to it. I think I’d like to move into thriller writing, and I probably will stick to the horror genre, too, as that’s my favourite genre, and most of my ideas have horror to them. But I’d like to write some young adult novels, as well as possibly an erotic novel in the future. I want to try everything last least once. I need to find what works for me. Right now, horror and thriller seems to be the right thing for me. We’ll see!

How do you organise your writing time?

I don’t! I struggle. I need a place in the quiet to write, where I can’t be disturbed. But when you live in a house with TV’s playing programmes and hoovers going off, and people asking me questions, I find it really hard. I tend to write whenever I can. Sometimes it’ll be a chapter, other times it’ll be a page, then I’ll manage to find ten minutes. Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, I can write from morning until afternoon, but that’s very rare! I’m hoping it improves when I figure my life out and get my own space!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A bit of both! I had the whole plot written out for London’s Burning, but with The Secrets of France, I kept writing until every kink was ironed out and I knew where I was going, and how to get from book two to book three. With other works, I have the plot loosely planned out, remember the key points, and just write.

Why did you decide to self publish rather than publish traditionally?

I tried! Believe me, I tried. I submitted Winter to literally every publisher I could find. I still submit it now. Every rejection letter I got through was disheartening, mixed with happiness that I’d even had a reply. I know this is my first work, I’m young, and hopefully there’s plenty of opportunity for work to be published in the future. I think I knew I wanted to get Winter Smith out there, and I wanted people to read the story, so I self published. I’m quite good at marketing, to a certain extent, and I enjoy promoting myself and my work, so I wasn’t too worried about self publishing. I do think, though, that Winter Smith will be the only books I self publish. I hope that my next work over the next few years will get picked up. But maybe four or five years down the line, I’ll find nobody wants me, and I’ll be back at the self publishing game.

What interests do you have apart from writing?

I run a videography and website design company, as my background is in television programme editing. I enjoy film making, and I hope one day to write a short film, feature film or a television series. As I grow up, though, I realise that a lot of this work is very much about who you know, and coming from a small town, I know nobody, so whether or not that happens is another question. I also run a clothing company, because I like being creative and being able to design something.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

Hopefully with my own successful business that I can live off, and earn decent money from. As well as that, I hope to be traditionally published. It’s one thing I think about daily, and wish to happen.

Friday Fictioneers — If Flowers Could Talk

Genre: Quirky fiction
Word count:100

IF FLOWERS COULD TALK

 “Happiness is living outdoors, enjoying the sun and rain.”

“How about the wind ripping off your petals, too?”

“Who’s a sarky, short-ass bunch?”

 “So would you be, if someone had cut you down to quarter size and jammed you in a vase.”

 “We assure you it’s just as painful for us.”

 “At least you can see out the window.”

 “Your water stinks.”

 “Ditto.”

 “Let’s have a competition to see who wilts last.”

 “They’d better give us dignified disposals.”

 “Hell, we don’t want cremation by bonfire.”

 “Better than rotting slowly amid stinky refuse.”

 “The compost heap, that’s the way to go.”

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: image copyright (c) Dale Rogerson

Friday Fictioneers — Delinquents, 1969

Genre: Historical
Word Count: 100

DELINQUENTS, 1969    

The bus station waiting room was the in-place to hang out on Saturday afternoons, according to Anita. Two years my senior and a cross-between Raquel Welch and a rouged porcelain doll, she was the epitome of cool.

Then there was me; her shadow, stepped into a stranger’s skin for a joyride to another planet where the inhabitants communicated in unintelligible grunts and monosyllables.

Ex-borstal boys with No.2 haircuts, braces and bovver boots, roamed this planet pumped up with testosterone, looking to pick an effing fight with some poor geezer or rob the payphone for loose change.

Sensible folk queued outside.

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: image copyright © J Hardy Carroll  

Friday Fictioneers: Out-Twitted

Genre: Quirky fiction
Word Count: 100

OUT-TWITTED

“Madam, I’m not trying to nick your trinkets!” squawked the indignant magpie.

 Lady Annabel prided herself on speaking bird language. “Then why do you keep pecking at my window?”

 “I’m addicted to putty.”

 “That proves it. You intend to remove my windows, with thievery in mind.”

“Magpies’ love of shiny things is mere folklore.  Ask your neighbour, the Professor. He’s done a study on it.”

 “He’s nuts, like all academics.”

 “If you believe in folklore, I must warn you I’m alone and mourning for my mate. So you’d best avert your eyes from me, or I’ll curse you with sorrow.”

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: image copyright (c) Janet Webb

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