Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose and poetry

Archive for the category “Writing”

Snowy Monday Morning #Haiku191 & #Novel-in-Progress Excerpt

alongside snowfall
chalk acquires a creaminess
hitherto unseen


I’ve decided to take about a fortnight’s sabbatical to complete the first draft of Twicers,  the futuristic satire I started writing during National Novel Writing Month, 2017.

In January, for Friday Fictioneers, I posted a 100-word excerpt from the viewpoint of my main protagonist, Japeth. Today, you are to meet Blip, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and works as a computer and robot maintenance engineer at the Duffers’ Centre, a futuristic take on the Job Centre.

THE EXCERPT (260 words)

Overtime felt good because it meant starting work after closing time. No people. Just robots and a row of dispensing machines stocked with salt and vinegar crisps and cherry red energy drinks that she would raid when spring arrived.

It was February, with plump snowflakes tumbling through the twilight. The building inside was neither hot nor cold, but warmer than the temperature outside. The toughened glass windows had security blinds. Tonight, a few disgruntled duffers had gathered outside, looking as if they wanted to throw something harder than snowballs at the window, not that it was yet minus one degree Celsius and cold enough to make a decent one.

Blip hurried into the Centre, her graphite earmuffs over the hood of her hoodie and under the hood of her graphite parka. She saw the duffers without meeting any of them in the eye. Not that she was afraid of them. Simply, she wasn’t in the mood for conversation. But then she was never in the mood for conversation. On the rare occasions she had to pretend interest in what someone else was saying, it was agony, unless they were talking about animals, alternative energy, astronomy, chess, or computers, but only if they knew their subject and weren’t spouting bullshit.

She knew ‘bullshit’ was a silly word, as humans did not literally spew bull’s faeces out of their mouths; however, it was an excusable addition to her vocabulary as it had a hard-hitting sound to it and she couldn’t think of a more concise way of describing such idiocy.

The Pantser’s Antipenultimate Panic #Novel Writing

You would have thought by now I’d have learned the pitfalls that go with being a seat-of-your pants writer. Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, it’s living dangerously. And yes, every time I reach the final third of my novel I come unstuck.

This time it’s worse than usual. Instead of writing at my usual steady pace that sees a first draft completed in six to nine months, I slammed out 50,000 words in one month during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and then only had time to write 6,000 words in December, so I literally lost the plot.

Yesterday, I wrote three pages of dialogue between two people that did little to advance the plot. I may or may not have picked up on some threads earlier in the novel, but mostly I was waffling in the dark.

On reflection, the cause of this waffling is clear: that I can’t remember what I said earlier in the novel, or what clues I laid down. When a writer reaches the stage of to-ing and fro-ing every few sentences via the keyboard shortcut [Ctrl][F], it’s akin to playing yo-yo and hoping the string doesn’t snap.

The moment of reckoning has arrived. I cannot proceed in a southerly direction, when I keep on having to retrace my steps north. If I carry on like that, I will end up tearing out my hair and casting my novel into the trash bin. But I neither want to tear out my hair nor cast my novel in the trash bin, as I’m rather fond of both items.

Thus, my only option is to stop writing and return to “Go”, even if go is situated at the North Pole. This does not involve any kind of rewrite or detailed proofreading, but a straight read through to remind me what I have written in the first two-thirds of my novel. As I’m doing this, I will write a chapter-by-chapter synopsis to save me having to do so at the end.

What am I looking for?

  • Clues
  • Revelations
  • Contradictions
  • Pacing/waffle
  • Direction
  • The story arc

And to end on a positive, what do I love the most about the novel that makes it worth saving?

  • The characters
  • The wry humour
  • The quirkiness
  • The story’s overall premise
  • The setting
  • The novel’s title

See you all when I get back from the North Pole. Only joking 😉

Friday Fictioneers — Memory Stoked

The writing of my latest tome is taking longer than I expected, thus my urge to take a breather and take part in this week’s Friday Fictioneers challenge. Many thanks to Sandra Crook for the photo prompt and to our dynamo of a host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

My apologies for posting yet another excerpt from my novel Counting Magpies (last seen disappearing through a black hole into another universe, otherwise known as the publisher’s submissions backlog!).

Genre: Speculative fiction
Word Count: 100


Janice has never lived in a city akin to Warsaw, or witnessed multitudinous fire-gutted buildings, some with bodies inside. I trudge after her, weighted by a memory.

When I was seven years old the Mafia burnt down my favourite ice-cream parlour—some kind of turf war—with my friend, her older sister, father, and grandmother inside. Afterwards, I’d obsessed over visions of gallons of ice-cream melting into a rainbow stream that ran all the way out the door and down the road to forever, not to hell but to paradise. This fantasy was better than imagining the family incinerated alive.


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 — Imprisoned

Many thanks to Rochelle for using my husband’s spiderweb picture as this week’s photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers. Some of my blog followers and visitors will already have seen this picture, which accompanied my New Year’s Day Monday Morning #Haiku 181 — Spider, thus to avoid spiderweb overkill, I’ll just post a downsized reminder of the original to go with my 100-word story for today.

My apologies for not having participated in Friday Fictioneers since last October. Throughout November I took time off from blogging to concentrate on penning the first 50K words of my latest tome for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and succeeded in reaching the necessary target to qualify as a winner. December was all about catching up with jobs and squeezing in a bit of writing when time allowed. January was a slow starter, but I’m now on the homeward stretch of the first draft of my novel, with about 15-20K words to go.

So here you have it, a trimmed snippet from my work-in-progress Twicers, which is a satire set in the not-too-distant future. My main character, Japeth, is loosely based on  my MC in The Parable Teller, a short story of mine published in the Aesthetica Creative Works Annual, 2011.

Please be warned that the excerpt contains a profanity but, under the circumstances, I’m sure you’ll agree my MC is being most restrained! Also, note that I use the singular of the word “heel”, as Japeth only has one leg.



By now, his eyes had adapted to the false twilight afforded by a row of high-up windows at the rear of the workshop, each one opaque with grime and laced over with spiderwebs.

With the dogs at his heel, he conducted a search of the workshop and nearly tripped over a tin bucket. Toilet rolls were stacked on the shelf above, with a piece of corrugated cardboard propped up against them. The cardboard had painted on it in white the words “COURTESY OF THE MANAGEMENT”.

“Shit!” said Japeth, which seemed apt. Nobody needed nine toilet rolls for a short stay.


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.

#NaNoWriMo 2017 & the Advent of Two Different Author Names!

To put the title of my post into context, I want to share with you the testimonial I’ve sent to the organisers of National Novel Writing Month…

I would like to thank the NaNoWriMo Team for providing the platform for a complete turnabout in my writing and for saving me from quitting altogether.

During the first half of 2017, with five novels under my belt, I had finally accepted that for an author to cross multiple genres was tantamount to committing marketing suicide. Enough traditional publishers and literary agents had rejected my work for this reason, while at the same time complimenting me on my prose, but of course I had to learn the hard way by self-publishing a couple of the novels. The experiment wasn’t a total failure, as a small handful of people risked buying the first book and then bought the second book, too. According to their reviews, they loved my quirkiness and particular brand of British humour.

By the time I reached October of the year, I was suffering the worst case of writer’s block and disillusionment ever. Thus, when I signed up for NaNoWriMo it felt like the craziest act of faith in the world. I had never written as much as 50,000 words in a month and didn’t think I had the hours to do so; plus, I was going to attempt to write a straight science fiction novel, rather than a mishmash of about six genres rolled into one. However, twenty pages into the story I realised it wasn’t science fiction, and that it probably wasn’t in me to write anything suited to diehard fans of the genre. This amounted to a moment of profound enlightenment. What were my strengths? Answer: Quirkiness and British humour. What exactly was I writing if it wasn’t science fiction? Answer: mainstream satire that happened to be set in the not-too-distant future.

Thus with great optimism and to maintain my focus, I have signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo and set my next goal, which is to finish writing the first draft of the novel by 2nd February, after which I will don my editor’s hat and set a revision target.

Now for the bit about author names. I don’t want to dump my old novels altogether, as they have been my close companions on a long writing journey and I’m really quite fond of them. Being an eccentric means that I will always write quirky stuff, and here’s a virtual hug for my highly valued supporters who don’t care a toss about my blatant mishmashing of genres.

Thus, what I propose — unless my literary Muse dictates otherwise — is to self-publish my hard-to-categorise novels under the name of Sarah Potter, but for novels that do fit a category and might prove of interest to literary agents and traditional publishers, I will use the author name Sarah C Potter.

Meanwhile, from now until the end of January, I have on special offer my two crossover self-published novels, but more about that in the next post when I will share with you my reasons for staging a rebellion against particular price tags.

#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


“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.”


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 😉


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

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


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.           


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.


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.


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