Bend it, break it, fix it.

We are already halfway through September and that means that I am already halfway through my Story a Day challenge. Not really, as I haven’t written anything new in the last couple of days. I might or might not catch up later this weekend. To be honest, I wasn’t so inspired by the second set of prompts, which were more like creative writing exercises than prompts.

But aren’t writing prompts creative writing exercises themselves, I can hear you saying. I guess so, I don’t know, you tell me. You can check this week’s prompts yourselves and see if they inspire you to write five new stories. Actually, a few of them are meant to rewrite a previously written story so maybe that’s why I’ve found it more difficult to draft new stories this week. Maybe, but hey, this needn’t be bad. In fact, something very good happened this week.

I was a bit discouraged at the beginning of this second challenge week but as I worked my way through these prompts, I suddenly realised how helpful they can be when revising and rewriting a story. And so, I applied them to a story I wrote a few months ago and which has been in my head ever since, though as much as I thought about it I just couldn’t find a proper beginning or ending and much of the wording felt wrong. Well, instead of gender-swapping any story, I just swapped the point of view of my characters; I somewhat changed settings by making them more real, as I filled in the details in my story; and I totally ignored punctuation rules and wrote a soliloquy of my main character, which helped me to get to know her better and polish her voice. So three prompts, three ideas, and three big changes to bring my crappy story closer to a publishable story.

Yes, revising and rewriting can be tedious but it is SO necessary. And I am happy I just found these three wonderful ways to help me find out more about my stories and characters. I will definitely do more of this in the future, specially when I’m stuck in the middle of a story or am getting nowhere in the revision process. In a nutshell, I would say that sometimes a story needs to be bent, broken and fixed, in order to work and be published.

Bend it, explore other paths you did not take the first time, give voice to silent, object characters. Break it, swap bad for good, better for best, set a new order of events, eliminate scenes altogether. Fix it, find the right wording, let your characters shine, make your story the best it can be.

How do you revise your manuscript? Do you have any tried and trusted strategy for polishing your stories?

 

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What I read {July + August 2017}

I haven’t read much lately and most of the books I’ve been diving in have been travel guides. I read a bit about Andalusia first, to get ready for my summer holidays, then some about Britain, just for the pleasure of it, and I began researching Denmark to get inspired for a future holiday. Ah, the joys of travel planning, as exciting as travelling itself. Besides all that travel inspiration, I have only finished a book in the past two months. And guess what? It was also a travel related book. July was rather hot around here and I decided it was time to fly away somewhere tropical , even if it was only in my imagination. So I dusted off my bookshelf and reread Paradise News.

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Paradise News, by David Lodge, was the first book I ever read in English (other than those graded readers for learners of English as a foreign language). Back then, it took me a while to get into the story, and more importantly, to get into the language, which is much different than the plain English to be found on graded readers. But I was fully enjoying it towards the end. This second time around I didn’t face any major issues, when it comes to the language, but it is still true that the beginning is rather slow and it takes quite a while to get into the story. But one you’re in, it is a very pleasurable journey. The story, itself, is very uncomplicated; Bernard and his father travel all the way to Hawaii to comfort his sick aunt during her last, lonely days. Reluctantly at first, both of them will end up having a good time at the other side of the world, while facing past demons and returning home a new person. Paradise News can be a light story to be read during a warm summer weekend, but it also has a much deeper side to it, full of thoughts about the meaning of life and the existence or not of an afterlife.

I haven’t read many short stories either. Truth is, I have been watching way too much telly this summer and one of the series I’ve binged on is Vikings. And man, did I like it. I can’t wait to start season 4, which I just found is already available on Netflix Switzerland. All this to tell you that the only short story I have for you this month is a viking tale. In fact, it is called just like that, A Viking’s Tale, by Jamie Wang. And it’s a funny one.

And finally, an interesting link I found recent ago. It is to a site called Big History Project and it looked rather interesting to me. I can’t wait to see the videos later this month and learn more about the history of the universe, Earth, and humanity at a bigger scale and in much more detail. Until then, I cannot tell whether the Big History Project is any good, but it is a very appealing idea.

And that’s all for the time being. Any recommendations from you side?

Have a productive September!

 

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Life, writing and everything in between

Hi there.

It feels like forever since I last posted here. Come to think about it, it feels like forever since I last wrote anything anywhere. I’d love to come up with a fancy explanation to excuse myself; something along the lines of I was travelling and too busy seeing to the world to put pen to paper or I was lost in somewhere incredible but lacking most basic services, such as internet connection. But truth is, I was at home – a home with properly working wi-fi and stacks of notebooks overflowing my drawers – and life simply got in between. And life, when you have a two-year old toddler and a six-month old baby can be pretty hectic. Overwhelming if you like.

I haven’t read much in the past three months – only one book and a few travel guides – and I have only rewritten bits and pieces of a story I began long ago and I still haven’t finished that. Not much to share when it comes to writing, as you can see. But September has always been the back-to-school time of the year for me, so I guess I can easily make it into the back-to-writing month of the year for me. And writing I’m doing. And not only on this blog.

I am planning on taking part on the September Story a Day challenge by the resourceful site Story a Day. Putting it into their own words, this is stripped-down affair; not much like the intensive Story a Day challenge held in May. With only five prompts a week, you can choose to write as much or as little as you want. Five days a week, one or seven. I intend to write (or sketch) five stories a week, one each weekday, and use the weekend to add new scenes to whatever I have written during the week, if inspiration strikes.

I also want to ease back into my reading routine. I am already busy with two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. I am struggling with a Conjuring of Light, by V. E. Schwab, (sorry, but no better word to describe my reading experience with that one) and eating my way through Around Britain by Cake, by Caroline Taggart. Hopefully I will resume my monthly What I Read posts soon, though I might drop them off altogether next year. We’ll see.

That’s all from this rainy corner of Switzerland. Summer seems to have moved on and so do I, moving onto better things. Up to you now, what have you been up to this summer? Any plans to make a grand comeback to writing this September?

Cheers,

Irene

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What I read {June 2017}

I don’t know how this happened but June was a very lazy month and I didn’t finished reading a single book! What?! Yep, just like that. I am busy rereading Paradise News by David Lodge and nothing else. I didn’t read much short fiction either.

I was rather busy for most of the first half of June and quite exhausted during the second half and I didn’t even have the strength to pick a book and immerse into its worlds. It was also too hot for most of the month, mind you. So when I finally I felt in the mood for reading again, I chose a witty satire set in Hawaii to do a bit of armchair travelling – just what I needed to get me through that heatwave. I’ll write more about it next month, though, when I finally finish reading it.

Anyway, here are a couple of links you might find interesting. One is a short story I found utterly beautiful and the other is an insightful article about writers who do not seek fortune or fame. Food for thought, ha!

Artist of Love, by JT Gill (Every Day Fiction, June 1 2017)

What happens when a writer is not primarily interested in commercial success?

That’s all for June’s round-up. See you around next month and in the meantime, enjoy the summer.

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New story on Every Day Fiction

Hi there!

Nice day today. The sun is shining, at least around here in Switzerland, and I have a new story out there for you to enjoy.

One-Way Ticket to Earth is out today on Every Day Fiction. You can read it here. It is one of the first stories I ever wrote and it features a few of the things I like: mathematical conundrums, space travel, and an insight into the fundamental nature of us, human beings.

Hope you like it. Let me know what you think in the comments, either here or there.

Cheers.

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What I read {May 2017}

I know, I know, I’m a bit late this month with my reading round-up. So, let’s agree on these posts being a first-Sunday-of-the-month feature and pretend that nothing happened. Now, onto brighter things, I set out to read at least twelve books this year and I’m happy to say that I have already achieved that humble milestone in May. Twelve books a year is not much, it is only a book a month after all, but with a toddler running around all day long and a newborn baby it seemed like quite a challenge back in January. And only five months later it is done. Maybe I underestimated myself or maybe I have been blessed with another sleepyhead in the family. More probably the latter.

Anyway, back to books, here’s what I read last month.

BOOKS

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling. Oh, what an ending to then series. HP might not be the most literary books but they’re still grand. And addictive. Even if I knew what the end would be, as I have watched the films many times, I simply couldn’t put the book down. Harry is still a bit of a selfish, arrogant teenager who thinks that the world revolves solely around him (okay, it actually does in a way) but he’s a bit more likeable here than in the previous three books. Though this might be only because Hermione and Ron share his burden and play a bigger role in this final adventure. Snape’s redemption is simply brilliant and I cannot get over the fact that Harry doesn’t acknowledge Snape’s sacrifice and help with a single word. Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for putting things back to right in the eight movie and that Cursed Child play.

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  • The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. This has been long touted as the next best thing in science fiction. And granted, it is good and imaginative and different but it is not that good. At least not from a literary point of view. It is a bit of a mishmash of styles and there are a few loose ends, particularly regarding the family relations of the characters, but nothing too important. Anyway, I liked the story and I think it is a great thing that a Chinese novel has made it so far in the usually knit-tight bookshelves for English speakers, who are not too accustomed to translations.

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SHORT STORIES

I read a bunch of flash stories while I was on holidays two weeks ago but none of them really stood out. So my only recommendation from last month is Carnival 9, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #225, May 11 2017). I am quite a fan of her writing and whenever I see that she has a new story out I go and read it. And this one didn’t disappoint at all; it’s both beautiful and meaningful. You can read it here or listen to the podcast.

 

Finally, here are a few links to bits and pieces which you might find interesting. This month is all about flash fiction. First of all, a brief guide for writing flash fiction stories which includes a short list of e-zines that publish flash fiction. If you want to dig deeper into what flash fiction is, here’s an article that goes straight to its core and introduces all the necessary elements to a great flash story. And finally, if you’re still not sure whether writing flash fiction is a good idea or not, here’s an article giving you three reasons to do it.

And a little extra this month. After reading Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, I became aware that there was much more to the story than a simple fantasy world populated by witches and wizards and els and goblins and giants and and and. I realised that this fantastic world was somehow a metaphor for some historical past that resembled greatly the Third Reich. I had never found such similarities in the films, and indeed, this might be clear only in the books because when I discussed this theory with some other HP fans they thought I was flipping. Nevertheless, a quick search on the internet proved I was not alone and many studies had already been done on the subject of politics in Harry Potter. So here’s a very insightful article into Harry Potter and its relation to Nazi Germany.

Now, that’s really all for now. Hope you enjoy these links and stories. And let me know what you’re up to bookwise in the comments.

Have a sunny June!

 

 

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Shaking up my writing routine

Last month wasn’t a particularly productive month as I wrote next to nothing. I was busy with a hundred other things and then some, so I had little time left for writing. Besides, my mind has been busy with a short story I’ve been working on since February. The first draft was written long ago and I even began to do some edits here and there. But I knew that something was still missing. There is definitely more to this story than what it looked like in the first place.

Despite the lack of time, I usually manages to steal a few minutes almost every day to get some writing done but this time was different. Yes, I did have those precious moments to write but I just couldn’t. Not that I couldn’t in a physical way; it was more like a psychological thing. Maybe it was the much dreaded writer’s block. Or not really. I think I was always fully aware of what was holding me back and it was that unfinished story. The characters lingered in my mind, asking me for a satisfying solution to their problem. But as much as I thought this over, I didn’t seem to be able to come up with anything worthy. And then it happened. One morning I woke up and saw the words I was missing very clearly in front of me. Or in my mind, anyway.

I spent last week away in a small village in the Swiss Alps and one morning I woke up and felt that urge to write again. I didn’t have my laptop with me, so I wrote my notes in a notepad and before I knew it, I had several pages outlining the scenes my story had been missing. And it wasn’t a one day thing. The next morning I woke up and continue working on that story, rewriting some scenes I already had. And the morning after I began writing down some ideas for a new story. And just like that, I was writing first thing in the morning every day during my holidays.

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It is hard not to feel inspired when you wake up to this

Maybe it was the change o surroundings, maybe it was the feeling of rest that comes along with the holidays, or maybe it was really the fact that I figured out what my story was lacking. Whatever it was, I can only say that I was truly happy to be writing again. oh, did I miss it! Perhaps, it is a good thing to change things every once in a while so that we can look at things from a fresh perspective. Perhaps, shaking up our writing routine is a truly effective way to boost our creativity. I don’t know.

So up to you now, do you also have a writing routine to which you stick faithfully? Do you get stuck from time to time? How do you get your creativity flowing again?

Have a fruitful May!

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