Creative Writing

A Mere Bagatelle

So I’ve been away from the world of competitive fiction writing for almost twelve months, and now, clambering back into the saddle I’m headlong into the 2012 Whittaker Prize. No gentle easing back this, although instead of the gruelling nine rounds, this year there are only six.

Twelve weeks, six stories, 15k words or less—simple—right?

Although I haven’t written any fiction, I’ve  exceeded 150k words this year since I more or less write for a living. So far in 2012 I have worked on some mammoth projects (hence the neglected blog) involving ISO 27001, end-to-end business processes; business continuity and disaster recovery planning in addition to various HR and good old ‘elf and safety documentation. You need a policy document, a plan, training materials or a strategy then I’m your gal.

So coming up with the first story should be a mere bagatelle. Shouldn’t it?

I think by now I’ve clocked up over 40 hours, one way or another, trying to get this story out of my head and into print.  The longer the struggle has gone on, the more insistent and nagging is the little voice that  keeps invading my thoughts telling me I’m never going to write fiction again and am, to quote one of my own stories:

“…a worthless imitation and a hopeless hack… sure to fail and anyway you’re far too frail to take the criticism you deserve—you serial abuser of colons, ellipses and myriad marks—you pretender, you fraud. You’ve got nothing worth to say, not today, so get over it sweetheart, it ain’t never going to happen. Kerouac didn’t pass on his mantle—not to you.”

Body Parts & Coal Dust (2010)*

To make matters worse this voice, for reasons which would probably take months of therapy to figure out, speaks to me with in an accent better suited to the Jersey Shore.

There is good news, well on the face of it anyway.  Around 4:00am on Sunday morning I think I arrived at the reason this particular story isn’t happening.  I have committed what I believe  a very grave faux pas for a fiction writer.

In the course of last year’s Whittaker, I thought up what I considered  a very snappy title for a story.  I never used it.  The reason I never used it was because that was all it was, a snappy title with no substance, but in the passage of time I’d forgotten that.  It seemed like a good way to ease myself back, pick up where I left off and start with something familiar.

That was the plan.

Since the competition kicked off on 8th June, I’ve made numerous attempts to write to this title, write my characters around it and plot the story behind it and one by one they have all failed, leaving me very frustrated and angst ridden.

I should by now have done enough workshops, courses and read enough books to understand that the character has to come first, for me anyway.  I should understand that a snappy title may catch attention but if you don’t have a compelling character in a compelling situation, then you have no hook.

So my snappy title is back in my clippings file. Maybe one day a character will come along who wants to work with it, in the meantime it’s good to be back.

 Body Parts & Coal Dust first published in the anthology of the same name: Right Eyed Deer Press 2010. ISBN: 978-0-557-85115-7 and by Ether Books Limited 2011 on the Ether Books iPhone app.