The Bigger Picture (Part 1)

Robert just managed to get the last train home, and once he reached his stop, he jumped off and ran the mile to his house to get out of the rain. After throwing his sopping wet coat on the comfy chair opposite, he planted himself on his settee. He took a deep breath and looked at his phone. His thumb hovered over the send button. Is it too soon? Did I come across too desperate or needy? She seemed to enjoy the date, didn’t she? He thought. Before he could send anything, his phone buzzed in his hand. Two messages flashed up; one from a friend and the other from his date, Caroline.


‘Sorry, mate. I’ll look later,’ Robert said. He opened Caroline’s message, and almost as soon as he did, he sat back with a thud and let out a sigh.

‘You’ve met someone else? We just went out? Did you meet someone on the tram home?!’ he said. He messaged back and threw his phone onto the floor before putting his head in his hands. His phone buzzed again, and he almost flew out of his seat to pick it up.

‘Congratulations,’ he said, with an empty feeling hitting his stomach as he sat on the floor. He looked blankly at the picture he had been sent of his friends’ engagement. He flopped his head back against the settee and stared at the ceiling.

*

The following day, he woke up early but left his bed late. As he eventually rose for the day, the clothes from the previous night had dried where they lay on the edge of the bed. As he put the now dry clothes back on, wondered what the stale scent was before realising it was him, or rather, his clothes. He shrugged at that and the pile of work shirts on the floor before cleaning his teeth. He opened his front door and squinted at the sun light as he stepped outside to go for a walk.

The heat was light and calming on the back of his neck as he approached a small park and found a bench. He settled in and took out his phone and called his mother.

‘Sorry, Mum. I meant to call you a few days ago,’ he said. She accepted his reason, and they chatted for the next ten minutes.

‘So, how did your date go last night?’ his Mum said. Robert shifted in place as he contemplated the question.

‘Oh…it didn’t go so well. I don’t know what happened,’ he replied. He then went through what had happened the previous night. He took a deep breath partway through to stop his bottom lip from quivering. ‘That was my tenth date in three months, Mum. The reasons are getting numerous and off-putting.’

‘Never mind. I’m sure you’ll meet a nice girl one of these days. You’re a lovely boy.’

‘Thanks, Mother.’

They chatted for ten more minutes before she had to go. Robert could hear a door opening and a few voices in the background before the phone went dead. He slowly put his phone away and sat back on the bench. Over the next few hours, he rested his hand on his pocket over his phone. Several times he went to take it out but resisted. He people-watched and observed different couples out of the corner of his eye as they walked by. He smiled and turned away each time. The clouds over head started to darken and he stood up to head home.

‘Six o’clock? So be it,’ he said. He ordered a takeaway not long after getting home. He settled onto the settee and his eyes widened as he realised the data on his phone was not switched on. He smiled as he turned it back on, but the smile faded as his phone became quieter with each passing second.

He idly scrolled through his phone’s gallery until he frowned at a picture of a couple with one pushing their hand towards the camera. He gasped as he remembered. He sent a response to his friend, saying he was happy for him and them both. A few separate conversations started up across the messaging group, and his thumb hovered over the keyboard to respond. He glanced at it and could see his name in some of the messages, but he did not answer.

‘What am I watching? Where is the remote?’ he said. The doorbell rang, and he retrieved his pizza. He settled back down again and devoured one slice before putting the box of food on the floor.

Possible Perfectionist

I think I’m very close to being a perfectionist. About 100% as per the graph below:

I’ve known this for a while, but I don’t always apply the 100% to everything I do. Just the essential things in my life like my fiancé, family, and friends. And my writing

Anyway, I’m currently in the middle of an Assignment as part of the Short Story Writing Course I’m completing. This was purchased via The Writing Magazine (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-courses). So far, I’ve worked my way through five sections of the eight that make up the course. Those are First Principles, Shaping Your Characters, Characters and Plotting, Narration and Dialogue, and Writing Style. Each has its own assignment, and you’ve got as much time as you need to complete them. Well, not all the time, but they are pretty casual about the timescales but recommend getting into a routine while doing the course to help you gain the most from it. 

The latest section, Writing Style, has set an assignment to write in 1,000 words a story that builds a strong sense of atmosphere and/or place. When I was given this assignment, I’ll admit it seemed a bit daunting to me and a little bit scary. I had a rough idea of how I would do it, but I wasn’t sure if I’d ever done it before. But I must’ve done. Right?

I’ve finished First Drafts for Novels and Short Stories so far in my Writing Career and created the atmosphere I needed to tell my story correctly. So, why am I scared now?

Not sure, really. I think it’s because I’ve never sat down and just written a piece that only focuses on creating a sense of anything. Let alone atmosphere and/or place. I knew that I had to come up with some ideas, but what to use?

In my previous assignments, I’ve used such scenarios as manager-team member conflict (Conflicting Characters – Characters and Plotting) Friends living together (Narration and Dialogue – Three-Way Conversation). Still, I didn’t want to just revisit these as that seemed too easy.

Then, it hit me. I really enjoy writing fight and battle scenes, so why not use this? The sense of atmosphere within a battle (I imagine) is strong and can change (again, I imagine) quickly. I settled on my scenario for my assignment, now to write it.

That went quite well. I crafted a piece about a soldier fighting demons as part of an army. Looking like they are on top, only to have the demons retreat as a bigger foe, one they are even petrified of, came into the picture. This allowed me to change the atmosphere from happy and carefree (Winning the battle) to fear and dread (Probably going to lose the battle) midday through the story.

I considered rewriting the story and focusing all 1,000 words on one sense of atmosphere. But I preferred the challenge of conveying the shift in atmosphere partway through—about halfway to be exact. Then I considered changing it. I always edit my assignments, even though I’m looking for feedback, so if I didn’t, it would be fine.

But, I’m a writer. I’m not wired like that at all.

And thus, began weeks and weeks of edits that have become never-ending. Now, I’m aware this is part of my writing life, and that’s fine but, how far should I go with an edit for a Writing Course Assignment? Or should I just send it off and see what happens?

This leads me to a question.

Whilst completing a short piece of writing for submission (1,000 to 2,000 words) to be submitted, would you send the first draft of your assignment or edit it before submission?

Inspiration in Pictures.

Hello everyone,

Hope you’re well.

During this pandemic, I have felt many different emotions, as I’m sure you all have during this strange and challenging time. I have found that having a routine set around my working-from-home life has helped me to manage these feelings and keep things in perspective. My wonderful fiancé also helps along with my family and friends, who I am more grateful for than ever. My routine is to go for a walk in the morning before work and go for a walk after work. Not ground-breaking I know, but extremely helpful all the same. Each walk allows me to prepare for the day ahead or wind down from it. I have immensely enjoyed my morning walks. During the colder months of December and January, I have got to know the streets, parks, and short cuts near me a lot more. These surroundings have formed the basis for my latest two WIP’s. The idea for each WIP has come from the following pictures I have taken whilst taking a morning stroll:

These pictures were taken after taking a second look at each scene, and an idea popped into my head.

The picture on the left, just beyond the farthest set of trees, is a football (soccer) pitch. In the current situation, no football has been played on there for a while. However, as I studied the picture at home, I wondered, could a football match be taking place behind the white fog? And what would the story be behind that? That wondering brought about one of the current WIP’s. The story of a set of footballers, all just having a late-night kick about, who tragically died when a plane crashed into them some fifty years previous. Every anniversary of this tragedy, they play a game of football behind the fog. But this year, it will be different. They will have a spectator this time in the shape of a man who has become very curious about the fog. And a man in need of a distraction. 

In the picture on the right, I captured this scene because I thought I caught a glimpse of something moving inside the fog, right down the street and beyond the last house that can be seen. I then wondered, what could be hidden in the fog? And what would the thing be doing? This became my second WIP. A man, taking his morning walk, spots a colossal monster inside the thick, white fog. The next time the fog returns a week later, he tries to confront the beast. Only, the beast has other ideas.

I have finished writing both stories, and it has helped me get back into a rhythm and a new routine for my writing. My writing frequency has been all over the place during the pandemic, so I’m happy that I can get some kind of normality back into my writing.

This leads me to ask:

Have you ever taken a picture and written a full story off the back of it? Or, has the picture filled in a plot hole in a story that had held you back from progressing? I would be keen to hear your stories on this. 

Stay safe and have a nice day!

The Joy of Re-Reading.

Hello,

Have you ever re-read a book and felt like you were reading it for the first time?

Recently, my fiancé and I decided to re-watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. We watched The Fellowship of the Ring on a Saturday, The Two Towers the next day, and then The Return of the King the following Sunday. It had been I don’t know how long since I or we had last watched them, but we enjoyed them even more this time around. After we had watched them, I decided to start re-reading the book. I had first read it something like 14 years ago and I usually leave long gaps in-between re-reading books. Although, most of the time when I try to re-visit an old favourite, I end up reading a new book instead. But when I started re-reading Lord of the Rings, I realised one thing pretty quickly.

I could not remember a majority or indeed ANY of the book.

As I realised this, I was keener than ever to keep reading, and I am now enjoying the book and it’s as if it were my first time reading it. I almost feel bad for not remembering anything from the first time around. But when I think about it, I don’t really remember enjoying the book that much at first reading. I read it on the bus to work, before bed, and took long breaks in-between reading (Years in fact). Now, I’m reading a chapter each time I sit down. I am making comparisons to the films, which I think is a natural thing to do. Still, I am excited to keep reading a book I thought I’d already experienced.

Have you ever felt that way?

And if so, did you put the book down and start another one? Or carry on with the one you had chosen?

Creative Spark during Lockdown.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I can improve my writing. The lockdown has provided me with plenty of time to not write, but when I have found the time it has been fruitful but not as productive as I would have thought. I started thinking of how I could improve my situation, but I wasn’t sure how and hoped for something to spark my interest. Some kind of inspiration to jump out and slap me in the face. Well, maybe not that because that would hurt but perhaps a nudge or tap on the shoulder. Nothing was happening until I received an email from ‘Writers Online’ (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-courses) which is linked to my ‘Writing Magazine’ subscription. They advertised several courses in different areas, publishing, novel writing, selling your work, but one caught my eye.

Short Story Writing Course.

Now, I’ve been writing short stories for years and reading all kinds of different articles and blog posts on the subject but never took the time to learn the basics. This ever so slightly annoyed me but I only have myself to blame. I consider myself a writer but, after starting this course, a writer that still has a lot to learn.

The course is broken up into 8 units and an assignment that links to each one. You are assigned a tutor to guide you along the way based on your level of experience and writing interests. Mine has provided some valuable feedback on the stories I have written for the first 2 assignments. These were to write a story dealing with conflict (Love conquers All or Man or Woman versus loneliness) and to write a story about an out of work character searching for employment. Each required me to use skills learnt from the accompanying unit. I have learned so much already including how vital a theme/message is to my stories and how-to layout out a short story beginning, middle, and end. Both of these points are things I have considered previously but not put nearly as much thought into as I believed. Though annoying, I am not dwelling on it (well, maybe a little) and aim to improve from here and most likely make more significant strides than I have before.

When I first read about a message driving my story, I immediately thought back to a short story I had completed 6 months ago. Although I like it, it has no theme. It’s just…something that happened. When I thought about it, I didn’t really care about either of the main characters. After the first unit, First Principles of Writing a Short Story, I made plenty of notes about potential improvements. Mainly, what the theme will be and how the characters will develop along with their conflicts. I did all this after reading only the first few pages of the course.

It may seem obvious to learn the basics before tackling anything in life, but it is something I have overlooked. From here, things can only get better for me as a writer. Hopefully.

Have a good day, and thanks for reading!

Editing and The Info dump

Info Dump – A very large amount of information supplied all at once, especially as background information in a narrative.

Recently, I finished the First Draft of my latest story and found myself in a slight rut. Where do I go from here? After some soul-searching, I settled on my next project. I will go back to a previous First Draft of a different story, finished April 2018, and start a love/hate relationship with it through the art of editing. I think it’s been long enough, right? I have learned about editing in the years since then and actually find myself looking forward to this edit more than I thought. However, this quickly diminished when, as the edit had only just begun, I discovered that past-me liked to use a lot of information dumps. I seemed to be so quick to get my story on the page that I didn’t stop to think at what point that should happen.

The 2018 First Draft is a story about Searchers who hunt down and kill or ‘Search’ for demons around the North of England. There are Searchers all over the country and indeed the World but my story centres around Manchester City Centre and Salford primarily. The main focus is our hero, Aaron Watch, and his struggles to do his job and deal with other issues he would love to ignore. Issues around such things as his family, his love life, his fellow Searchers and the fate of life on planet Earth. Just a few things, not everything. He’s not greedy, you know.

I realised early on that past-me was eager to get out any information to help these elements move along. He did not stop to take a breath. As I’ve been editing, I find myself shifting in my chair as another info-dump cascades all over the page. Thankfully, I’ve just been given a new office chair to work from home, so this shifting is slightly more comfortable than it has been.

In some cases, I have taken the information away and put it somewhere else for safekeeping. In other cases, I’ve just deleted it and never looked back. This initially made me pause and wonder if I was too hard on past-me. Still, soon I started to like the deleting and remembered that I can’t be too precious when I’m editing. This is a first draft after all. I know from past edits that I probably need to be firmer in my editing. That is easier said than done, given that this is my creation. I can’t be mean to it. Can I?

It is, however, a nice way to find out how I’ve changed and grown as a writer. If I was doing the same things past-me did now, I would worry. Although I would think it’s a good idea so I would not worry. Would I be happy with all the info dumps? As I write this, I shift again in my chair.

With that said, the edit is going well so far. I’m only 38 pages into the 155-page novel, but I am getting into a rhythm so that must be a good thing. I also have to remind myself of what the story actually is. On plenty of occasions, I have no idea where I’m going. I rewrite something then realise I need it and have to put it back to make the whole thing keep moving along. I’ve stopped feeling so precious about my writing though, at the beginning I was reluctant to delete, but now I just do it and move on.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you are well. If you’re editing, all the best. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Realisation and Reward.

Hello,

Hope you are well.

Have you ever found yourself not enjoying the writing process? 

Throughout my time as a writer I have wrestled with this particular question and it has made me doubt if I should be a writer at all. I’ve tried to keep the above pushed to the back of my mind, but recently, I’ve come to terms with it.

I enjoy all the other parts of the writing and creation process. Well, those I’ve done so far (I’m unpublished). But sometimes when I sit down to continue with my WIP, I find it hard and not very enjoyable. Although, sometimes I’ll be writing an action scene or a tension-filled scene and rarely look up from the keyboard and I REALLY enjoy writing these types of scenes. In general, however, a more significant part of me just wants the story to be finished so I can edit it within an inch of its life and shape it into my final vision. 

What sparked this particular realisation was an article I recently read by Lorraine Mace (https://www.lorrainemace.com/) published in the June Addition of Writing Magazine. Entitled ‘Reluctant Writers Roundup’, she discusses how she and some of her writing friends sometimes don’t actually like the writing process. They have numerous notebooks and paper lying around with unfinished WIP’s contained within them and in one case, a novel that had been left unfinished on an author’s laptop for fifteen years! That, actually, is not far from the age of some of my unfinished work. I think I’ve got a story that is around ten years old that is incomplete. I need to rewrite the whole thing as my original story went off on a ramble down a country lane somewhere. It turned into one huge note taking and time-consuming exercise. No wonder I don’t want to go back to it.

This all made me remember those times I have sat down to write and felt like I was swimming in cement or that my brain just could not be bothered to help me out for whatever reason. I always managed to complete at least half a page in those times and what helped me was a reward at the end. This has helped me over the years to finish numerous stories. By allowing myself a small reward at the end, may it be playing on my favourite game for a short (to long) time or having a few biscuits or reading a few pages of my current book, it gives me that extra push to get things done. I finished a story last week (Awesome! Get In!) using this simple routine. I’ve carried on this routine through to other aspects of my writing journey (blogging mostly), so fingers crossed I can keep moving forward. 

Hope you have a good day! 

What’s in a dream?

Hello, 

I hope you are well. 

I almost started this post with, ‘I had a dream’, but I won’t. Even though I kind of just did. 

Anyway, my current WIP revolves around an office worker, Michael, who is plagued/haunted/blessed (not sure which one it is yet) by his dreams. These dreams involve two entities that seem to be trying to make him realise something and/or guide him through his dream. What and Why, he doesn’t know, but as they begin to inhabit more and more of his dreams and impact his working and personal life, he has to unravel the mystery quickly before it threatens to consume his WHOLE existence. 

Well, that’s what I’ve got so far anyway. I’ve had the idea for about a year now. It is based around how dreams can impact our lives if we want them to. After all, we are in control of our dreams? Right?!

I don’t usually dwell on my dreams. It’s only every so often I’ll dream about an uncomfortable situation or distant friend that they sometimes make me think more about it and its source. This always ends up with me shrugging my shoulders and carrying on as they are not that frequent at all. Although, I do have a recurring type of dream. One where I’m late for work. I hate being late. I used to be okay with it. Too laid back, really. But over the last few years, I’ve become more time conscious, and I’m always SO relieved when I wake up, it’s the middle of the night, and I can have more control if I’m late or not. 

This all leads to a dream I had a few months ago, which has helped me much with my current WIP. The dream was about being late for work. I woke myself up from it but found myself in another dream with me being late for work again. Then, I woke myself up from THAT dream to find I was in another dream. This one had nothing to with lateness and made no sense (something about a swimming pool?) before I finally woke up in the real world. As you can imagine, my idea factory went into overdrive. 

What would happen if I kept waking up in different dream levels and never in the real world? 

My WIP has only really come into focus after having that dream which filled a gap in my story idea I didn’t know was there! That’s a decent dream. Wouldn’t you agree? 

So, have you ever had any recurring dreams or woke up to find yourself in another dream?

Stay safe and all the best with your WIP or idea for one. 

My first Monster Story and the joys of the First Draft.

“Not what I thought it would be. Must try harder. But I am happy with it. I’m always happy when I’ve finished a story.”

The above is my own critique of my first attempt at writing a monster story. Back on November 5th 2019 (https://johnrsermon.com/2019/11/05/some-kind-of-monster-this-monster-lives/), I blogged regarding how I was starting my story about a rampaging monster and a curious man looking to find out more about it. As the story progressed and ultimately finished, the monster itself was not harming anyone but trying to better those who it felt were doing the most harm amongst the human race (Abusive boyfriends, Fraudsters, etc.) There was one monster for each country on Earth and each went about trying to change the world by violence against material things only and making what it has deemed to be the eviler members of the human race face up to what they have done and change. The bigger the monster, the more hate in that country. The monster disappears once the evil is removed or at least made to retreat.

Now, this wasn’t my original plan for the story. I decided to start and see where the story would take me (#pantser #pansterforever #pantserandproud) and although I do like my story and wonder what it could have been. With the monster movies I’ve been influenced by having a lot of destruction and I do really like it when monsters fight monsters. Humans killing giants’ monsters seems a bit weird to me. But behemoths raging at each other is always something I sit up straight to watch on the big screen. And sit up straight to read about, really. Obviously, the remaining who knows how many re-drafts of the story can address this, but I can already see that it will be way different than my first draft.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re writing a story and when you have finished, you immediately know that the first draft and the last will be many MANY miles apart? And possibly not even close to being related?

That’s how I’m feeling about my monster story. Sure, I am quite happy with it, but that’s what first drafts are for. I’m currently in the process of planning how I change things but keep the same themes. The monster was born from the negativity in the world. I think the other characters around the beast, the two people looking for more through curiosity and the women on a wild ride to try and kill the monster, will need to be fleshed out a bit. I feel like all I’ve done with the first draft is to draw an outline for them. The more drafts I do, the more detailed they will get. Hopefully. But, as I say, that’s what first are for. And I think I love them for it.

Hope you have a good day.