The Bigger Picture (Part 2)

He woke up as his head flopped down onto his chest. He rubbed his neck as he adjusted in his seat, accidentally kicking the pizza on the floor. The clock said two in the morning, and he checked his phone and multiple messages stared back at him. His phone rang.

‘Hello mate, hey congratulations and all that,’ Robert said as he answered.

‘Thanks, mate. You didn’t answer any of our messages before. You usually respond quickly. I was getting worried. You, okay?’

‘Yeah, mate. Well…’ Robert hesitated as he searched for the right words in the dark. He stood up and walked towards the lines of moonlight that stretched across his carpet before moving closer to the window and staring out through the blinds. ‘That date from Friday didn’t work out.’

‘Ah. No worries, mate. They’ll be more where that came from. What was the reason this time? You know what, who cares—her loss. You’re a good guy. Her loss.’

‘Thanks, mate. And Happy Birthday, by the way. Forgot to tell you last week,’ Robert said, standing up a little straighter.

‘Not a problem. You’ve wished me the best for other years. I don’t think much of turning thirty-five anyway. You did a few months ago, how was it?’

‘Average at best.’

‘See? Anyway, I’m off to bed. I’ve only had one drink mate but, I love you. I’ll speak to you later.’

‘You too, mate. See you later,’ Robert said, putting the phone down. He looked at the dark screen in his hand before looking back out at the moon. He glanced around his front room before throwing his phone onto the settee, closing the blinds, and going to bed. (282 Words – Part 2)

*

The next day he came downstairs and frowned at his phone on the settee. He pocketed it and went into the kitchen.

Later that day, he was working on his laptop when a ringing tone came out of it. He flinched before realising it was a video call. He answered and adjusted his laptop and the camera as he did so.

‘Hello son, how’s Sunday treating you?’

‘I’m good, Dad. Since when did you learn how to use video calling?’

‘Since your brother taught me a few weeks ago. Can you hear me, okay?’

‘I can, Dad. Coming through loud and clear.’

Robert chatted with his father, struggling to know where he should look (at my face? at his face? somewhere in between?) before his Mum joined in. Closely followed by his brother. The conversation settled into a rhythm that brought a small smile to Robert’s face.

‘We should do this every week. What do you think, Rob?’ his brother said.

Robert stuttered. ‘Why? I’m only a few miles away from you all?’

‘So? We don’t get to see you that often anymore.’

‘Sure. Weekly video calls sound good. Or even just conversations via massager would be fine. What do you think, Mum and Dad?’

‘Sounds great. I…,’ said Dad.

‘No. I can never get those things to work,’ interrupted his Mum. Thus began a long conversation about how she thought video calls work against how everyone else knew they did. At times Robert just sat back and smiled. (546 words)

The rest of Robert’s day moved along at a smooth pace. Leaving his phone in his bedroom to charge, he cleaned his flat from top to bottom and did all his washing and ironing to cover the coming week.

Later that evening, he sat down at his dinner table to eat his reheated takeaway. As he got halfway through, he remembered his phone was upstairs. After retrieving it and sitting back down at his table, it buzzed and buzzed for around ten seconds. Several messages greeted him, all referencing a night out from his friends. Robert hovered his thumb over the keyboard and began to type.

“Just us five. Not been on a night out like that in ages,” one message read. Robert hesitated and then continued typing.

“No other halves then?” He sent the message and then quickly started to type a second message, “Because I’m not that bothered if” but did not have time to send it as more messages came through.

“Just us five. Like it was in the beginning?” read another message.

“Really? Okay. Great. I’m looking forward to it. I mean, I look forward to our usual nights out with other halves included,” Robert sent. He smiled as they ignored it, and the buzzing kept on going as a plan began to form.

“Cool. Meet at seven o’clock in the pub on Friday,”

“Looking forward to it,” Robert responded. He went back to his food before his phone buzzed again, and he glanced down mid-bite. Caroline’s name flashed up. He scanned her message, which was made up of several excuses and half compliments, before deleting it and messaging another friend to see if he was free for a call. As his friend replied, he rang him and smiled as he answered. 

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?

10 Things All Writers Need to Succeed (Before They Even Start Writing)

4. A goal. It doesn’t even have to be an ambitious goal.

10 Things All Writers Need to Succeed (Before They Even Start Writing)

Hello,

This is a re-blog of a post from a while ago (Feb 2020) that I found very useful.

It’s a straight forward list of things you may need to be a writer.

Hope you find it useful.

Have a good day and thanks for visiting.

Identifying showing and telling: Thinking in layers to understand reader experience – by Louise Harnby…

Are you storytelling-telling? Too much told narrative can force the reader to experience a story through extraneous layers that add clutter rather than clarity. Here’s how to identify one type of told prose and write with more immediacy. Continue reading HERE

Identifying showing and telling: Thinking in layers to understand reader experience – by Louise Harnby…

Hello,

Here is a handy and straightforward article I found regarding the difference between showing and telling in your writing.

Click the link above for access to the full post. I hope you find this useful and thank you for visiting. Have a good 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.

12 Daily Habits of High-Achieving Writers

2. Participating in creative activities outside of writing that keep your brain engaged and your heart happy.

12 Daily Habits of High-Achieving Writers

Hello,

Above is another useful post from Novelty Revisions (www.megdowell.com). It details a number of ways you can help yourself and your writing as well as things to consider along the way.

Click the blue link above for the full post.

I hope you find this useful and are having a good day.

12 Simple and Effective Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills Over Time

6. Keep a journal — and keep it casual.

12 Simple and Effective Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills Over Time

Hello,

The post above is from a wonderful blog I’ve been following for a while now and gained a lot of inspiration from, http://www.megdowell.com ‘Novelty Revisions’. Click the blue link above for the full post.

In a number of ways, 12 in fact, this post shows how taking a long term approach can pay dividends for your writing.

I’ve found taking my time has helped massively when it comes to my writing. It may seem obvious but I can write and improve and write some more at my own pace. Also, it stops me from worrying about other authors who have accomplished more in the same time I’ve been writing. Its my writing journey, nobody else’s.

Hope you enjoy it.