A Year of Writing: Days 51-60

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Day 51 of #ayearofwriting and I am tackling the family buffet, and the chaos, accusations and truths that often come out between the pork pie and the chicken drumsticks. All to the tune of George Michael’s ‘I’m Your Man’.

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Day 52 of #ayearofwriting and I am in a market place I haven’t been in seen I was a teenager. Rummaging through a second hand clothes stall that was straight out of the 1930s. It was a cavern of tweed, waistcoats and old suits, the stall will be long gone by now as the owner was ancient as shells by then. I had many a long overcoat off him until they burst at the seams from old age and my expanding waist line. So, in this story I give him his moment once more as the mother moves through his world, hiding from the rain and the cold, wrapping herself in the warmth of the lanolin.


Day 53 of #ayearofwriting and I am in a reflective mood.

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Day 54 of #ayearofwriting and after a stressful morning I am trying to define what I am, what I want to be. This sounds odd for a fortysomething but there comes a time when you have assess your strengths, your love, your need rather than want. In this kind of mood you need to dive into editing, the nuts and bolts of things, and thankfully I have two stories on my editing table. I drop in on my suburban racist in the short story Road Liable to Flooding, and there is a deep satisfaction in completing the final edit and printing off in my resurrected office space. I am Lazarus, see me and tremble!

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Day 55 of #ayearofwriting and I am back to George, my reader is busy with The Tin Grasshopper, and I am busy with moths in the story and how to pull together a rather sloppy end. I mean this in terms of it coming from nowhere. Writers often have a problem with the final section in writing, we call it the run to goal and when we see those final two words, THE END, the adrenalin kicks in and the structure gets kicked to pieces.Things happen too fast, with no emotional core, characters respond in a way that merely reveals plot. This story feels like that, the ending does not feel like it has been won by Gaia and George – the two characters in my tale – the only one who wins their ending is the kitchen fitter because he fits the kitchen. Storytelling is a lot like kitchen fitting, it is the struggle between those who want a heart to the home and the gormless idiots who often fit them, they just want to get paid. That’s the weird thing about writing, you may construct something that has a heart but may never be published. That can often make you think, where’s the money? Then you become the kitchen fitter.


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Day 56 of #ayearofwriting + #100daysofwriting = how much have you written, buggerlugs? The answer to that in 156 days I have written SEVEN short stories, that’s right, SEVEN. Count them and weep: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and, 7. Mwahahahaha (think the Count from Sesame Street). That means every 22 days I am churning out a new story. That could potentially mean I will write 16-17 stories in 2018. I know I have enough in my notebooks to keep me going, as I have recently opened the box where they are. I have been leafing through them and looking at stories started but never finished due to time constraints. Yesterday, I said that I need to assess what I am, I am a writer first, everything else should come second. It’s time it did.


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Day 57 of #ayearofwriting and for this project to succeed, then I have to share the process. This means that I need to share the drafts, I am happy to share excerpts, working notes and scratched out idea. I am happy to hear anything you have to say but do remember that these are drafts, and for me I want to get the idea down, mistakes an all, you can always improve on a piece of writing as long as the writing has something worth improving. I am not going to embrace what many do at writing groups, stand up and say, ‘I think this may be rubbish but…’ and every variation that those who want to write believe will take the sting out of any feedback. This merely makes the listener switch off because you have failed to own your own mistakes. Own them. Fuck them. We all make mistakes. So do characters. So does plot. So do writers. So does everyone in the world and not many apologise. No one should apologise for something they believe in, regardless of whether the rest of us think it is right or wrong. When all the applauds and support, and hatred and negativity is gone there is only you, only the words you want to write and if you want to write you’ll keep on writing with or without an audience. I have got to the stage in my career and life where I know what I am writing is what I want to write, I spent so long writing for others, from my TV career to my romps through music journalism — I once had an editor who disliked the fact that I approved of Radiohead, he told me I was wrong and that I was betraying my class liking the music of posh boys, he changed my copy so that the review slagged them off, he put my name on it. I punched him. I freely admit that, I was young and what annoyed me was not that he changed my copy but that for all his bluster about class war he couldn’t own his own words, own beliefs and spite about a band that he hated simply because they weren’t Northern. He didn’t own what he did. Therefore, his beliefs amounted to nothing but that’s another story — so I write, and if you like it I am happy for you, if you hate it, that’s your opinion but either way I’ll keep on writing. I’ll keep on owning it.

Gaia found her husband, Paul, dead after what has been a pleasant afternoon off from his shit. She would take a day a week, normally a Friday, to spend on her own, sitting in cafes nursing teas that were too hot and then too cold, listlessly sliding from display to display in museums, craving to touch the paintings in art galleries but her favourite place when the world seemed small and George and Paul seemed to be all points of her compass was the market. There she would drift across the stone flags, a thin mote dancing in the air between stalls in the fading afternoon light. Gaia felt in those moments like she was part of a world bigger than her son and husband. A world she was happy to breathe in, there in the market she moved with the warming sun over the smells of damp warm lanolin on her favourite second-hand clothes stall. Here in a cave of tweed and wool she survived the winter and emerged in spring in short shirt sleeves that made the owner of the stall, Old Woman Tweedy, shake her head and tut, ‘Owt’ when she had overstayed her welcome. Old Woman Tweedy or Owt as Gaia thought of her had taught Gaia the word for the smell that came after rain, petrichor, but it was a word for her now that encompassed the smell of old books that she folded against her face in libraries and the growl of the scent in her father’s old overcoat which she wore on these trips. Paul’s overcoat didn’t compare to her father’s, Paul’s coat was shabby on the hook in the hall, it never gave her the feeling that it was a bear ready to leap and fold her in its arms, that his coat could not hold back the world with its claws or swing her in the air. Poor Paul, poor useless Paul, who had moved them to a hamlet in the middle of the moors so he could write about starting a new life in the countryside only to be told by his agent that he had missed the boat. It was all about urban living now and being young and Paul had neither of those to go at. One day a week with their son is all she asked of him so the two of them could bond. In turn for this little freedom she would help Paul get on top of things, the list of which grew every time he showed it her: the mortgage, bills, new kitchen, new bathroom, dry rot treatment, bug spraying, George’s ceiling which threatened to flatten George but top of Paul’s list was that bloody alder he spent all day glaring at from his study because it leant against the house in a manner that was more lurid than natural. There was much more on the list that Gaia could have muttered about but rain on the stall awnings transmogrified her from a mote to a mother, and she found herself that final afternoon being bustled between the elbows of several large Asian women moving towards the sari stall at the far end of the market. These women and their rolls of fat over tight doughnut elbows carried her in their wake, like some good luck charm, their token pasty friend but at the last moment they left her, at the edge of Gaia’s world, her doorstep, looking at the dead body of her husband.


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Day 58 of #ayearofwriting and I move silently into the draft six of the short story with moths in it. This story has been less effort this time, once I would have questioned this but George and Gaia have been knocking around my head for years and all it needed was for a shed to burn down to reveal their hearts.

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Day 59 of #ayearofwriting and my short story is titled, The Unusual Death of Moths. It is about how in death we revolve around the empty space, fluttering, wordless.

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Day 60 of #ayearofwriting and I am going back into the vignette research phase. Those moments you search around and through things to see what the next story will be. The novel calls to me at night but I can’t start it yet, I need to secure funding and have these existing stories out in the world to be published or not. So, here I am with notebooks and paper cuttings from years ago, flipping through files and scribbled notes. This is what I refer to as my Ben Gunn moment.

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