First ‘colander’ draft, short story and 8 poems completed, and upcoming performance at Ilkley Fringe

It has been over a month since my last blog – wait a minute, this isn’t a confessional.

Perhaps it is.  I am almost two months into my sabbatical and have deviated somewhat from my aims, which are below:

Aims For August

1)     Complete first draft of Candyfloss

2)    Proof-read and send pamphlet to first publisher

3)     Write one poem for 7 Wanders event

4)     Complete commonplace book

5)    Begin writing up poetry in a new process book


1)    Confession number 1 – I am not as far along with the novel as I had hoped.

At 90, 404 words, I stopped writing because I felt that I needed to step back and look at it as a whole.  I call it my colander draft because there is a solidity to it but there are also lots of holes in its structure.  I printed off the draft – all 338 pages of it – and trawled through it, noting down questions that need deciding about the plot and how I could best rearrange the order.  I am dealing with some complex ideas, particularly about what is ‘real’ within the story and the truth is that there are some very important decisions that I still haven’t understood (or made) about the world of the story.

Other writers suggested I look at particular books to see how they approach similar topics but I am wary to read too much in a similar vein while I am writing, partly because I have a terrible memory and am at risk of unintentionally plagiarising.   I think my work is more likely to be original if I don’t read much of the same genre during this period, although I do read a fair amount of non-fiction for research purposes.  The other reason is that a lot of how I write and absorb information is intuitive.  I like it to sit in my subconscious, in my veins even, and ferment before it is filtered out into my writing.  Alice Oswald puts it beautifully, although she is talking specifically about poetry:

I like the body to take part in writing a poem… I believe in a whole poem which I just can’t quite hear.  It’s a question of trying to take down by dictation what’s already there.  I’m not making something, I’m trying to hear it (Mslexia 2012 Diary).

Yesterday I began a written interview with myself about these questions and am making some progress.  I’m trying to excavate the voice that is buried beneath multiple layers of skin and flesh and muscle.  Often, as is always the case, the questions raise more questions than they answer but I will get there.

2)    Unfortunately, I haven’t yet sent off the pamphlet as the hard copy is still with my poet friend for feedback but I will.

3)    I didn’t write one poem in the last few weeks.  I wrote eight!  There may have been an element of novel avoidance in my poetic prolificacy but I haven’t written as many poems in such a short time since I was a teenager so I’m pleased.  Some of them will need future edits but most are polished.

4)    I completed my commonplace book, my alternative autobiography.  Here are some photos.

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I’d love to run a commonplace book project with a group in future – ideally with another artist.

5)    I wrote up one poem in the new process book.

Additional Activities

What I am most proud of this month is that I finished my first full length short story in years.  I’m as happy with it as a writer can ever be and have sent it off to a magazine with a piece of flash fiction and three poems for consideration.  I also submitted five poems to a poetry magazine.

I thought it was time to consolidate and put together a list of all the writing I have produced over the last 6 or so years. Apart from the novel I am working on, this is it: 88 poems (1/2-2/3 of which are complete or reworkable), 19 stories (most of which need finishing or complete rewrites), 20 pieces of flash fiction, 2 series of vignettes, 4 children’s stories (one of which is interactive), 1 short play and 1 full length play. During the next few months I will put more of it out into the world!

Apart from writing, August has included holidays, a lot of family and friends related commitments, Mae Writers sessions and co-running a young people’s writing residential for Ilkley Literature Festival with Michelle Scally Clarke, which was lovely. We had Andrew Mcmillan, Patience Agbabi and Peter Spafford as guests and they were all fab, as were the young people.

Aims for 8th September-14th October

  • Answer important questions about Candyfloss
  • Complete draft number 2 of the novel
  • Proof-read and send pamphlet to first publisher
  • Submit at least one more piece of work to a magazine
  • Perform – I will be reading some poetry at 7 Wanders as part of the Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe with 6 other writers.  There will be something for everyone – electronic and children’s literature, fiction, scripts, poetry and a musical intro.  We are on at 9 pm on Saturday 29th September at Wildman Theatre, Ilkley Playhouse and would love to see you there.
  • Write up completed poems into new process book

Forthcoming Performance Dates

Puzzle Hall poetry night, Sowerby (near Halifax) on 5th November

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