Warning! Long post alert!
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to join a “blog tour” by Janet over at This, That and The Other Thing. When you’ve finished here, I hope you’ll head over to her site, where she posts stories and photos and haiku, and still manages to read every entry to the Friday Fictioneers. Presumably she doesn’t actually exist in real life; it’s the only possible explanation for how busy and prolific an artist she is! I’m certain you will find much on her blog to enjoy and admire. I do.
THE BLOG TOUR PYRAMID
When we were kids, we got chain letters. When you received one, you faithfully copied it out 5 times (with a pen!), and mailed it (often with a stamp!) to your friends, then they did the same. It was critical to do this within the specified short time period, lest the threats of terrible punishments (a lifetime of bad sex sticks in the mind) came true. Also, if you did, wonderful things were promised (yep, great sex included).
Then email came along and the chain letters kept coming. It was easier to send them on (a few key-presses instead of careful scribbling, and no more stamps), and what if wonderful things really could happen just because you’d taken part?
In the blogosphere, everyone wants wonderful things to happen. Specifically, everyone wants traffic, and so the chain letter has found a home here, in the form of awards, blog tours and the like. When Janet first contacted me, I agreed to join in, because I would love for more people to find and read Elmowrites, and I’d love to send some of my own readers to other blogs I enjoy. Then I started to contact people to ask if they’d like me to nominate them, and I discovered most of the people I’d recommend have already been involved. Why? Because chain letters are pyramid schemes, and pyramid schemes fail when they run out of people to recruit. Everyone who’s done this recently says “the hardest part is finding people to pass the baton on to”. I think there’s a reason for that.
Now, if I sent you to bloggers who I chose entirely for their willingness to participate, or for the fact they haven’t been nominated by anyone else, I’d be wasting your time. And if I pulled out, I’d be letting Janet down. By ending the chain, perhaps I’m doing that anyway, I hope not, and I certainly mean no disrespect to her or anyone else who’s participated by saying all this.
There is a value in bloggers recommending others – I have no qualms about suggesting you read Janet’s blog, and I am happy to recommend a few others to you at the end of this post. But the blog tour ends here. And if that’s taking me to a world of fewer readers at least they will know I take my recommendations seriously.
My answers to the blog tour questions follow, and then a few links I heartily recommend. And as for me, I hope readers find and enjoy elmowrites, and I hope a lifetime of bad sex doesn’t await me now – but neither the carrot nor the stick is going to make me change my mind.
1) What am I working on?
I’ve got three draft novels and various short stories of all lengths saved on my hard drive, and to the extent that they haven’t been published anywhere yet, I consider them all the be works in progress. However, in terms of active projects, I really have two. The first is this blog, where I regularly post 100 word stories for the Friday Fictioneers and slightly longer flash fiction for Inspiration Monday, as well as a variety of non-fiction pieces about grammar, crosswords and writing in general.
Secondly, I’ve had a story milling around my head for a few years now, centred on a little girl whose mother has been diagnosed with cancer. It started life as a short story, but I’m convinced it will one day be a novel. I’ve written various snippets, some of them posted here (search this blog for “Melanie” if you’re interested), but nothing like a whole novel’s-worth. I’m currently doing some research on Christianity, which is a big influence in Melanie’s life, but I hope to get some serious writing done towards the novel by the end of the year.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My writing is mostly mainstream fiction – occasionally veering towards literary, once in a while dabbling in other genres. My first novel had elements of magic realism, for example.
Unnatural endings upset me when I’m reading. I like things to be resolved, but I don’t like everything tied up with a bow by an author who feels the only true ending is happily ever after. I try to show that life goes on after the back cover – that the characters have grown and there is hope for the future, but nobody’s waved a magic wand and made everything perfect for them.
Another grievance I have with popular fiction is the assumption that readers are stupid. I like to treat my readers as intelligent, sensible people. I don’t always spoon-feed them everything from the beginning, and sometimes that makes the rest of the story feel like a twist, or results in some readers finding the ending confusing. It’s a balance, of course, and I’m still learning where to strike that, but I like to think those who do get it will enjoy the challenge.
3) Why do I write what I do?
It might sound a bit like a stock answer, but the truth is, I write what I do because it’s what comes to mind. I occasionally refer to the Muse and I am only half-joking. Stories, characters, incidents come to my mind almost fully-formed and at times it feels as though I’m only transcribing things that have already happened.
More literally, the main reason I currently write flash fiction is time. I’m a full-time Mum to a toddler who is usually incredibly well-behaved and quite independent, but who won’t stand me to have the laptop open while he’s awake (he also steals any pen in sight). His naps are short and getting shorter, and there are always a million things to do, and two cats who think his naps are for their cuddles. 100 words is sometimes all I can manage, and I’d rather craft those well than dash off a few thousand useless ones.
4) How does my writing process work?
I try to write during the morning nap, sitting on a comfy chair with the laptop on my knee. I’ve tried using a desk, but it’s too uncomfortable so I get distracted within a few minutes.
I’ve often had an idea running though my head for a few hours of laptop-free time before I sit down, so it really can often be a case of transcribing what I’ve mentally written, but if not, I still find the story flows pretty well once I start writing it. My mind’s eye is almost completely blind, so stories come to me as words and emotions, not film reels – I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder, as it’s the only thing I’ve ever known, but perhaps it also explains why I tend to keep physical description to a minimum in my writing.
The real test comes during the editing phase, and it’s a phase I don’t enjoy as much as writing. With flash fiction, it comes pretty easily, but with something novel-length I struggle to hold the whole plot in my head at a time, enough to really make the structure work as well as I’d like.
For free fiction, you can’t go far wrong with Janet and Sandra, both of whom also post pretty, amusing or inspiring pictures to brighten your day! … or with Adam, another prolific fiction poster.
If you’re a writer and like a challenge, Rochelle and Steph run the ones I currently participate in. Rochelle also posts fantastic fiction of her own; Steph’s advice on writing really does hold nuggets of gold.
Finally, how to describe this one? Star is one of those people I can’t help but admire. She knows what she wants, she knows how to get it and she’s not going to let anything stand in her way. Her blog is a mix of musings on writing, updates on her on writing journey and … other things. If you need a new perspective, if you are tired of bloggers saying the same old things about writing, if you ever find yourself questioning your ability to achieve your goals … Star’s blog is the place for you.