Posted in Blog, Competitions, Creative Non-Fiction, Inspiration, Poetry, Submissions, Writing Stuff

A Smart Writer Uses Their Own Experiences

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I wrote a new poem called The Last Summer for the Writing Magazine Holiday Poetry competition.

The poem is narrated by a woman reflecting on the last summer of her childhood. The summer ends on a dark note when her father has her dog put down for biting someone. The poem tackles childhood, growing up and loss of innocence.

The poem is autobiographical. When I was a kid my parents took me to a fishing village in Fife called Anstruther every summer. We stayed in an old army barrack that had been converted to a basic holiday cottage. It was cheap but it was all we could afford. I loved those summers so much. Even now, we regularly return to the village at least once a year. It shocks me how different it is. When I was a kid I thought the village was magical and would never change.

A lot of my writing, especially my poetry is inspired by my own experiences. I don’t write non-fiction so the trick is turning your own experiences into fiction and making it interesting for someone else.

My first, unpublished novel, The Other Side Of Me has a large section which deals with two teenage girls who fall in love. This is based on my relationship with a girl who was my best friend when I was 13. In real life we never did much more than kiss until circumstances forced us apart. In the book the girls are lovers and a lot more happens. The book would be boring if the girls just kissed and nothing else happened. The trick is to elaborate the truth to make it a great story.

There is a well known phrase among writers that you should write what you know. This is often misinterpreted as writing only about your own experiences and own knowledge. That’s bullshit for a start. If writers only wrote about their own lives and own general knowledge the world would be full of boring books. George R R Martin’s amazing series A Song of Ice and Fire wouldn’t exist and neither would the hugely successful TV series Game of Thrones. Nobody would have heard of Harry Potter. Imagine being part of such a dull, fucked up world?

I always interpret write what you know as writing what you can learn such as researching Victorian London if you want to write a historical novel set in the era. I also think of it as writing within the limits of your own imagination.

A smart writer should us their own experiences as source material. We’ve all come across interesting people or people who have hurt us in some way. There’s nothing sweeter than getting your revenge through writing. Our experiences are unique and can spark off really good ideas.

Posted in Blog, Competitions, First Drafts, Inspiration, Magazines & Ezines, Poetry, Writing Stuff

To Use Poetry Forms Or Not To Use Poetry Forms That Is The Question

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I seem to be obsessed with entering every competition still open with Writing Magazine. Maybe I think if I stalk them enough they’ll feel sorry for me and give me some money or a nice trophy stalker of the year.

They have a competition just now, closing date 14th March for poems that use the triolet form.

This got me thinking about poetry forms in general and how I don’t really use them.

A poetry form is basically a traditional style or structure for a poem that usually calls for a combination of rhyming couplets, set syllables count, specific meter or a set line length.

Some of the best-known examples are the ballad stanza, the chaucerian roundel, the choka, the haiku, a limerick or the rondeau.

I rarely write poetry in a set form. I tender to favour free verse poetry. I just find it better to work this way. I find using set forms very restrictive, forcing the thoughts and ideas running around inside my head into an unfamiliar shape.

Just like novelists and story writers, poets (and readers of poetry) tend to have a style preference. Some poets may love to write sonnets or haiku and some people prefer to read them. Poets like me would never attempt at sonnet and go cold when one poops up in a collection they’re reading. People like different things.

I like haiku. This form is really simple. I really like reading haiku. I read Glasgow Zen by Alan Spence recently and it blew me away. I have two thick volumes of traditional and modern haiku in my private collection. It can be a challenge to write a poem of three lines with a set syllable count per line. I’ve written a few haiku in the past and they take ages.

I’m not a fan of writing limericks. I like to read them now and again. They can be a lot of fun. I find them impossible to write. I don’t do fun or humour in my poetry. I just find writing limericks really hard and sort of like trying to get blood out of a stone. I write poetry for pleasure not because I want brain blood to drip out of my ears and out of my nose.

I’m also not a huge fan of rhyming poetry. There are some people who think proper poetry is a poem that uses a set rhyme scheme and all other poems are inferior. The best poems with a set rhyme scheme happen when the rhyme scheme is barely noticeable, the reader’s ear doesn’t listen for the repetition. Only on closer reading or analysis do you become aware that the poem rhymes. The worst rhyming poems are when the most obvious rhyme is chosen and the reader can hear the rhyme, the tune in their head. The music of the rhyme blots out the words and point of the whole poem.

When I first started to write poetry, I wrote screeds and screeds of rhyming poetry. I thought poems had to rhyme. The poems were awful, just awful, like trying to pass an iced dog turd off as a chocolate éclair. I don’t have many of those poems left. Most of them were destroyed in a controlled environment. Other were re-written until barely an echo of the original version remained.

There are loads of websites with examples of well-known forms of poetry and some of them have pretty good notes talking you through how to write in each form. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-terms?category=forms-and-types,https://www.youngwriters.co.uk/glossary-poetry-types, http://www.poemofquotes.com/articles/poetry_forms.php are worth a look.

I’ve only really used poetry forms in the past as a source of inspiration when I’ve got an idea for a poem in my head but don’t know where to go with it. It can be a good exercise to pick a form at random and force your mind to get into the rhythm and pattern. This can spark ideas.

Given my slight aversion to set poetry forms why did I decide to write a poem for a triolet competition?

A triolet is only eight lines long so it seemed something that wouldn’t pose much of a challenge. Give my insane idea to participate in NaPoWriMo in April I thought it would be a good idea to get myself back into the habit of writing poems.

I managed to write the 1st draft of a poem in triolet form. The poem uses some of my regular themes; death, loss and grief. The poem took longer to write than my usual poems but not as long as I dreaded it might. I’m quite pleased with the results.

Posted in Blog, Competitions, Fiction, First Drafts, Inspiration, Short Story, Writing Stuff

Writing A Story Without Any Dialogue

imagesI’ve edited my dialogue only story.

As I expected, the story was quite polished and needed very small amendments. There’s not really a lot you can mess up in a 7 page story consisting of nothing but dialogue between two characters.

I had a couple of typos to correct.

The story was slightly over the 1,700 maximum word count so had to be cut back a little. If magazine or competition is looking for stories up to 4,000 words don’t sent them a story 5,500 words long. The editor will not be impressed. I trimmed a few sentences here and there to bring the piece just under the word count.

I’ve sent the story off to the competition.

As the closing date isn’t until the 14th April (not March as I thought), I’ve decided to write a new version of the story which doesn’t have any dialogue. I plan to submit it to the ‘no dialogue competition.

I had a lot of fun writing a different version of the story with a different title. I expected them both to be different but didn’t expect them to be so chalk and cheese.

The basic premise of both pieces is the same; a woman unexpectedly bumps into her ex on the street. They chat for a while and have a catch-up about what’s happened in their lives in the 12 years since they saw each other. During the conversation dark events from their shared past are revealed.

In the dialogue-free version, I use a first person narrator; the woman who sees her ex on the street. I prefer to write in the first person. It’s much more intimate and can create a huge emotional impact. I find it more enjoyable to write.

This version takes turns the first version doesn’t. Both characters end up going for a drink in a bar which turns into several drinks. The narrator hints that they still carry a torch for their ex. There’s clear flirting between both characters. The narrator ignores a call from their partner in order to talk to their ex. There is a tiny hint the story could develop further but I probably won’t go anywhere else with it.

I plan to edit the story and send it off to the competition over the next couple of days.

If either story gets anywhere in the competitions (which have a cash prize), I will celebrate by buying something shiny and new like a Kindle Fire (I love my Kindle but I like the idea of coloured e-books).

If nothing happens with the stories I night publish them on here in a post comparing both versions. That would very interesting.

Posted in Competitions, Poetry, Samples Of Published Work

Listen To The Falling Rain

This poem came second place in the Novice Poetry category, David St John Thomas Charitable Trust annual prize giving in June 2010.

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LISTEN TO THE FALLING RAIN

I’m restless in bed, feverish, drip with sweat;
toss and turn, cry out her name in
the darkness, hands clenched to fists at my side
as the tears glisten on my cheeks.

My body’s racked with pangs of sorrow;
my skin’s cold and dead without her,
my mind’s filled with red hot fever –
and my soul’s broken into fragments.

Her scent’s all around me, circles me
like a hawk stalks it’s pray, engulfs me;
and takes control of my heart and soul
until I can only feel her.

Her voice whispers to me
in the language of the dead.

I’m broken. A broken, shattered, useless object
backed into a dark corner where I lick my wounds
and howl up at the blood red moon. I’m undone.

She’s all around me, her presence seems to be
everywhere at once. I can hear her move about in the
shadows. Her taste lingers on my lips.

I let the dead get in.

I hear the rain fall outside, pitter patter
onto the street below, strumming a tune
only I can hear. A melody for the dead.
Her requiem.

THE END

Copyright © 2010 by Pamela Scott

(24 lines)

Posted in Competitions, Fiction, Fragment, Samples Of Published Work

The Gift

This fragment was a book mark winner in the Reader’s Free Entry Bookmark Competition, run by Carillon Magazine in September 2008.

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THE GIFT
PAMELA SCOTT

Angie’s coming back from a board meeting when she sees the basket of flowers on her desk. They’re Purple Orchids, her favourite.

‘Did you see who brought the flowers?’ Angie asks her secretary Joan.

‘It was just a delivery guy from Interflora. Paul signed for them’.

‘Did they say who they were from?’

’No’.

Angie dumps her folder and notepad on her desk and bends to sniff the flowers. They smell gorgeous. She sees a small white envelope tucked in between the flowers and pulls it out. It’s addressed to her in spiral handwriting. She opens the envelope and reads the letter.

‘Son of a bitch’ Angie says.

‘Is everything okay? Joan says.

‘Mike’s solicitors have sent me a letter. He’s filing for divorce and wants to go for custody of the kids’.

‘That’s awful’.

Angie picks up the phone and calls Mike’s office.

‘You bastard’ Angie says.

‘You got my gift then I take it?

‘Screw you’.

‘My solicitors will arrange a meeting within the next month. We’ll probably split our assets down the middle. I want custody of the kids. I told them about the drinking and the pills and how you can’t look after them. I doubt any Judge will choose you over me. I’ll get them. You can visit them of course, under supervision’.

‘You can’t do that’.

‘I just did’.

Mike puts the phone down on her and the line goes dead. Angie curses and hurls the phone at the wall.

THE END

Copyright © 2008 by Pamela Scott

(250 words)