Sunday, September 18, 2016
My first foray into fiction
It got so bad that I felt the beginnings of a panic attack while on a training course in a busy city centre. I made my way as quickly as I could to John Lewis because a) I thought the staff would be trained and would know what to do if I passed out, and b) I might get a nice new tea towel out of them.
It started on Monday when I found out that a short story I'd crafted carefully and specifically for a local competition close to my heart hadn't made the short list. However, it had made the long list, so that's something, right? (Post-blog note: I've just found out that one of the two stories I submitted to this competition has been 'highly commended').
It continued on Wednesday when a short monologue I was really happy with was rejected from a national competition.
And it ended on Friday when a short story I wrote - and absolutely love - didn't make the shortlist of the BBC National Short Story Award. Now this one, I guess I had no chance at anyway, not when the likes of Hilary Mantel made the shortlist. Ah well, I can dream. And I have a short story I will submit the chuff out of until it is recognised as the masterpiece that it is. Maybe. I do like it though, it's a story that won't leave me alone. I swell with fun and a smile every time I think about it.
And so, I've beat myself up a little this week.
Ok, a lot.
I told myself I'm a failure, I'm not cut out to be a teller of tales, a short story writer.
And then I sat down and had a word with myself.
In October of last year, spurred on by the confidence gained of having my non-fiction book published for ITV, I decided to see if I could branch out into fiction. I've always wanted to write stories, I've dabbled and tried but never got very far. And so I attended a creative writing class at Sunderland Women's Centre which gave me the kick-start I needed.
I learned a great deal. Then I read books on how to write and sell short stories. I wrote a short story and sent it to a women's magazine. They emailed back to say they liked it, they wanted to publish it - and not only that, but they would give me money for it too! I fell off my chair. I got back on my chair. I wrote another story. And another. And another.
Since that course at Sunderland Women's Centre in October 2015, I've written a total of over 50 short stories.
So far, I've had 18 accepted, 11 of which have already been published in women's magazines including The People's Friend (with over 200,000 readers every week), The People's Friend Fiction Special and Take a Break's Fiction Feast. I have another 14 stories out under consideration by the magazines as I write this blog post.
And there is something unique, very special and exciting coming up for one of the women's magazines which I can't mention until Wednesday September 28th.
My short stories I'm writing for the women's magazines inspire more literary, dark, quirky stories which I've been submitting to competitions over the last 12 months too. So far I've been unsuccessful, but I want to keep trying and submitting these more off-beat stories that don't fit into the women's mag market.
As well as all of that I've written a 40 minute monologue from the point of view of an old man at the end of his acting career, and a three minute radio script for a comedy show. Well, it made me laugh, even if no-one else seems to like it, so far.
What I suppose I'm doing here in this blog post is reminding myself in black and white that I'm not a failure at all. Far from it. And I needed to take stock of what I've actually done in the last year; what I've actually achieved.
And on the non-fiction side of life this year, I was commissioned to write all of the text and choose all of the iconic images for the official Coronation Street colouring book, which is in the shops on September 22nd. I also self-published a Coronation Street fan book called The Little Book of Carla Connor: A decade in the life of a soap queen.
Yes, it's been a busy year, writing-wise and I wouldn't have it any other way. To be earning my living doing something I enjoy so much, something that I have always, always, wanted to do with my life, is a joy that even I don't have the words to express.
And as soon as I win my first short story writing competition, I'll be sure to let you know.
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