I love writing competitions and I look upon them as great writing practice; they provide an opportunity to write something that perhaps I wouldn’t usually think of. It’s a bit like returning to school and homework – the thrill of a theme and word count teamed with a blank piece of paper and sharpened pencil.
Usually the first thing I do is let my mind wander and ruminate over the images and storylines that come to me. My mind is a bit like a tumble dryer – it spins things around and around, often in a frenzied way and when I press ‘pause’ out pop the seeds of my story.
Next is the spidergram – I love this part. I use an A3 sheet of paper so I have a lot of room to explore and I put my thoughts down in a completely vague way until a particular strand seems to make sense. It’s not in story form yet, but the ideas that will form it are there.
Next comes writing wild! Using my spidergram I use my chosen strand to let my imagination run amok and, hopefully, I end up with the bare bones of a story. It’s terribly flawed but it’s there, I have something to work with.
And strangely, I enjoy the ‘work’ side of the exercise, too. Throughout the edit, edit and edit (maybe even more edits) I am a sculptor. I craft my story into shape by shaving a bit here and adding a bit there. And sometimes I have to do a whole lot of remodelling to get the result I want. I agonise over this process, repeatedly reading the story out loud to myself to make sure it flows and that the words sound right.
Finally, submission. This is always a nail-biting process. Have I read the instructions correctly? Am I definitely within the required word count? Have I numbered my pages? I become very OCD over this stage of the process: checking, checking and more checking. But what a great feeling when I press ‘send’ – I can finally relax.
I’m currently working on a piece for a competition run by The Word Factory (@WordFactoryUK). The remit is to write a fable for the modern world in under 3,000 words inspired by these lines written by Neil Gaimon:
Long ago, in the days when there were still fish in the oceans and cars on the roads, there lived a woman who was not afraid of governments...
I’ve found that I’m writing in a completely different style to usual, and loving it. I’m learning a lot, too. I thought I was quite switched on about global warming, but my research has thrown up some very interesting facts that I’d like to explore further.
But for now, my attention is fixed firmly on the competition. I’m now into my second edit and with a deadline of 31 July 2015 I’m hopeful I’ll have a piece I am happy to submit.
For further information visit: thewordfactory.tv