Dreaming Of a Write Christmas?

Francesca and Elaine compare Christmas preparations with their writing

No wonder it took us till 6.30pm to unwrap the presents!

No wonder it took us till 6.30pm one year to unwrap the presents!

Francesca: In recent years, my immediate family has more than doubled from six to thirteen, with the addition of partners, grandchildren and step grandchildren. It’s made Christmas quite expensive, and time consuming, as you can imagine. Eight adults buying presents for seven adults each equals at least fifty-six presents.

This year, one of my daughters came up with the idea of doing a secret Santa for the adults. Our names have gone into a draw and we each have only three people to buy for. One present is chosen off that person’s gift list. One is maybe a smelly or foody present up to a maximum of £10. The third is to be a recycled or pre-loved present, therefore costing nothing.

Perhaps re-set the story in the 1960s?

Perhaps re-set the story in the 1960s?

It got me thinking about my writing. With time a premium in December, can I fit in anything beyond editing my novel? I’ve been thinking of getting back to writing short stories. Perhaps I could take the ‘Secret Santa’ approach here too. One story could be completely new, a longer piece, say two to three thousand words (which some magazines are calling for). A second could be shorter, a maximum of a 1,000 words. There are a number of competitions around currently requiring this word count or less that would be ideal. A third story could be a recycling of a pre-loved one. I have plenty that I like but have never sold. Clearly something about them was unsuitable but it might easily be put right. What if I changed the age of a character, or the gender? The setting could be altered from town to country, or vice versa. The main character might have a different job. Perhaps the ending is lacklustre and in need of some zing. Then there’s the title.

If things go to plan, by December 25th I’ll have three stories in my outbox and three nice presents under the tree.

@FCapaldiBurgess

Elaine: When Francesca and I discussed Christmas, we were astounded to discover that our families were doing similar things. I also have an ever-expanding family; in recent years there have been fourteen around our table, so we are also doing a Secret Santa. Of course, that doesn’t include other family members that I buy presents for, so Christmas is a well-planned campaign.

I can easily relate our day to a novel structure.IMG_1845

First, there’s the preparation before everyone arrives. The present and food buying are the obvious ones. Then there’s preparing vegetables, setting the table and writing out the times everything has to be switched on or placed in the oven. This is not that dissimilar to planning your novel, with the research, synopsis and chapter breakdown. It’s all in the planning. Fail to plan and you are planning to fail.

Everyone arrives at my house at ten in the morning and an hour is spent catching up with each other; some get impatient to start opening their presents. This is the beginning, our normal life.

The plot really starts as we open our presents, one at a time, in age order, starting with the youngest. There are highs and lows as the presents are opened.

A happy little boy

A happy little boy

There is always the excitement building, before any opening begins. Of course, there’s the disappointment if an item of clothing doesn’t fit and the frantic search for the receipt, which will enable the item to be changed. The happiness when a much wanted gift is opened. Then we have the adults attempting to put toys together for our grandson. One year, nine people tried to breathe life into a blow up goal for a two year old. Now that was funny, but again it had it’s highs and lows as people fell by the wayside because it wouldn’t blow up. Perseverance prevailed and a two year old was very happy to kick a soft ball into a goal that filled my front room.

The darkest moment of the day is when I realise my potatoes are never going to roast and, as usual, I’ve forgotten to cook something. One year it was the Yorkshire puddings, which went down well, as you can imagine. 

IMG_1849The climax of the story is obviously a very happy ending. A good day with excellent memories already stored away, to be told another day.

What will I write over the Christmas holidays? Well, Elaine Everest recently said if you write 100 words a day, that’s 700 words a week, so if you exclude Christmas day, that’s 3,000 words in December. Elaine’s words have made me think, because I often don’t write at all if I haven’t got time to write 500 – 1,000 words, as I think it’s not worth doing. How wrong am I!

@RobertsElaine11

 

New Beginnings

Elaine and Francesca look forward to Easter and the chance for New Beginnings.

Elaine: The first short story I had published, almost two years ago to the day, was called New Beginnings and it certainly was for me.

I attended a writing class for six months, mainly because I wanted to write a novel, but was also encouraged to write short stories as well. I didn’t have a clue where to start or if I could write a story that was only two thousand words long. I wrote a couple but never sent them off. good-news-300x225To be honest, I couldn’t believe anyone would want to buy a story I had written, but I was wrong. The day the e-mail came from the magazine, saying they wanted to buy my story, is a day that will stick in my memory forever. I was alone in the house when it arrived. I read the three-line e-mail several times before it sunk in. Someone did want to buy my story. I ran up and down my front room, cheering and waving my hands in the air. Anyone passing my front room window would have thought I was a lunatic. My heart was pounding. Taking a deep breath, I dialed my husband’s work number but he was in a meeting. I tried ringing my son but he didn’t answer his phone. I rung my daughter and she was unlucky enough to be the person that answered. It has to be said that she didn’t understand a word I was saying.

My story was a about an elderly lady who had lost her husband five years earlier.IMG_1018 The garden had become neglected and it was something they had cared for together, but the time had come for her to get her life back on track. What is surprising is I originally wanted to write a story around visiting a garden centre, but actually that was how it ended.

That story was truly a new beginning for me as my published short stories are now in double figures. My love will always be my novels and I have completed three now, two of which will probably never see the light of day, but the third, a modern romance, has potential. I’m now writing my fourth, which is a historical saga. This is a totally new adventure for me or possibly another new beginning.

 @RobertsElaine11

Francesca: Like Elaine, I’ve had a story published called New Beginnings, though they changed the title to A New A New Beg story WNews smBeginning. It was the second story I had published and, in itself, could be said to be part of a new beginning for me, as a published writer.

The story was about a woman who ended up doing the same things for her local community and with her family every Easter, things they always expected her to do, but never anything she really wanted to do. It’s about how she breaks out of the rut and asserts herself. The tale was based on my own experience, though exaggerated for literary effect.

Spring is my favourite season and I particularly love April and May, with its blossom and bright, bourgeoning leaves, the fluffy chicks, downy ducklings and cute little lambs. There is the promise of lighter evenings and the weather’s gradually getting warmer, but not as hot and muggy as in the summer.

IMG_5874

‘A host of golden daffodils’. Taken today, just down the road from where I live.

This week I’ve seen at least four bumble bees, their fat, furry bodies buzzing round the nascent flowers. Earlier today I even saw a butterfly, a clouded yellow, on my way for a walk in the nearby meadow. Soon that will be exploding with the colour of its myriad wild flowers.

Lighter days, brighter colours, warmer weather: what’s not to like? I always feel better this time of the year, after the long, dragging winter. It seems to kick start my body and I get more done. Kind of like, well, a new beginning!

@FCapaldiBurgess