Category Archives: Creative Writing

Word Count for my Short Story

I’ve got my hands on the latest edition of the magazine I’m aiming to send my short story to. While I hadn’t previously known whether or not it published fiction, this time round it has a short story in it (2 pages). Great!

This means that the idea of sending it there has turned a bit more real. Word count of the short story is around the 1,500 mark, which means that’s roughly what I’ll be aiming for. The next step is to actually start writing it. I should be in a position where I have my bureau back tonight or tomorrow – currently still sanding a final bit of built-in wardrobe in my writer’s room, resulting in dust and dirt all over the place and no furniture in a fit position to be used.

Alternatively, I could try typing on this computer here while the other room is still in chaos. It’s worth a try – though against my initial idea of handwriting. There again, I may just be romanticising my hands and this imagined sensual, more authentic process :D.

I’ll see what happens. It would make sense to utilise the occasional morning I devote to this blog to the story instead.

Writers’ Tools – The Writing Desk (Bureau)

The other day, I very nearly put my beautiful Stag mahogany writing desk onto ebay, in order to make some quick cash. I figured at the time that I would only be writing on a computer anyway, and that the bureau was going to take up valuable space in what I’m currently transforming into my writing room.

How sinfully wrong to think that way! Luckily, due partly to comments on this blog (the value of writing by hand, rather than typing), combined with the realisation of the value and beauty of my desk, made me pull the plug in the middle of listing the item.


Yesterday, I made a start on my short story, on the bureau. Not the actual story itself, but characterisation, plot, and any other pre-writing thoughts (incidentally, the process triggered another idea, to do with old photographs and nothing related to writing – but it goes to show that the mind, when actively engaged in creative pursuits, is ‘liberated’ or freed to expand and spark).

I’m not sure how far I’ll get with my story this week. I have various ‘admin-type’ things to do – stuff that you don’t have time for while you’re working, and which therefore takes up much of your holiday or any other ‘time off’! Another illustration of the ludicrous pointlessness of working full-time.

Earning money while writing: Becoming a freelancer

A second, very real possibility to generating income while writing is to become a freelancer. I’ve dabbled in freelancing and working on multiple projects for different companies, and have good experience of organising my own time from doing my PhD.

The more practical question is: what areas would I want to freelance in? Here are a few ideas.

  • Tourist Guide in Scotland: The next round of application to become a ‘Blue Badge’ guide (= accredited qualification to become a tourist guide) is on just now, with the 2-year-course starting in spring 2010. I know people who guide and the job is well paid – plus, you get to travel all over Scotland, with meals and accommodation paid for! The only snag is that the course is very expensive (over £5,000) and labour-intensive (I would have to sacrifice most of my week-ends)
  • elancing: The site (google ‘elance’ – I no longer provide links from my blog hehe) unites people offering online freelance work with those seeking it. It’s a bit of a hassle, since most are short-term projects and you have to submit proposals, likely competing against many others wanting the same job. On the positive side, I do have qualifications to shout about, and a very good track record working online from home in various different jobs – so at least I should be in with a half decent chance
  • Female driving instructor: The thought crossed my mind that another way of picking up regular money (and more reliable than elancing) would be to qualify as a female driving instructor. There might well be demand for it – women who want to be taught by another woman, or men who are more comfortable with a ‘soft, friendly, feminine approach’ to teaching (which they won’t get from me – I’m a hard bitch hehehe).

I’d see my potential income coming from a variety of sources, not just one, that can be combined as and when (e.g. the guiding likely to be full on during the summer season, with less interest during the autumn/winter).

Unfortunately I won’t be able to quit my full-time job until I’ve sold my house in Italy – which requires a steady, considerable source of income to pay the mortgage (and for another 10 years, if I don’t manage to sell).

Practical tip no.2: Software for Writers

In the olden days, I used to handwrite into an A4 – exercise book from school. I eventually bought an Olympus typewriter – very analogue but at the time the only mechanical device I could afford (computers were still fairly expensive in 1995! Difficult to imagine today).

This didn’t hinder my writing. There is in fact a great advantage to be had from handwriting into notebooks: they can be taken anywhere and serve as an ad-hoc surface for noting down thoughts.

Writing on a computer has never had the same appeal to either of the above methods. Word processing software connotes 9-5 office work, and was seemingly invented to draft dull pieces of efficient communication meant to  generate specific responses.  Opening Word, it places me by default into this context.

Hence, I’ve been looking for writing software. I remembered that a few years ago, my friend Maciej pointed me towards Writer’s Cafe, a

powerful but simple to use story development tool that dramatically accelerates the creation and structuring of your novel or screenplay.

I searched for it again and downloaded it a few days ago.  I’ll use it (for the first time) next week when I’ll be on annual leave for a week. I want to write (= start and complete) this first, new story, about my former downstairs neighbour and her partner, the wife beater.

Source material for my first story

For my first story, which I will start over the next few days, I will use the relationship of the woman that used to live downstairs as source material. These are the pieces of her life, while she was living below me:

  • He shouted at her a fair bit. He beat her up occasionally, to the point where it got pretty bad and she fled the house (moving out within a few hours one day, without telling him where she went, so as to escape. She even left the cat when it didn’t come immediately when she called it – left it straying outside, asking the neighbours to look after it).
  • I found out later that he was back in her life, and her new flat – she had let him back in.
  • Her 12-year-old daughter still wets the bed.

I think I can use the above material (hopefully) without offending anyone, since the woman moved away over a year ago and the above events are in the past. I wouldn’t want to write about events of the week-end, or the time a couple of months ago when a neighbour across wielded a knife while drunk and was taken to the police station, to spend a night in jail.

I’ll need to think about the tone of voice, and how to narrate – from whose point of view. It could be either from my POV as observer, or the daughter’s point of view (who wets the bed), or, maybe, from the abuser’s POV. The latter might be the most interesting, even though I know the least about it. That might be a good challenge however, and a useful means to create in fiction I know nothing about.