Category Archives: Prose

Gerald the octopus

In my last post I wrote about how much I’ve loved taking part in #ShapeChallenge on Twitter. I’ve also been wondering about how to make sure I continue to find time for writing when time itself is thin on the ground. Then, inspired by a comment on my last post, I had an idea – I’d take one of my drawings and write a story to go with it! So, here is the story of Gerald the Octopus. geraldGerald was a young octopus with lovely orange skin and a rather large nose. He knew he had a large nose because all the other octopuses would tell him so:

“Big, nose, big nose!” The girls would call, swimming past him in the school yard.

“Ha ha Gerald, you’ll never get a girlfriend with that great honk!” The boys taunted.

Gerald was sad. He wished he had a small, smooth nose like the other octopuses. He tried poking his nose inwards into the soft flesh of his face… but it just boinged out again. He tried covering it with selection of seaweed scarves… but the others teased him even more. He tried hiding behind his tentacles… but, “Gerald! Get your suckers away from your face and get on with your work!” his teacher would cry.

It was no use:

“Big nose, Big nose”

“You’ll never get a girlfriend!”

The taunts continued.

As a teenager things only got worse for poor Gerald. His peers grew larger and leaner but Gerald didn’t seem to grow at all. Except for his nose!

“Big nose, Big nose!”

“…never get a girlfriend!”

Gerald just never fitted in.

Finally, he left school and swam off into the big, wide ocean. There Gerald thrived. He explored, he made new friends and he grew and grew.
His tentacles grew…
his body grew…
and he grew the most beautiful, long floaty moustache.

Everyone loved Gerald’s moustache. It was exceedingly fine and perfectly complemented his face.

No one ever called Gerald “Big nose!” any more.

No one ever taunted, “You’ll never get a girlfriend.”

One day he was visiting his parents back in his old reef: “Your favourite band is playing in the rock pool tonight” said his Dad, “You should go!”

Gerald thought about it. He wanted to see the band but he knew lots of the octopuses from his old school would be there. Could he really face them?

Big nose, big nose…

Never get a girlfriend…

The taunts flitted across his memory.

No – he wasn’t going to let them beat him. He was going to go and see the band. Besides which, he had nothing to be scared of. He was bigger now and had his exceedingly fine moustache.

Gerald swam in just before the band began to play. There was whispering and nudging. All eyes turned to gaze at the handsome octopus with the long moustache floating along in the water behind him. Gerald smiled. His moustache rippled ravishingly.

“Is that…?

“Could it be…?!”

“It’s… Gerald!”

“But he’s… gorgeous!!”

The girls flocked towards him.

Gerald swam straight past them… right up to the handsome pufferfish on the front row. He beamed at his new companion who beamed right back.

What those fools never realised, Gerald thought, slipping a tentacle around Matthew’s welcoming fin, was I never wanted a GIRLfriend anyway.

***

It sort of came out as a children’s story (there are parts when I could imagine one line to a page with an illustration as I think that’s just how my brain works at the moment) although I think some of the ‘ravishing ripples’ are aimed more at an adult audience. Still, a good moral for all, I think. What do you reckon?

Linking with What I’m Writing, Prose for Thought and also with The Prompt which this week is ‘milestone’. It feels like a milestone to illustrate my own story, even if it’s not an ‘illustration’ so much as a ‘drawing’, but, well, you know what I mean!

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smashing the doubt by getting it out

As part of my plan to build my artistic/illustrative skills this year, I have begun drawing every day and sharing pictures on Twitter. It’s a way of combating my self-doubt by just throwing myself into it and then putting the work out there. There’s no time to worry it’s not good enough and psyche myself out – I just draw and tweet. I’ve been loving it and the more I draw, the more I want to draw.

paints and pencils

I don’t want to leave my writing gathering dust though while I focus on my exciting new project and I wondered if a similar ‘produce something quickly and fling it out there’ approach might work with writing too. So this morning I set myself a ‘ten to one’ story challenge. I first attempted one last February and found it fun. The idea is you write a story ten sentences long. The first sentence is ten words long, the next nine, then eight… all the way down to one.

Here’s this morning’s attempt:

Katherine was hunched over her easel, struggling with a landscape.
Once, her artwork had adorned the galleries of Europe.
These days her tremors made painting almost impossible.
Frustrated tears rained down on the canvas.
Greens and ochres swirled and splashed.
Then – a presence beside her.
The young girl gasped.
“Grandma – the colours!
They’re dancing!
Beautiful!”

It’s not a perfectly-honed piece but I do like the way this challenge makes you think about the words you use. I also find writing with constraints like this oddly liberating – maybe it’s because I can’t spend hours trying to make it perfect (I mean, that last sentence clearly needed to be two words long but it couldn’t be) so I feel free to have a crack at it. Just like with drawing.

Why not have a go yourself? Be sure to tweet me if you do – I’d love to read it!

what I’m writing – week twenty-three

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week twenty-three of ‘What I’m Writing’. We had another great week over at Muddled Manuscript last Tuesday, despite half term making it hard for many people to find time to write! Thanks to everyone who joined in – I love reading your posts every week and all your comments on my posts too.

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

We take turns to write a monthly roundup of posts. My December Round-up should give you a flavour of what we’ve all been up to recently if you want to catch up!

We’ve also just set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). As it’s a ‘secret group’ it’s hidden until I send an invititation but I have sent them to all linkers – or at least I’ve meant to! We’ve had a few issues with people’s invitations going AWOL though (think they’re being eaten by the big mail cruncher in the sky) so if you’d like to join and haven’t received one just leave me a comment – thanks!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

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alphabet story

I enjoyed the ‘ten to one‘ writing challenge I did last week so when Nicola suggested doing another challenge this week I was up for it. This week’s it’s an ‘alphabet story’ where you write a story with twenty-six sentences and each sentence has to start with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. Here’s what I came up with:

toy leopard

A leopard had always appealed to her as a pet.

But Ellen, that’s ridiculous!” her mum said.

Can’t you see how dangerous that would be?” added her dad. “Did the snake calamity teach you nothing?”

Ellen considered this: it was true that Patrick the python had caused problems but his snakeish charm had made it worthwhile… perhaps not for her parents’ bank balance though.

Forget I said anything then.” but she herself had no intention of forgetting.

Grey’s Exotic Animal Zoo was deserted as she squeezed in through a gap in the fence later that night. Her heart was pounding so loudly she could almost hear it echoing off the silent buildings around her, but she she was determined to stick to her plan. It shouldn’t be too difficult she thought, urging her trembling legs into action. Just follow the path round the back of the bushes until it reaches the leopard enclosure.

Keeping very quiet she crept along, her torch light sweeping over silent cages and empty pens. Looks like all the animals are asleep, she thought with relief. Maybe that’s for the best considering what I’ve done to the security system! Now, is this where the leopards live?

Oh!

Peering out at her through the bars was a pair of glowing eyes. Quickly Ellen introduced herself and outlined her idea; she knew her life was at risk once the leopard knew his cage was unlocked so it was important to persuade him she was more than just a tasty meal!

Realising there was something interesting about this girl, Xavier listened to what she was proposing. She smelt good but there were other ways to fill his stomach and the life she described sounded tempting; more tempting than a midnight snack? Turning towards the door of his enclosure, he pushed it open with his nose and walked towards her.

Unsure of his intentions, Ellen stood rooted to the spot while the leopard sniffed her. Very well he finally nodded his assent and was gratified to see respect and relief reflected in her eyes.

Walking side by side they made their way back along the moonlit path towards the gap in the fence. Xavier turned his gleaming eyes upon her and Ellen could see what he was thinking. You and I: this is the start of an adventure!

Zoos are no place for wild animals” Ellen smiled back at him,“and I’ve always wanted a leopard as a pet.”

 

When I started the story I had no idea where it would lead so I’m pleased I got it to make some sort of sense! It’s clunky though. There were many sentences I was dying to restructure but I couldn’t because then they would have started with the wrong letter. It’s quite a restrictive way of writing in that way but I also found it quite liberating in a way because it freed me of the ability to tweak the story endlessly as I normally would. It has to remain a bit jagged and imperfect.

Funnily enough, I rather like the idea of Ellen and Xavier (names picked purely to fit the alphabet!) and the adventures they might have together… food for thought…
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Prose for Thought

What sort of writer are you? – a quiz!

Do you ever feel like there are so many different things you want to write you don’t know where to begin? At the moment I’m trying to write picture books, a psychological thriller and an adventure story for kids. I’m also slowly putting together a book of ghost stories and there’s an idea for a book – which is possibly Young Adult – that I’d love to explore too. Oh, and then there’s this blog.

Where should I focus my attention? Am I wise to be trying to write so many different genres? Should I just pick one and concentrate on developing my abilities in that area instead of spreading myself so thin?hanging booksIf these questions sound at all familiar then FEAR NOT, HELP IS AT HAND! A recent study from The Institute of Silly Suggestions has indicated that there is an easy way to work out which genre you should be dedicating yourself to.

As Professor Random Speculation explains, “Our investigations revealed that what writers eat and drink is an excellent insight into the type of writing they are most suited to.” Professor Tenuous Link added, “Simple things, like a favourite hot drink or snack can give clear indications of where they should focus their energies and talent,” while her colleague, Dr Wildly Implausible also commented, “We’re adding the finishing touches to a questionnaire right now which, when answered honestly, will give dazzling insights into a writer’s future possibilities.”

And guess what? By extremely clever and devious measures, here at Writing Bubble I have managed to get my hands on an advanced copy of the aforementioned questionnaire. It’s yet to be formally published so you are one of the very first writers in the world to be able to read and make use of it. Just answer these six easy questions and reveal your destiny!

***

Question One: What is your usual breakfast?

A – Cereal in the shape of smiley faces or animals. Or smiley-faced animals.

B – Crumpets with runny strawberry jam that oozes out of the holes and across the plate. With a very sharp knife.

C – You flit from cereals to baked goods on a whim but generally, as long as it’s sprinkled with sugar, you’re happy.

D – Toast cut into triangles and presented in a sterling silver toast rack. With butter in a little dish.

E – You rarely eat breakfast. This morning you couldn’t reach the table due to levitating three feet above it in your prototype hover slippers. Last week you tried to cook sausages in your thought-powered frying pan but got distracted by a new brilliant idea for suggestive bedding and things got a little out of hand.

Question Two: What’s your favourite biscuit?

A – Malted Milk biscuits dunked in milk. No, Jaffa cakes. I WANT BOTH!

B – Jammy dodgers. You like to gouge out the centres with your fingernail before devouring them mercilessly.

C – You prefer cupcakes with pink frosting.

D – Shortbread on a fine bone china plate with a doily.

E – Whatever they’re serving on the jet.

Question Three: What’s your usual lunch?

A – A soft-boiled egg with toast soldiers.

B – A burger with lots of ketchup – you like the way it squelches out and drips on to the plate with every bite.

C – Pancakes with sugar, raspberry sauce and chocolate sprinkles.

D – Cucumber sandwiches.

E – It’s hard to eat on a camel.

Question Four: What’s your favourite hot drink?

A – Hot Ribena.

B – Black Coffee.

C – Hot Chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows.

D – Tea – served properly in a proper tea service and with lemon, not milk.

E – Your current favourite hot drink is one you devised yourself recently, it’s like a cross between coffee and a summer’s breeze with a hint of spiritual awakening. Might be your best beverage yet.

Question Five: What’s your usual evening meal?

A – Fish fingers and potato smiles. With peas on the side to flick across the room.

B – Steak. Rare and bloody.

C – Steamed fish and green beans – you are trying to lose weight after all – washed down with something fizzy.

D – Grouse with vegetables before retiring to the drawing room.

E – A slap-up feed somewhere fancy before your premier.

Question Six: What’s your favourite Tipple?

A – Orangina

B – Whiskey on the rocks in a smokey bar.

C – Gin and tonic or gin and biter lemon. Or just gin.

D – Whatever your butler fetches from the wine cellar.

E – Champagne… especially on a mountain peak – the altitude does wonders for the flavour.

 

That’s it – time to interpret your answers!

Mostly A’s – You should be writing for children. Now run off and play.

Mostly B’s – You’re clearly cut out for the Crime/Thriller Genre. Actually I’m a bit scared of you.

Mostly C’s – Chick lit. (Call me later I’ve got some juicy gossip to divulge.)

Mostly D’s – Historical novels. People did things properly back then, didn’t they?

Mostly E’s – With those achievements I assume you’re writing your autobiography. Probably in a hot air balloon over the Andes. (Either that or you’re a brilliant fantasist…)

Mostly none of them, all of them or any of them depending on your mood – You’re a blogger at heart with the ability to mix and match according to what appeals to you and your readers. Have fun!

***

I hope that has been revealing! Let me know what what you learned. ;)

And in all seriousness – Do you think there are any traits that can be associated with particular genres? I’m almost tempted to set up my own institute and do some some research!

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A frisson

I’ve been feeling a bit creatively sluggish recently and in need of a new challenge to give me a bit of a kick up the bum. Luckily at exactly the right moment Nicola at Nikki Young Writes drew my attention to a creative writing exercise called “Ten to One”. The idea is to write a piece of micro fiction only fifty-five words long with a first sentence of ten words, a second of nine, a third of eight… and so on down to a final, one word sentence.

It was tricky but here’s what I wrote (NB I decided that hyphenated words count as separate words!):

Their eyes met the moment he walked into the room.
It was a seminar on eighteenth-century Russian architecture.
His striking architecture was far more stimulating though.
Her dropped pen rolled towards his feet.
Passing it back, their hands brushed.
Time stopped for an instant.
And then she remembered.
Affairs with students?
Not allowed.
Dammit.

 
Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it at all as I normally like to have room to be more expressive. It was quite a satisfying challenge to overcome and one I recommend as it really makes you think about the impact of your words. It’s interesting to see how you can tell a story in so few! Why not have a go yourself? Feel free to tweet me if you do, I’d love to read some!

Prose for Thought

Nikki Young Writes

writing picture books

I’m currently in the process of writing some picture books. I started writing them at different times and they’re at different stages of completion but this last week I’ve been working on all three of them at once. It’s been making me reflect on my creative process because although all three books are in rhyme and are a roughly similar length, writing each of them has been a very different experience.

frosted tree

The first book came at me out of nowhere. I wanted to write something for #ThePrompt over at MumTurnedMom and the theme that week was ‘Books’. When I sat down to write, the whole story appeared in a couple of hours. It just flowed and without any real effort I had a story about a girl who wouldn’t read. Of course, I’ve spent masses of time since editing it, re-editing it and editing it again but the entire story and structure basically happened in that first couple of hours of inspiration.

Book two actually came off the back of book one. There were a few lines (now edited out) where the girl read “Her latest book about a magic biscuit cook, whose fresh, enchanted custard creams were sure to give her sweetest dreams.” The lines didn’t make the cut but I rather liked the idea of a magic biscuit cook and decided to write a story about one.

This time round I had a reasonable idea of what the story would be before I started writing it. I also made a deliberate decision about the meter of the rhyme as I wanted it to be different from my first book. The story and the characters came into focus as I wrote it, but getting the first draft down was a lot harder work. I had to think about it and work it out and once I’d finished it I had several versions which were quite different in terms of length and story complexity. I’m currently trying to work out which version I prefer.

Book three is a whole different beast all together. The inspiration for this was my son responding to a question with “I’ve absolutely no idea”. For some reason this triggered in my head  the line “He’d absolutely no idea if aliens can even hear.” which in turn made me think ‘I know, I’ll write a book about a boy who meets some aliens!’ Of course the idea is hardly earth-shattering in originality so I then had a big think about what sort of book it would be (humorous but thoughtful) and what precisely would happen during the story in terms of key events and character development. At this point a few rhyming couplets popped into my head which gave the story its rhythm.

That was about two months ago and I’ve been writing it on and off ever since. It’s still nowhere near complete. It’s a very slow process (given the length that the finished piece will be) and I’m finding it really tricky. I’ve found myself wondering if it would be better in prose rather than verse… but then I’ve got little stretches of it that I love because of the rhythm and the pace the rhyme gives them. I have a funny feeling that if I can get this one right it will be the best of the three but I have no idea if I can pull it off at all.

So there you have it: three little stories with three very different creative processes.

Do you find your process differs between projects? What brings about the changes? Do you have a preferred way of working?

I’m sharing this with Friday Fiction as it’s the closest I’ll get to sharing extracts from any of these books! Also linking to the Wonderful World of Writing at Virtually All sorts.

Nikki Young Writes

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what I’m writing – week seventeen

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week seventeen of ‘What I’m Writing’. We had a great start to the new year over at Chrissie’s blog last week with more linkers than ever before! It was great to catch up with our regular linkers on what their plans for the new year were and we were also pleased to see new faces too. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this year takes you all – the only way is up, yes?

So, If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. September’s and October’s round-up posts (we take turns to write them every month) give you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about. I posted December’s Round-up last week.

We’d love you to join in and there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

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What I’m Writing round-up

It’s the 5th of January and all around the country decorations are coming down and people are returning to work. Christmas is well and truly over so as I sit down to write December’s ‘What I’m Writing’ round-up it feels all wrong. December was so long ago! It was last year! And given that the last #WhatImWriting was on 16th December – before school broke up and festivities completely overtook everything – I feel like I’m trying to round-up things we all did and said in a previous life.

But that’s silly. Mid-December was only a few short weeks ago and actually, what better time to do do a round-up? To look backwards now before we all launch ourselves forwards again? So here goes:

typewriter butterflies round up

December was a great month for ‘What I’m Writing’ with a whole host of  great, inspiring, thought-provoking, sympathetic, sharing and encouraging posts, so thank you so much everyone who linked up. We also had two new linkers last month – Rachael from Honest Speaks and Dana from Writing at the Table – so a big welcome to them!

Last month certainly brought positivity with Reneé sharing exciting news of her book sales (she published Become the Best You at the end of November) having achieved #47 in the Amazon self help section – yippee! She also wrote of the support she received from the online community which was great to hear.

Meanwhile, Iona described a lovely experience she’d had when her young daughter read and gave feedback on the manuscript she’s writing, Carol had made excellent progress with her writing through a ‘no procrastination day’, and Sara was wondering – for the first time ever – about developing a short fictional piece into something longer . Exciting times!

As you’d expect from writers there was also a lot of pondering on all sorts of issues. Sophie wondered how to structure her novel which takes place in two distinct time periods, Morgan was considering giving up her novel to focus on her blog (we convinced her not to!) and Rachael asked ‘what makes a writer?’ – a really interesting debate!

There were creative struggles too: Chrissie wrote about her ‘confused muse’, a recent rejection inspired me to write my ‘ten top tips for overcoming rejection’ and Reneé wrote about the crash that came after her exciting book launch.  But such downs are a part of the writing life as Emily acknowledged in a post in which she interviewed Rachael Lucas (whose two books have been a huge success) about ‘The Highs and Lows of Writing’ – they happen to us all!

Despite the downs, ‘onwards and upwards’ was a definite theme with Emily and Sophie both researching their third books and Adria sharing the wonderful idea (about NaNoWriMo) that if you’ve been inspired and written anything, then you’ve won. Dana was also moving on with her writing and described her novel as a beloved albatross that was finally starting to take flight after literally being locked in a safe for five years! And in a very useful post Iona shared what she’d learnt at a recent conference about ‘getting published’ – motivation for us all.

Nikki wrote an incredibly moving post on ‘The Moment that Changed Everything’. It’s a stand alone post in terms of theme and so touching that I’m giving it it’s own paragraph. A powerful musing on awful moments where everything in life shifts.

As we moved towards the end of the year, there was a lot of reflecting on the year gone by and in the loved-up spirit of Christmas I wrote about how much the online writing community has meant to me this year. Sara was also reflective in a post that celebrated her blog’s second birthday and a year that she described as ‘all about writing’. Chrissie shared a very impressive spreadsheet of all the writing she’d done throughout the year (in a later post she also shared a blank spreadsheet that we can all download and use ourselves – thanks Chrissie!) and some impressive targets for next year.

Looking forward to 2015, Aimee shared the sad news that she was winding up her Pass the Gin blog… but for the great reason that she wants to concentrate on her writing, Carol shared an opportunity that was ‘stepping out of the wings’ for her to seize, and Chrissie wrote a great positive piece about how she’s going to take on this year. She channelled her daughter’s determination to go to a party to encourage us all not to fear rejection: ‘If you don’t ask about the party, you won’t get to go to the party’ – so true.

As I look forward to 2015 that sounds like a wonderful analogy for my writing intentions and goals – I hope we all spend 2015 asking about the party and that by the end of the year we’ve all donned our dancing shoes and are boogying away on the dance floor!

Happy New Year!

new year

xmas morningHappy New Year everyone!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and I’m still in a bit of a festive daze with my mind stuck back somewhere in the middle of last week. But it’s the second of January now so I thought it was time to post a little something in an attempt to re-boot my brain and my blog for 2015!

For the sake of my sluggish brain (and fingers) I’ll keep it brief. So here’s my summary of the festive period in the Bubble household:

Family

friends

feasting

films

boys

baking

booze

bickering

relationships

reunions

reading

reminiscing

slumping

slobbing

sleeping

singing

resting

racing

running (late)

wrapping

walking

wonder

warmth

loafing

laughing

living

LOVING