Gloves are off, now it’s serious..

Noisy class during first day of Creative Writi...

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This time last year, I signed up for a twelve week Open University course on writing fiction and, hey ho, I’ve done it again. Thirty two weeks this time, creative writing, WITH POETRY – am I mad?! Sweepy Jean, your Gil Scott-Heron entry may have come in the nick of time – that kind of poetry I can relate to. But what’s this about biography and autobiography? Will I have to follow Fabio Cappello around while he negotiates his exit from England management? Or Rooney? Please, not Rooney, I don’t speak Scouse!  Beckham though..

I’ve been faffing about considering this decision. Full time job, just getting into writing, full-time job, might have just found my voice, full-time job, no time to write my stuff. What? The trouble is, I’ve just been on leave and being on leave gives me a distorted sense of my creative availability because it’s not being used up on brain-tickling research projects. Nevertheless, I put out a plea on Twitter – should I sign up? But the Twitterverse did not want to take responsibility for this, even collectively, as I might come back and bite its bum once the reality hit home. The Twitterverse is right, I would have given it a thorough going over had it guided me in the wrong direction but what was the right direction? Only one thing for it – the Universe Splitter app on my iPhone! Plug in your choices and this little gizmo blinks and winks, judders and jangles, and finally explodes its conclusion – in this universe, I would do the course.

So here I am, signed up and bracing myself. Is it the right decision? Based on a silly bit of software that sends no photons anywhere at all and splits nothing but a few pixels on a screen? As I pressed that button, I knew I was going to ignore it if it said no.

Somewhere, my alternate self is justifying either taking the advice or getting on and doing the course anyway. Seems I’m my own woman no matter what the universe thinks and so, when I start carping on about being over-committed with no time to breathe never mind nurture an original thought, just remind me I have only myself to blame!

If not the blog then, where?

image of bookI’ve seen this debate elsewhere, publish on your blog so you have a ‘presence’ or keep your work to yourself so that it remains saleable. So far, I’ve just put up early pieces; exercises, bits and bobs that might entertain but that wouldn’t make it into a slush pile, never mind a magazine. Last week though, on leave and with only myself to entertain, I wrote what I think is one of my best short stories EVER (nah – doesn’t take much!) and, it being under 500 words, I was about to sling it up here for my many thousands of readers (ok, might have shifted a decimal point or two) to peruse. STOP! I thought. If this is a winner, it can’t go here, it has to go somewhere to do its winning and for that, it has to be pristine, untrammelled, unseen, and unpublished (Six readers – hear me? Six!). I teetered on the verge and muttered things like OMG, and WTF, and even They’ll Never Know, I so wanted it to be seen!

And then a compromise hove into view – Critique Circle! I could put it there, let people rummage around and maybe even get some decent feedback, and then send it to a loving home – what could be better? Well, not much as it turned out. As a CC Newbie (not now – got elevated to the Grownups queues), my story went into the up front public queue and fairly quickly picked up critiques. Some of these were rather limited – the critiquers hadn’t ‘got’ the story and so didn’t know how to judge it – but others were spot on (these, of course, were the most intelligent and insightful of the bunch [irony alert, just in case…]), not only understanding the tale but also coming up independently with the complex driving theme – musicality, poetry, and rhythm. Blinding!

It occurred to me too late that I should have announced the submission on twitter and my blog so that other members could go and take a look. I will next time. If CC offers a place to put work that might be published and doesn’t jeopardise its virginality, then that’s the place for me. I have another tale up shortly. If you’re a CC member, go take a look from the 18th (or 25th) for ‘Promotion’ and maybe give a crit if you fancy a go.

This story, ‘Dissolution’ was inspired by hearing Kate Baker narrate podcasts for Escape Pod and Clarkesworld. That voice, which turns out to have singer/musician and writer underpinnings (quelle surprise!) is one of the most evocative I have ever heard and if she were to read ‘Dissolution’, I would probably dissolute myself into a greasy blob on the carpet!

So there we are, a new phase entered in which I find I have something finally to guard. I welcome myself to the wicked and paranoid world of fiction writing!

What do you think? Use a critiquing service to find your potential readership and hone your skills or just keep it all very quiet before unleashing the lot on an uprepared public?