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Friday, 16 October 2015

Ever thought of doing NaNoWriMo?

If you're looking for a kickstart to your novel writing, then set aside November to have a crack at bashing out 50,000 words of a rough first draft in the hellfire challenge that is NaNoWriMo. Guest blogger Matthew Wright has some ideas to get you started in the right direction.

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If any of you are looking for a bit of how-to guidance for your NaNoWriMo story – or, indeed, any fiction – one place to start researching is with Arthur Porges’ classic 1953 sci-fi ‘The Ruum‘.

It’s a simple enough tale. Alien ‘bio-collector’ robot is accidentally left on Jurassic-age Earth. Skip forward 130 million years and it’s still hard at work, undiscovered in the wild back-country – until a rugged outdoorsman runs into it.
A beautiful picture from the other week of Earth from 1.6 million km sunwards. NASA, public domain.
Earth. NASA, public domain.
What follows is a classic man-vs-wild survival tale – with a stunning twist. I won’t say anything more – but what I will say is that ‘The Ruum’ remains an absolute archetype of all that a short story of this general type should be. It has:
  1. A simple and sharply contained plot – one man, one task, one thread.
  2. Character-based drama of the highest order – the inner struggle by the woodsman to find strength in himself to stay alive.
  3. Sustained conflict – pursuit of the man by the Ruum – moving in rising waves.
  4. A surprise twist at the very end.
This is storytelling at the very highest level. It’s worth hunting out ‘The Ruum’ – it’s online, these days, and it won’t take long to read.
After that, check out Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea, which carries the same themes and handles them in a very similar way. In this case, the ‘relentless enemy’ isn’t an alien robot, it’s the sea itself, however the storytelling principle is identical. That particular novella won Hemingway a Nobel Prize for literature.
There are deep lessons to be learned here.
Now get writing.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Monique Hale on the perils of inspiration at midnight

Dear Fellow Writer

I am delighted to make your acquaintance.  When our gazes meet, I acknowledge that you understand things about me that even those who have known me for many many years cannot comprehend…

You identify with the constant chatter of characters in my mind that simultaneously keep me company and harass me for attention.  The details of my day are considered through their eyes, weighed by their moral compass, and all that I see, hear and do is pondered upon by their fictitious point of view.

You also understand the inconvenience of being plagued randomly during a peaceful night’s sleep by a perfectly constructed sentence that has chosen this untimely moment to demand recognition. 

You comprehend the pain of a hand aching from the ferocity of spilling the contents of your mind onto paper, any paper as your characters instruct you to keep going.

You fathom the satisfaction experienced as you switch the light off and nestle once again into the bosom of sleep.  Your muscles relax, your eyes grow heavy, awareness floats further and further away until...oh my god, nooooo!  Yet another bout of the most perfect configuration of words strikes, capturing a concept with such sweet accuracy, you are compelled to take the voyage of creativity once again.

Like me, you too have borne the scathing irritation of your significant other, as you knock several items off your bedside table in your plight to find a pen in the dark.  Instead of being proud of your literary achievements, they selfishly resent the invasion of noise and light interrupting their blissful slumber. 

After the ordeal of placing your thoughts on the paper, hand aching, snuggling under the cosy blankets, you get how unwelcome a fresh flood of ideas, and the need to turn on the light yet again, can be.  Conflicted between a sincere desire for sleep and gratitude for the wave of inspiration, begrudgingly you switch on that light as many times as it takes to empty out the contents of your thoughts.

Because, you realise, dear fellow writer, that if I don’t write then and there, the only remnants of these words present once the light of day hits, is the shame of being too tired to jot down what has been gifted in the depth of the night.  You empathise with the feeling of failure that engulfs should you resist recording that pearl of brilliance allocated to you by the writing gods. 

You know how an everyday interaction can trigger a myriad of concepts worth expanding on, and you suffer as you realise that there is not a pen in sight to jot down these precious jewels before they escape – lost forever.

Like me, you also suspect that pens have legs, and run away from the place where you securely placed them to allow easy access during the next abrupt wave of inspiration.

For these very reasons, my comrade in words, silently the creator in me honours the creator in you! 


Monique Hale


Friday, 2 October 2015

A poem by Pam Laird

The Mud-Coloured Beret


He stands beside

A pyramid of apples

Close by

The market door.


‘Are these apples

fresh?’ he asks.

‘They are, I bought six

Only yesterday.’


‘Are you South African?’

‘No, I am a Kiwi.’

‘From the South Island?’



He is tall,

More than six feet,

His skin is clear

And olive.


‘Are you going

To buy

A bag of apples?’

I ask.


‘You speak,

So nicely,’ he says.

But his presence

Is not quite present.


I wonder,

‘Is he lost

Or sad, or drugged,

Or is he ill?’


He wears a

Beret, mud-coloured

Pulled low over

His ears.


There is no smile,

A guiless naivety


My face.


‘Is there something

I can do?’

‘No, no,

No, no.’


‘I must buy

The apples now, I

Thank you, that

You stopped to talk to me.’

Pam Laird