Despite being a heartbroken wreck who cries all the time and sometimes can’t pluck up the courage to leave the house, I made myself a promise in my last post. A promise that I’d try to enjoy my upcoming family holiday as much as possible. That I’d smile. Wear bikinis. Eat too many desserts.
And I did.
It wasn’t easy. I cried in the shower. In bed. In my dark room before the door even had time to shut behind me. I swam alone in the pool one morning, sobbing, because the “soothing” songs the hotel had picked were all about love and romance and happiness.
But I smiled, too. I laughed when my brother’s grumpy mini dachshunds gave up avoiding rock pools on the beach and jumped right in. I screamed in the crazy Atlantic waves. I basked in the sunshine and heat and good company. I cracked jokes. Took pictures. Dressed up. Did my hair. Ate SO MANY desserts.
For the first time in months, I had prolonged periods of not feeling depressed. Not hating myself. Not thinking about the thing I need to stop thinking about.
And it was fucking fantastic.
In a way, my imagination and ability to daydream is a gift. It lets me think up complex stories, work out plots and characters and settings, and fills me with joy when I get lost in a wonderful vision for a minute, an hour, an afternoon. It makes me a great storyteller. But it’s not just fiction I think about. There are memories, faces, people, experiences. Real ones. I like to replay good moments, imagine conversations in my head, think about the future and all the wonderful things it holds.
When I was happy and in love, this was amazing. Every day was full of exciting, real possibilities and smiles and hopes.
Now that I’m heartbroken? Not so amazing.
I met up with an old friend a few weeks ago. We chatted about a lot of things, reminiscing and swapping stories, and she mentioned she hadn’t seen any blog posts from me in a while. “Have you been too busy being happy?” she asked, smiling.
And I cried.
Because for seven months, that was the case. After years of loneliness and sadness and self-doubt, I had a boyfriend. A real, wonderful boyfriend who I adored. And that meant dates, doorstep kisses, tight embraces, in-jokes, late-night chats, hours and hours of eye contact, whispered promises, smiles, squeezed hands, ‘I love you’s, and a feeling of happiness and safety and worthiness I’d never, ever felt before.
And then he broke my heart.
I fought in Pitch Wars 2015. And I lost.
I mean, I got in. My name was on that list. I saw it at silly o’clock in the morning UK time, after feverishly refreshing my phone’s Twitter app in the darkness of my bedroom, and I thought, ‘This is when it all begins.’ I’d read the blogs, the tweets, the Facebook posts, and one thing was certain: Pitch Wars was going to change my life.
But it didn’t. Continue reading
I rarely make it all the way through writing a blog post. I’m in the zone, spilling my secrets, loving it, enjoying it, reveling in it — and then suddenly, I hit the wall. Or rather, I hit the question:
Why would anyone be interested in this?
As soon as that question pops up in my mind, I’m gone. Finished. Whatever enthusiasm or inspiration I had trickles away, leaving behind nothing positive. I rage-quit and that’s that. Another half-written post in the draft folder. Another monument to my failure.
A few months into querying BEYOND THE CALL OF BEAUTY — my beautician-turned-sleuth mystery MS — I could tell it wasn’t going to work out. I didn’t fully believe or accept it at the time, but deep-down I knew that I wouldn’t win over a literary agent with it, I wouldn’t tempt a publishing house, and I wouldn’t achieve what I’d been dreaming about my whole life. And it was heartbreaking. Continue reading
I’m a judge for the wonderful Mash Stories, a keyword-based flash fiction competition that focuses on showcasing new talent, and I love it. The ideas, the language, the brilliant pieces — I’m honoured to read our submissions, let alone help decide the winner.
But it’s not all good news and happy faces. I’m a judge, and that title comes with a horrible responsibility: rejecting stories. As I said in my last post, I hate rejecting stories — I’ve been there before myself — but I have to say ‘no’ sometimes. And after six months of dishing out my ‘no’s and ‘yes’es, I’ve got a pretty firm idea of what makes — in my opinion — a good piece of flash fiction. I know what I want to see in a winning story.
And what’s the point of keeping that information to myself?
From titles and last lines to when to submit, I’ve got an insider’s opinion on what makes a short story great. So whether you’re thinking of submitting to Mash or another competition, you were rejected and don’t know why, or you’re just looking for some general writing advice, here are my top tips for snagging a spot on that coveted shortlist — and possibly winning the grand prize, too.
Let’s do this!
(TL;DR? Check the bullet point summary at the end.)