Writing prompt – Advent

Arnos Vale Cemetery in the snow cr Judy DarleyToday’s writing prompt offers 25 for the price of one, courtesy the good folks of National Flash Fiction Day’s Flash Flood! On Saturday they launched their Advent Calendar with a writerly twist – this one offers a writing prompt every day.

They says: “To celebrate the holiday season, Flash Flood would like to gift the flash fiction community with an Advent Calendar full of flashy prompts.”

The snowy cemetery scene above is my own, separate contribution to their flurry. To see what they’ve suggested to inspire you already, head to flashfloodjournal.blogspot.com.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

A short story – First Light

Victoria Park frost by Judy Darley

My short story First Light has been published in the December issue of Living Quietly magazine. This Christmas story is inspired by my dad, who in retirement used to go and watch the sunrise and share stories with a group of friends. I remember him coming home more than once wearing a carved wooden medal enscribed with the words Best Liar!

My story begins:

Living Quietly Issue 4 front coverIt’s still dark when he wakes me, the familiar creak of the bedroom door and his low “Time to get up, love” making me think for a moment that I’m a child still, on the brink of a school day’s slog. The blaze of his white hair catches the light spilling in from the landing, dragging me back to the present.

I haul myself out of bed and pull on thermal underlayers, jeans, socks, extra socks, a lambswool jumper. A scent of spice catches the back of my throat: cinnamon and nutmeg.

Downstairs the kettle rumbles, a flask standing by ready to be filled. Dad’s wrapping oven-warmed mince pies in a clean tea-towel so they’ll hold their heat.

Download your copy of the issue here or click on the lovely glowy issue cover above.

How to work with an editor

Italian sunset by Daisy McNallyToday’s guest post comes from Daisy McNally, the author of I See Through You, which is hot off the presses from Orion. She provides an insight her personal experiences of working with an editor to prepare her debut novel for publication.

Everyone’s experience of the editorial process is different. This is mine, beginning when I was on holiday in Italy and my agent called. She rang in the evening so I had a glass of wine in hand and was watching the sun disappear into the sea. She said that Orion loved my book and wanted it – but there were some suggestions about plot to run past me. How fantastic – and …hmm. I drank the wine and didn’t sleep!

I SEE THROUGH YOU spineI spoke to the commissioning editor at Orion the next day and any worries I’d had in the night completely disappeared. She didn’t want to alter the tone or the central premise of the book (which to my mind has always been the sadness of unrequited love, and the obsessional lengths it can drive us to). She asked if I’d heard of the term ‘ghosting’, which I hadn’t, but the commissioning team at Orion who had read I See Through You, all remarked on getting the same feeling from the book which reminded them of theirs, or their friends’ experience of being ghosted. Apparently 80% of millennials report being ghosted.

So this was my first taste of publishing being an industry – they’d spotted something in the book that they thought might sell and wanted to emphasise it. Thankfully it wasn’t a problem for me to shift the nature of the breakup from a slow burn out to a sudden amputation – I was writing after all about not being heard and feeling powerless, and confused. Wondering if we have a place in the world without someone we thought part of our future to validate it. It turned out to be the same thing in many ways.

I SEE THROUGH YOU city

Trust the experts (aka your literary editors)

This was before the #metoo movement but my editor was already on to it.  I don’t want to give anything about I See Through You away but there is an unlikely and unexpected female friendship made that wasn’t there before. When the “Dr Foster meets The First Wives Club” slogan was touted, she had me sold.

I See Through You coverI was very fortunate that these suggestions were both things that I agreed with and really enjoyed putting into place. Added to which, I was no longer writing blindly on my own; my editor’s support was constant and she was always there if I needed her. There were two rounds of edits and finally, toward the end of the process, a brilliant freelance copy editor came on board whose input was brilliant.

Up until this point, i.e., throughout the editing process, nothing was ever mandatory and I always had the final say. Then we got to the stage of choosing the cover. I love the cover now but I had a preference initially for a different font and colour (it’s a small thing, I know). And now I had to give way and concede that there were professionals at work here, who understood the market and who they were targeting much better than my inexperienced self. This is what they do, they don’t write books, they sell them. Over to the experts.

So I discovered that the process in its entirety is sometimes collaborative, and can involve several opinions and at the end of the day. Most importantly, isn’t just about the writing. When I wrote The End, it wasn’t – at least not for me. And it was hard work sometimes but most writers know the difficulty and panic that accompanies unpicking material, holding it all together and finally the satisfaction of putting it back in place. It was almost exactly one year between the phone call in Italy and publication day – and another celebratory drink.

Daisy McNallyAuthor bio

Daisy McNally began writing I See Through You on the MA for Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She is currently doing the PhD there and lives in Oxford and Lymington with her two children and partner James. When she’s not writing her second novel, she enjoys reading, running by the sea and going out on the water.

Got some writing insights to share? I’m always happy to receive feature pitches on writing genres and writing tools. Send an email to JudyDarley(at)iCloud.com.