Friday, 19 July 2013

Me, a Paragraph Planet author

I also dabble with writing other than blogging - have I mentioned that before? Probably! I have been lucky enough to have two of my submissions accepted to the wonderful world of Paragraph Planet which, if you haven't come across it before, is a website which publishes a daily 'paragraph' of exactly 75 words. It's curated by one man, Richard Hearn, who I believe is based in Brighton. Submitted by many writers, professional and amateur, the variety of work is incredible and I am constantly amazed by how the rigid form can produce such different results. If I can get a third piece published, I can apply to have my own Author Page on the site!

Writing exactly 75 good words is nowhere near as easy as it sounds! For me, writing around 45-50 words is relatively straight-forward but I then find myself having to pad out the rest and this makes the end result feel sluggish. The website guidance suggests that the best paragraphs start out longer and are tightly edited - and therein lies the skill! I need longer ideas! Below are four paragraphs that I have actually completed - I've started more but they fizzled out. The first two didn't make the cut, the second two did. Although I am personally proud of them all, reading them together now, I can clearly see the difference in quality.

The first one, from mid-April this year, was inspired by our prospective caravan purchase. We hadn't yet found Bailey but were seriously searching and the paragraph reflects the themes of escape and freedom that this signified. The whimsicality is quite unlike me generally but at the time of writing, I was anchored both by Mum's terminal cancer and by the sheer amount of planning and cash needed to realise our dream. The thought of simply driving away towing our home was as a fairytale.

Are we hoping or dreaming or simply wishing? Which is real enough to survive? Gossamer threads of desire sped out from starry eyes. We fear their withering from lack of attention but they will suffocate with too tight a clutch. Our monochrome lists are given life by hope. Drab planning sustained by the dream. Fairy dust and glitter and fervently spoken magic words. If we can just find enough sparkle, we will smother the truth.

The second was written about a fortnight ago, a couple of days prior to the glorious sunshine we now have. It is yearning for summer, pure and simple! I particularly love the imagery of the lawnmower orchestra and the curtains.

Where are you sultry days? Lawnmower orchestras tuning up? Leather, willow, polite applause. Butterflies dancing, a solitary bee. Fragrant dawns of jasmine and honeysuckle. Blue and blue and blue. The almost not there squelch of ice cream hitting tarmac, distraught wails, ice water shrieks. Sauteed skin, pebble dashed legs. Observant gulls' screams, airborne fighters dive-bombing for abandoned chips. Stifling sleepless nights with all windows flung open, their lank curtains hanging sullen for lack of breeze.

This is my first ever completed paragraph and it got published (Aug 31st 2012) - so exciting still! Its dark, seedy images are very much my style and I wrote and edited it in an afternoon. The ideas flowed swiftly and were then hacked back to get down to 75 words. Writing hadn't felt so inspired for ages.

Wait until sundown. Change of the day. Monochrome eddies of leaves and newsprint. Crisp packets race. Scuffed heels snapping. Collars turned up. Isolated rain spots between chewing gum patches. Disembodied shouts. Bark. Yelp. Reflected neon in gutter mirrors. NEPO. DESOLC. Congealing chip fats cut through with diesel. Oversweet perfume. Yesterday's beer. Lucozade glow beneath a sodium spotlight. Nylon ladders veil a black inked snake. Tyres scrape a kerbstone. A windows lowers. A door swings back.

The final paragraph here, which also got published (Nov 28th 2012), describes a slow Friday afternoon. I was alone in the office with little to do and even less inclination!

Three clocks, side by side. They do not tick or beep, but discreetly measure the passing afternoon, the soporific stretch between lunch and tea when the air is a fraction too warm and the work a fraction too dull. I observe. Two clocks change the minute together. I count. The third waits nineteen beats. I count again. Nineteen. A different pairing almost exactly alternate their flashing seconds. I will them to synchronise. They irritate me.

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