Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Prompt Set 0,007

A - A Gardener's World

B - I'm only half a vampire

C - Various Ski Resorts

D - With a bit of luck I could have..

E - The road is long, with many a winding turn

F - A Thousand thanks, effendi

G - Throwing peelings to the dogs

H - Jupiter, just about

I - The road sweats, breathes slowly

J - The humour! The humour!

K - November is a cruel month

L - I am of those things that linger. I do not go away

M - Hurry up please, it's time

N - The boy with sand on his feet

O - In the summer time, you got women, you got women on your mind

P - It could have been the end

Q - Tongue and Groove

R - Come see me under the old clock

S - Marathon

T – What is the root, what is the branch

U - Known as the Czar

V - A star in Australia

W - Originating in India

X - Not all shadows are the same

Y - It means something in french

Z - A French Stick

2011 Prompt Sets 0,006

A - Boy, Beach

B - Not walking the dogs

C - We called, you were not in.

D - Abracadabra

E - Hi Ho Silver Lining!

F - Absolutely, Madam, Of Course

G - As if

H - Juno

I - Barely alive does not mean dying

J - The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Underworld

K - Before I was alive

L - But there again, I could say yes and confuse them

M - The attendant

N - Five Men, two boys and a woman watching

O - Keep on Running

P - A second later

Q - Mortice and Tenon

R - If i had lived on Olympus

S - Cold Feet

T – Another Way

U - The neighbour's dog will not stop barking

V - Tom William's Story

W - Reading Billy Collins

X - Tomorrow could have been another day

Y - Tiramisu

Z - Will you love me yesterday?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Prompts Set 0,005

A - Slate Quarrying in Wales
B - A re-hot cast-iron stove
C - In character
D - And stretched their hands towards the warmth
E - How to Be Alone
F - And unbuttoned their padded jackets
G - As if it were the god of fire
H - At their benches
I - Barely managed to open
J - The Pocket Guide to Love
K - Before the stove’s open door
L - But were not able to feel it immediately
M - Coats and hats
N - Five carpenters were working without
O - Keep me Handy
P - In a minute Grigoriev and Potashnikov knelt
Q - In the middle of the carpentry shop stood
R - One of man’s first gods
S - Since their hands were numb
T – A Cambrian Way
U - The frozen door
V - The new arrivals knelt
W - They threw down their mittens
X - Together the two of them
Y - Took off their hats
Z - What are you doing here?”


If you write a flash a day, a poem if you can, a longer short-story every week
then the "this one" anxiety begins to go.

You know you wrote seven pieces last week, that you will write another six this week
and next week another seven

it's this SEPARATION, this sense of "This is just me learning to write, THIS story doesn't matter"
that removes fear and opens the unconscious

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Risky Business (1)


I recently read Al Alvarez's "Risky Business", his second set of collected essays (BUY IT!) and have just read his chapter on the concert pianist Alfred Brendel. Yesterday I posted an article "Rembrandt and Raymond Carver" and this morning the Brendel article goes to the same places. I feel an epiphany coming.

When I teach it is very intense. It's a commonplace reaction for writers on my courses to say their head has been turned to mush. More than one has been nervous about driving home (which is why we always suggest an evening dinner on the Sunday where we just laugh and chill.)

I usually say to writers that immediately after a course (ha, I typo'd CURSE, there!) that they may very well have difficulty writing, and if they do write, the writing may appear to be inferior for a while.

I liken it to going up a difficult, dangerous, mountain. Sometimes the route you are on cannot EVER get to the top. Sometimes you have to climb DOWN a little either to find a new route, or to get extra equipment, or maybe, to talk to a Sherpa Guide who knows the way.

That's only part of the problem!

I often say things like: "You must write totally, completely "on theme" where every word is building in the same way."

But I ALSO say, "But you must ignore the theme! Never write thinking of the theme." and I say, "Get the right characters, and the right opening voice, trust the characters to guard the theme."

But how can I force myself into the strictures of theme at the same time as ignoring the theme?

When discussing the writing art we often have to use the art of writing (I mean beyond competent journalism) to get closer, ever closer, to the meaning we are trying to impart. For example in my article "The Seventh Quark: Finding the story" I wrote that I, "Write with light hands."

What follows might be partly random (I hope so.)

In the Brendel article, Alvarez states, "One of the most important lessons Brendel taught Imogen Cooper was that there is a tension that goes all through a piece of music and never lets up. He used to talk of a long silver cord that one pulls on. "He'd crouch down beside the piano and say, 'Go on, pull, pull.' Sometimes there is a little kink in the cord but it never sags. There's always a force irresistibly pulling it from the first note to the last."

THINK THEME, and the tension in a good voice.

"He used to say, 'You've got to get the audience from the first note.' I'd say you've got to get them from the moment you come through the door. How you command the space between the door and the piano makes the audience listen in a certain way. They listen with their eyes and their ears."

Think! Think about presentation. Think about fonts, font-size, single, double or 1.5 line spacing, white space for time-breaks, the size and boldness of the title, the use of italics for emphasis. Think how, the moment that editor or judge sits down with your piece. ALL of it matters.

You are trying to create "A mode of acceptance."

Think how the start shapes the whole. That's why I can predict the final score a story is worth from the opening. That is why 99% of editors and judge know as soon as they've read two paragraphs.
But remember I'm really talking about paradoxes in how I say we should write (if we want to write anything worthwhile.) Paradoxes, or apparent contradictions…

Brendel says performing is a risky business and the concert pianist who wants to make a work new each time he plays must live life dangerously. (Alvarez)

"As a performer, I have become aware of the paradox of my profession," Brendel said. "You have to be in control, and, at the same time, lose yourself completely. You have to think and feel in advance what you want to do and, simultaneously, to listen to what you are doing and react to that. You have to play to satisfy yourself and also play so that the people in the back row will get the message." In other words (Alvarez says) the concert platform is where his two worlds of intellectual control and inspired nonsense interconnect."

Are we talking genius here? No! Of course Brendel is a genius, and Alvarez probably is a genius, but quality craftsmen have to go to this place also, the greatest sportsmen.

We train the body and the mind and then trust the spirit.

I always forget who for sure, but I think it was Harlan Ellison who said we must write and write and write and absorb technique until it runs in our blood.

It is when it's in our blood that we leave room for extra imagination, room for our angelic inner self to speak. Ray Bradbury (I'm pretty sure it was him) said we need to write a million crappy words just to start being a writer. That first million words is our scales, our music theory classes, our hours at the piano, our weekend courses in music, the summer schools, the endless rehearsals.

Then after the million, we start to find ourselves.

We no longer have to think about dialogue, or speech tags, or whether a noun-adjective here is needed for the flow and balance. It is part of us, the hands know where to go. If we apply thought now it's "beyond" it's expressive, it's extra.

Briefly, this is why I believe in the Boot Camp process. I believe that at least 99% of wanabee writers write far too little. In surveys I've done the average was 147 words a day (and remember these are committed writers and they are probably exaggerating their word-counts.)

Stop RIGHT NOW and work out exactly (not roughly) how many creative words you have written this month. It is the 29th December 2010. If you haven't written 14,000 words, if you haven't written a paltry two pages a day, what the fuck are you doing? How can you call yourself a writer if you are writing the odd 200 words when the mood takes you?

Don't cheat. Don't cheat yourself. You are the one that gets hurt. What fresh work did you write yesterday? What fresh work did you produce on Monday? Did you have the weekend off? Were you going out to lunch Friday and never got into the mood? Was there a "really interesting" thread on some noddy web-site and you just had to get involved? My recent favourite in a writing forum not a coffee-shop was "Favourite Handbag?"

Tell yourself the truth.

A RISKY BUSINESS (2) Working Hard & Sitting Still

A RISKY BUSINESS (2) Working Hard & Sitting Still

I intend to write a million words in 2011.

I started 2011 on Boxing Day 2010, to (a) warm up, (b) start to flex my writing muscles, (c) get a few words started of “cushion, (d) to inspire the Boot Campers.

For personal reasons I have had a rotten, miserable writing year. I don’t really deserve to call myself a writer. I could wallow, I could give up. I could pretend that I am burned out, when in reality I’ve just got lazy and my writing muscles have lost their tone. In terms of fiction, since Dec 26th I have only written one piece. It’s not my best, but it is WRITING and by the end of January 2011 I will have written something that I can be proud of.

Now this is not to tub-thump or blow a trumpet over my own hard work. The obvious response (always wrong) in that quantity is achieved at the expense of quality. Not so! Not so! And even if it were so, and from a month's work I got just a single story of quality (I mean real quality) that's 12 great stories a year.

But the millions of words I write have taught me a new language. I can move around tenses and Points of View, appear and disappear as a narrator, do tricks I never dreamt of when I began writing, stuff I couldn't do after five years.

At their own rate, on their own scales Boot Campers are doing the same thing. They are first learning to speak so one day they will be able to sing.

Singing will mean insight, language, a fresh expression, depth of character.

But what is "depth"?

Quoting Alvarez on Brendel again:

Brendel thinks Beethoven's last piano sonata, Op. 111, is a "premeditated conclusion, a last word leading into silence forever."

Discussing a performance of a complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas in Munich Alvarez talked of "depth" and then quoted Isiah Berlin.

"Depth is an odd word. It's a metaphor but you can't translate it into other terms. Depth means penetrating into something very basic in oneself, and touching it, and feeling an electric shock."

At the time Alvarez wrote, Brendel was suffering physical frailties that were beginning to restrict his playing. He was getting old, but still learning.

"One does not stop learning," Brendel said. "I've learned how to control certain silences. They depend not just on what you play but on how you look. After the last chord of Op. 111, I don't move. I don't take my hands away from the keyboard, because directly I stir, they applaud. Each time I play the Beethoven cycle the silence gets longer, because I know how to relate to it. I know how to sit still."

On Sitting Still

I once wrote an article (you can read it at The Internet Writers Journal) called Theme Music: Tone is Not an Accident.

NOW, it's not. But when I began writing, long after I was being regularly published, there was tone over here, character over there, and a bit of plot somewhere if I can just find it, and the all important theme which was down the shops buying cigarettes but would be back in five minutes.

Tone is not an accident, not for an experienced writer. Nor is theme, and yet the best writers, those with the strongest, most gut-wrenching or intellectually invigorating themes, can write without worrying about their theme. How?


When we begin to get a feeling that a story is coming. I should add here I mean real writing not superficial trivia with a "clever" twist-ending, or that womag bumph or intricately-plotted shoot-em-up, or Dan Brown. I mean writing that matters a little, right now, writing that we return to, dwell in, savour.

When we begin to get a feeling that this kind of story is coming, what happens? If you get an idea, a plot-line, some clever tricks to post here and here and here, then I'm sorry for you. Oh, you might well publish. You might even be flavour of the six months, but you won't be writing.

What about the feeling, what about the ache?

What about that sense of pressure, of something deep in you or way back in time, or maybe some part of your life that only makes sense if you don't ask it questions? Don't you want to know who you are? Why you're here?

Don't you want to know what this is all about?

If we use the brain exclusively – I mean the logical left-brain, the bit we plan with, we cannot get "fresh", we cannot get "insightful". Instead we get the same old same old. It might be re-jigged (if we are really crafty) but it's still the same old. The active left-brain doesn't put things together that don't belong together.

The active left, interfering brain doesn't write:

I used to sit in the hall and stare at the geese on the wall, fascinated because one was chipped and had a white chalk beak. I am not sure I know what love is.

Because all those boring shapers, the life-police, told you that plaster of Paris ducks are nothing to do with "love". If you try to write that paragraph it doesn't happen. You have to let a better, more dangerous, more unpredictable person write it.

If we aren't using the left-brain. If we learn to sit still and let things rise up and emerge, those things are always better, truer, than what we do deliberately.

Think, most importantly about the many constituents of an opening. There is a setting, a tone, a voice, a level of complexity of language, a "colour", a timbre, probably a narrator, a character or characters, some air of musicality.

Where did they come from? Did you sit down with a team of advertising executives and Simon Cowell, and "thrash this thing out"?

Did you go to some stainless city office and listen to a Powerpoint presentation on the commercial viability of the darker character?

Or did something come to you?

If something comes to you, just comes, if you have feelings, these are the things, the powerful things that will matter. But you have to stand aside, trust the spirit, allow the souls of your ancestors if you like, allow the angels and demons to create.

Instead off grabbing at, or "considering", instead of planning why not ask (without asking) what's here, who is she, what does she sound like, what language does she speak? Stay low, don't frighten the visitor. She may have been in the dark for a long time.

This woman, this girl, this gift is incredible. You ask, how can I not control and yet write a controlled work? Surely it's impossible?

Of course, without help. But you have help. Look! She stands there, slightly bewildered. But all she wants is the tiniest of nudges and she will talk, exactly as you imagined, she will act in a way that always seems right, and because she came without force and emerged as a welcome visitor (from another place in you) she will now look after your theme.

Let me be boringly "straight" for a minute. Presume, temporarily, that what I say is true. We have a feeling about a subject. Maybe it's "something" about the cruelty of childless couples here, contraceptive abortions over there. It feels wrong, somehow but it's not as simple as believing abortion is always wrong, and not merely a rant against God. You feel the complexity of the issue, you almost feel you can express it, but it's so hard.

Then one day an abortion clinic is burned down and a passing child is killed. How confused? Or you read of a child who did not abort and is now a famous concert pianist. Something uncaps the ache. You need to say something.

I realise all this seems vague, but it's only "vague" because most of our lives we deal in greater certainties (which are false) and things which we believe are solid (when they are not.)

If you deliberately "take on" these issues, you are not going to access your deep feelings. You are going to access the front of the drawer where sound-bytes and simple fixes are kept.

I wrote a story once when I realised that my socks and underwear drawers each contain maybe fifty items, yet only the front five or ten are used, washed and re-worn. Think of the back of that drawer. We should be accessing it. Most of the time we live in the nearby, the simple, the quick and superficial.

So, instead of diving in, what happens if you close your eyes and see if anybody walks by? What might happen? A young girl who's pregnant? Her mother who's also pregnant? How about the unborn child or the recently aborted? I have no idea, because HERE I'm conscious, talking to you.

If you relax you might see a red sports car, a Frisbee, a line of Keats, and yet know they all combine and say something about abortion. If you learn to be still, someone will step forward.

If you learn to be still, someone will step forward, and that someone knows your point, she simply knows. If deep in you, despite what you might say publicly, something nags and says "wrong, wrong, wrong" you will NOT choose a real character who argues right, right, right.

Your inner self chooses the vehicle of expression. Think how often, when characters have just come, they feel known to you, like old acquaintances.

When I talk metaphorically I say that these characters are guardians of the theme. If they are spontaneous manifestations then they champion a real theme. If they are forced characters they are crude, obvious vessels for an obvious theme, and very probably the story will read like a polemic.

Damn! It's 12:30 and I have things to do.

OK let's try another tack.

When I see a set of flash-prompts posted that look "clever" and conscious, cold, cute. I expect fewer Boot Camp flashes to be written and a lower overall standard of story.

But when I see a load of lines or part-lines from great poems, a few odd break-the-spell words (the more bizarre the better) I expect more stories and better ones. The mere resonance and open-endedness of the poetic snatches seems to "set-off" the unconscious. Something is stirred.

That is, poetry and its effects are disorientating, mysterious, they come at us by entering through the foot or the elbow and bat us round the inner ear because they can. No frontal assault needed.

I believe that it's this subversive, playful, unusual "accent" in poetry that tends to release wilder (from the unconscious) emotions in those who read the prompts. Thus the resulting work is better.

We live in an age where we are inundated by clevernesses, but the very glibness and ease of these cute sound-bytes, the sit-com quips, the quick-fix knee-jerk, the tabloid headline crap (even Panorama cheats now), the pre-planned endings (but if you don't like the film's finish, we'll change it)… an age where shallowness is all. We escape by going under.

Billy Collins said: Poetry seems to provide, more than ever, an alternative to the din of public language (advertising, politics, etc) and a more admirable set of values than we find in consumer-mad society. I read recently about a poetry competition held in Barcelona every year. The third place poet receives a silver rose, the second place winner receives a golden rose, and the first place poet – for having written the very best poem – receives a real rose. So take that, all you fans of bling.

Arthur Polotnik said:

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. You edit to let the fire show through the smoke.

The point of this ramble is that to write about what's burning inside, we need to allow it air, to stand aside and let it burn us up. We have to learn to stand aside, be still, listen. We have to, though, trust our writing ability, which is why we must write, write, write, every day, every week, every month, so we can turn off consciousness. And then:

Somewhere, I know not exactly where, a grey campfire is kicked up, the flames catch again and are let loose. All catches alight.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011, Prompts 0,004

A I have a theory. If you do not love someone, you never loved them

B Sunset

C We will visit our dead and apologise for previous absences

D I am reading about a wife, a husband, and pure hatred

E I have lost all the data

F Mary Lee. Ding-Dong!

G The men of Our Valley, and Oh how they sing!

H Trust me, I'm a plumber.

I Firs time, ever I saw your face

J Melody Smith's idea!

K Sometimes I go out at night and try to look between the stars

L It will rain. It cannot be dry forever

M Sixty-three years ago, give or take...

N There's probably an app for that

O My second brain transplant was more interesting

P When did it start? When will it finish?

Q Theoretically it's a game, yes.


S She has a plastic ring, a perspex stone

T Mary Ellen at the Pawn-Shop Door

U A story beginning, "I suspect you will not like this, but..."

V I've just found out she came from Gillingham

W They are arming the professors

X A story ending, "And no, I do not need or ask for your forgiveness."

Y But if you DID fall in love with a ghost?

Z Burkha

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Prompts 0,003

A There are no more flies

B In general, if you want a job doing properly

C No, it doesn't make me laugh

D All the squares are numbered

E What could be prettier?

F I could always go to Hull

G I heard them singing, singing of home

H Once I lived like you

I The Oozing

J Margaret's Malaise

K Run over by the truth, which did not stop

L Nothing was said, but then the lights went out

M Fatal Error

N She fills herself with Indian Meals

O The dust thickens

P It's been going on a long time

Q Those who are out try to get those who are in, out

R I would say it but a lady is present

S Not all Catholics are Irish

T One-One was a race-horse. One-Two was one, too.

U A story beginning, "Stop reading. Now!"

V Kicked the bucket etc

W It will not do, it will not do, it will not do.

X A story ending, "I could do no more, I could do no better."

Y Diary of a Dead Man

Z Blenkinsop's Invention.

Why I Teach What I Teach

My son is a snowboard fanatic and was watching some youngster (21)
who is the world's best snowboarder.

This guy is so much better than the second-best in the world, he often
scores 100% when 87-88% is good enough for Olympic Silver.

I forget the term, but SB's go down a "pipe", using the overall downhill
and their own generated momentum to do various tricks.

The ting that is special about the world's greatest snowboarder is that he
DOES NOT plan or practice his run. He simply relies on "muscle-memory"
and his instinct for play. He says that when he DOES think or plan, he is rubbish.

In Football

it's much the same. Players practice "generalities" like pass and move
and get the ball back, but on match day they need to be freer. The science
of a curving 50-yard pass is quite amazing, but for some reason it's more
likely to come off if you just let the body do its own thing.

Which is why

in Boot Camp I keep telling you all to WRITE DRUNK, to totally ignore all the rules, to forget editors, to not even look at what you write, just write-write-write as fast as you can. That is how the subconscious gets free, and it's THEN that you surprise yourself.

The moment you stop, pause to think, consider, plan, you awaken the left-brain, the logical, the me-too, the formulaic, the obvious, the copy-cat dull-as-ditch-water left brain.

But HOW?

Do you learn the rules of writing? How do you ever manage to write well even if the ideas are magic from the subconscious?

By CRITIQUING hundreds, thousands of stories.
By engaging every single day with good stories and bad.
By reading EVERY day about craft.
By questioning everything you read.

THAT is where you do the solid work.
That is where the "rules" become imprinted.

STUDY, slog, BETWEEN stories, but write as free as a bird, drunk, high, aroused

Harlan Ellison once said you must ABSORB technique and work work work until it is natural, instinctive, until it runs in your veins.


write every day, and I mean every day. Wake up every day and say, "I am a writer. My prime object today is to find time to write something."

Ideally you should always write something (ideally 500 words) before doing anything else.

Writing first thing does a lot. You are the least cluttered and your left-brain is at its quietest. The other good time is very veery late when you are tired and the left-brain needs to rest, but morning writing does one other thing. It reminds you that YOU ARE A WRITER and you will therefore go through your day thinking, seeing, understanding with a writer's perspective.

2011 Prompts Set 0,002

A It's broken again, take it back.

B It was a miracle, absolutely incredible

C Late January, the first signs of thaw

D Sometimes we had it for tea

E Generations have walked, have walked, have walked

F Running Bear, Lovely Little White Dove

G I should rise, I should rise

H Shane did it again!

I If there were not mountains, if there were not sea


K She calls it love. I call it wanting food.

L Ironing, the Armistice

M So, apart from that, what did you think of the show?

N One upon an evening droopy

O I have been old and didn't like it.

P I knew her before she was a virgin

Q Robin Banks

R Or peanuts if you prefer

S The winter evening settles down, nuts roasting, something, on the air

T Hoo Flung Dat?

U A story beginning, "I would prefer not to write about this, but..."

V Lemon-Lycra-Tights

W I think I should speak to her. I think I should speak to her.

X A story ending, "Perhaps this explains things, perhaps it doesn't."

Y A Mouse Story

Z We the dead, demand the right to be heard.

2011 Prompts 0,001

A Nobody heard him

B I am not there, I do not sleep

C 12 Identical Pencils

D Now waving, but drowning

E With Amber Eyes

F We come from dock and shipyard, we come from car and train

G I will go now, the sun is rising

H My daughter will come. My wife pays to be alone

I Old beggars under sacks


K The foulness of Christmas Day

L Washing up as an act of war

M Tell me of your plans

N The cows wind slowly home

O When I was young and easy and drank cider

P Not all chains are metal

Q The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees

R Had we but world enough and time

S The sea is calm tonight

T Where the anvil, who the hammer?

U Stop all the clocks, cut off the phone

V Wearing Purple

W Come on, come in, like a river flowing

X It may be short; it may last for years

Y "Is there anybody there?".

Z All dead, and none that mattered

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December Prompts 011

A story beginning, "Really, it's quite simple..."


A small wodge of twenties

Dead Battery

Too quick, too quickly

Wedding, black-tie

He's something big in the city, very big

Charles? Camilla!

Collected Stored Shorties

Extra milk to cool it down


Twentieth Century Pottery

No, it really is, JUST A TREE

Run it under a cold tap love


It tells you what you really want

First of a few more

Hidden Lives, Public Deaths


Ace Boys...

Last of the many

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Transvestite

A Faraway War

Hard Frost

Various methods of persuasion


Thursday, December 09, 2010

December Prompts 009

I have decided to be a dog

The soft eyes close

We take our shoes off at the door, we smell lavender

A small English boy wearing a German helmet

Can you move the Mini?

Mr and Mrs Wales are Dead

Digging up Bones

An island of Apples

Press button for laughter

Barely thirteen months after

We have sold the horses and bought a tractor

Yellow Peril

Should we kill the chicken or wait for eggs?

Do not expect applause

How long does the sound of an accident linger?

Wearing Shorts

December Prompts 009

I have decided to be a dog

The soft eyes close

We take our shoes off at the door, we smell lavender

A small English boy wearing a German helmet

Can you move the Mini?

Mr and Mrs Wales are Dead

Digging up Bones

An island of Apples

Press button for laughter

Barely thirteen months after

We have sold the horses and bought a tractor

Yellow Peril

Should we kill the chicken or wait for eggs?

Do not expect applause

How long does the sound of an accident linger?

Wearing Shorts

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

December Prompts 008

McBee found a girl

He had skin like stripped wallpaper

Billie is three and his Mum ought to love him

This morning I thought I saw a Puffin

I woke, naked, in Marks & Spencer's


We need to go in, we need to go down

Love makes old things look different, coffee taste better

The had a log-cabin in a place called Swastika

My brother is asleep downstairs

We suffer and it is just below the surface


About four o'clock the child wakes, car headlights run round the walls

Wales closed this morning

Here is a not-very-poisonous apple

I stumbled upon a tribe who only laughed


Long, long ago when the world was wild

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

December Prompts 007

Old Devils

Warming up the Car

The Complete Dramatic Works

A Wild Justice

Pictures of my great grand-mother

Red Leather


I can climb this

Blenkinsop's Theory of Survival

Mary, Mary

China White, Charcoal Black

The air is thinner, but it's still air


in Hell's chance

A Faraway War

Twinkle, Twinkle

The sound of a satisfying murder

Monday, December 06, 2010

December Prompts 006

PS Anyone toying with the idea of joining BC in 2011 remeber there's a half-price deal close December AND you dodge the VAT rise


A blessing be upon your house

I am sure I have known this before

The Humbling

We could, of course, simply ignore it

The A-Team

The Broccoli Issue

Advanced Mail, Second-Class

Losing the Dogs

Where I'm Calling From

Citizen 14356

The Baker, the mother, the child

Poems for Strange Times

I have it! I have it!

The Women's Century

There were five amazing sisters. There was a brother

Voices of Silence

The Rise of the South

In the interest of consistency lesson five and six will come before three

Every person find something and be ready

There is no music now, in the whole of Oklahoma

Sunday, December 05, 2010

December prompts 005


I have patented, 12 million smells


I have patented where lines meet lines and captured a corner of the market


Slowly, but surely, the 11:39 leaves town

Almost a star

Cold? No, it's not cold.

It's nebulous, but then it is a nebula


From here you can see the village, the roofs glisten

Glass Slippers, one off

We got married as a protest against convention

Oh no it isn't!

Drip-charge, over-night

Nothing has been broken, nobody has been disturbed

The various uses of massage-oil

Like a patient under anaesthetic, meat

Just a hundred, but maybe it will help

I will go to Prague


Forgotten Voices

Can you hear the people sing?

I have been thinking of ways to kill my wife


I shouldn't keep the shrunken head, but

My Uncollected Stories

Death in Life

Saturday, December 04, 2010

December Prompts 004

Our FREE DECEMBER and half-price 2011 offer is still on (closes Dec 30th)..

remember VAT rise in 2011


Walking with the dogs on Watership Down

Rice & Beans


Not that much ice


How the music changes, how it falls

The sound of feet upon the stairs

'Night everybody, Love You!

Signed: Officer of Revenue & Customs


April 24, 2009. Lens Protector

Tail End Charlies


Includes all thirteen episodes

Going out of your way for the hitch-hiker

Peas or Beans

One day it will come back

Dear Sir, please find enclosed


Here's an idea. Build a tower for the dead and make it taller for each of the killed

Friday, December 03, 2010

December 003 Prompts

Why not join us at BC for a month of flashes and stories.


Email to Aimee

What a joy to climb into bed


Five and half million white plastic bags


I don't have a best side, take my picture in the dark


It's hard for a girl being rescued


Two sided triangles going cheap


In the falling heat of a late August night


Who's turn in the barrel?

I know it, you know it

His anger pervades this place

Class 4N made Daisy cry

Known to bite.

Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up

The winter evening settles like talcum from a child


One Saturday, we went down to the river

Thursday, December 02, 2010

December 02 Prompts

Let's face it, God isn't exactly bright


We drove to down, our pockets full

A mouthful of ashes

Distant something, it might be thunder


The children have brought their things, mostly dead

Hold this

About John McInnes

Just as it was fading, he turned and waved


One thing about him, he never let hopelessness worry him

We sow, they grow

I will stand here, something will come


Sex makes the world a little better. Briefly

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Join BC for Our December Flash

BC is free for the whole of December 2010

Why not join us for our December "BLAST" where we all attempt to write at least one piece a day, or 31 in the Month, refusing to wind-down for the last month of the year.

Prompts every day, flashes and poems and stories posted anonymously via a secretary, feedback from everybody on everything posted.

TRY IT (You know you want to!)

December 01 Prompts

A Landscaper's Dream

A fine smoke drifting

Once I heard a woman cry, a baby singing

Every day we re-create our world

The thing with pi

The Logarithms of Love

I will assume, Your Majesty, with the humblest air


He was a man of very few parts

Every second, a hundred billion neutrinos pass through the heart


He is very short and writes a lot on message-boards


Life once, by day, and perhaps by night


The Life and Times Of Gertrude Emily Grissom


I have been here, I have been here, I have been here, somewhere very close


They have invented a new fruit


Far off, an animal scream, a bark, a rush of something

The juice explodes and sinking, all flashes past

Tuesday, November 30, 2010



Part of Boot Camp is open to all-comers for the month of December 2010
and then, for any 2011 memberships taken up before the end of 2010, we are offering 2-for-1

Normal costs are £66 a month. Buy one, get one free

Pay for a month, get two
Pay for two months, get four
Pay for 3 months get six

Get eight months for the prices of four, 10 months for the price of 5, or pay for 6 months and get the whole of 2011

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Prompts 27 Nov

An evening in Braga

Perfecting the tumble-turn

As expected, the peak age is twenty-seven

178 Literary Allusions

The moving finger writes and having writ moves on


Monday Night Mathematics

A Bottle of Water

The Ugliness of the Razorbill

I am waiting, I have waited, I will wait.

The buzz of an empty office

Tommy has Gone

How child soldiers kill, how badly they die

It is not quite poison

Heroes & Sweethearts

I have in my hand...

What is this life, if full of care, we have no time

Picnic at the British Museum

Iron Man

Or to put it another way, No.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Prompts 13 Nov

The babies, combs, ribbons

We gathered at night, drifting in

A T-Bone steak for a dime

The winter evening settles down

We were living in trees, but we were living

Sometimes there comes, as if of darkness made

We club the children, not for sport, but they breed so, and their skins

Oh 1914!

Why has that gentleman fallen, does he eat the earth?

Horrible Headline 13


A bouquet, there is no question, simmering mussels, and somewhere, sex

I wondered lonely and all that shit

I have trouble with my nerves

Hug a plastic tree

What kind of staircase would Madam like?

There's this way, that way, which way

I am a dot, not like the other dots. Really

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prompts 10 Nov

I am suspicious of my country; what we are


The contaminated hate each other the most


Her Nembutal Bed

Oh, what a meal I will make of you!


I have left my street

There is no time here; time prefers the shore, the mountains


I am not sure why, but we are stripping doors


Ten, and a bus thunders in, stinking of rubber


Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Even as she kills you, the sea is indifferent


When she is sad, she thinks of old houses

Jennifer Do-Much

And if Disney had discovered religion

Sit down, breathe slowly, talk. Maybe we'll play chess


Underground, the light is bright: what comes?


The sound of a soft, felt, clapper-less bell

How is perhaps?

I would like more boats in my life

before, it was better

I'll go out and come in again

Why women talk of soft things

Soldiers are buying coffee

She would have preferred more "tragic"

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Flash Prompts 9 November

It is 1939 and we are tired

Lies, Damn Lies

Six rechargeable batteries, one not in line


Who sleep and wake, who murder and intrigue

What Innocence? What Guilt? Are they my fingermarks?


The hand that rocked the cradle has kicked the bucket


Well he would say that, wouldn't he?

And rain

Forever is shorter than you think

Two Pens

Perhaps, there is always an alternative, as there is always dying

First you need to know the gradient, then...

Iron Man

Twenty boxes of past its sell-by date coffee

You could use the books

Beautiful boys with bright red guitars

Prize poet lost for words

Above the baking tits of St Tropez

I only met her once, at Cliveden

The guitarist's writer-wife

Pills to brighten up your day

Lord Miles is caught up in something fishy

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

and more

They were the last two


She managed, two, maybe three, hours sleep

The office were up a few steps

Green really suits you

She dropped to her haunches

Her brief was to coach

The car-hire office was closed

She arrived late, slightly flustered and looking guilty

Behind her was the sea, empty sea

No, Sir. I knew exactly what I was doing.

They left together, going out through the offices

The Chief Engineer was a big, self-indulged man, about forty.

They came out into sunlight that cut slices out of them.

They ordered two salads

He was in white shorts, white shirt, white socks and orange-brown sandals

He told her she should run along now

Eleven o'clock, a balmy Lanzarote night.

She came out of the water blue with cold, but grinning

Monday, October 11, 2010

11 October Prompts

She was pissed off, in pain, bored, still on light duties.

He lived out on the Downs.

With a thick finger he cut the call.

Four weeks, four days now and she still hadn't been running.

She went down to the canteen for drinks.

She was as tall as him and as slim as he was underweight.

They got into his Scorpio.

She rounded the bungalow, slowing, faintly limping.

A garden shed, spades, garden forks, watering cans.

He was adamant. "I am not giving you the fucking choice."

That was Tuesday. This was Thursday.

This time she was going somewhere, not leaving, just going somewhere.

As she sat down she said, "Prozac?"

The flight to Arecife might have been called uneventful, except

She woke next day about seven.

A sweat raised, but only just.

They met in the Green Bar for a drink.

She had missed the discovery of King's body.

The day had been sunny and peculiar.

In the aftermath of adrenalin comes its antagonist.

A four-wheel drive Suzuki.

They drifted North. No they didn't they drove North, very deliberately, very specifically.

A little Spaniard in an orange jacket.

He was happy to hump the cases.

She was in a bath pink with Matey.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Few Prompts

Bent like beggars under sacks

Ten different colours

How to be utterly alone

Please attach photograph


The various effects of Germolene

William Shatner wears various masks

Mr Dodds' Clinic is held in the main hospital


Artificial Eye

Dance With a Stranger

A certain-sized battery

Please consider using smileys

If not cancer, then some other pain


I have, and I will do again

Saturday, August 21, 2010

September Blas Warm-UP Saturday Prompts

A Silver Bracelet


All the ships have left, the last plane

And for another twenty-five pounds, a neat leather wallet

And when a lovely woman

Another Toy

Bloody Men!

Career Path

Catch a Falling Star and Put Him in Hello

Come Live With Me and be my fuck-buddy

Drink to Me, Leona

Eating Electricity


Frozen Shoulder

Gather a few roses and that

Had we but world enough, and time

Here, have an onion

I had a goldfish

I Have My Lover's Heart (in the fridge)

I stood once, at a window in a storm

I will choose a child not my colour

I will have a cat named Beatrice

In my attic

Listen, the Curfew Bell

Plain-Clothes detectives are operating in this store


Shall I compare thee to a 0-0 draw in Crewe on a wet Monday?

She leaves the nursery and begins to walk

So I opened the parcel

The harbour is still, the sea is low and swollen

There is a pause in the music

There is no one like Sally

Tomorrow or Not


What I was about to say

When I consider how my life has whistled past

Women in neon passing the window

You waste your time and mine

September Blast Warm-Up Friday Prompts

01 I will not come out until someone apologises

02 And then by drowning

03 Maggot

04 Behind her was confusion

05 Three car crash

06 Wounded Bird, Tree

07 No Sadness, Farewell

08 We only remember their names

09 Red Slippers

10 We ride into battle, our horses do not volunteer

11 A Beautiful, Healthy young woman

12 Green Wallpaper

13 Eggs

14 Rock and Bloody Roll

15 The Arbortionist's Lunch

16 I made a sculpture of my father, without a heart

17 You Have Mail!

18 How many Eggs for Breakfast, Caesar? (Ate Two, Brute)

19 The nature of bad jokes

20 A black cat at midnight, in an unlit coal mine

21 Trooper
22 Count your blessings

23 A story beginning: "I won't lie to you."
24 A story ending: "If I could, I would tell you the truth."

25 Google "P98AK" and follow links until you have an idea for a story

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Prompts, Wednesday Morning

Another good one, away

Pasting over the evidence


He calls himself Harvey now

The smell of steak in passageways

Learn Russian in a Day


How life returns and bites

A melancholy of writers

The Origin of Laura

Almost enough stepping stones

Songs of a Dying Planet

A reason for navels

The Father of the Bride

Come back to us and claim your free pizza

Head Boy

How pain comes and how it stays

A Long History of Odds and Sods

A Mother's Story

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Prompts 25 Feb

Seance in Costa

John Lennon Glasses, at Last

Her pink phone

Or Africa

What's Going On?

Bikes Outside Boots

The Sandwich Bar is Just Down the Alley


How to Fall in Love With Your Wife

Taught Me to Fly


Flat White, Red Jacket, Litter Bin

A Barrista, Singing

The Frames, Saving for Lenses


A Small Cappucino and a Hug Please

Saturday, February 20, 2010

One Village at a Time

Changing the World

One Village at a Time

Alex Keegan:

My wife works for BT but has been working on secondment with Global-Ethics and One Difference. Global Ethics works by selling products and using all the profits to fund good work in sub-Saharan Africa. Recently Debbie went to see how just £7,000 can transform the life of a community by giving a village access to clean, safe water.

I became interested, not solely because I care, but because I can see a way to raise money, and directly understand the result. Supporting huge charitable organisations is, for me, soulless. They are all, no doubt “worthy” but I have no emotional sense of my money or my effort doing something specific.

I love the simple beliefs of Global Ethics and “One” and I want to raise as many of those £7,000 units as I can. To be able to start with nothing and end with a specific village, real people, and know we have changed lives and saved lives, that is just fantastic.

That’s where the “I” stops. Now about US.

March 22nd is World Water Day, and quite naturally Global Ethics will be holding various events. Here is OUR event, on behalf of G-E and ONE, us, Joe and Jane Soap, getting together to aim to build one pump, two pumps, four pumps, ten.


The idea is simple. It is aimed at both READERS and WRITERS. We want a thousand people to commit to just one 24-Hour effort on March 22nd.

Think, if 1,000 people pledge £7 (the joining fee) we have a Play-Pump. If we get 2,000 people and they raise sponsorship, of, say, £70 each, that would be 22 Play-Pumps, twenty-two villages, thousands, THOUSANDS of people whose lives we change for the better, forever.

HERE’s the DEAL.

Starting at midnight March 21st (00:01 on March 22nd) a group of writers start writing stories. They write one an hour, and they try to stay awake, writing, for as much of the twenty-four hours as they can. Sure many will need to take a break and sleep, but some hardy souls will last the 24 Hours (only the first six hours are tough) helped on their way by the knowledge of what they are achieving, and that they are being read (more on this later) and that at the end of it there will be an anthology of the best work, and their name, their achievement posted in perpetuity.

We have run such “crazy” marathons before raising money for various causes. In one we had a THIRTY hour marathon. Half a dozen hardy souls managed the whole thing and we raised more than ten-thousand pounds.

But that was an impromptu, shoe-string, just-tell-friends congregation. Think how different this could be with Global-Ethics and ONE behind us, and with some truly spectacular prizes for readers and writers.

I am visiting Global-Ethics on Wednesday 24th February to tie-up the prize-structure and some truly wonderful opportunities for supporters of “One Village at a Time” the marathon itself.

What Would You Have to Do?


1 Sign up as soon as possible, pay just £7 to join, direct to G-E or ONE.

2 Tell your friends what you are doing.

3 Beg steal and borrow sponsorship

4 Start at 00:01 and write a story.

5 Continue writing or take breaks, trying to write as much as you can.

6 Post on the Facebook and other forums and be enthusiastic.


1 Sign up as soon as possible, pay just £7 to join, direct to G-E or ONE.

2 Tell your friends what you are doing.

3 Beg steal and borrow sponsorship.

4 Read stories and comment (they will be anonymous)

5 Continue reading or take breaks, trying to read as much as you can.

6 Post on the Facebook and other forums and be enthusiastic.

We are in discussion on the specifics but G-E/ONE will be offering superb prizes in a number of categories, and one will be spectacular, involving shiny airplanes, and crossing the equator.

Visiting one of the villages and seeing the children, seeing them having fun on a play-pump, seeing all that beautiful, clean, safe water… that is a life-changing experience. It could be yours.

The Suggested Categories might be…

Best Story or Stories (General)

Best “African” Story or Stories

Best Poems

Best Motivator, Best Helper

Top Sponsorees

What Do I Say to My Prospective Sponsors?

WRITERS could ask for a fixed amount, or a payment per story, or so much a word, or could ask for so much “per hour I stayed awake.”

READERS could ask for a fixed amount, or a payment per story read, or could ask for so much “per hour I stayed awake.”

Prizes will be funded from Story Fees. I believe prizes are necessary as they give the writers a genuine challenge, a competitive field, and help raise energy levels.

But we want to raise money for the charity, AND have fun.

You raise money for the charity by

(1) Paying the joining fee and
(2) Asking Friends and Family to sponsor you.

If you then are entering a story or stories in the short-story writing competition “in the normal way” you would pay a fee for that, but note ALL entry fees will go to prizes. That is, if we collect £10,000 in entry fees, we will pay out £10,000 in cash or goods.

Payments will go direct to Global-Ethics/ONE

Please note you might write 2, 5, 10 or 24 stories. We hope you would send them all in, but you would NOT be required to enter every story in the competition!

As the maximum theoretically possible would be 24 stories at £5, I would suggest that any writer raising £120 or more in sponsorship would be allowed to enter his/her stories free.

Thus some contestants could raise money in £5 amounts, others raise money by persuading friends to sponsor them.

Prizes and Prize-Giving

This will be arranged, probably in London, by Global-Ethics

Look on Facebook for:

GROUP: One Village at a Time

EVENT: One Village at a Time

Please, only join the group and/or the event if you are prepared to actively participate. Firstly, pay that £7.

Don’t “just join” the group or the event. Putting your name on the list tells us that you are serious and want to build these Water Pumps.

There will be a lot of news forthcoming in the next week. Prizes will be firmed up, the Prize Day will be announced, and details of the anthology will be confirmed.

Please SIGN UP. When you sign up, post your targets as a reader or a writer. Please post and say, “I have signed. I pledge my £7. I will raise sponsorship and I am aiming for £X,XXX
We can build a Play-Pump

We can build another.

We can change the world ONE VILLAGE AT A TIME

Thursday, February 04, 2010

0530. Deadline 0700

Victory Dive
The Plural of Girlfriend is Trouble
Good Idea, Bad idea, Happy Xmas
Treacle Tart, Custard, Tart
All Cats Are Grey in a Sack
Things to Do With an Oblate Spheroid
Walter Raleigh at Home
Will you please be quiet, please?
And if the World WAS Flat?
Pomegranate Eggs
Chocolate Coated Wire Wool
Henry the Ninth
Between Rock and Folk is a desert
Elvis Lives and Was Seen Wandering at EotW
Sand, Piper, Sandpiper
How Penguins Stink.
Nora Batty’s Underwear
A story beginning, “Now I’ve made it, I can do anything..
In a Jiffy
Girl With an Earring, Pearl
But I don’t Like It
Zinc & Castor Oil Cream
Three Interesting Things About Eczema
Shroud, Banana
Thin Ice, How Not to Fall Through

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

11 PM Prompts 00:30 Deadline

Understanding Urine
Party From Prague
A story beginning, “The lid will be stainless steel
Slow Boat to China
The Importance of Integrity
Professor Flambag and the Cleaning Lady
Tea With Sir Lancelot and King Arthur
Chimes, Pain, Rain
Yellow, Green, Blue
A story beginning, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have
The Children Are Playing
Desert Island
Best American Shirt Stories
How High is a Chinaman?
Mellow, Yellow
Noon, Prompt
The Good Mother’s Handbook
Sleepy in the Corner of the Eye
The Best Thing Before Sliced Bread
Happy as Ding Dong David
Purple, People, Purple
Father Maloney’s Glass Eye

6PM Prompts (730 Deadline)

Maybe somebody will actually write and submit a flash...

Google “bollock”
At Home With Matt le Tissier
Fun With the Squirts
The Marshmallow Wars
Creepy, Chocolate and Three New Positions
Winston’s Amazing Wang
A Child of Our Time, in Time
James Bond is Gay says Rosa
Google Eyeball Cheese
The Ancestor’s Tale, The Ancestor’s Tail
I Love Rosa Kleb
The First Commuter Train
Flood, Floods
Daylight Saving Time. Daylight, Saving Time
Walking Up Everest, My Love
How Should Bathrooms Smell?
Dead Famous, Famous Dead.
Chicken Little For president.
The East Wing
Midnight Prompts
Driving in Darkness
Pinocchio’s Secret
Write a story updating or subverting a famous fairy tale (e.g. Cinderella)
Why Plants Turn Brown and Die

Frantic Flash Prompts at 0800 Wednesday


Monday: Abergavenny Thursdays v Sheffield Wednesday
Tuesday is Soup
Friday on My Mind
Saturday, Saturday, Cheese
All Garlic No Meal
Pigging Out
The Chef is in the Saucepan
More is Always Too Much
Blood on the Table
When the Teacher is Redundant
Dead Baby Soup
Sitting in Tesco Car Park
The Surgery
Charity Fatigue
Chocolate or Sex?
Useful Ways to Die
Premature Emasculation

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

6PM Prompts 19:20 Deadline

A story beginning. “You put yer left leg in”
A story ending “You pull yer left leg out
Less is More
Eyeless in Gaza
Armless but Dangerous
Legless, Drinking with Dylan
Footless and Fancy-Free
Toothless, but his Bite still Hurts
Apple, Apple, Apple
The Hiroshima DVD
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
Aspects of the Navel
Even Fighters Die
Able to Look, Doesn’t See
Banzai! Banzai!
Talking to Mr Fuckukami
Albert’s One-Eyed Bed Snake
Monocular in aspic
Travels With My Girlfriend’s Monkey
Why Rubber Trees Grow in Straight Lines
A story beginning, “They departed, the Gods, on the day of the strange tide”
Write a Zombie story without the word Zombie, or blood
Going North
A Rainy Day in Manchester, a Cafe, Julia
M, M, M


I posted this today on the excellent blog of Tom Conoboy

Hi all, in the Boot Camp "gridding" process, language has a PAR mark of 10 whereas opening is 11, character and theme and plot 12, pace 12-13 and ending 12.

Why do I appear to "downgrade" language when I so love it, and occasionally write (myself) in a writerly way?

Because a great story can be great with fairly ordinary language. Adequate, of course, suiting the purpose, of course, and perhaps, though apparently "ordinary" (think Raymond Carver) it is actually very polished language.

In that latter case we score for "invisible excellence"

But beginning and intermediate writers and many well-published authors(and BLOODY BANVILLE) need to understand, as Vanessa says, that language is ALWAYS the servant to the story, never the leader.

In BC we would also have the case that if language par was for a fairly arty, "languaged" style then 99% of BC stories would always be marked as (linguistically) UNDER par and the result would be writers adding bells and whistles to try to gain higher marks. UGH!

No, we first learn to write good stories, led by character and meaning, in whatever linguistic weight/complexity serves us at this time.

We then learn to lose the cliches, the stock phrases, the redundancies and accidental repetition or bad, accidental internal rhymes.

and we slowly attain a gentle flow, a more natural, smoother flowing narrative. BUT this could still be (at first glance) "unlanguaged"

A year or two in we are using a single perfect word where once it was a sentence or half a sentence, and we have learned flow and rhythm, pace and pacing, when to hold the reader's hand to the flame and so on.

But IMO this should ALWAYS be, a natural "emanating" thing and never IMPOSED.

I believe character, voice, tone, plot, AND language should spontaneously rise up and come from us. Every one of my quotable lines was NOT engineered, and 90% of them were never edited.

The ability to XXXXXX the right phrases (I'm trying to think of a nicer word than vomit) does NOT come from trying (this is why I LOATHE Banville's Booker winner as pretentious shit (I'm holding back here).. it comes from EATING

eating poetry (you don't need to understand it or be a poet, eating stories, eating songs, eating adverts, eating photography

eating all the arts and most deliberately trying NOT to work them out but let them work on you.

I am working-class, from a bookless family, missed years of school, left at fifteen, read Mickey Spillane and Dick Francis, never did serious literature before the age of thirty (and then not much) but learning to be open to things allowed me to get a feel for language.

as an aside, Tom, I find your ability to read (speed wise and depth-wise) astonishing and I feel intimidated by your academic abilities!

Precisely HOW that happened I don't really know, but it's something about going naked as a reader, almost allowing yourself to be f----, I mean seduced by the writer.

I know that the unconscious or subconscious is a thousand times the writer the conscious ever will be.

I tell Boot Campers to argue, analyse BETWEEN stories, but then to forget everything when they write. Strangely, each story they write has a small step gleaned when analysing but "erupting" and not placed when free-writing.

If that's random, so be it. My preferred way!


1505 (1615) Prompts Deadline 1730

Black Boots, Brown Boots
A book, but not as we know it, Jim
Cat in a hat
Beneath the Rubble
A Sanctimony of Popes
Moon, Bird, heat
A house full of trees, A hundred horses
His secretary is crying
Very little blood
The ploughman and his plough
After the singing, after the crying
Flat White
Gold letter on her front, she sound Polish
Sorry, is that yours?
It’ll be another couple of minutes
After Making Love We Hear Footsteps
If all men are rapists, then all women are typists!
The stars beneath our feet
Black Wednesday

0730 Prompts Tuesday Feb 2nd

Deadline 08:50

Going Back to Miami
How did she ever get to be this alone?
How sad the mouse loves the elephant
How to Be Alone
I am thinking about my father, my mother
I don't like football any more
I remember others summers
Pencils, beer-mats, matchboxes, pens
Stand By Me
T S Eliot on His iPod, Dante in His Bag
The Death of Ivan
The Smell of Cooking Meat, High on the Night
The Smile Upon My Face
The taste of purple, the smell of priests
The Tolstoy i-Pod
The Vaguely-Happy Barrista
The Waste Land
There appears to be no ridge, no way for it to hold
Various Methods of Appeal
Watching people rise and scatter

0615 Prompts Tuesday

Deadline 07:35

When I walked beside my father
I smell bacon
I was a snowman, born in July
Lady Sings the Blues
Leaving Soon for Lancaster
My School Cap Flying
Of course elephants can jump
One Or Two Batteries May Work
Peel it back
52 Ways of Looking at Love
A Change is Gonna Come
A wide street in Beijing
A wooden chair in the corner of a cold room
About your credit score
Around the bottom of the tree, but not the tree
Attic Dreams
Boring Letters Home
Fighting Towards Italy

Monday, February 01, 2010

21-30 Prompts a Little Early

You just get extra minutes.

Deadline 22:40

A.M. 180
An honest man here, probably
Books to the wedding
Burn one down
but anyway
Chop Suey!
Element of light
Especially when it snows, if it snows
Faith may be they anchor
Great things
He lived next door, a child
I dreamt about Claire, Oh God, and rose at four
I seem them on shelves, on window-sills
I Spy
It's alright ma (I'm only bleeding)
Just a day
Just give 'em whiskey
LACW Hall. S, can't you see your tattered dress...
Of the sea, to the sea
One man, one hundred thousand dead, how cool is that? How it should be
Our Bovine Public
Standing on the last star
Tail-End Charlies
The Blower's daughter
The dead depart? To where?
The Loneliness of a tower crane driver
The smallest cage
Toilet paper
Torn on the platform
True false, fake real
Waving Flags
We fight for diamonds
Where did you come from, down what light?
You were not there


Deadline 20-45

Something About a Leopard
The Reservation: Celebrity Chiefs
The sea sings because it is moving

The Angry Priest
The grass needs cutting
The simplicity of it
The train is empty. It doesn't want to leave
There is a sign of night, clouds
They're sending for a van
To Protect the Quality of Our Coffee
Unrelationshiply making love
Waiting for morning, for breakfast
We lie, in bed
We smoke a silent cigarette, look at the rain
When I was a child, I imagined.
Which of the Gods Made Them Quarrel?
Who's afraid of Jane Austen?
Wondering about small American towns, dusty roads
Your body is too sharp

Prompts at 18:05

Deadline 19:20

Lost Without His Brother
Love broke out
Madame Curie
My father was claustrophobic
No sense of rush, just being

Not really worth considering
Now there is no table
One brick, then a second, then three, four
Only still water reflects

Pickard woke me
Pigeons gathering on wet slate
Problems with Greek
Slowly the women file forward

The A-Z of useless platitudes
The road to your place, they are digging it up
Scan it in and fax it
The Last Thing You Read

12:40 Prompts


How old men walk, I hate it so
I am trying to remember, trying to believe it
He asked them, "Play the Birdie Song"
A glass door flashing

A Sad House
A Tea-Room Garden, a single bee
He wakes crying
I believe I could believe
I have something not to say

I wanted to love once more so I could die
If, dear
In The Court of the Red Queen
It will be something to talk about at least
It would be nice to have the time
It's like a wound that opens and then opens

It's square, but more round than that
Let us compare our lives, our separate sadness
Let's face it. Or not
Locked in
Long, slow railway stations, the darknesses

The Real Thing February 1st 0530 Prompts

Deadline is 0645

Please email "I'm in" if you are doing this session (same goes for evry session) (


A tin-roofed shack, no phone
After the Coma
It could be perfect but a leaf falls, falls
It was in a poem, or an advert

Back to my high, empty place
Blessings, Effendi
But then, who does?
Calling Down the Money

Dog in a bath
Don't give it a thought
Flanagan Starts Running

He didn't have a belly-button
He left her photographs of sad caravans
From Thursday to Friday

Sunday, January 31, 2010

22:07 Prompts

Deadline 23:45

Pints of beer and warmed up shandies


Someone has died at number ninety-five

The alternatives were ghoulish

The Man from the Pru is chasing Mrs Evans

The wood vibrates

Three tanner doubles and a treble on some mares

We could marry down the Reggie, so we did

Well we knew that we were foolish

You said you did not love me, but there was the kid


A Small War, Far Away

After They Leave

And a boy at fifty-two has an odd disease

And a packet of ready-salted or a pie

And Ron from seventeen is in Cardiff for debts


Bloody Beethoven

But Robert Wakeham went to nick for twenty years


Dad borrowed a quid from Mam, went to the Gaer

Dance like you are going to die tomorrow

Enough left for The Sporting Life and just about four pints

February, March, Late

Forced smiles on a hundred pink-faced women

20:30 Prompts

Fred Murphy made a fortune on the lorries to Llanwern
Grass polished yellow
He had three daughters there, all with bastards
Her Family Tree is a Willow, I am Pine

How to Be Alone
I cut your grass, took out your trash
I stood beside your bed
In His Cottage Kitchen, Just Talking, About Books

In the shed, in a corner
It has nothing to do with love
It just went on until they all began to die
It’s on ITV 19
It's the same the whole world over

Keep looking till it hurts
Last Tango in Basingstoke
Lawrence of Bulgaria
Married and not even pregnant
Men in sports jackets and open-necked shirts

My mother liked the bingo up Stow Hill
Officially, we are not brothers, but I choose to disagree
On Thursdays Mrs Murphy polished her pill
One Hundred Million Pounds
One or Two Natural Wonders of the World

Sunday 18:32

We are here to help you
She whispers from the corners of her eyes, looks with a curled lip
Strong Plunge I Have
Ted is going to buy a cheap radio this week

Telephone Call From Istanbul
Tell the Joker he's not funny; give the Penguin the bird.
Ten Million Green Bottles.
The floor is full, may I have another room?
The House is Sad, the furniture weary

The Simple Truth
The sound of padding dogs
The Thing About Birthdays
The Vacuum Run

The Zombie I met in Tesco
They're all doing a brand-new dance
Trailer Park Boys

Vinegar soaking through
Way Down in the Hole
You and your strange ways
You Can Look But You Better Not Touch

Sunday 15:17

Deadline (official start 15:30) is 16:45

I have decided to be slovenly
I think my sight is not what it was
I want to somewhere, on a long dark train, whistling
Kitchen Sync
Lovely Rita

Madness by Text
Maybe We Will Recover
Memories of My Father
Memories TV
Monica Monica Canteen Queen

My Auntie is sad because she's dying. My uncle is sad because he can't.
My little enamel table
My new hairdo and clothes have cheered me up
Next door's cat is shitting in my roses

One day I will be a skinny boy, ribs showing
One Mint Left
I have been having a pleasant day in bed, resting and reading
Please choose music, photos

Pull Yourself Apart, Man!
Red Light
Say it's all right Joe

Sunday 13:35

Deadline 14:55

Man on a Bridge
A Plain Wood Table, A Simple Chair
A story of lunches and love
A young women in an apron dreaming of the higgler
All the Way to the Middle
An Awfully Big Adventure
An old man in a rusty wheelchair
Apart from the obvious, there is little to say
As for the hall, they've done the best they can
As the rain falls, as the rain falls
Be that as it may
Black Rain
Blue Avenue
Boots on white linen
Brown paper, about this wide
Clean Sheets and a River View
Crumple Me
Everyday, Every Way
He's BEHIND you!
I am baffled by you
I am going to start seeing a woman doctor
I Doubt it Very Much, Mrs Havisham
I feel almost smothered when I start to write

Sunday before Noon

Deadline 1305

When I am blind I will feel sunsets
I am glass; you shimmer, you are light
The history in a single grain
I am not much looking forward
I look at this scar, long, incredible. I was wide open once.
The sun in scorpio
First there is a forest, naturally trees, but the thing is forest
Maybe my sight is getting worse
Let me put it this way, there weren't six foot posters of him on student walls
Shivering, but it is internal, hands steady as a rock
I will lie down
What do you think of the hat?
They're only bombs, Mrs Tavistock, bombs don't decide
All this is is a table, these are people
Listen, beneath our breaths, listen
There were many of us, now there are few
It's hard to imagine love in Thatcham
Quietly, it must have been a weekend, they took us from the map
What kind of effigy?
All I am is at the window, all you are is not
My grey suit, my grey suit, my grey suit, my pink.

More Prompts Coming

Despite a few crises here expect promts SUNDAY



then break


as long as there is demand (at east one writer asking)

Sunday Morning Prompts

Apologies for the lateness. Domestic Disasters
(no that's not a prompt!)

Stand still a moment, listen carefully
When the day comes, and it will
Balancing his work, his lover, his writing
We woke up face to face like lovers
A small dark dot, someone is waving
We are waiting for the drowned man
The endless emptiness when they are gone
Something has come to our attention

Facing backwards on the escalator
Full of professors and so-o-o-o American
An Orang-Utan, his dog
A stitch of want below the throat
In a filthy alley just below
It's small things, the unreturned email, the pauses
Belching out the Devil
This is one possible way, raise our heads, walk
If candle-flame took the light
Perhaps there is a way we can recover

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just Before Midnight

Jut got in:

We were more or less accomplices

Old men reading newspapers

But she came to me, whispering, sucking, when she chose

Your gesture is appreciated

It is a trim accountancy

The air is poison

Hear careless children in the schoolyard, dancing on bones

It is kind of you to come

I loved my lover and I tried to love my wife

You drag out your days on your knees


I remember once, a nurse, not of my country

A face that called me deep, and echoing

The daily struggle ends in whispers

From what we have gathered we are not alone

A sadness waits here, like a tick in grass

Frankly, it would be nice to pause a while and take a drink

See death fly by confused

She loved a man who said he was a singer

They are all holier than I

What I believe is like a light across the moor

I stumble forward but the ground is treacherous

Every city has its ghetto

Of childhood, most, I remember fears

My name is Elias Jones, I have been dead these weeks

Saturday Evening Prompts

Here are two days' worth of prompts.

Use half for the 7:15 session (deadline 8:50) and the other half gor the 9 o'clock kick-off

I'll be back to post a set of prompts at 11:30

A grey curtain
Because above all things you wanted me
Begin again when the light rises
Death is never a mistake
Everywhere will be home
Faster and Faster. Faster!
From unmarked box to unmarked box
Fucking in the shower
I am a hungry bear, a scurrying rat
I have no voice
I see a lighthouse, sending out dark
If I knew how, I would do this delicately
I'll say it, then. No
I'm building a seven-sided cube
It is time to read out the charges
Let me take you through it again
Life spared him. The others were lucky.
Like something has started dancing on your desk
My kids are off to Auchswitz
Nine out of ten humans when asked prefer
No THIS is clutter
Somewhere, a woman is singing
Stones scatter themselves, the wind rests then moves on
The hospital, the doctor, the squirting flower
There are soft moments, silences, village cricket, insects
There are voices, ripples on the night
There is an empty chair
There is someone, something, in the ditch
They are manning the barricades, the ditches
This is the third time this week
To be born is to expect pain
Tongue and Teeth
We are too sad to be blind
We are walking to the North end
Why not be a surgeon?
Years ago when I was not old enough, I never thought I would be too old
Your hair is wet, your eyes

Frantic Flash Prompts 004

Deadline 10:10 Hours


Please do not call me, "Nazi"

Of course I have thought about it over the years

Before we continue, may I just say

The street is empty, I smell smoke

My wife bought me a cat because I hate cats

I often wondered about other mothers

It's a small, pretty place, near Milford Haven

Probably isn't definitely

My workers work: I manage. It is that simple


The hand that rocked the cradle has kicked the bucket

Slum Dog Millionaire

Perhaps I should return to my apartment

How Plaster Dries

Something in the night sky, lights

Were they ever rescued?

We went kite dragging, not flying

Another storm is battering at the windows, the wind keens

Music Classses

Clothes lines flapping with white, the sound of children

She was, in the end, more or less unharmed


Egg Night

A Small Good Thing

Frantic Flash Prompts 003

The sound of his voice

How the earth strains before it cries out

A swell, modest time


Cinema Darling, or Perhaps a murder?

In a catholic country


What are we waiting for, assembled in the halls?


The burnt-out ends of a ragged month


A newspaper tumbles in the wind


Blinds are pulled down at dirty, yellow windows


And she was built in pride and made for death


To see them flourish, fall


We lived in trees, or waded in the shallows of the lake


Fish are rotting in choked channels


Things will get raw and bleed


Everywhere stinks


It is a small sacrifice, just my son


Like old men double up and coughing


Death is beautiful slowed down

He is not as he is


A constitution of Foibles

Almond Tea

The Audio File

Posting was done in a hurry. I believe some non-Apple folkses may have trouble accessing (then buy an Apple, that's a real computer).

Meanwhile I will investigate other ways of posting Audio.

Posting the Frantic Flashes

I am posting the flashes in Boot Camp in a dedicated forum. If you are not a Boot Camper and wish to see them, get a YUKU ID ( then go HERE and post a message. I will fix access. (Obviously we need to keep stories out of the public domain.)

Listen to a Frantic Flash

Friday, January 29, 2010

Frantic Flash Practice 02

You will wake soon, I will go
This will need to be checked out, then we'll see
I dreamt of the perfect story
Tell me about the future, I want to know
For five days we waited
A crisp, fresh page
Remember me when you are gone
I am too well to be a poet
It is like, after too far in the rain, you see a light
There is a cold field somewhere, and gold
After, we laid in the sun and wept
Where is the boy now, what is he?
Owl, white as light
We could build a bridge, or a castle
At your ear, something breathless, rising
For all the mothers in pain
Where dead feet walked
I walked with sorrow, listening to her silence and understanding

Frantic Flash Practice 01

Stories due at the very latest 23;50

We are waiting, listless, breathing shallowly
A Madness of Ashes
The walls are high enough, for we are small and feeble
It's not easy to admit
There are small heroes, just as heroic
Van & Wheelchair
A pebble in her shoe
Standing Stones
iPad, Oh I-PAD!!
Ping, something has arrived
It isn’t just the crying
You are sitting, I am sitting. One of us should speak
Boiled Egg
Old Fart’s Ticket
Books for ten pence
Fiddle! Fiddle!
And BEFORE the big bang?
The boys have been playing poker
My mother has sold my books
Sheds, Pigeons
A little bit of luck would have seen us through
From the backs of pick-up trucks
If you love me, build
Read to me by candle-light, your soft voice
Wearing an old coat
At least the roof doesn't leak
Are you happy to be in this picture?
Drifting, Salt

Friday's Frantic Flash Prompts

Women in neon passing the window
Career Path
Plain-Clothes detectives are operating in this store
What I was about to say
In my attic
She leaves the nursery and begins to walk
There is a pause in the music
Another Toy
I will choose a child not my colour
All the ships have left, the last plane
A Silver Bracelet
So I opened the parcel
I stood once, at a window in a storm
Tomorrow or Not Eating
And for another twenty-five pounds, a neat leather wallet

Frozen Shoulder

I Have My Lover's Heart (in the fridge)

Come Live With Me and be my fuck-buddy

Shall I compare thee to a 0-0 draw in Crewe on a wet Monday?

Here, have an onion

Bloody Men!


Catch a Falling Star and Put Him in Hello

Drink to Me, Leona

Gather a few roses and that

You waste your time and mine

When I consider how my life has whistled past

Had we but world enough, and time

There is no one like Sally

Listen, the Curfew Bell

I had a goldfish

I will have a cat named Beatrice

And when a lovely woman

The harbour is still, the sea is low and swollen

Thursday, January 28, 2010

11 Signed up. We want 111

Despite my losing web access we now have 11 people signed up for the Frantic Flash for Charity (raising money until end-February for Haiti

But 11 people is simply not enough!

Join us to flash for fun and competition and raise money for the islanders.


More Prompts, Thursday

So this is how it begins, with a tiny cry
I place my hope on the water*
Night will kiss your eyes
They are beating the homosexuals in the street
A small, powerful, deadly pellet

Another twenty prompts in the usual place at Boot Camp
or in the Facebook Group "Frantic Flash for Charity

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

22 Frantic Flash Prompts

We can, but might not, seek answers
Spare Ribs and bad wine
My father was put on the train
Her long black hair
If I should die, think only this of me*
He sleeps
After the books, the wine-glasses, the clothing on the floor
All men are rapists! All women are typists!
Ted's Letters to the Gas Woman
On the other hand, courgettes
Through bars it looks different, but it is still the sky
I have considered death, but it does not hold much interest
Or an acorn
There are worse jobs than whore
Stretch-Limo From Milton Keynes
Ian Paisley's Poem

Frantic Flasher Until End-Feb for Haiti

We aim to raise money for charity at this Facebook Group

and at Boot Camp


In the first instance (for a few warm up days then all of February) the charity will be Haiti.

Members pay £20 to join. This is £10 for the anthology and £10 to Haiti

After that we raise money as follows.

Every Day we post a set of prompts, at least one set in the morning and one at night, probably more.

Members get the prompts by email at the set times and can flash "immediately" in response to one or more of the prompts.

They get a maximum of 70 minutes. Miss the cut-off you're not in the pot for that time slot.

We run a competitions as follows.

Entry (per flash) is £5. Every £300 collected is split, £150 to Haiti Relief, £100 Prize, £25 second prize, £25 to a pool for the Grand Prize. While we are raising money for Haiti, there will be deductions for judges etc, no deductions at all.


We would like all members/entrants to raise sponsorship either for "total words written" or "number of stories" (between now and End-February (for Haiti)

100 Members would raise 1,000 in joining fees, whatever "excess" or profit is left from the anthology, and half of any entry fees, plus sponsorship

Imagine 100 Members, entering an average of ten stories in the month and managing £500 sponsorship from friends, family, businesses

010 Joining Fee
002 Profit from Anthology
025 50% donation
500 Sponsorship

537 x 100 = 53,700

Meanwhile we have had 1,000 stories, 10-20 £100 First Prizes, loads and loads of writing fun, and we finish with a grand prize and a great anthology.


Absolutely YES!

We have run highly successful "Blasts", run Frantic Flashes (more than ten competitions), have a daily flash system already, and raised tens of thousands for Children in Need.

Please join us. Tell your friends.

Sponsorship for individuals will be handled by the individuals. We will only collect the joining fee and flash entry fees.


Tuesday's prompts

The rest of the prompts are in Boot Camp

Here is a taster

Lines with an asterisk are a direct quote

Other things to do in a library
The photographs opened it all up
Size -2 is the new thin
I a running through feathers, choking
They set about him with a knife and fork*
The third lie down, six lies before the end
Press Button A. Press Buton A. Press Button A.
The Terminal Conditions of Miss Jean Bickerstaffe

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday 26 Prompts

26 Prompts in the usual place

Argh! I wrote twenty-five prompts and they disappeared.

01 A selection of useful pills
03 Six hours in a stranger's town
15 Numb with frost but still moving
18 Sat on a wall
19 No-one made you eat it. No-one made you
20 God is a lousy witness
26 I a old, I am old. I will wear my trousers rolled

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Prompts

Twenty-Four prompts in the usual place at Boot camp

Here is a taster

01 The lake before it rises

02 His Permanent Address

03 Going out to the island until the light

04 Mummy's Puppy Guard-Dogs

05 Burnley

06 When we talk about love

24 Iceland

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dogs without Typos

This has just been posted elsehwere in Boot Camp

It's straight of the bat, unedited, take it as it comes. IMO it's far more fun, more real and true than a carefully edited, "constructed" article where the truth is slowly edited out. (EDIT) I shall now remove typos!


Three Writers are walking together and they see a small dog in the rain,
perhaps waiting patiently at a closed door, or trotting miserably down the road.

They all physically see the dog.

Writer 1 couldn't give a sh---. It's just a dog in the rain.

Writer 2 feels sorry for the dog, and vaguely thinks of a story and wonders if he can use the image...

Writer 3 feels a blow in his stomach. Something rises somewhere, a heat, the vaguest of memories.
It feels as if the dog, its predicament, the image WAS SENT TO HIM.


Dorthea Brande argued that when we are "tweaked" by something like this
it's because the image, the something, the snippet of conversation, a smell,
a colour, a sunset, whatever, CONNECTS TO SOMETHING INSIDE

Something old, something deep and possibly painful, something forgotten
or suppressed... we are feeling the power in the image of the dog but it is
actually the power of the vaguely-jostled deep memory. We might write in
the now but the power is in the way back then.

We do not need to ever KNOW what the original thing was, or the pains
if they were pains, but we "revisit" the swelling darkness of it, and allow it
to work its psychic dark magic on us.

What the memory or memories is or are is hardly the point. A common error when
reading this is to imagine that we must REMEMBER, actually recall the specifics.


In fact true so-called remembrance might well spoil the swelling story.

Memories that have been forgotten or suppressed may well have been forgotten
or suppressed for a reason. Trying to go there, trying to switch on a light and
understand the SPECIFICS is almost certain to be unsuccessful.

The writer does not need to know or remember or understand the darkness,
he or she merely needs to sense it, let it wash over, let its weight and truth
and hot winds affect today.


The Slow Burn, the Fermentation

We see something, our dog in the rain, for example. It thuds in the gut or the heart
(or the soul if we are lucky.)

We MUST NOT write about it.
We MUST NOT write about it.
We MUST NOT write about it.
We MUST NOT write about it.

We MUST NOT write about it. We must WAIT. We must allow the opening to open more, the weight and smell and pressure
to be combined and the NEED to grow until it forces its way out and we can no longer resist writing.

But of course we must not rely on memory to hold the idea safe. We need to have a way
of maintaining the faint connection and revisit every day, poking it with a stick, BUT

this but is important


We need to tickle, prod, coax, but in the most minor ways. We absolutely
MUST NOT sit and think, stare at the problem, ask ourselves questions,
go left-brained, "wrack our brains" trying to remember.

It is NOT the incident, it is the emotional response we are looking for.

Let us make up an incident that happened to us when we were barely three. The obvious suppressed memory might be physical or sexual abuse, or perhaps “you” as a child saw a man beaten badly or a father beat a mother, or a dog cruelly run down and abandoned. There are a million possibilities including irrational childhood fears that have no connection to actuality.


This is so important and few believe me. I say again, if there is or was a specific event (such as a beating, a murder, rape, a fire, a terrible illness, stumbling in on a parent having sex with a stranger, or merely some horrendous dream) IT-DOES-NOT-MATTER. You do not EVER need to recall the specifics, or even “know” what the incident (now fuzzy) was approximately.

Let’s say there was a dog in the rain and “somehow” way back when that image was associated with something awful (any of the above)… If it was suppressed by your psychic defences (I call these the Sentinels) why ON EARTH do you suppose they would just roll over after forty years and say, “Fair cop, guv, you remembered, we give in, what happened was this…”

Do you think the Sentinels are that dumb? Do you think, nearer to the events they didn’t have to deal with the memories? They know every trick in the book. Uh-oh, she’s sniffing round, better give her a “memory”, side-track her.

The harder you look, the less likely you are to discover truth.

Psychiatrists have known this for a hundred years. You have to sneak up on the truth and trick it.

But even now I’m misleading you or your getting the wrong end of the stick. I say again, it is not necessary to dig through and find the awful treasure.

It is not THE thing but the response to the thing that matters. To write with deep power does not mean you have to dig into the horrors or joys. What we seek is the heat of dark memories, the things that make us what we have become.

In this case, remember we saw a dog in the rain. We were Writer 3. The others didn’t have any connection triggered.

We write on our white board, “Little dog in the rain” or something similar. Maybe we have a photograph, or find something that is close enough that we can re-trigger the gut-feeling. DO NOT WRITE ABOUT IT.

Instead look at the white-board, THIS dog in the rain, and “think without thinking” just FEEL the image. The soft tendrils reaching back will feel for connections, and eventually they will be made. It might take 3 days. It might take months, years.

In the same way as the dog didn’t touch Writer 1, interested Writer 2 and blew away Writer 3, so it is with books, poems, short-stories, films, plays, TV shows, news reports, adverts. Different things hit us with differing intensities, BECAUSE OF WHO WE ARE and because of our deep pasts, especially the first twenty years.

If we re-awaken (and look away from) our dog in the rain connection, slowly “down there” deep in the soul, other things begin to connect.

Maybe for me (I’m making this up) I will see this trigger-dog, the similar-but-not-the-same photograph, keep hearing Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, remember (what?) a sad advert featuring a wet dog, think of a poem by Blake, a play by Pinter, almost remember my first wife and the dog we found, combine a story a poem, a TV serial, The Railway Children, 2001, then for some reason remember “Steve” from the children’s home and how he got angry and pushed the home leader down the stairs, oh and I broke a snooker cue, and there was the day I stole the rugby money, and and and…

Whether any of these things emerge clearly or merely in their essence is neither here nor there. The point is MY connections, what connects to what will be different from YOUR connections and probably driven by different deepnesses.

All we have to do is keep prodding, very, very gently, and with our eyes closed.

At some point, words, images, feelings, maybe lines will “want to write themselves down”. DON’T.

Just as we shouldn’t dive in Day One, so we shouldn’t dive in after a one-month pregnancy unless the story is screaming to burst from us like the Alien from John Hurt’s belly.

THINK maybe (not AT ALL about the original driving force, still probably unseen) but about this sense you have, this story that keeps rising up, something about a piano, a dog, a gas-fire. What’s that sound, that tone of voice? Who is the woman? Is it her dog? (All these questions and half-answers should be RIGHT brained, vague, NOT an interrogation…)

But there’s a line that keeps coming, something like Jennifer Merridrew, unmarried, but not a maiden, hides behind her piano, her fingers still…


So why did it come, where’s the dog? I dunno. But the stars are aligning for you, some wormhole through space is forming, you have found (almost found) a back way past the Sentinels. Remember they look IN THE LEFT BRAIN not the right. Put anything in that left brain, think deliberately and they are back on the case.

Maybe you write “Piano” beside the dog on your white board. Everything should be, MUST be, vague, loose, unspecific, open-ended. Go to your surgeon and ask if you can have your left brain removed.

PLAY with the words, sounds, tone, feel and start thinking ONLY of the opening lines. That opening contains the whole of the story, all the deep connections, the tendrils, the connections to the darkness. Slightly different openings will start to feel sort-of right, others righter. It’s like trying to find Radio Luxembourg on your transistor radio that you sneaked into your bedroom. Tune in. Eventually, often very suddenly you find the channel, the signal is perfect. THE OPENING WRITES ITSELF.

It takes me, sometimes, YEARS to persuade a single Boot Camper of the power of this approach. Few TRULY believe me when I say that 98% of the time the ONLY thing I know when I start a story, finally start it on the screen or page, is that opening and that I simply “know” that the whole story will fall at my feet.

Of the stories in Ballistics, of all my first-prize winners, at least 80% will have been written like this. Now ALL my stories are “written like this.”

And I a fully aware this appears to be the total opposite of the principles of flashing.

It is not. Flashing, as will be explained, is a cheap-but-effective-trick, a sneak-in-the-back-door way of APPROXIMATING all that I have just talked about.