My Faber Reading


A HUGE thank you to everyone who commented on my IWSG post a couple of days ago. I will continue to write, but I’m not going to make it the entire focus of my life anymore. I need to step back, chill about it, and if I don’t write for a week not stress about it.

Ok, I’m gunna share with you the piece I read out at the Faber event. Be gentle with me, I know it’s not brilliant lol. In the anthology there is a synopsis and a 1500 extract from Laura’s journal, the one that arrives in this scene…

Ruby knew the handwriting, but didn’t recognise the post mark. As she tore open the large manilla envelope her hands shook. Inside were a black Moleskin notebook and a folded piece of pink paper, a similar shade to the fluffy slippers she was wearing. Her chest tightened as she unfolded the letter.

Dear Ruby,

I know this has probably come as a huge shock, did you secretly hope that you’d never hear from me again? I pray that’s not the case. We are so alike, you and I, stubborn to the bone and we have wasted so much time. Regardless of what you think of me, I love you, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about you, worried where you were.

You’ll be pleased to know I finally summoned the courage to do what you’d been telling me to do for years. I’ve left Daniel. I walked out with a small holdall, my passport and our joint savings. I managed to find a room in a house share, which is where I’ve been for the last ten months.

I know you said when you left that you felt I had chosen him over you. That is something I’ve had to live with these past years. At first I was angry with you for saying that, but now, I think you were probably right, and it breaks my heart to admit it. How could I have chosen my husband over my daughter? I’ve been an awful mother. I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but please accept this notebook. I’ve been writing in it these last few weeks. There is so much I want to tell you.

I don’t expect your sympathy, I’m not asking you to come and see me, pretend nothing’s happened and pick up where we left off. I know it’s too late for that. But always remember that regardless of what you think of me I have always loved you and I’m so sorry for all the hurt I’ve caused. It will haunt me for the rest of my life.

I hope you are happy and having the wonderful life that you deserve.

Love, always.

Mum x

Ruby closed her eyes and slid down the hallway wall to the cold ceramic tiles, her head spinning, her breathing erratic. And that was where Sam found her, twenty minutes later, clutching her knees to her chest, the notebook on the glossy floor at her feet.

I really don’t know how I managed to read it with all the crossing outs lol

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The general consensus from my writing group was that it was a bit too “tell” which is fair enough. But how do you stop a letter being all tell, because that’s what a letter is isn’t it? Any ideas on another way I could have done it would be much appreciated πŸ™‚

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45 thoughts on “My Faber Reading

      • Yes, that’s exactly what I was going to say. Did you have a word count imposed upon the piece? Maybe, you could bring more senses into play and integrate some little observations. Is the letter neatly-written, or full of crossings-out (like your typescript lol)? Does Mum’s writing slant forward, backwards, or a bit of each? What’s distinctive about it? Those sort of things will show her state of mind while writing it. Maybe there’s a smudge on it from a tearstain or spilt drink. Does the paper smell of Mum’s perfume, or the moleskin books, is it worn, or smelling of mildew, the pages white or yellowed, dog-eared or neat?

        The piece is very well-written, but maybe a little over-neat, viewing Ruby from the outside rather than getting right inside her, which is an extremely hard thing to do with a restricted wordcount. The important thing is that it creates a mystery and I want to know more

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      • It had to be 2 minutes Sarah 😦

        Thanks honey, some great ideas πŸ™‚ I did have that kind of stuff in the rest if the chapter, and of course when she starts to read the notebook, but I think I just wanted to get across some intrigue in the 2 minutes lol….

        I have LOTS to think about lol

        Xx

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  1. It’s difficult to come up with alternatives not knowing when this hits in the story. If it’s toward the end, then it would be a nice summation. I saw you post about not writing full time. You have to do what’s right for you. It’s great that the hubby let you try it. It took me a while to figure out what my passion was. I wasn’t expecting it to be writing, that’s for sure. I’ve had to force myself not to get sucked in and remember that there are things going on around me. I hope you find it or at least are satisfied with the present status quo. Good luck! πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Melanie, it’s actually the opening lol

      Awwww, thank you, I will get there, figure it out, as I always do, but it was just great to get it off my chest and have a good moan lol πŸ˜‰

      Xx

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  2. I think it’s haunting and well done. You’re right, it’s a letter and a personal tone such as this with wrenching introspection and emotion is going to say more than a form letter. As for tell, the only place I see that is detailing what she walked out on Daniel with. It could stand alone as is: I’ve left Daniel. I walked out.
    Brief seems to make it even more final, don’t you think? Maybe that’s what your group saw. Anyway, I think it’s great writing.

    By the way, all authors do that β€œgotta do something else” thing. We all get stale and need to do something different from time to time. Some writers find that’s all they do creatively. Creatives can find sustenance in any creative process. That sounds like the sort you are. Cooking delicious things sounds like a wonderful creative diversion. You may very well return to writing with a well-fed mojo ready to go. Best luck. Give yourself permission to take that well-deserved break. xx Rose

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    • Awwwww, thank you so much Rose, your comments mean a lot.

      Ahhhh, yes, I see what you mean, I could just drop that sentence couldn’t I.

      Thank you honey, yes, stale, that’s what I’ve become….it’s funny, I used the word bored, but since reading everyone’s lovely comments I’ve realised that there is far more to it than that πŸ™‚

      Thank you xx

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  3. I like this Vicki. For show not tell – maybe the start of the letter, after “Dear Ruby” have her reaction rather than mum telling her she’s probably shocked? I don’t know as maybe she’s not. Then reading on. Just a quick thought… It’s hard when the letter is a telling.

    I’m glad you’re doing what is right for you x I hope you’ll still be blogging though??

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    • Thanks Rebecca, pity the agents didn’t *snigger* πŸ˜‰

      Thanks honey, yeah, someone in my writing group suggested that I intersperse it with Ruby’s response.

      I will definitely still keep blogging, even if it’s just to moan lol πŸ˜‰

      Xx

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  4. Well! I’m sorry but I disagree, the letter only made me want to read more. To me there are lots of un-answered questions. Why did they fall out? Why did mum choose husband over daughter, why is mum writing now? How did mum find daughter?

    Please I want to read more πŸ™‚

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  5. I thought it excellent Vikki. As a letter it’s what you’d expect under the given circumstances and it leaves the door open for the notebook to flesh out all the details the letter alludes to. I’d have thought it more of a guide as to what to expect than a ‘Tell All’. After all, at this point we don’t know whether the husband is Ruby’s father or why the choice was made by her mother to support one over the other and why Ruby is obviously estranged from this man.Nor do we know what’s ensued during the period Mother and Daughter have been separated which has caused Mother to regret her decision. I guess what follows in the story tells us that.
    For me, it left questions that the story would fill.
    xxx Hugs xxx

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  6. Hi Vikki, maybe it’s a wise decision to step back from writing every day and just write when the feeling grabs you, I feel that the best ideas happen that way. I know it’s disappointing to not get a publishing contract, but these days as you know, self-publishing is the bright new idea. There’s lots of brilliant indie books out there. I was thrilled yesterday to get a four star review on Goodreads for The Silver Cross. Just write when you want to and because you want to, and then you will enjoy it, which is the best way to write. Just don’t give up!

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    • Thanks June πŸ™‚

      Oh, I’m not disappointed about not getting a publishing deal, I think that’s the problem, I’m not sure I actually want one! Lol πŸ˜‰

      Excellent honey! I still haven’t read it *hangs head in shame* because I don’t like reading on a Kindle lol. I so much prefer REAL books.

      Awwww, thank you, no, I won’t give up completely, I just need to change my focus a bit πŸ™‚

      Xx

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  7. As I was once an agony aunt I’ve read an awful lot of letters in my time! How well educated is Mum, how accustomed is she to putting her thoughts down on paper? At the moment it is a well crafted letter saying what she wants to say ie. where she is now and why and what she feels about the past. But if she found such a letter incredibly hard to write and wasn’t very good at this sort of thing then you could make it more clunky, more emotional, leaving Ruby forced to read in between the lines…but that idea might not be appropriate for your character.
    One other thought: it is very rare in life or in fiction for one person to say to another – you were right and I was wrong. I think it would be more natural if she tried to justify herself in some way for choosing her husband before her daughter. (he brainwashed me….maybe I was just too needy back then…) but of course in the context of the whole story this could be the right note to strike.
    I agree with June and the others. Don’t beat yourself up! You’re incredibly productive — but sometimes you need to sit back, take time out

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    • Ha ha ha, really? Wow…what a great source of inspiration! πŸ˜‰

      Thanks Bridget, you’ve given me some great stuff to think about!

      Thanks honey, no, I’m not beating myself up, I’m re accessing lol πŸ˜‰

      Xx

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  8. Ah… I was going to say exactly the same thing as Bridget about the letter. Unless she’s written and re-written it and is very literate, it says everything maybe a bit too perfectly! Breaking it up would be good. Perhaps it should be a bit more stumbly, with some crossings out and maybe some smudges on it and the scent of fags (if she’s a smoker) – a wobble in the hand-writing? Or is it obvious to Ruby that she’s using her very best writing? Can she see a faint imprint on the paper where the letter has been written on the sheet on top and discarded? Maybe some of Ruby’s thoughts as she slides to the floor? I think you’re really brave and such an honest writer. Keeping yourself open to learning will get you where you want to be – and you’re obviously open to learn because you’ve asked us all to read and comment! Don’t stop writing this story – I hope you find a step back sorts your head out and takes away the ‘stale’ aspect for you. I’m hoping to read this entire novel one day! xx

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    • Thanks Linda,

      I see exactly what you mean πŸ™‚

      He he he, I think this novel will be the death of me….be 3 years in November, 3 different versions and I still can’t get the structure right lol *deep sigh*

      Maybe one day πŸ˜‰

      Xx

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  9. First of all thank you very much for the comment. It propelled me off my seat. πŸ˜€

    So, I’ve learned from the comments that this is the opening of the book. This is where the story starts.
    I agree some words can be dropped to avoid repetion e.g. Roby reconised the handwrliting but not the post mark

    similar to an earlier comment – is this the mother’s voice? It’s an emotional letter but the emotion doesn’t come through – e.g. crossed out words or I believe the commenter mentioned clunky sentences

    well as usual I’m going to be different. And ask questions Maybe chapters alternating or scattered in Ruby POV and in mother POV ? What is it that you are conveying to the reader?Is it mandatory that Ruby knows what her mother thinks or is it sufficient for the reader to know?

    if your goal is to raise questions right at the get-go you might incorporate the letter, her reactions, her internal monologue etc.

    Sometimes it takes a while ….

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    • Awwww Sue, I’m sorry I don’t comment much, but I do read every snippet πŸ™‚

      Thanks honey, yeah, it’s current form is 3rd person Ruby interspersed with entries from the journal in first person from the mother (Laura) but I’m not really gelling with that, it still doesn’t seem right. My first version (65,000) was all 3rd person but everyone said to me that there was too much head hopping, too many characters, so I tried first person from the mother all the way through and that didn’t work either. It’s such a mess now lol.

      Thanks honey, oh yes, it’s definitely taking a while, almost 3 years now….I’m beginning to wonder if it will ever get sorted lol

      Xx

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  10. Well, I really liked it – anything written in the first person, narrative or letter, will always be accused of this. I had the same criticisms leveled at CLW, which is mostly first person. Often when people say ‘too much tell’ they really mean there was something about it that didn’t bring it to life for them, and they’ve been taught that showing not telling lifts a narrative out of this problem.

    My suggestions, for what they’re worth (not much) is perhaps to think about the placement of the letter. I’m guessing it has to come early on as this sets up the entire conflict, but perhaps where it is does detract from getting to know Ruby and could look like too much exposition too early. Could you place it first, kind of like a prologue? Bear with me – if it was a separate thing on its own, with a date perhaps, and a signature, it lends texture and interest from the get-go. Then, go straight into Ruby’s third person narrative, with lots of ‘showing’ – she can find the letter, read it etc, react to it, and the reader knows what’s in it but you don’t have to slow the narrative down by placing it right there.

    Another option – hold the letter back. Have Ruby reading a letter, reacting to it, keeping its contents to herself, and then introduce it later in the chapter, or even in a later chapter, or don’t show it at all, just have her read out certain lines or remember particular lines …
    Well, there are a few ideas – you did ask! πŸ˜‰ Jo x

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    • Thanks Jo πŸ™‚

      Initially the letter came in Chapter two, but then my tutor suggested that chapter one (which was 3rd person Ruby) was a little dull (I was using it as a set up for the letter arriving) so I changed it so that the letter was the start. I dunno, The Hubster keeps saying stop listening to everyone’s advice and do what YOU want, but I guess I lack confidence, so the minute someone says “it would be better if you did this” I change it lol.

      Thanks honey….I have LOTS of think about lol

      Xx

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  11. ‘Show don’t tell’ is a line editors love to throw around. It’s really hard to ‘show’ when you’re reading a letter from from someone because they are ‘telling’ you not ‘showing’ you. Anyhoo – I loved this piece, if was was going to change any of it, I’d cut the word ‘large’ from ‘manila envelope’ only because I see a manila envelope as ‘large’ anyway and so the size isn’t needed. Good work πŸ˜€

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  12. Epistolary fiction (fiction with letters) is hard to do well because what does everyone do in a letter? We tell our friends and family what’s going on. So it’s the letter that’s the issue. Perhaps start the scene late, that is, after Ruby’s read it, and have her react and reflect. Ruby can do the showing. Showing how the letter affects her, etc. That’s all I can think of.

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    • Ahhhhh, yes, I see what you mean Melanie, thanks honey πŸ™‚

      I LOVE books with letters in, so I guess it was a natural choice for me to go that route, unfortunately I didn’t realise how hard it would be lol

      Xx

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  13. Well – it definitely makes me want to know more about these characters – that’s for sure. I can see why you struggled though: as you say a letter is tell rather than show in it’s essence, so how else to do it?

    My only thought is to have Ruby imagine her mother writing the letter -have her hear her Mum’s voice reading it, thinking of her expression as she writes it – imagining this woman walking out of her house with a holdall of belongings, never to return again. Some reaction to the strength it took for her Mum to leave: and can Ruby believe that she really feel so bad for it?

    Of course, this would probably take you over the word count, so it might not have worked for the Faber piece! But, I don’t think us writers are ever satisfied with the pieces we write – we always come back to them with critical eyes. Well done for putting it out there, for having the courage to read it out.

    Looking forward to hearing what you’re getting up to as you take a step back from writing. Take Care hon, x

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    • Awwww, thanks Cat πŸ™‚

      We had to read a piece that would only take 2 minutes! So yes, it was hard to tell exactly what was the best bit to read. I went for a part that I thought might intrigue than show off my excellent prose (yeah right! Lol).

      Thanks honey πŸ™‚

      Xx

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  14. Sorry it’s taken me so long to read and comment on this. I loved that. It was very intriguing. I’ve been and read through every one elses comments too and don’t think I have anything else to add, except for the don’t stop writing part. It looks like you have a good conflict established there and I’d like to see how you resolve it.

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  15. I always gauge good writing as something that evokes an emotional response out if me and this piece did it for me.
    If you were going to have to explain to Sam why he is finding Ruby on the floor in am emotional wreck maybe you expose the contents of the letter to him and describe his and her reaction as shes reads certain parts of the letter to show more.

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  16. Hi Vikki, I have stumbled across you blog while searching for information on the Faber courses – I was wondering how much time you were investing in the exercises outside of the classroom each week?
    You seem to have had a great experience with it – I’m reading through all the old posts now πŸ™‚
    All the best
    Tim

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