IT IS THE same with any piece of written work: news report, short story, play. Getting the opening sentences and paragraphs just right can set the tone and often the direction of the rest of the piece.
It is no different with this blog. I have been sitting here for too long now wondering how to begin. I write a few words then press the erase button and start again.
How to begin? How to begin?
Then I follow a piece of advice that has held me in fair stead for many years - just begin. Just type something. Anything. For goodness sake, start typing or writing onto the page and see what emerges.
Free writing, I think it’s called, by some. It is a good exercise. Ten minutes? Fifteen? If nothing else it gets the writing juices flowing, and out of it something may emerge. The trick is to start.
Often, when writing feature stories in my journalism days, I would get to the end of a piece and think: “Oh that would make a much better intro”. And I would start again.
Beginnings are so important if you are to lead your readers in.
So, perhaps I should begin by telling you what this blog is about (I am still free writing here).
It is to support the Dorset Writers’ Award, our (grandly titled, and why not?) short story competition, and to engage you (if you are out there) in the process as we work to attract entries of a high enough standard to include in what we hope will be an excellent collection of stories from across the county.
We have an ambition to produce a really good book of short (3,500 words max) tales, written by writers who can claim Dorset as their home, through birth of residency.
We recognise this won’t be without its challenges. So we will use the blog to keep you informed, explain what we are doing, and why. And respond to any queries.
For me, it usually comes back to Kipling in the end:
I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
We shall try that, and see where it leads us.
Plus, I thought we might suggest short stories you could read while sipping your favoured brew in a cafe (for we like people who enjoy good coffees... and teas... and chocolate... and cafes).
We don't have space to publish the complete stories here. Instead we shall put forward our Pick of the Day - an author and story (or collection); something you might enjoy - and where the writing can teach us all something when it comes to the art of storytelling.
You are welcome to put forward your own suggestions.
In the meantime, it seems reasonable to begin with a Dorset writer. Theodore Francis Powys (1875 - 1953) was born in Derbyshire, and moved to Chaldon in Dorset in 1904. His writing, rooted in the “rich fertility and sour brutality of rural life” (John Holloway), is not modern, but full of fable and allegory. His characters face issues relating to good and evil, God and love, and death. His short stories, though sometimes difficult to interpret, are a joy to read.
Our pick of the day: T.F. Powys - Lie Thee Down Oddity!
Latest: The Dorset Writers’ Prize is now open for entries.
Maybe I should put that at the beginning?