Mark Devis, LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official SelectionShort Story
LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official SelectionShort Story, 'Grip' by Mark Devis
Can you please tell us about your daily life? I start every day with some prayer; I feel like it's vital to carve out time to pray and reflect at the start of the day. Prayer time is mega important for my mental wellbeing, especially with the various lockdowns we've been living with recently! I work in Tech, which isn't traditionally the most creative field to operate in, but I enjoy what I do. I have the pleasure of working with some incredibly kind and competent people, and I do that from home with the current restrictions. I go for a walk at lunch every day, normally with an audiobook or podcast (I'm currently working through "Crime and Punishment" one lunch break at a time!) and then evenings are for reading, writing or social time. When did you start writing? How often do you write? I started writing short stories for my parents back when I was ten years old(!), and I also enjoyed creative writing at school. As I got older, I wrote on and off, doing some freelance videogame reviews when I was at university, and always working towards a big writing project (I've always wanted to write a novel and have it published). Last year I had a significant birthday and set out to write my first novel to mark the milestone, and I've managed to get a fairly good manuscript down. I'm now seeking a good literary agent as I continue tweaking it. If anyone is interested in taking a look at it, just let me know! I try and write as often as possible, but I'm keen to strike a balance with all things. I'll have at least one evening every week dedicated to writing, whether that's on a short story or a novel. Sometimes, if I hit a good flow, I can have a few evenings in a row where it's almost like I can't stop writing! I do have a fairly big day job, and with working from home at the moment, it can be hard to switch gears from "work" to "writing" and I don't produce my best stuff when I'm tired. So I'm learning a lot about giving myself a break when I need to, as when I'm well-rested, I'm a better creative. Sometimes that means spending one evening reading a book to relax, so the next evening I have the energy to pour myself into my writing. How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Genuinely, it feels amazing. It might sound strange, but although I've written many words, I didn't really know for sure if I was "a writer". Now, I feel like I can be one, and that's a lovely feeling. What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Short Story? The best thing for me was that I could explore a creative idea with a limited word count! I have many ideas, and with short stories, there's the opportunity to explore an idea without dedicating the amount of work needed for a novel. Some ideas are great for short stories, and with others that are potentially longer, it's great to explore them in short-form to see if there's anything more to tell in the story. The hardest thing is that short stories are hard to write! They need to feel standalone and complete, and that's tough. I've only written a handful of them myself because of this. It's much easier to start a novel and abandon it partway through than to write a short story! How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it? The story is about trauma and sexual assault, which is a dark subject for a short story. Unfortunately, we live in a world where traumatic events happen, and for the individual who experiences them, they can continue to echo long after the actual event has ended. I was thinking about my own experience of flashbacks, and how they could be triggered by something that can seem inconsequential but can have a link to the trauma (such as the pattern on a carpet, the smell of burning rubber, the jingle of an old advert) and how disruptive they can be for the individual experiencing them. I thought to myself: "It's almost like a hand reaches out from the past, grips me, and drags me back." And that's how the original concept for the story landed in my mind. From there, I spent 3-4 weeks just thinking about the story I wanted to tell. Dwelling on flashbacks, fleshing out Anna's character in my mind, listening to music and establishing what would be the beginning, middle and end. I then wrote the first draft in two evenings, and it was fairly easy to get down on paper because I had lived with it in my brain for so long. After that, it was a lot more time spent editing and tightening up. Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short story? I've not written that many, so I'm not sure how valid my answer is. For me, the key thing is to know how you're going to start and end the story because, with that in mind, it'll become clear if your story is still compelling in short or if it will take you longer to tell it. What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions? The best thing is that they give an aspiring writer the chance to try something and have their work recognised. The hardest thing is that competition is pretty fierce, and it can feel tough when you put a lot of work in and not even get a mention. It's important not to be disheartened. Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on LISP? Absolutely! It's a lot of fun, and now the word count for short stories is doubled to 3,000, if you had an idea that didn't work before, it might work now!