Ross Sullivan, LISP 2022 Short Story Finalist by 'Influencer'
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I am currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University. I opted to do the course full-time so my days consist mainly of writing assignments and reading (there is a lot of reading!) I have a family though so when I'm not doing that I'm watching Doctor Who with my son or driving my daughter to football.
- When and how did you get into writing?
I have always enjoyed writing. I was pretty good at English at school and loved writing stories. I would often find myself emailing myself short stories at work whenever I had some downtime. In 2008 I did a one year part time film-making course at the Met Film School as I've always loved cinema but by the end of the course I realised that it wasn't making films that I was passionate about, but writing the stories they were based on. I have tried several times to write novels but work and home life always got in the way, but in 2020 I got made redundant and decided to change career and become a writer. You only live once!
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I try to write every day but often fail to write anything at weekends. I don't have a routine as rigid as some famous writers but I like to go to the gym first thing in the morning and then write after that. This leaves the afternoon to do other things. I try to write at least 1000 words, either on whatever I'm working on or just practice. I find the best way to avoid distractions is to write somewhere away from home so I am often found in libraries and coffee shops. Being at University is great because I can come and write at the library whenever I want to.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
I have submitted a few things to competitions and literary magazines but never really had much success. Then in May of 2022, I enrolled in an 8-week writing course with the Unthank School. The course was amazing as it was focused on critiquing the work other people on the course were submitting to teach you how to find fault in your own work and correct it. My writing improved immeasurably and the piece I wrote on that course was the one that got me to the final of LISP.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Story?
There are so many ways you can tell the same story, be that genre, setting, point of view, etc. The hardest thing about writing a story is making and sticking to the choices you make. I often find myself, part-way through a story, wondering whether I should re-write it in third person, or with a male protagonist when the protagonist is currently female or wanting to make some other major change to the narrative. It's like going to a restaurant and ordering beef, but when it turns up you see someone else has got duck and it looks really good. Being a good/productive writer is about honing your instincts and learning to trust them.
The best thing about writing is, without doubt, being the creator of worlds. You bring characters and situations to life that become real when you read them. You actually visualise those characters as real people and the situations as actually happening. It is a strange and powerful feeling.
- How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
I wrote the story for LISP just after my father had died, so that was probably the biggest inspiration for it, but I studied Biology at University and am passionate about science and the natural world. Hibernation is something that has always fascinated me. I also wanted to write something that was a criticism of the ethics of journalism and human nature, how people like to watch something unfold if it doesn't affect them, even if they know it could be having a devastating impact on someone else.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?
Write as much as you can, even if you don't know what you are writing about or why you are writing. You only get good at writing by doing it a lot. Don't trust family and friends for an honest opinion. Instead find/connect with other writers who are happy to give you feedback on your work. Avoid the familiar/obvious. There is an oft-quoted phrase, "Show don't tell" which basically means that you should explain what's going on in a scene in a way that is relatable to the reader but without telling them exactly what you want them to know. Reading is about interpreting what you are presented with and working it out for yourself. If you read a book and it tells you someone is angry then that isn't very interesting for you as a reader, but if you read a book and someone's face turns red and they ball their hands into fists and slam them down on the table you not only know that they are angry but you know how they are when they are angry and you get an insight into what that character is like. By showing the anger the picture is much more vivid and interesting to imagine whereas being told that the person is angry tells you little besides that.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
The best thing about competitions is that they give you a deadline and take you somewhere unexpected. The most challenging thing is coming up with an idea that you have confidence in.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit their stories/screenplays to LISP?
My experience with LISP has been great. Not only do they appreciate good writing :) but if you are chosen as a finalist they publish your work online and give you access to a facebook group of other aspiring writers. It is a great resource and it feels very special to have been shortlisted. I would recommend other writers to submit work here.