Obeying the Dice!

Right, before anyone moans, I’ve checked and these days, you can use ‘dice’ for both the plural and singular forms of ‘cubes with numbers on them’! Who knew?

The New Oxford Dictionary of English says,”In modern standard English, the singular die (rather than dice) is uncommon. Dice is used for both the singular and the plural.”

Right, now we’ve cleared that up, off we go.

Sometimes, when I’m procrastinating and can’t seem to settle down to do anything (I know, it’s hard to believe that ever happens), I write a list of 6 things that I’ve got to – or want to – do, all of which would take about an hour (or you could do it for half hour slots, if you prefer).

A typical list might be:

1. Read a book! 🙂
2. Polish up a story and submit to Writers Forum competition
3. Write a blog post
4. Work on magazine short story
5. Take the dog for a walk
6 Do the ironing & hoovering

As you can see, depending on my mood (and the weather), these are a mixture of ‘treats’ and ‘chores’. And then – I bet you’re ahead of me here – I throw a dice and whichever number comes up, that dictates how I HAVE to spend the next hour.

It’s like a ‘boss’ telling me my next task and when the decision is taken away from me, it’s much easier to just get on and do it. And the idea is, of course, that if I start early enough in the day, all 6 tasks will eventually be done. (Erm, in theory, anyway).

It stops me from procrastinating and putting off tasks (I usually leave the thing I want to do least until the end of the day and end up doing it at midnight, which makes the whole thing more of a chore than it would have been if I’d done it when I wasn’t tired and had plenty of time!).

It’s also a kind of rough plan for the day. If I know that, at some point, I’m going to be working on a short story, when I’m doing one of the other tasks (like taking the dog for a walk), I’ll automatically start thinking about that story. Hopefully, then, when I come to sit and write it, I’ll already be half way there.

Of course, the roll of the dice could instruct me to spend a lovely hour reading, which is something I probably wouldn’t normally ‘allow’ myself to do during the day as it feels like such an extravagance. But if the dice tells me that’s what I have to do, I have no choice but to obey! (Is this starting to sound like some kind of weird Doctor Who episode?)

If you are a decisive and organised person, you are probably shaking your head in despair but all I can say is, it works for me and it’s kind of fun, not knowing what order I’ll be doing all my jobs for the day. (And of course, you could make it even more exciting by using 2 dice and 12 different tasks….!)

BBC National Short Story Award
On a different – and much less frivolous note – the shortlisted entries in the BBC National Short Story Award were announced a few days ago. This is not something I enter, I hasten to add because I feel it’s for the ‘big boys and girls’ but maybe one day….

There were nearly 800 entries and, apparently for the fifth time in the Awards’ history, the “shortlist consists of all female writers”. Hmm, I’m not sure what I think about that. Does it matter? Is it even relevant? Perhaps – I hope – it shows that the judges weren’t concerned with who had written the stories and therefore weren’t trying to be ‘balanced’ or ‘politically correct’ in their choices – they were just focussing on choosing the best five stories. If those happened to be written by women, so what?
Because – as someone who entered the competition has pointed out on Twitter – this competition wasn’t necessarily judged anonymously.

In the rules, it states: “Judges are encouraged to read the longlisted stories anonymously; however, they are not required to do so. The whole panel will be provided with the name of the author of each longlisted story ahead of shortlisting to ensure all judges are party to the same information when making their decisions.”

That seems odd to me and I hope most judges did decide to read the stories without knowing who’d written them. Most writing competitions are judged anonymously, after all and that seems only fair.

And if you’re interested in listening to the shortlisted stories (something to do, perhaps, if number 6 pops up on the dice and I end up ironing..) they’re all on the BBC Radio i-player here.

Evesham Festival of Words Competition
And talking of competitions, The Evesham Festival of Words Short Story competition will be launched on 1st November. One of my shiny new jobs, as a member of the Steering Committee, will be to select a shortlist (anonymously!), in conjunction with another ‘reader’. I’m really looking forward to it! The shortlisted entries will then be passed on to the main judge, Vanessa Gebbie (anonymously!) for her final decision.

Vanessa Gebbie, who knows a bit about writing competitions, as she’s won and judged several, is, incidentally, running a workshop in Evesham next month (Saturday 27th October), giving tips on entering short story competitions, so if you want the inside track on what she might be looking for, come along! It’s only £10 a ticket. More details (second event down) on the website here.

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14 Responses to Obeying the Dice!

  1. Alex Gazzola says:

    I once changed a singular ‘dice’ to ‘die’ in an article when working as a sub-editor and my editor (much older than me) refused to believe the word existed! I’ve still not fully recovered from the death stare he gave me … I promptly changed it back.

    • Helen Yendall says:

      Ha, that’s funny! Of course ‘die’ exists – more fool him, eh? It always sounds a bit odd though, imo, so I’m glad to have got the ‘OK’ from the on-line dictionary to use ‘dice’! I have a big wooden dice that I use in my classes, if, say, there are 6 people who want to read out their work, as a way of selecting someone at random and we’ve had a few discussions about whether it should be ‘die’ or ‘dice’!

  2. Eirin Thompson says:

    I seem to remember being taught that the imprint on the side of the cube was the dice, that the cube itself was the die and more than one cube would be dies. However, in recent years, when I have referred to the cube as the die, people have looked at me very oddly.

    • Helen Yendall says:

      Yes, Eirin, I can imagine! I think, strictly speaking, although ‘die’ is really the correct word for one ‘dice’, it’s hardly ever used.

  3. Thanks as ever, Helen. Yours is the only blog I read regularly. There’s always something new, or to learn or to try. Using a die (I’m a pedant, sorry!) is such a great idea. Like you, I often need a push…. Not sure I could bring myself to try it though!

  4. juliathorley says:

    I’ve got used to one dice; I’ve even come round to the idea of data as singular; but I can’t accept social media as such. In my old head it’s still ‘media are’. On the question of the BBC comp, it all sounds a bit dodgy to me! I’m sure everyone involved in the Evesham comp will be above suspicion. 😉

  5. Wendy Clarke says:

    I just love the dice idea – but I fear I’d cheat and roll again if I didn’t like the answer saying, “I didn’t shake it properly so Id better roll again.” I’ve learnt from my granddaughter!

  6. Keith Havers says:

    Never Say Die shoud be the motto of all writers.
    I agree with Juliia about the BBC comp. It shoud be judged anonymously.

  7. I love this idea, Helen and will give it a go. Also wanted to say that I have read your PF serial, Where The Air is Sweet (I looked it up on Readly) and how very much I enjoyed it. I loved the characters and it was a great story, very well told. I was disappointed it was only 3 parts – I didn’t want it to end. Are you planning to write another?

    • Helen Yendall says:

      Aw, thanks Paula, that’s very kind. When I wrote it I had loads of material – I really struggled to get it into just 3 parts – it could easily have been twice as long! But the rules of the competition said that it had to be a 3-part serial, so we had to stick to that (I think PF would have liked it to be longer too!). I will write another serial, one day but I don’t have anything in the pipeline at the moment!

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