Sunday, 7 December 2008

Experiments in Brevity

'Short' is not my style. Really, really not.

Until yesterday, I'd written one (voluntary) short story in my life - even when we were told to write a 'short story' at school I tended to go on for pages and pages, creating a whole world or scenario which deserved far more words than I could hand-write in the week or so we were given.

My ideas for fiction tend to err on the side of epic. I struggle to fit most of my ideas into a single novel or playscript, let alone a short story.

But - and it's a sizeable 'but' - I'm part of a writing group which has monthly tasks which always take the form of a short piece on a given theme, word, or idea. Until yesterday, I've always quietly opted out, though I half-heartedly intend to write something right up until the deadline sails past ("I was busy writing a novel, you see...", I excuse myself).

I tell myself it's a question of priorities - I enjoy writing on an epic scale, and isn't it more important to practise what I care about than to force myself into a medium which doesn't suit me? I still think that's a valid argument: I don't need to be good at every possible form to feel content with my achievements as a writer, and if I'm never very good at short stories it isn't going to give me sleepless nights. But at the same time, I realise I've been doing something completely out of character for me: avoiding a challenge.

So yesterday, I wrote short.

Okay, I cheated a little by using a the world I've already created in Charanthe, setting the story in a corner of the backstory I wouldn't otherwise have written about. Finding a suitable corner was easy; I have plenty more 'world' than I know what to do with. But finding a whole story that I could tell in 1500 words - now that was hard. I spent ages worrying about it, sensing a distinct lack of plot even as I reached the 500-word mark - it wasn't until I was lying in bed, having given up for the day, that it suddenly all clicked into place.

I wrote for two more hours and in the end, I had a piece I was just about satisfied with. Not perfectly happy (the ending is wonky - I ran out of words), but content that I'd written something which stands alone, but which also contributes to the overall story I'm building within the Charanthe series. It'll go up on the website once I've had chance to edit it and fix the ending.

I've also discovered One Minute Writer, a blog which challenges everyone to write for a minute on a given theme. Daily. Now, I don't claim I'm going to follow this every day - not least because there will be days when I'm not online. But it's another opportunity to experiment with getting a concept across in very few words.

Bring on those challenges!

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