Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fighting for commitment while writing

I'm working on a short story at the moment. For some reason...it's been a struggle to get myself to focus on it. Not just on this story, actually--on any short story, it seems. I've been spending so much time on revising this past year-plus that I haven't done as much new writing anyway, but I'm trying to understand why short stories specifically have been more of a struggle. When I think about it, it seems that I really haven't been writing nearly as many short stories in the past year or two, so it's not just a recent thing.

Flash fiction has been easy, I think because I don't end up with as much invested in them. And the novel-length stuff I've done hasn't given me fits either, which perhaps is because of the manic NaNo kickstart that doesn't let me question. With a short story, though, I have dozens of fragments that came from writing exercises with no idea where they might end up going. A number of them are fragments that seem to hold good promise. Whenever I sit down to try to expand one of them, I either end up turning it into a flash story (don't get me wrong--I love flash, and I'm proud of the flash stories I've been sending out on submissions) or I end up doing revisions or getting distracted instead.

So, one of my goals over the next few months is to get a few decent short stories written. Perhaps they'll come from one of those writing exercise fragments, which is the case with the one I'm working on at the moment (and I think I've got it to the point where I'm past that uncertainty/unwillingness to commit), perhaps they'll be inspired by a themed anthology or writing prompt or something of the sort, and perhaps they'll just come out of nowhere. But whatever the case, I'd like to write at least one short story per month for the next three or four months, in addition to whatever revising I have planned, and see what that does for getting me past this sort-of block in my head.

3 comments:

Lindsey Duncan said...

If you need someone to gripe at, prompts, friendly competition, kicks in the tailbone, whatever, feel free to drop me a line.

(I'd also love if you'd drop a line on my recent blog post - shameless but non-related blither.)

I also find short fiction the hardest to handle: flash is basically an extended joke (even if it's not funny, it still has the shape of set-up + punchline, and/or the shape of a vignette), and novels give you room to stretch and meander, but a short story requires its own survival kit. "Shadow Play" probably would have kicked my tail if I hadn't known going into it I was engaging in novella.

As a quasi-related aside on writing prompts, I've found that the openings I started without a clear idea of where I was going ended up being globs of set-up / drek in search of a cause. So I tend to spend some time thinking ahead ... and then jot down me-speak notes for later. I don't know how you plan / structure, but have you considered a change of methods? (Or conversely if you DO plan extensively, throwing that out ...)

Daniel Ausema said...

Thanks for the offer! And I'll go see what kind of sentence I can whip up for your blog =)

I've been finding with the fragments that I have that I'm often excited by certain aspects of the character or setting or situation...but whenever I try to extrapolate it out--either by just writing or loose outlining--I find that I lose interest in any of the possibilities I come up with. I think it's just a mental block, that I'm letting myself get too caught up in questioning and self doubt about whether it's good enough. Now that I recognize that that's probably what's going on, I think I should be able to work my way through it--often just stating publicly that it's my goal is a big part of the solution. I'll let you know if I need additional kicks/encouragements.

Thanks for the advice, Lindsey!

Lindsey Duncan said...

It was more rambling than anything else. ;-) Good luck, anyhow.