Writing Report April 27, 2019
When last we left our plucky scribe, he was struggling to explain his own peculiar approach to writing.
One size does not fit all
Your mileage may vary
I recently wrote -- as in completed / edited / polished / sent out -- two short stories in a one week period.
I typed two short stories in a one week period recently.
I “wrote” them over a period of several days each.
One was sparked by something another writer had written (hi, David!) and written with his knowledge and permission.
The other…geeze, I don’t know where it came from. I mean, I remember I had the idea and thought Hey, wouldn’t it be interesting if… but I have completely forgotten whatever it was that sparked the idea.
Both stories are roughly the same length (1,400-1,500 word range) and in the same genre (crime / thriller).
It took me two hours to type the first one, an hour and a half to type the second one.
I say “type” and not “write” because…well…it’s complicated.
In the first case, the idea that sparked it was an “if this, then that” thought sparked by the additional of a single word to the original writer’s sentence.
That one word changed everything, as one words will often do.
It took one supposition and forced me to say, “If my protagonist knew about this, then obviously…”
Things followed from there.
I was frustrated in several days before reaching a keyboard to write the idea down (previously scheduled family events, etc.).
While it irked me, it proved a good thing.
It gave me time to turn the story over several times in my head, look at it from different angles.
I eliminated some superfluous ideas, added a few to shore up the core concept.
When I sat down, I blitzed it out pretty fast.
That’s a result from my old Saturday morning / Sunbow Animation days.
We had a freight train moving through the station,
and every day something had to go in the next boxcar.
If it was a good thing,
so much the better.
But it had to be a complete thing.
[SIDEBAR: As I type this my wife, whom I love dearly, is hurling a 20-lb sledge hammer into the middle of my creative process by telling me to stand up and do some stretching so I won’t develop hunched shoulders but right FUCKING NOW is the moment this essay needs to be born so sorry, Soon-ok, it will just have to wait until I’m done.]
Being delayed forced me to think more about the story before I actually began writing it.
The same thing happened with the second story.
This time I came up with all sorts of interesting things for my protagonist to do and all sorts of clever ways to describe those things, so when I actually sat down and started writing, I had a wealth of material to mentally draw upon.
I didn’t use most of it.
Truth be told, when I’m writing a short story, it needs to come out fast in one white hot burst.
Trying to rekindle a cold idea (see Writing Report April 20, 2019) is a tough task. It can be done, but it’s never as easy, never as fresh.*
As I was writing the second short story, all those wonderful clever ideas became…
We had a marching song when I was in the Army:
Get in, get out
Quick [m]ucking about
You’re in the Army now
All those clever fun ideas?
As the story was birthing itself on my keyboard, it shot right past those clever turns of phrase.
It needed to get where it was going and it needed to get there FAST.
No time to waste.
But in the process, it also showed me what it needed to be born.
So let me tease you here and tell you we’ll pick up on that portion in the next go ‘round.
© Buzz Dixon
* I draw a distinction between short stories and longer works such as novellas and novels, but even there my best work seems to come from a short / intense period of writing rather than a slow methodical process. Again, I’m not telling you to do it that way, I’m just saying what works for me.