For the last little while, I’ve been trying to focus on writing stories, including several pieces of flash fiction. I’ve been submitting pieces to magazines and into competitions, with no luck so far (but it’s early days yet). It’s exciting, though, to sit down at a blank page and decide what I’m going to write (in other words, a short story or a piece of flash fiction), come up with a word – perhaps it’ll become the story’s title, or it’ll end up being included in the opening line, or something – and then watching a story come together. It’s a bit like how Dr Frankenstein must have felt when he saw this happen:
I wrote a piece yesterday which had its genesis in an image of a lady confined to a wheelchair, sitting alone by a window. I also felt I had a first sentence, which went something like ‘It’s all my fault, anyway.’ I began to write, wondering what the lady was blaming herself for, thinking perhaps she would tell me about why she had become paralysed – but she didn’t want to tell me about that. The story ended up becoming about abuse, murder and family breakdown, and all in 500 words. When I started the story I had no idea where it would go, and in some ways it was like tuning into the thoughts of this character I’d created and listening to her as she explained how she was feeling. It’s a strange sensation. Sometimes I wonder who the writer is – me, or the people in my head. Often I feel more like a secretary. Perhaps I should learn shorthand in order to keep up with their dictation.
I think it’s a good decision to take a few days away from novel-writing at the moment. I hope it will help me keep my thinking fresh and give me renewed vigour for the story I’m creating in ‘Omphalos’. I’m at a point in the book where it’s a little bit difficult to maintain my focus, and I think getting away from it for a bit will make me more appreciative of it when I go back. I’m about as athletic as a wine-rack, but at the moment I feel like an athlete warming up and getting ready for a sprint, doing stretches while huffing and puffing in my ill-fitting singlet and shorts. My novel-writing muscles are tired and overworked, and while I don’t want my short-story muscles to atrophy, of course, it’s been a while since they were used as intensely as this. I’m trying to take it easy and gently urge them into action, but sometimes my enthusiasm overtakes me. I’ll have to remember to take my time and understand that a story doesn’t necessarily have to be finished the same day it’s started. Perhaps it’s not my fault at all, though – if the characters want to talk, who am I to tell them not to?
So, that’s my plan for today. I’m hoping to have an idea-spark for at least one, if not two, new stories, before filing them carefully away in the hope that a suitable submission opportunity will present itself. I seem to be more naturally suited to the flash-fiction form – a lot of my recent work is coming in at around the 500-word mark – so today I hope I’ll manage to stretch myself a bit more and write a slightly longer piece. Fingers crossed I won’t pull a mental muscle in my self-improvement attempts, though. I don’t think I can imagine anything more painful than a brain-cramp…
Happy Tuesday to you! I hope your writing endeavours (and general life-endeavours) are going swimmingly.