For the early months of this year, my writing activities consisted mostly of composing blog posts and query letters. I was thinking a lot about fiction (specifically my next novel, which I've been planning and researching), but I wasn't writing any.
Recently I became fed up with this situation and decided that it was time to produce some fiction. I'm not ready to begin writing the novel, so I started thinking about short stories, as I do from time to time.
I wrote two short stories last year (and read a great many). I haven't done anything with either of them, but since I've received feedback on both (one during my workshop at Squaw Valley), I could potentially turn my attention to revising them. That idea wasn't very appealing, though, and I was more interested in writing something new.
So I set out to write another short story, but this time, I gave myself a challenge to go even shorter. (Actually, the biggest challenge was to focus enough to create anything at all, since I'm out of practice.) After some brainstorming and playing around with a bunch of half-formed ideas, I found myself with an odd little story that's only five paragraphs long. And I liked it quite a bit.
There's certainly something refreshing about writing such a bite-sized piece of fiction. The last story I wrote took weeks of thinking before the idea gelled enough for me to write a rough draft. With this story, I typed a first line with no plan for what would come next, and about twenty minutes later, the whole piece was done. It still needed work after that, but I figured out all the details during another productive swim and then rewrote in an hour or two.
I sent the story off to some critique partners, and getting comments on a work this short was also pleasantly straightforward compared to the novel feedback I'm usually asking for. So little to read meant my critiquers were able to mention all their thoughts, down to the word level, without an unreasonable investment of time. (Thanks, guys!)
Now that I've collected their clever insights, I'm ready to revise. And for once I can feel confident in predicting that I'll be done with revision any day now.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ At The Guardian, Alison Flood tries to identify the earliest ebook: "One journalist even took his computer on a wheelbarrow to the beach, along with a generator, to read Host in his deckchair."