Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow...

Well, if you've been keeping up, you know that I've been a busy old bee. Selling the book and working on Gumbo Press have taken up a lot of my time - along with the usual round of teaching/marking/living etc.

It's now fewer than four weeks since its arrival, and the first edition of 31 has all but sold out (2 copies left, if you're interested... Buy online now!). This was at least partly thanks to the interest of the audience at the Bugged reading who bought all the copies I had with me. I have other readings coming up, so have ordered a second edition. The first of these readings is my customary visit to the Bad Language at the end of April, but this will be followed by two guest slots - one for a writing group in Oldham and another for an open-mic evening in Cheshire, and a couple of other possible appearances, about which more as I have it.

As if these weren't enough, Gumbo Press has been taking off. The website has been built, designed and redesigned. Exciting ideas have been formulated and, as of writing, we already have over 40 submissions with 11 days still to go before the deadline. Winning Words asked me to write a blog entry for them about it, which will hopefully help promote the first issue of the magazine.

In the midst of all this, and my return to teaching at Winchester next week, I have taken on another project. Crazy? Me? Possibly.

Following on from the success of CalFlaWriMo, without which 31 wouldn't exist at all, I have decided to do something similar, but with longer stories. So, my latest plan is to write 15 brand new short stories (not flashes) of no less than 1500 words each, before the end of May. It may kill me, but it's got to be worth a go.

I started the first one on Friday, 15th April. It was a story which had been working around in my mind for a while, so I had a pretty fair idea of how it was going to go on the page. I was wrong.

I have obviously got so used to the quick fix that is flash-fiction, that the mental muscles that work on the longer form of the full short story have atrophied. It took me over 4 hours to get the first 1000 words done. I knew the story, but a combination of old-fashioned resistance, being daunted by the task, and just trying to remember how to write one of the damn things, held me back. I realised, as I struggled with it, how much more you can put into a short story, but also how much more you HAVE to put into a short story. In a flash, character, setting, even plot, can be implied rather than described. In a short story, all of these elements have to be there in actuality, but you also have to keep them short, and to the point. Just as with a flash, there is no room for spare words. Every single one has to serve the story, but in a longer story, the job of picking your way through them is so much harder.

Anyway, long story short (no pun intended), I crested the half way point and picked up speed as I came down the other side. The story ended up at around 2700 words, with the last 1700 only taking 1 hour. Job done, one down, fourteen to go.

This morning, I sat down to write the next one. This was based on another idea which I have also been mulling over for a while. I thought it might be easier, but no. The resistance kicked in, and this time I have ground to a halt after little more than 150 words. There was even an hour break as I tried to find the right name for my character, without which I couldn't complete the first sentence.

Maybe I'm trying to hard. Maybe I have too much else on my plate to tackle this at the moment. Maybe the deadline is just too far off and the panicky adrenaline hasn't arrived yet. Whatever, I'm not going to give up. My goal with this project is to make my brain and my spirit bend to my will, so that writing one of these stories starts to feel as easy as writing a flash. And I guess that's why I'm doing it.

So, wish me well. And if you see me at a reading, and I look tired and lost, just leave me, I'll be fine.

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