Anyhoo, here I am, being Janus, looking backwards and forwards at the same time. So, what can I see?
Well, just over a year ago I was published in Bugged, and since then my writing life has changed. Jo Bell (editor of Bugged) even commented recently that she had created a monster. I've had publications nearly every month since my October 2010 appearance in Bugged, and I've now written over 270 flash fictions (more than 135,000 words, if you prefer). As I mentioned before one whole month worth of flash365 is currently under consideration with a publisher, and a large section of the current month's stories will be appearing on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve.
In terms of success it's been quite a year. Hell, I even had a poem published in the Best of Manchester Poets Volume 2! But what else? That's what I've been asking myself.
Because if I have been doing all this writing, what has been its purpose? Is it really just a tool to make myself write more and more stories for publications, or is there something deeper? If it's the former, then it's done it's job. If the latter, then what? And what can I learn from the past year as I move forward into the next?
Well, in the past twelve months I've written the 31 collection and, of course, 245 stories under the flash365 banner. In all of those stories I have attempted to write in different genres, different, styles, address different topics, and generally push myself into new areas of writing. It's impossible to do this without learning about yourself as a writer in terms of what you prefer to write, what you're actually good at writing, and the limitations that you place on yourself.
I've realised that I'm quite good at this short-short story malarky. I have the confidence now that I can sit down and write a complete - and sometimes not half-bad - story every day. I know that if I sit down and start, the story will come. However, I also know that I can't just go on writing these for ever. They take me away from the possibility of other things. As long as I do a tiny story every day, I feel I've done enough. I thought they would prime the pump for more, but they have become the end, rather than the means.
So, I'm already starting to think beyond the end of flash365 and towards what might come next. I don't want to simply carry on and change the name to flash730. That's not to say I'm going to stop writing flashes, it's just I feel that the benefit I'm getting as a writer from this particular activity - a flash a day - is starting to lessen.
And I'm starting to think about writing a novel. Now, I've already written four of them, and they all live in my drawer. I don't want to simply create another one to join them, I want to produce something that I think can be published, but also something which I think represents my best work.
The ideas for this novel have emerged from looking back at the year's flash writing. You see, the process has, as I mentioned above, shown me what I'm good at and what I like to do. Surely this is the seam I need to mine for the larger lode of a novel?
Most of my stories could be considered as belonging to a genre like fantasy, horror, sci-fi, or even crime, but none of them fit firmly within any one of those genres. I tend to tell a story about the real world as seen through a distorting lens, rather than embracing a whole 'world-building' kind of thing. So, that would seem to be a good place to start.
What else? Well, it seems that I do funny quite well, so I need to include that. In some of my previous novel attempts I have tried to do 'serious' and while that has its merits, I think I get bored. And if I'm bored, you can bet my readers are. So I need to remember to bring the fun and the funny.
I also, seemingly, do 'dark' well. The constant repetition of deaths, serial killers, and other homicidal impulses in my stories suggests that I need to head in that direction too. I am aware that I sometimes shy away from this, and that I tend to be quite oblique in my darkness, but it still needs to be there. (I have another blog post to write on this whole issue at some point. Maybe later, eh? A three-post day?)
What else? Well, I think I need to bring my flash-writing into it. November's linked stories were very successful with the audience. I managed to create something like a cross between a TV series and Rashomon, where 30 different perspectives of the same event also unfolded a larger story. Why not bring some of that to the novel?
In the past, I have thought of novels as a single large story which needs telling. But why not embrace the complexity that I seem to enjoy so much, and fragment at least some of the narrative?
So, what does that give me? A novel with some element of flash-fictions embedded in it which looks at the world with a skewed eye and sees the humour and the darkness in it. Sounds good to me.
I'm also going to take some of my own advice and actually plan and structure this one a little before I start it. I usually start to see where it goes, and that doesn't seem to have worked for me in the past. This time, let's take a new tack and see what happens. And, again, I think I can learn from flash365. Writing every day seems to work for me, so I shall do that with the novel. But the reason why I've been able to keep it up is due to the structure imposed by the prompts. So, if I plan the novel ahead of time, creating in effect a series of prompts, then I should be able to keep up the momentum.
Anyway, that's it for now, looking back, taking stock, and moving it on into the next thing. Any thoughts on this would be welcome. Me, I'm off to plan a novel.