Saturday, 23 June 2012

Some Starting and Some Stopping

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my Unmitigated Audacity. I think, if you have been following my exploits over the last year, you'll agree that the title of this blog is getting more and more appropriate.

Anyway, that's beside the point. What I wanted to do was welcome you back here to my writing blog. I know I've been very quiet over the last 6 months but, again, if you've been following all the other things I've been up to, I'm sure you understand.

Since I last chatted here a number of things have happened - National Flash-Fiction Day, the release of Braking Distance, the start of pamphlet publishing from Gumbo Press and more - but I have talked at length about those things in other places, so shan't get into them here. What I do want to talk about is the end of flash365 and what is/has/will be following.

I finally completed the 365th story  on 30th April and was pleased to be able to tie all of my 'challenge' writing together by writing a sequel to the story which opens the 31 collection, 'The Spark of Inspiration'. It was a marathon undertaking but, having finished, I am more than pleased with what I managed. I am still submitting stories here and there, and looking at the feasibility of producing both short collections from among it's pieces, and possibly producing a printing of the whole collection. The blog will stay up for a little longer to give people a chance to have a look, and I will shortly start writing some articles about the process and it's outcomes, some of which will appear in draft form here.

With that project finished I decided to start on a new one, a less ambitious one and, I thought, an easier one. This was called flash52 and was to be a story a week for a year. The only problem is that it's not even the end of June and already I've missed my Friday deadline twice (or is it three times?). So, what's going on here? Well, there are a couple of things. The first is the lack of pressure, I think. A lot of people write FridayFlash and so that makes me just one amongst many. I have no problem being part of a crowd, but what it does mean is that if I miss a week, no-one notices. With flash365 I was always conscious that if I didn't get a story up before midnight then I would start getting emails and Facebook posts asking what was going on. With flash52, no-one has noticed the missing weeks, and without the pressure to produce it's just too easy to let it slide.

However, there is more to it than that. In order to notice the lack of pressure I had to miss a week first. And that was all too easy. I simply forgot. You see, when I was writing one a day, I knew that I had to get it done, I had a routine, and it just happened. But with 6 days off and 1 day on it's far to easy to just forget. Also, those 6 days, rather than being restful, are times for the machinery to seize up. As the weeks have gone on, I have found it harder to get started on each story, and then having missed it, easier to not bother.

So, what's the plan? Well, I'm going to shut down flash52. It obviously isn't working for me. Instead, I'm going to take a more structured approach. flash52 was meant to be a single collection on a particular theme. Instead of writing 52 stories over a year, I shall pick a week and write them all over 5 days. That will give me the pressure and the focus to actually get them done. And, I shan't be posting them online, as that makes it easier to submit them to magazines/competitions and makes it easier to possibly publish them as a single collection.

And this is something I shall do with other collections. I shall scout round, come up with ideas for complete collections, and write them in a single burst, rather than over time. It seems to me to be a better way to use my productivity, rather than trying to call on it just once every 7 days. It also means I can focus on one thing at once. Which brings me to my novel...

The day after I finished flash365 I started to write the novel I was talking about in a couple of the last posts I put on here. I managed 1000+ words a day for a week, but then NFFD took over and it went on hold. I have revisited it, and it's now climbing towards the 13000 mark. I'm very pleased with how it's going. A year of practise is showing in my writing and the stretch of my imagination, and when I get to do some the writing flows well. But I'm also finding it quite daunting, if not frightening.

It's going to be a very big book, but it's not the length that's the problem. flash365 turned out at 166,000 words, so I know I can produce the word count, no, it's two other things. The first is the age old problem of artists everywhere. I think it's a really good idea and I don't want to f**k it up! People tell me to just get it down and let the worrying wait for the rewrite. But I really hate rewriting, and have always found that if a piece of work needs major attention I am more likely to abandon it than do the work. So I would rather get it as right as possible on the first go, and that's quite scary. It won't stop me, but it's worth acknowledging.

The other fear is more personal. You see, before I embarked on my flash odysseys, I wrote 4 novels. And they were all, in some ways, restrained. I don't just mean a lack of swearing, sex and violence, I mean in terms of raw imagination. I used to hold back a lot, I think because I didn't really know how to use my writing muscles in the right way. However, a year of writing in as many genres and styles as I could think of, using as many voices and perspectives as could come up with, has helped me tone all those muscles and use them in controlled bursts. Now, with the novel, I am using them all in concert and I am - to switch metaphors mid-stream - eating the scenery. The novel is great fun, and working well, but the creativity going into it is on the verge of being out of control. I think that is probably how it should be. A novel not produced from the white heat of an overactive brain is only ever going to be middling. But it is intimidating to be strapped to the back of such a bucking bronco.

The result? I'm writing it in fits and bursts and not making as much progress as I should. But, I'm going to keep going, and apart from the next couple of weeks where I shall be doing some travelling, followed by getting married to my gorgeous partner, Kath, on 2nd July, and our subsequent honeymoon, I have got most of the summer clear. So, after we get back from a holiday which, I hope, will finally let me recover from NFFD, I plan to get stuck in, writing as intensively as I can, and then get on to the next thing - probably finishing the flash52 collection.

Well, that was quite long and round-the-houses, wasn't it? The upshot? I won't be back here for a few weeks, but once I'm back in the saddle and writing, I'll pop in from time to time with thoughts and updates. I would, as ever, be delighted to get your feedback, so feel free to comment. And, in the meantime, have a good summer and see you soon!