Monday, October 5, 2009

Write Your Way Out of a Predicament

“Never try to think your way out of a problem, unaided by the written word. Write your way out…” -- Stephen Koch in The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop.
Today’s post is different in that I’m not going to address the specific quote. I’ve been in a mild slump lately, and I was thinking about that today. As you know, I primarily write flash fiction, stories under 1000 words. One advantage to short-short fiction is I complete most projects within a few days. Some works take longer if a character refuses to help me decided what her story is. But this brevity from idea to completion is also a disadvantage.

In a novel, there’s a continuation of an idea over many chapters. The story isn’t complete for 70,000 - 90,000 words (more or less). The end of one chapter leads to another and another until the story is told. The plot takes various twists and turns, but the tale has one main cast of characters and one overall problem to solve. There’s no need to create a new protagonist, antagonist, and goals for each every 600 words. The process of writing a novel takes months or years to complete, as opposed to seventy-two hours.

I wrote three 200-word stories within a story recently about three couples facing the same issue and connected the stories by having the last sentence of one story repeat as the opening sentence of the next. It was an interesting challenge. Perhaps I need to consider writing a longer work now. It could be a novel, a series of stories on a theme, or a group of discrete stories with the same main character. I’ll have to give it some more thought.

Huh. As I reread this post, I realize I did follow Mr. Koch’s advice. I used writing as a way to “think” my way through a problem. Now it's time to see if I can execute a solution that gets me back on track.

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