I have been diligent about writing a post every day, still aiming for an average of 500 words but haven’t really hit that stride yet. I created a category for ‘writing’ topics, but haven’t really settled into a routine to use it well. In my surfing today I came across a blog which I may use for future inspiration. It’s by an aspiring author who has been writing fiction for a while, with several years of NaNoWriMo output as well as short stories he has tried to have published. What impressed me was his collection of flash fiction he has posted, short stories in the format of 512 or fewer words. (I won’t link without his permission.)
I did post a narrative here, almost two weeks ago. When I wrote “Perspective” I wasn’t really thinking about it as a stand-alone short story. In my mind, it was just a scene with a hook, with easy start and end points, a writing exercise in metaphor. I want to do more of that sort of thing, simple short bursts of fiction to practice with words and setting, maybe some dialog, without the pressure of a plot. Did it count as a story? Was there technically a plot? I honestly don’t know, and it shouldn’t matter, because that’s just distraction from my stated goal.
But then I see what someone else can do with only 512 words, and I think perhaps I should be challenging myself more, to do more. I don’t need to be clever or original, or worry about being creative. I just need to create! As someone on stage yesterday at the Maker Faire said, “You’re all makers, each one of you.”
Poking through links on that writer’s blog led me to a publisher’s website and a page of story plots which felt all too familiar. Called “Stories We’ve Seen Too Often” it is a list of reasons why submissions to Strange Horizons magazine are frequently rejected for publication. It’s fun (yeah, I know, right?) to scan down the list and consider just how many of those I might have written on my own. On one hand it’s a useful list for someone hoping to avoid trite and overused plot ideas. On the other hand, for me at least, I see a list of challenges.
It’s like when I was a kid with art supplies but no ideas, and I would ask people to tell me what to draw. It’s like when I watch those competitive cooking shows on TV, and I imagine how I might solve their challenges, even though I never know what to cook for my own dinner. I like the craft of writing, but hate having to come up with ideas for stories. What better way to practice than to treat a list of known story ideas as my personal writing assignments? I promise I’ll never try to publish them — remember what I named this blog — and I don’t expect them to be any good.
So why is this essay entitled “Eclipsed”? Because, today we saw an annular solar eclipse. And I was going to make some sort of play on words about one writer’s idea being eclipsed by the work of other authors. But of course, that pun has probably already been written before, by someone with more skill than I.