Sheer and utter relief, those are the emotions you experience upon the completion of a story. No matter how short, no matter how long, the writing takes its toll.
I’ve just now finished a piece for this month’s Flash Frontier. Flash Frontier is a great site that supports writers of flash fiction both in New Zealand and internationally. It’s some time since they’ve published anything of mine, but it feels good to be finally getting back into writing after a couple of years off helping a friend with less creative writing work. In fact, for a while, I wondered if I’d ever be able to get started again.
Flash Frontier’s theme for March is ‘flora and fauna’. As usual the guidelines are non-restrictive; how you approach the theme is up to the author. This leads to a wide range of stories being submitted for consideration, and once published they make for thought-provoking reading. I think it’s magic that a simple topic can be interpreted in so many different ways.
I started my story the way I always start stories, with the germ of an idea. I’ve mentioned before that when it comes to writing, I’m a ‘pantser‘. This means that I “fly by the seat of my pants,” don’t plan out anything, or plan very little. I’m frequently surprised at where my stories end up. It’s as if the characters have been inside me all along, vying for the chance to share their experiences.
(The other type of writer, by the way, is a ‘plotter’. I think you can figure out for yourself how that kind of a writer works.)
If my story is successful you’ll be able to read it when Flash Frontier’s March edition is published. And if not, there will still be many excellent stories to enjoy. It’s definitely worth checking out every other month.
There’s actually a funny side to this particular project. The fiction published by Flash Frontier generally has a word limit of 250. Occasionally, there is a special 1000 word edition. For some reason I thought the March edition was one of those and I’d been working at shaving the final 10 or so words off my 1000 word version. Then I re-read the submission guidelines. Uh-oh!
It’s such good practice to cull huge chunks of unnecessary words out of a story.
Flash Frontier’s theme for April is ‘slow’ and as with other stories I’ve written, Around the Block is a fictional piece with its origins in my own experience. (In December 2015 I wrote about the mix of fact and fiction for Headland magazine, when they posed the question, “Do we write what we know?” in Seeds of a Story.)
I really enjoy reading flash fiction and I’m especially fond of the New Zealand variety – I like to read our own narratives. And reading a complete story restricted to a mere 250 words reminds me of the surprising burst of flavour you get when you bite into a tiny pomegranate seed.
I hope you’ll take the time to visit Slow. I think it’s fascinating to discover how other writers interpret a simple theme. And the stories pack plenty of punch!
A good piece of flash fiction should leave you thinking.
Or… well, I think you should find out for yourself.
The story goes back to my past – there are some elements of truth and some of fiction. This made it easier for me to write as I still have vivid memories of Moonshine Bridge and Moonshine Road. As kids we knew the area inside out.
My friend Sue and I spent hours and hours, especially as young teenagers, exploring the river, the bridge, and the ruins and wild gardens of a dwelling that had been derelict for years. We’d walk across the river to the ruins of McCurdy’s Castle and swim at Whakamoonie. All amazing memories.
So… writing about the area was easier – my memories are still vivid.
Moonshine Road, the story, is about something different. And it’s set a few years later. But you’ll have to read it to find out what it is.
I’ll post something here when it’s published.
Moonshine Bridge was demolished in 1987 to make way for the redirection of State Highway 2 along the River Road.
The piece of flash fiction I submitted for consideration didn’t make the cut, but that’s how it goes with writing. The actual task of working towards something and fine-tuning your work, is an ongoing process, and it’s one that I do enjoy, even though I don’t have high expectations.
And when you do have a story accepted, no matter how small, it’s as exciting as winning a lottery.
This year, as part of the lead-up to National Flash Fiction, there has been a parallel celebration of micro fiction. Writers were asked to submit works of 100 words or less, and one story has been featured each day since June 1st.
Members of my family will recognise that part of the story is drawn from my father’s experience as a child. That’s what I tend to do… write about things that have happened to me, or that I know about from friends or family.
If you are interested in hearing more about Micro Madness, National Radio’s Standing Room Only programme featured the following interview, yesterday at 1.00 pm.
When you make the decision to take writing seriously, you are faced with the ‘grind’ of trying to write each day, and then not knowing if you are on the right track with your stories.
There is also the matter of personal confidence. Creating anything involves giving up a part of yourself. Whether you are a visual artist, an actor, a singer, a songwriter, or a practitioner of creativity of any kind… once you put a piece of yourself out there, or even express the desire to do so, then you are placing yourself in a position where people can (and will) comment on your offerings.
This is scary. You have to move beyond self-doubt and the fear that whatever you do ‘won’t be good enough’. You have to be able to say to yourself, ‘So what if it isn’t?’, and get on with it.
A mote of dust in a sandstorm
The internet has completely changed things for this hopeful author. Where once I might have slaved alone for years over a book or a collection of short stories, I now have the opportunity to take some time-out. I can respond to the challenges provided by the numerous sites that accept one-off pieces of work – from Drabbles, through Flash Fiction to the more familiar styles of writing. All the while, still scribbling away at my longer projects.
Even so, I do this with the knowledge that there are immeasurable numbers of people out there working at the same thing. It’s a world-wide market and I am just one tiny speck, one individual writer tapping away at the keyboard, trying to draw out my thoughts and weave them into something cohesive that I can express with a degree of eloquence. I suppose the aim is to find my own original voice, amongst all the others.
It’s both exciting and depressing. But the urge to write is strong.
Sharing a piece of yourself
Back in July I wrote a short story, ‘Water Baby’, for a project entitled ‘Strange Little Girls’. Water Baby was unsuccessful for that market so I submitted it to a few other places and heard last week that it’s been accepted for an online publication.
This felt really good. But I also experienced a secondary feeling that I was struggling to identify. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an infinitesimal feeling of loss.
Until a piece of writing is published, it’s all your own. Then it’s out in that big, wide world, hopefully to be read by someone. (That’s what you do it for, right?)
It will be dissected by some. Dismissed by others. Read and enjoyed by a few? Maybe… I’d like to hope so. But you’ve effectively given it up to the masses. Your baby has grown up and left home.
And because it’s the age of the internet, feedback will be pretty damn quick.
(Water Baby will be published on 16 November and once it’s up, I’ll post a note about it.)
PS. I know the ‘baby leaving home’ bit is corny, but that’s what it feels like. 🙂