Having finally posted my first short story last week I thought I might offer up my a few thoughts and observations about the actual process of writing it. If you haven’t read “Party Animal” yet, scroll down to the previous post and do so first to avoid spoilers!
- Writing fiction is much harder than writing memoirs and general brain dumps … Coming up with an idea and a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and end is tough. I know that the plot of “Party Animal” was not particularly original but I wanted the experience of writing a short story and was inspired by all of the unavoidable pre-Halloween hype. Hopefully the variation on an old plot was told well enough to be worth reading still.
- He said, she said… I struggled with the dialogue. My hubby thought that it was quite good and “naturalistic” but it didn’t feel that way writing it. For a start I had to remind myself of the basic grammatical rules for writing speech and more than once had to grab the nearest novel to see how it was done. I suspect that dialogue is one of those writing muscles that I need to exercise and that the reason I found it so hard is because it doesn’t generally come up much in the writing I do for my day job. Reports, presentations, instructions and business comms messages have to be factual, objective and unambiguous so I’m bit rusty on the whole written conversation thing
- Exposition and loose ends… Another thing that I wrestled with was how much I should spoon-feed the reader and how much I ought to leave them to ponder. Being an anally retentive sort of person I have a pet hate for loose threads and (continuing the metaphor if I may) I tied myself in knots several times trying to ensure that I didn’t leave the reader saying “hang on a minute, you mentioned this earlier and now there’s no explanation”. For example, I felt that I had to conclude the problem of the lost report at the beginning which sets the scene for her bad day, and to mention what happens to her clothing during the metamorphosis etc. Tiny and seemingly irrelevant details but these are the sort of things that wind me up whether I’m reading, or watching a film…anyone else really bugged by the lack of explanation as to how the hell James Bond survived being shot and then falling a hundred feet off a bridge in “Skyfall”??? I can still spot a half dozen little things in “Party Animal” that I failed to explain properly. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I should trust the reader to plug the gaps. I’d be interested to know what you think – is it just my obsessive compulsive tidiness or do loose ends bug you too? Which of mine did you spot?
- It all takes much longer than I thought… My story was only around 2500 words long but it took me an age and I missed my target publication date by 4 days. I had wanted to post it just before Halloween but working full time and trying to write in between maintaining a family life and managing domestic admin in the evenings and at weekends is not easy. Excuses, excuses. Next time I will set myself a more realistic deadline.
Having said all of that, it was still fun to write and a great learning experience. If I can come up with any more ideas for a good yarn I will definitely have another go. In the interim I have a backlog of other stuff to write about first and lots of research to do so I’d better get a wriggle on.