This writing blog is a bit of an experiment. If it works – by which
I mean, if I feel moderately inspired to keep going with it – I will
try to write pieces on a semi-regular basis. Let’s see how it goes.
For the last month or so, I have been working on a short story and, to be honest, I have found it quite a struggle. It is not a form that I ever particularly imagined that I would find myself writing in – I am generally more attracted to dialogue-based work (SEE HERE) – but I had an idea that I was very enthusiastic about, which seemed a natural fit for short form prose, so I threw myself into it.
The idea itself was essentially a single image. A final frame of sorts, albeit one that I thought would work best in prose, from which the rest of the story seemed to grow in a very natural way. Everything felt sufficiently clear in my head that I somehow expected the writing itself to be relatively straightforward. This was a mistake.
One of my problems is not just that I am working in prose, but that the style of prose that I have chosen to aim for – a sort of impersonal narrative, similar in tone to the unsettling mortality tales of David Eagleman’s Sum – is about as far removed from dialogue as you can get. No characters, no plot as such, just a narrative formed from a thread of ideas and tableaux.
Since the style I am going for is so open-ended, with none of the this-passage-needs-to-lead-Character-A-to-make-Decision-B type structural joists that I would usually have in place to aid with the writing process, I have found myself agonising over every sentence, reworking and reworking in search of some sort of immediate perfection. While this has ultimately produced some text that I feel is close to what I was after, it has also been depressingly inefficient.
But now I am wondering whether my problem may actually be simpler than I had imagined. Insufficient preparation. When writing scripts, I have stumbled into the habit of undertaking a pretty lengthy procedure of preparation (and I certainly have a lot more to learn in this area), whereas for this short story, after scribbling some notes on tone, listing my key points and shuffling them into some sort of order, I skipped straight into the writing.
I probably should have known better, though I can forgive myself this once. I was coming back to writing after some time away, and was desperate to get stuck into something. However, not preparing well enough may have cost me some time (and some self confidence) in the long run.
So I am going back to basics. Before producing any more text, I will try to break down the story into individual thoughts, each equivalent to a sentence or two of text, and thread them together so that every one leads cleanly on to the next. In this way, I will be able to ensure that each line forms a meaningful step towards the destination that I am trying to reach: that final image that inspired me to write the piece in the first place.
This extra preparation should allow me to go back to writing the text with the confidence that I know my story inside out, hopefully making the whole process a lot smoother and more enjoyable.
Thomas Oléron Evans, 2015