Last week there was a piece in the Guardian by Richard Lea called The Bad Side of Goodreads’ Reading Challenge. I clicked because I’ve actually signed up to said challenge. For the most part, I disagreed with the piece – and I’ll tell you for why.
Writing short stories is a very different experience to novelling.
The main issue is that in an ideal world a short is self contained – you can’t have too many threads because it gets confusing. Over the past 9 months I’ve got used to bashing out big, sprawling narratives that rabbit on and keep introducing new characters all over the place, safe in the knowledge I can rescue the salient points when editing time cometh.
However, I’m finding I can’t hide behind hazy future editing time when writing a short story. Obviously I can point out in a pathetic sort of way that it’s a first draft and it will change a bit in the edit, but if the whole notion is crap I can’t junk one bit and expand a subplot. There aren’t any.
Which leads me to a confession: so far this month, I’ve been going back and editing things. I can’t help it. I physically can’t bash out a wee story at 1.5k and move on – I feel compelled to re-read and change bits.
In my defense, I haven’t given up on anything and I’m mainly only changing phrasing here and there. The most I’ve deleted completely is a paragraph. But technically it’s against the NaNoWriMo keep on keepin’ on spirit of the project, so I thought I should come clean. After all, when the trust is gone what do we have?
Speaking of NaNo, it has occurred to me that if I’m drawing a graphic novel (or more likely a comic) in November I almost certainly won’t be coming up with 50k of text to go with it. I haven’t decided on a story yet, and drawing a page takes considerably longer than writing one. So what should I do? Write out the storyboard and dialogue and leave the drawings for some other time? Or sit NaNo out this year? Answers on a postcard, please. Or in the comment box, which is easier and doesn’t cost anything.
The other morning I forgot how to touch type. I don’t know if it was down to tiredness, or lack of concentration, or perhaps a touch of mild bubonic plague; but whatever it was I was coming out with endless streams of jumbled consonants. In the end I had to start watching what my fingers were doing on the keyboard in order to get coherent sentences out of them. Best administrative assistant / writer evar.
Any person who has tried to write 2000 words of fiction every day over a sustained period of time will already know that touch typing is A Good Thing. It means you can get lost in the words, letting them fall out of your brain and onto the screen in record time without breaking your concentration to remind your left index finger where the ‘f’ key is (which defies logic as it is – the ‘f’ key doesn’t have that bump on it for decoration, brain, it’s there so you can find it without looking).
Probably the worst thing you can possibly do in a ‘forgetting how to type’ situation is ironically most people’s default position, namely to overthink it. If you go ‘oh, I’ve made more mistakes than usual, what’s going on there?’ you start to come up with outlandish ways to explain your ineptitude, which then gets progressively worse because you’ve been dwelling on it rather than getting on with what you’re meant to be doing.
I suspect if you didn’t pay any attention at all you’d probably work it out of your system naturally, and as long as you proof read your correspondence with due diligence no one need ever be any the wiser. Although I don’t know that for sure, because I fall into the ‘noticing and wondering what’s the matter with me’ camp rather than the blitz era carrying on regardless group.
And this, dear reader, is what is known as a First World Problem – I gather there are some people out there who don’t even have any hands. Touch typing is but a distant dream for those brave souls and yet they struggle on. Presumably they dictate their novels to a secretary, or upload them directly to Audioboo.
Verily, this is food for thought.