what you can never have too much of
Greetings from the tail end of a very satisfying Monday. It was a day made up of writing and household work and quality video game time. And this despite a kind of rough-start morning. If all days could be like to day, I could get a huge lot of stuff done indeed.
Speaking of getting a huge lot of stuff done, check out an online acquaintance of mine, Cora Buhlert. For the third year in a row, Cora wrote one short story a day every day for the entire month of July, plus a bonus story this year. I am in awe, inspired, and just a little jealous. If I could finish one short story a week I'd be well pleased. (One submittable short story. Friday Fictionettes don't count. Although finishing one of those a week isn't exactly nothing, credit where credit's due.)
Underlying the challenge of writing a short story every day is another challenge, that of coming up with a viable story idea every day. (That's something I've got at least a slight handle on, what with my daily freewriting-from-prompts session.) Cora addresses that hurdle here:
So let’s talk about inspiration: Where on Earth do you get inspiration for 32 stories, one for every single day? As in previous years, I used writing prompts (Chuck Wendig’s are always good), random generators (particularly name generators are a godsend, because you’ll have to come up with a lot of names for 32 stories) and images – mainly SFF concept art, but also vintage magazine covers – to spark story ideas. By now I have a whole folder on my harddrive which contains inspirational images – basically my own catalogue of concept art writing prompts. Other sources for inspiration were a call for submissions for a themed anthology, a Pet Shop Boys song I heard on the radio, 1980s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials, an article about dead and deserted shopping malls in the US, a news report about a new system to prevent the theft of cargo from truckbeds, a trailer for a (pretty crappy by the looks of it) horror film, the abominably bad Latin used during a satanic ritual in an episode of a TV crime drama, a short mystery where I found the killer (the least likely person, of course) a lot more interesting than the investigation.
Ideas are where you find them. Rather, ideas are where you recognize them.
My own writing prompt routine had been growing stale and needed shaking up, so I was happy Cora's blog post lingered a little over the question of inspiration. She mentions Chuck Wendig's blog--in specific, I believe she's referring to his weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. He challenges his readers to write a new short story each week (hey!) based on Monday's prompt and to share the results via a link posted to the blog comments by that Friday at noon.
While I won't be participating in the show-and-tell portion of the game, I have begun using his prompts for my Monday freewriting. Incidentally, what came out of last week's "slasher movie edition" will show up as the first Fictionette in September.
And I'm coming back to my old beginning-middle-end standard. That is, instead of just babbling around the prompt for 25 minutes, I want to wind up with a piece of writing that, however rough, has an identifiable story shape: a beginning, a middle, and an end. I used to do that in college every morning before my 8:00 class--I used to get up at 6:00 in those days--but instead of a timer I used the length of a printed page as my endpoint. This obliged me to a quick revision stage, on top of everything else, in order to get the word count just right. If I started doing that again--the beginning-middle-end thing, not so much the length-of-a-formatted-chapbook-page thing--I think it would naturally lead to my completing and submitting new stories more frequently.
Bonus: Via this week's Flash Fiction Challenge, here's the Magic Realism Bot! It is a Twitter bot. Several times a day, it tweets writing prompts with that special magic realism sensibility. The one I chose for this morning's freewriting session was this:
A 15-year-old pianist has an unusual ability: He can sense the presence of deserts.— Magic Realism Bot (@MagicRealismBot) August 7, 2017
I wound up with a world in which climates and microclimates had begun to move around like sentient creatures, and our teenage piano prodigy was translating the movements of the desert that was coming to swallow his city whole into the movements of a sonata. At the end, his piano fills up with sand and begins to play a song that is truly strange.
It's got potential. In my head, where it sort of kind of already exists in a way that Schrodinger's cat would recognize, it has a bit of that melancholy "shimmery" feel. But first I have to write it.
So! Armed with all the inspiration, I go forth into the week. Huzzah.