On Terribleminds Challenge, Learning, and Being Tired
This is my first official post. I am not going to write about much of anything at this time. It’s nearly 5 in the morning, I have been up most of the night working on a piece of flash fiction in response to a challenge by Chuck Wendig at his blog, Terribleminds.com. I think I’ve got the piece completed and all ironed out, so I am going to post it tomorrow morning, in my second ever blog post, and then leave a link to it at Wendig’s blog. Who knows, maybe someone will read it and even like it.
Writing this piece was pretty challenging, but for some reason this challenge stood out to me and actually inspired me to write something. I’ve seen other challenges on Wendig’s blog that didn’t pique my interest at all. Not sure why this one did, maybe because I like challenge? (patently untrue. one key aspect of my personality is that I very much dislike being frustrated, and “challenging” is just another word for “frustrating.”) The challenge of writing this bit of flash fiction was in the requirements that Wendig laid out. The piece was only allowed to be 1000 words (by far the most challenging aspect) and it was to include the 7 phases of a story arc as laid out in one of Wendig’s “25 things _____” posts. When I read the challenge I already had an idea kicking around in the back of my head, and I decided to modify it to meet the requirements of the challenge. I quickly realized that it was not going to work, that the idea I had was simply too big and was begging for a larger story. I scratched that idea, but was almost instantly struck by another idea, one that is pretty macabre. I’m not sure why this idea struck me, nor why any idea ever has, but believe me when I say (Oh myriad of readers!) that I really am not a misogynist. I am, however, preoccupied with death, violence and gore. I enjoy writing gruesome death scenes, I am drawn most strongly to the gothic and horror genres. I enjoy depicting monsters. I remember that even when I was very young I would disturb my friends mother by drawing pictures of demonic beings every time I got my hands on some markers.
Anyhow, I finished writing the piece, only to find out that it was about twice as long as it was allowed to be. The first draft that I completed was 1719 words long. I needed to pare it back by over 700 words! I had no idea how I was going to accomplish that, because I felt that everything that I had written was fairly good and deserved a place in the story. I began by hunting through the piece for single stray words that could be deleted without really modifying the sentence they occured in. I also found that you can contract many words (personal pronouns followed by forms of the verb “to be,” mostly) and thus cut down on the total number. I did this as much as I thought I could, but it seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere, only dropping the word count by 50 or so. Not nearly enough. So today I learned, in practice, a lesson that I have long known in theory. In the book “On Writing,” by Stephen King, he tells readers (who are presumably prospective writers) that they can’t be afraid to kill their darlings. By this he means that when you are in the editing and revising portion of the writing process, you need to be able to look at the words and sentences dispassionately, selecting which ones will be sent off to the death camps and which ones will be allowed to stay. You need to do this even when you personally believe that every word has a right to stay. It’s not your choice. I assume that writing for a publisher will entail adhering to strict requirements in terms of length, just the same as writing this bit of flash fiction for Chuck Wendig. So I learned how to do this in practice, and found that it hurts. You really are, to paraphrase King, killing your darlings.
I am happy, ecstatic even, about learning this lesson. The reason being that, while I have longed to be a “writer” (without fully realizing what that even means; writer – one who writes) for a very long time, I have practically done very little about realizing that goal. This is the first real step that I have taken in a long time, and it smells like a victory to me. Maybe a Pyrrhic victory in some ways (all those innocent clauses, phrases, adjectives and adverbs that I sent to their doom!), but a victory nonetheless.
Well, I began this blog post by stating that I wasn’t going to write about much of anything, and honestly I wasn’t intending to, but it seems like I got carried away. It’s after 5 in the morning now, and I need to go to bed. Gotta get some sleep. I will come back on here tomorrow, sometime, and upload my story so that I can link it to Terribleminds. I’m hopeful that someone from that site will take a gander at it, because I am insecure and a praise whore, and maybe like it enough to comment on it. I would welcome praise (of course!), and also constructive criticism. If I am going to make a go of this I know I need to be open to advice from people who may know more or better than I.
Not sure if this blog will turn into anything (chances are, no), but it has been enjoyable to write on it (I stumbled over the word enjoyable, trying to write “enjoyful,” and becoming confused when it wasn’t recognized by auto-correct. I need some shut eye!), and I believe I will keep it going just for my own entertainment.
TL;DR: Wrote some shit, gonna post it tomorrow. Was hard. Learned shit. Need sleep.