When I was mainly writing poetry I didn’t write every day. An idea might come to me, I’d draft something, put it aside for a few days, come back to it, edit it, put it away for a little bit longer, dig it out again, revise or polish and so on. In other words, I gave myself time in between to do other things. The main thing was to get my mind into the right place where a poem might be possible.

But short stories have taken over my life. Already this month, I’ve finished two stories I started last month. One is just over 3,000 words; the other just short of 6,000. I use more or less the same procedure with them – finish, print out, read through immediately with a pencil, do the first corrections and minor edits, print out again and set aside for later polishing or editing. But I’m often working on two different stories at different stages at the same time. There are no gaps. I cannot stop writing. I finished one two days ago and I immediately started on a new one the same day, and I’ve already written 1,500 words of it. I suspect it’ll be another long one. It’s about an unexpected visitor who may or may not be the unknown son of the main character. There are so many plot possibilities, and I don’t want to cut off my options prematurely until I see how promising the leads are. Feels a bit like a chess game in fact.

At the same time I’m exploring stylistically, so I may have one – usually short – which is mostly narration, and another which uses a lot of dialogue. Incidentally, I’ve realised that an earlier, completed one which is almost entirely dialogue might work as a play. The narrative might become stage directions. And that may finally help me to write a proper play. I was involved with amateur drama, as actor, director, lighting designer etc, for 20 years, and I’ve never written a play. Maybe now I can, so that’ll be another direction I can take.

It’s as if, as I get older, my writing is accelerating. I can’t seem to slow down, and I don’t have to prepare myself mentally to write fiction. I just have to sit in front of the screen, and the words start flowing. It’s exhilarating.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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One Response to Driven

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Much the same happened to me at the turn of the century—not often you get to use that in a sentence, eh?—when I was stuck writing my third novel. I suddenly started churning out short stories like there was no tomorrow having written a grand total of two since I’d left school and, like you, there was little or no planning; I’d just sit down and begin. I wrote about forty of the buggers over a few short months and then dried up and I’ve only ever returned to the form a couple of times since. Much the same happened a few years earlier when, after twenty years of writing nothing but poetry (and three years of writing sod all) I sat down and with embarrassing ease wrote two novels back to back; the later ones took a lot more effort. And yet I still think of myself primarily as a poet, a poet who happens to write a novel every four or five years. A part of me wishes I’d more control over my output but that’s never worked for me. I write what needs to get written and not so much what I want to write which is why I’ve never written any science fiction (like the world needs another sci fi novel) because I don’t work that way. (Of course now I’ll sit down and write one.) More power to you Colin. Don’t overthink it or even think about it. Just milk it for all it’s worth.

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