I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling like I didn’t have any ideas which were good enough to turn into a short story. But then my wonderful writer friend Louise wrote this excellent blog post about writing what you want to write about, and not worrying about what readers (or, more specifically in our case, what our tutors and markers) will think. In Louise’s comments, I began to write something like: ‘You’re right, and in that case, I should be writing a story about a serial killer and a derelict mental hosp –’
I stopped typing. Why wasn’t I writing this?
Over the past twelve hours, I have been questioning why I haven’t been exploring the things which most interest me, why I’ve decided that I need to ignore my morbid and strange side in an effort to write something conventional. You know, about real people and real life issues that could happen to anyone.
The answer I’ve come up with is that I subconsciously thought that writing about what interested me was too easy, and therefore not good enough. Because surely, your best work needs to be difficult to produce, otherwise it seems monotonous, repetitive or samey? Erm… this is quite possibly bollocks.
No wonder I have been having trouble (for a ridiculous amount of time: months) writing things I feel proud of. I am now entering into a new experiment: writing about what interests me.
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I wanted to write a story about a young boy with lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, but I soon realised that the story couldn’t be about the boy with synaesthesia, but it should be a story in which things happened to a boy who happened to have synaesthesia.
Now that I have drafted half of the story, I’m beset by worries. What role is this synaesthesia playing in the story? Is it adding anything to the story itself, or is it just getting in the way of the action? The rule is generally that if something isn’t pushing the story forwards and there for a reason, it shouldn’t be in the story, right? And in that way, would it be better for the story if I just cut out the synaesthesia completely?
But I loved that character, and the way he tasted words. Perhaps he belongs in a different story, one where the words are more important, but it’s a story I can’t think of right now.
I’m feeling a little bit of a rubbish writer today.
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Posted in editing, ideas on June 24, 2010|
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- Sometimes I get an idea for a story and I think it’s the best idea ever. Then the path forks. If I start writing immediately, the enthusiasm for the idea buoys me for the first 1,000 words or so. If I write down the bones of the idea then leave it for a couple of days, I generally start to doubt the quality of the story idea. Sometimes I decide not to write it at all.
- The ideas which are the most emotionally connected to me – the stories loosely based on my own experiences and feelings – tend to be the least successful stories. It’s almost as if I can’t extricate myself enough to apply the devices which are necessary to make the piece work well.
- My first draft is often twice as long as the final piece. It’s a monstrosity which should be locked in the basement, like one of the characters in a Lesley Glaister novel.
- A friend of mine is so good at suggesting little tweaks and edits for my drafts to polish them up. I’m terrified that I won’t be able to write well without him.
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