I’m doing Story a Day May!
Yes well – I think I am. Sort of. Because, you see… Oh well, let me explain.
Remember my personal – and rather satisfying – Story a Month last year? I liked it so much that I decided to do something similar this year. Not the same thing, not other twelve stories just like that. I’ve done that one, it’s worked. Now, I told myself, it’s time to try something different. Something slightly uncomfortable. Something that I don’t quite know how to do well, but I’d like to learn.
And I decided on flash fiction – and a few of its variations – because I like very much the idea of tiny but complete and vivid stories. Oh, I’ve tried my hand at it now and then, in that haphazard fashion that usually proves more frustrating than anything else. You know, when you decide to teach yourself a language with an old grammar book you found in the back of your dad’s bookshelves*, and begin, and try, and make some little progress on the basics, and try to struggle past, and learn how to ask for a cup of coffee or the location of a museum – only you’ll never understand the answers, and then put the book aside, and tell yourself that you’ll get back to it…?
Yes, well – like that.
So it seemed like a good idea: work systematically on flash fiction for a whole year, learn it well, write a fair amount of it, do something with the results… A good idea, yes.
Except, it’s not working.
I had to choose a historical setting, of course – why, two historical settings, one of them with ramifications in other time periods, just so that I could fall down not one, but several research rabbit-holes, and we all know how that works. Then I tried a course or two**, just to see a few different approaches to the genre. Then of course there was all the dithering between the two ideas I might work on – and you have no idea how good I am at dithering. Then I began to develop characters and notions, and to take notes, and notes, and notes, and notes… I have notebookfuls of notes by now – and it’s the end of April, and that’s about all I have to show for four months of work: notes, notes and notes – with the possible exception of two small stories about a different (if not unrelated) character.
Because the fact is that I have a fairly reasonable idea of what I want to write – but when it comes to actually putting in this very short form, I find myself stumped.
You see why I was despairing a little, don’t you?
Then, a few days ago, I came across this article on the ever helpful Writer Unboxed – an article about something called Story A Day May.
A story a day? I thought. Now that was really mad! And I began to read. No, really – a story a day… utter madness. For a whole month! Who would ever…? How would one even go about it…? A story a day – really!
And the more I read about Julie Duffy’s yearly challenge, the more the idea seemed to tingle. The flexible rules, the prompts, the first-draft-only policy… Absolutely mad, isn’t it?
There! There! There! my inner Will o’the Wisp began to trill. Toy! Tool! Shiny! Game! Want! Want! Want!
Which, when translated from Will o’the Wisp parlance, means something like this: “Why, this is mad indeed – but it might be just the kind of madness you need to spark your flash-fiction notions into some semblance of life. A challenge! Deadlines! A rush of writing! You know those always help… And besides, it’s bound to be uncomfortable, isn’t it? It’s mad – and it’s perfect!”
So, yes: I’m doing Story A Day May. I’ve wrapped up whatever other writing I had in the works, and set a few rules for myself:
- I plan on drafting at least three stories each week. Anything beyond that will be icing on the cake – but I want to keep it manageable;
- Flash fiction, of course – or where would be the use of it? Still, if anything longer crops up, it will be attended to once the weekly quota of three stories has been reached;
- First drafts only. There will be time for revision – all the more because it’s likely some of the stories won’t be worth the further work;
- Minimal or no research this month, if I am to keep up with the mad schedule.
There. All of it to be re-evalued by, say, the middle of the month. As I’ve said more than once in this post, it’s madness. I’m frankly terrified, and definitely uncomfortable, and very, very excited about it all.
I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, picture me scribbling madly away. And… what about you? Care to join in the game?
* True story. The language was Hungarian. No, really. The grammar book was accompanied by a collection of Petöfi poems – so I guess that’s why. I don’t think my father ever made much progress either, though…
** I highly recommend Kathy Fish, by the way…