A story a day

 
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The writing of a story a day, I guess that was an easy idea to come up with even though it was a preposterous one and I knew as soon as I decided to do it that that it wasn’t going to be easy.

The writing of a story a day, I guess that was an easy idea to come up with even though it was a preposterous one and I knew as soon as I decided to do it that that it wasn’t going to be easy. And a lot of the stories I’d written were about love and I thought it was an under-represented subject in fiction at the time and a topic, also, that’s incredibly easy to stretch in just about any direction.

So a story about hate was a story about love, in my book, by definition. So I guess I was writing stories about relationships and the idea of exploring a single topic through multiple pieces of fiction seemed fascinating. I thought that a blog was a great way to go about doing it because it forced me to – I had an audience. You know, after a few months, I had subscribers to the site and they expected a story every time they logged on another day so I was locked in.

It’s that thing about providing yourself with deadlines and expectations that you can’t wriggle out from when you have other people who are watching what you’re doing. You sort of have to get on with it. So 365 short stories about love.

They were very short stories, 200 words a story, micro-fiction, but otherwise I didn’t set any boundaries around what I was writing and I just went for it. You know, you start writing projects and a lot of projects you start without knowing what they’re going to be. I was determined to finish it, even if it was rubbish. I was hopeful that what it would produce was (a) better writing and, over the course of doing that, the discipline would be good for me. But also, to me, it was an exploration of what it is to find a story. There’s a magical process in fiction writing, which is locating stories.

To a large extent, it’s only writers who explore that process but we don’t hear much about that part of fiction writing, which I think is hilarious. Even taking about plotting, for instance, the finer points of the narrative don’t explore what it is for a writer to find a story to write.

So having to write 365 of them in a the space of a year, they weren’t all very good, some of them were particularly poor but they had to be stories, they had to be defined narratives with some sort of character development, with a resolution, with those things that you expect of longer forms of fiction. What I wasn’t writing were scenes. I was writing things that concluded.

I guess that was the definition I was giving myself. I’d looked at a lot of micro fiction, particularly – it’s a form that has been popular online and there are many attitudes to what micro fiction can be. But, for me, I did want each piece to be a self-contained narrative.

The elements in particular I was interested in were character, character development, voice, which is surprisingly important in such a short narrative but I did find that voice was important, and sometimes voice was critical, then a resolution, yeah, something that brought it round. With micro-fiction, I think one of the things is that a lot happens, as I’d describe it, just off-stage, just off the page and so there’s a lot of implication. So sometimes even the conclusion is only there by implication, you actually have to – you have an expectation that the reader will bring that conclusion in but it’s still there, it’s still all the signposts and the map that the reader needs to navigate to that conclusion, even if they bring their own conclusion into the story, it’s there.

Well, I went to about 375 days in a row. The thing is, I had the stories, I had a backlog and one of the things that I think the project taught me is that an idea becomes a story by being written down and explored and the process of writing it. And if you have an idea as a writer, you almost owe it to yourself to get it down as words on a page to see if it’s any good.

I think there’s this notion that people carry stories with them but, yes, they’re stories but they’re not actually pieces of constructed fiction until they are given that form. And sometimes an idea that seems a little bit half-arsed works really well and sometimes an idea that’s great while it’s in your head doesn’t necessarily make a great piece of written fiction.

So I kept going. I wrote, I think, about 10 extra days before I skipped a day, which I felt I was allowed to do. Then I have consistently kept writing – not that consistently but I still write micro fiction and I still gather ideas and I got into a different phase where I was, amongst other things, re-working some of the ideas that I had.

For about six months, the blog that I was publishing, too, was still very active just with reworkings and also reformatting. So I chose stories that would work really well as audio and recorded them and did some other things with them, which was nice to do, to step away, have a look, what’s really working and I continue. The most recent short story I wrote came out of a 150-word story that was published early on in the year of micro fiction. The project provided some great just source material for me for longer forms of short fiction. There are probably novels in there and I haven’t got time to turn them into novels at the moment because I’m working on another longer fiction project, a series of novels. So the novels that are in the micro fiction will have to wait.

Certainly I’ve pulled out a number of those piece and turned them into 2000, 3000-word short stories which, when you’re coming from 200 words means new characters, new scenes, they become quite different entities but they have the same germ of a plot but then I’ve also created a downloadable audio versions of some of the stories.

Some of the stories have been published, which involves changing them around, some of them have turned into poems, which, really, I never regard myself as a poet but through the very short fiction have found another way to write, I guess, that suited some of my ideas better.

So some ideas, you think they’re great but you write them down and they don’t make great short stories but some of those, I’ve written them down and I’ve thought, no, they’re not short stories and then I’ve been forced to write them as verse and have had some success with that so that’s been a bit of a surprise.

And then the most recent thing that I’ve done with the stories is produce some of them as videos, which were then shown in public using the Federation Square screen so that was a really exciting project, three-and-a-half minute videos with some graphic design and a whole lot of other considerations which just extended the stories a bit more.

From that project, a whole lot of things have come. I didn’t know what I was going to get. One of the things, for instance, that has come out of the whole process is a particular form, which, as far as I know, is unique to me. I’d started to write stories that were around 50 words long and then I started to play around with formatting and had now written, I don’t know, possibly 30 or 40 stories. They’re almost like part-way between a story and a piece of Haiku. And the format is six six-word lines. They just seemed to read really well. They’re almost like the last six lines of a sonnet, which is also something I’ve been exploring and they’ve become a form that, every now and then, I have a very simple idea, a narrative that only has one or two characters and one twist to reach the conclusion and I just write it down in that format.

As a writer, you can develop forms and formats and things that inspire you, whether it’s free verse or whether it’s Haiku or whether it’s limericks or whatever it is, then that’s a great thing. So the hardest part was that issue of finding plots when I didn’t have them, the clock ticking and being aware that I had to come up with something that I was at least comfortable calling a story and write it and publish it and do it that day. Doing that whole exercise was like saying to myself for the next year, writers block does not exist, you don’t have it, can’t have it.