When it comes to writing fiction, my natural inclination is the short story form. It is a self-contained slice which can cover the transformation of a person or situation, allowing for amazing depth within a confined word count. My starting point is often a writing prompt, a what if, a snatch of conversation or something that I’ve glimpsed.
Early on my journey of writing short stories, I read an interview with a short story writer who said that she took months to write a short story. This surprised me initially, but the more I thought about it, and the more I write, the closer to the truth it is for me. Sometimes I can dash off a first draft that feels deceptively complete. It is the euphoria that comes with writing, particularly whilst in the zone when words seem to appear on the page in a flurry of ink. But it is best to put it aside and come back to it in a day or two, or longer if needed. Some perspective is required to see if the piece really holds together as it should or whether some tweaking or major re-writing is required.
It is easy to become impatient and settle for what you have written, telling yourself it is the best you can do. But there is usually room for improvement and you need to give yourself, and the work, some time for this to happen. It is like giving your subconscious a special project to work on: clearly list what you need to revisit (a saggy middle, a lacklustre conclusion, a twist that isn’t quite right) and leave it to get on with it.
Meanwhile, get on with your life. Start another story or work on a longer project, go and do the grocery shopping or walk the dog. The brain continues to rifle through the options, and will come up with ideas and suggestions as you continue on living. Some of my best fixes have come whilst doing something completely unrelated to writing, such as hanging out laundry, being on a conference call at work or walking the dog. It is invigorating when the idea seeps through, you test it mentally for soundness and realise that it will work.
How do you solve problems in your writing?
[Photo of the railway viaducts near Lithgow, NSW]