"Small" writing challenges for my small writing talent. Hotel note pads are the only space allowed. Let's see if I can strip it down and tighten it up to learn something. Improving my skill of weird fiction.
This post is an important one to me. A reflection on what this blog taught myself, perhaps the reader, and where my journeys within it are going. You see, I got a little notification in the top-right of my screen. This notice gave congratulations on my 50th post. Already? Yup. Fifty posts containing mostly flash fiction by yours truly, not just re-linked internet curios, and the occasional longer bit or revelation. Now, on with the last six months of my project and my progress:
WordPress allows us to see posts in a feed or search result without the counter actually noticing, so I have no idea how many of you are actually reading this stuff. My stuff. Some people like it enough to finish reading and spend the energy to click a like. (Grandma’s post has four likes and zero reads. Huh.) I didn’t start publishing here for others. It’s just a way of organizing a project. Knowing it entertains is a good feeling so thank you very much if you’re a follower or liker – I’m glad you get some joy out of these stories. Look for them to get better as I go. My teachers certainly didn’t like whatever I did – I didn’t like what they did either so we’re even, except for the red pen and the grades. That’s a whole other rage-fest for another time and different therapy.
Looking at where I was:
I found writing makes friends. Then I found sponge animals. I should explain. First, I can tell where deficiency in writing has a massive impact on social skill. Word choice; tact; formulating directions of discussion; anger issues. If a toddler can’t formulate the right question to any issue, they scream and kick and shout, “Mine! Gimme!” or other action that gains time-outs and sadly forced apologies. An adult case generates possible work discipline that threatens the house over their family’s heads when they get aggressive in the office. They’re not bad, they just don’t know how to talk or think. Writing = thinking, but most importantly, critical thinking! So, get mad and get people mad – or talk sensibly and gain friends.
Not only did I need to improve my higher functions in this regard, but I’ve got these crazy ideas, man! The sponge animals! (don’t worry, it’s coming) I always had them but when my girls grew and gained imaginations, that placed me in a renewed environment. Re-firing the furnace. Let’s face it, growing older creates a tedious world with other repetitive workmates and slows the brain train. The brain is on-line again.
All of these ideas are spinning and growing faster in the super-collider of my head. I was getting nowhere. A procedural job is no place for a creative outlet. I figured out some solutions but the big one was, I have to write and write my ideas. Nobody else is writing what I want to read. Not the way I want it. But, mainly, I felt video games and watching mindless TV was a waste for all of these thoughts and writing is such a better use of my time. I get something out of it. On larger projects, there’s no way I would be reading what I’m reading if I didn’t have something to apply it to. (Look at the inspiration post to see what I mean.)
I began with writing some nice little bits for the kids. Bear cubs learning how to fish. Farm animals playing games. Robots on adventures. All of which I could develop, perhaps. Then, the larger and larger ideas came on strong. The ideas grew like those animal capsules in water. Have you see them? (Google the term) It looks like a pill that pops open in water, growing into a giant freaky-looking foam water logged sponge. Exactly like the inside of my head!
Serious writing? I at least know what I don’t know. Most of what I wrote contained extensive modifiers, flipped structures, time traveling verbs, pronouns on levels of insanity and devolved sometimes into technical report writing. If I wrote a story of a train wreck, it would read like two train wrecks where it kept crashing into itself. Inside the train would be a robbery that goes nowhere, a hold-up trying to steal something they can’t remember and a rail-car poker game devolving into slap-jack. That is what I had to overcome. Regulating what sounds like an amazing party. As an aside, I seriously thought about writing a user’s manual to Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine at one point. At least I knew I didn’t know. Uh, know enough-about writing, not wayback machines. I had much to learn in making the story in my head represent with type.
Skills to lern learn:
How many times have we heard the repetedly beaten dead-horse, “I’m going to write the great American novel!”
Yeah. Same reaction here. Go ahead. Try it. They soon learn, like I knew, a bit more practice is required before taking on a huge piece. Stephen King wrote his memoir, On Writing, and explained attempting Under the Dome. He threw the first few chapters in the desk drawer until he was good enough to take on something that big. He knew. We all start small. We have to. I don’t know of a President that jumped into the Oval Office before firstly learning how to take candy from babies. The last thing I want to do is create onerous swaths of manuscript without any skill to edit it. If we don’t know how to seriously write, I’m even surer we don’t know how to edit. Blue pencil and proper markup symbols are actually created for a reason. I had to figure out something on a small scale because I would never learn from within a multi-dimensional train wreck. Something small, ike homework. Yeah. Homework was never in epic sizes until The Final. So, that’s what I did. Very small fiction. I learned it was called Flash. It was manageable, tight, concise and nothing extra. I could go to town editing only on the game of devolving poker games in a rail car. (Okay, That theme is now my next idea for today.)
Now that I dun did it, what dood did I lern learn:
To, The, A, etc. I cut an incredible volume of words out of regular use. Let me edit that. I cut crap from regular use. There. That is really what I learned. Something like a hack job of editing. What’s the minimum I can get away with while making a strong point? The dark minds post was cut from over 630 words down to 480 and then I was able to selectively build it up to an even 500 to help it flow sort of nicely. I’m most of the way there to a finished piece and I still know, I can do more, only when I learn more.
Where I am now:
Later on, there is a list of a top ten. Well, a top ten that matter to my education and not just what I think are the top ten best stories. We can compare the most recent post, one I am actually VERY happy with, Grandma’s big balls of yarn, (February 2016) with anything previous on the main page, especially from last fall of 2015. Around the ‘Harold’ post, my fourth entry-and first of real flash length, nothing had really cracked 250 words and contained very much dialogue. I noticed this trend so I put a concept together trying to get more showing and less telling involved plus more dialogue. I did this by just continuing to write and adding what I felt was missing at any time. I wasn’t pulling my hair out, agonizing at a tiny table under a hanging light-bulb in the basement or anything. I just wrote. I was somewhat successful but Harold exposed a problem to work on. Tactically approaching a scene to lead or mislead the reader. Now I was getting somewhere new and I wasn’t only writing a story from my head. At, about, entry number ten I began to spread out with larger word-counts and even having to chop, hack, cut, re-word to get things to smaller sizes that decently qualify as flash: 500 words or less.
The good vs. bad of these self-teachings:
Grandma’s story came in at way under 500 words and felt full and rich with texture and dialogue. I think I showed and hardly told. I am very satisfied with it and what I’ve learned so far. I hope I can continue that. On the other hand, when looking at an experiment with Rory’s Story Cubes, that wound up a three-parter, I found myself doing pretty well but also cutting and chopping way too much to get the sizes down. I think the story really suffered. I believe it should be four parts instead of three where I could preserve some feel. Right now it’s just a bunch of guys running around on a treasure hunt. Let me know your thoughts on that one.
In the middle of it all, I went dark, went to the bright side, and tried various settings. I’m crafting stories in various ways to learn how to really craft something that works together with the setting and the personalities combined. I think I’m progressing quickly. Now I need to focus harder on the editing part by really getting into the tenses, applying The Elements of Style and going back to fix the Harold story and other earlier parts that I found more fun to write. This way, I can physically shape the spongy creature into something alive. Terribly alive! Awesome. I just gave myself another idea about inflatable flailing arm tubular balloon marketing men coming alive and doing, well, something. Playing basketball? OH god. . .
The hits off the first fifty:
Of everything I put on this site, I can’t say I like some more than others. All have some good parts I really like. I wanted to make a top ten or something but I can’t pick and choose, So here is a list of some of the big moments this site brought to life, a top ten of what mattered for me:
Casual Friday : Man wakes up dead. The first clue I like weirdness with angles.
Loving men like Harold : Dark fun. My first real flash story with a twist attempt that needs work.
Weirdos-in-grey : An octopus B-movie theme. A first real flash accomplishment for me.
Project: A story from Rory’s Story cubes : Three-part series I mentioned. High adventure that taught me about editing larger pieces and creating episodes.
Properly Stupid fight Scene : I wrote a basic fight scene to see how it goes together. a great time of agent stereotypes.
Red Invasion Bedtime Story : A great sci-fi accomplishment for me and an empty mind. Details inside but story started really coming together.
The Possessed Best Seller : Long piece. Starts below the first paragraph. I just wrote a story and it worked. An Anti-romance novel writer.
I take mine black : Testing the waters of violence. I learned it’s hard to let go.
Unchaining dark minds : Deeper, violent waters. I’m going to hell for interrogating a kid with downs.
Grandma’s big balls of yarn : 51st post. A big trip with my memories and where what I’ve learned all works together, I think.
So take a look at them and see the improvement from early to late. I’m at 51 posts of stories and journeys that I like and don’t want to stop. This one makes it 52. Thank you for coming into my storium. Pour a coffee and enjoy the words. Have a Stroopwafel. Leave a comment or two.