Tag Archives: inspiration

Nothing never started gets better.

Or, what flash fiction can do for your writing life.

Nothing never started gets better.

Look, you should see some of the crap I’ve written, including the above.

As a writer who has all too often marks progress with decreasing word counts, as one who has a black belt in self-sabotage, and as one who will snag on a single word choice and spin myself silly, I have managed to learn something, in spite of myself.

Nothing never started gets better.

(You would think by now I would have found a better way to say that.)

What I’m trying to say is here’s what writing’s like:

Most of the time, finished work is a hard-won collage of brief inspirations, grueling transitions, struggling metaphors and delicate passages that shine upon the polishing. At least once every eon, I’ll write something that I love. I grab a pen, scribble something down, then sit back and read it and think: Yeah. Then, I’ll read it again and probably twelve-dozen times, and then aloud at whisper-level, and then to a chair, and then to the cat, and then to my spouse, and still manage to think: Yeah. And if I’m really, really lucky, I can even read it myself again a couple years later and think: You know, that was all right.

This almost never happens.

Okay, it maybe happened once.

Most of the time, finished work is a hard-won collage of brief inspirations, grueling transitions, struggling metaphors and delicate passages that shine upon the polishing. And the things is, if you are writing novel-length works, this takes a vast amount of time (or, if it doesn’t, I hate you). This is time spent alone, in a far land, with no destination in sight. Which is why I’ve learned to love flash fiction.

Flash fiction is creative crack

Flash fiction is creative crack, a palette cleanser, a weekend getaway crammed in a morning. Instant gratification. A quickie in the shower. And in spite of all the fun of that, it’s also a refresher course on writing you can fit into any given morning.

I write scads of them. In spite of the radio silence on the blog these days, I’ve been filling up my personal cloud with the stuff. Generally I’ll write at least one a day. Just because. Because I am a slow and recalcitrant learner in need of constant reminder how this works—how to feed and nurture this writing beast.

Here’s a secret: Ninety percent of the time when I look at the photo prompts on Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers or Al Forbes Sunday Photo Fiction, I blank. I can’t think of anything.

The sacred act of taking an intangible thought from the space between your ears and committing it to a page does something. It’s a promise, it’s a vow, and once it’s out there, stuff happens.But still, I push myself and think no one’s watchingjust do a sentence, and so I do. And it’s almost never any good and doesn’t wind up in the final piece. But still, that act is magic. The sacred act of taking an intangible thought from the space between your ears and committing it to a page does something. It’s a promise, it’s a vow, and once it’s out there, stuff happens.

Because once it’s out there, it makes me think of something else, and maybe it’s completely unrelated but it’s enough to make me scrawl down a few more sentences.

This is the point where I usually decide it’s hopeless. I go take a shower or walk the dog. And that’s when it gets amazing. Because while I’m doing the other shit, the real story happens. All of a sudden the whole thing pops into my head: how to fix what I’ve already written or an even better concept that never even thought of. And while I’m standing there dripping, I scribble down notes on that notebook that I keep just outside the shower for such emergencies. And by the time I’ve done four or five rounds of revisions I actually like it: find some merit or something to be proud of and presto—another edition of Friday Fictioneers.

Most of the stuff I write is pure crap. Clumsy, trite, awkward, stupid, half-formed, grammatically incorrect and painful to read. You probably noticed. But the thing is, I have managed to learn something, even in spite of my attempts to do otherwise:

Nothing Anything you never started gets any better.

Like thinking you’ll win the lottery without ever buying a ticketI used to think ‘I’ll write’ when it’s all fully formed in my head and good enough to commit to the page. Because god forbid I write crap, that it’s wrong, that I have to change it, because well, I thought that’s how it worked. Like thinking I’d win the lottery without ever buying a ticket.

So my writing friends, lost in the wilds of your novels (and you know who you are), if you’re not on flash fiction yet, give it a try.

Whatever it is you need to learn, it’s in there. Flash fiction is the crash course on the thing that’s missing in your work, that thing you need to learn. And if it’s not, it’s at least entertaining. Sprint-training for the creative heart. So come on, you—yes you. Give me twenty words, or a hundred or two or three and see where you wind up.

You can’t improve what you don’t write.

Happy writing.

Attack of the Nefarious Google Beast

googlemapI like maps, planned destinations, hotel reservations, heated pools and chocolate croissants. I like research and travel books and poring over online reviews and intimate knowledge of space and place before I get there. And yet somehow the best part of the journey is always the unplanned detour or the unexpected stop. It’s there I find the ultimate souvenir, the perfect picture or the barbecue ribs worth dying for.

When I got the idea for HitList, it wasn’t so much that I found it, as it found me. I was just merrying along, writing my Well-Planned Book (about something else entirely), when The Beast (aka HitList) came, knocked me across the teeth and took over my brain.

I was helpless to stop. I knew it derailed me, but there was something so compelling about it—I couldn’t look away. Each word made me eager for the next. I couldn’t stop writing—I had to find out what happened. And this experience showed me that while there are intentions, plans and plots, there is the thrill of riding the story and letting it take you. Amazingly, by the time The Beast left, I had a book–a better book than the one I’d planned.

So, I was not completely surprised when some innocent and well-intended research on my googlemap streetviewcurrent WIP turned into something else. The Nefarious Google Beast blindsided me and dragged me into an alley, where it threw me in the trunk of a waiting car. I was just sitting there, staring at something on Google maps and one thought led to another, which led to a sentence, and turned into a page and I’m starting to wonder if there might be a book attached.

It may only be a short story, it could be a meandering diversion down the rabbit hole and back, but right now I simply can’t wait to get to the next sentence. Oh, what next? What next? Where are you taking me, Nefarious Google Beast?

I may end up miles away next week with nothing to show for it but a short story and a tattoo I don’t remember getting, but heck…I think I’m gonna go along for the ride.

Why Write?

The Wizard

By Sean McGrath from Quispamsis, NB, Canada (The Wizard Uploaded by Hekerui) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek at a new book by my most favorite author—the one who inspired me to write. I was thrilled and blown away by his latest novel-in-the-works. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m going to share a snippet with you here:

Frindifel was a great Highthur, almost as good as my father, not some murding Orc or a lazy Elf or one of those stubby Dwarves. He patted Hina’s mane. “Just a bit further,” he said.

What did I like so much about him? Maybe it was his wizard-looking aspects: his cloak and all that gray hair.

Okay, okay, so it’s more than a little Hobbity. And I’m not sure you can rightfully use Orcs unless you are J.R.R. Tolkien. And no, I don’t know what murding is, but I do so hope it’s not a misspelling and was supposed to be “murdering”. “Murding” conjures the Dark Ages and makes me wonder—is it a crime of gluttony? Poor hygiene? I don’t know, but that alone makes me want to read more.

This writer’s previous book featured a trio of friends battling villains from Greek mythology. The one before that was about a most noble hamster. You may have guessed by now my favorite author is Noble Hamster, my eleven-year-old.

When I read his stuff, I’m struck by its innate magic and I say to him, “You must write.”

“It’s not that great.” He shrugs and wanders off to play Minecraft.

Yeah, I’m biased. I won’t argue that. But to me, he does so much right in just those five sentences. Showing rather than telling, varying sentence length and structure, elegantly mixing dialogue with narrative, gently weaving in scene and setting… And forgive me this shameless mom-moment when I say–I think the kid has voice, that thing no one can teach. I think he has it in spades and I’m more than a little jealous at the ease with which he scribbled this off. C’mon people, he’s eleven.

From time to time, when I was in school, a teacher would pull me aside, clutch my elbow and give me and intense look. “You must write,” they’d say. At the time, I figured they were just trying to keep me from sneaking out to the parking lot to smoke cigarettes. Believe me, I wasn’t penning anything half as luminous as the stuff my son writes.

I’ll probably never know what prompted their advice, but I know what I want to say to my son: Don’t waste it. Put your words to the page–because you can. Share your hopes and dreams and visions; bring your inner world to life. Maybe you’ll never capture an audience beyond yourself. But if you possess the desire or talent to write, or some happy combination of both, just do it.

And yes, I know ‘just do it’ is not original.

And no, I’m not just taking to him, I’m talking to you.

And I still hope he meant “murding” Orcs.