I spent an hour today sorting out the finished pieces of writing that I had, gathering them up from different Scrivener projects and saving them into the one I use to store and manage my shorter pieces of work; anything longer gets a project all of its own.
There were stories and poems that I’ve written for my Creative Writing course at York University, some of them had slipped my mind, and it was nice to reconnect with those ideas again. Things written for particular competitions, and of course my entries for Hour of Writes. There are stories as short as 100 words, and some over 5,000 but by far my most common story length is 1500-2000 words.
Why? Well, firstly, most short story competitions ask for this word length. Secondly, it’s about the most I can write and edit to a reasonable standard in an hour so all my entries to Hour of Writes come in at that length.
There’s a pretty broad spectrum of subject matter. If I get an idea to write a story, then I write it; I don’t think ‘oh, I’m not a crime writer so I’ll forget about that idea!’ but because they’re my ideas, they tend to be about things that interest me. A lot of my stories I would describe as ‘dropping into someone’s head’; these are ideas that have come to me where I’ve had an idea for a character, or a situation, and when I write them the ‘story’ starts right in the middle of the action and doesn’t so much finish as reach a crisis point, move just past it and then end. I’ve written a few Fantasy pieces, but by far the largest genre represented in my work is Science Fiction.
I don’t, usually, write stories of space ships or stations, or battles with alien races. My stories tend to either be near future earth, dealing with the introduction of new technologies, or in an early period of colonisation following earth becoming inhabitable. There are enough of this latter category that I think I can bring them together into a novella or full length novel, when I get the time. I haven’t written any romance, horror or comedy. I wouldn’t say I’d never write them; I had a lot of fun writing a ghost story for NYC Midnight earlier this year, and I’ve dabbled a bit with the Gothic genre, but they’re just not the direction my thoughts usually run.
I suppose this is all a part of growing as a writer, experimenting with ideas, with genre, with style until I find the thing that is uniquely me; other than Alfie Slider, of course. I’m not sure if short stories are my thing though, my ideas tend to be too big and I’ve had a few people feed back that my shorter pieces read more like prologues to a longer piece, or leave them wanting to know ‘what happens next?!’ which isn’t ideal in a short story; received wisdom is that they should be self contained.
In total I have almost 47,000 words written in the last six months (on top of Alfie) and I’m proud of them. I think what is most surprising is that almost 30,000 of those come from Hour of Writes. In an hour a week (most weeks) and just over six months, I’ve got to a word count that is a respectable chunk of a novel. Now granted that doesn’t take all the thinking time into consideration; I only start writing once I have an idea that inspires me, but it’s still impressive, I think. If I could find an idea for a novel that inspired me, and took an hour or two a week to work on it, it could be done in a year…
Not that I have a shortage of writing projects on the go! I’m working on the second Alfie Slider book, and I’ve started a new project, co-authoring a psychological thriller with a friend. I’ve had the time of my life learning how to craft a story over the last year, and I can’t wait to see what the next year is going to bring for writing.