Monday, 26 April 2010

Nasty, Brutish AND Short - Joan Lennon

The last time I posted on ABBA, I was commiting myself to a stint of whistling the devil's tunes. After extensive faffing about, I am able to report that I have indeed got stuck in. I've been up to my elbows in blood ... well, maybe not, but at least I've been making my characters unhappy and tipping the balance of their world pretty relentlessly askew. It's a big book I'm working on - 70-80,000 words - and so the threads that I'm pulling tighter need to be followed through quite a lot of cloth. It's the kind of work where you need to hold the long picture in your mind while still focusing on the pattern right in front of your eyes. It's the sort of thing I usually need to go away to do, but because it's a re-write instead of a first draft I'm managing to poke away even in the midst of family life. (Which at the moment includes being woken at 5 every morning by the birds getting on with THEIR family life.)

But because writers, like people, rarely get to do one thing at a time, I'm also doing a lot of thinking about short stories. Even short-short stories. It has become the Spring of the Writing Workshop. (I've blithered a bit about this on my blog already - The Long and the Short of It.) So I've been gathering up stimulating, playful writing exercises for producing pieces of short stories or complete short stories - and re-discovering, in the process, just how much fun you can have when you're NOT writing Lords of the Rings.

I rediscover the joys of writing short on a regular basis, and forget completely in-between. (The brain has finite storage capacity, as we know. Though sometimes we forget.) Before writing this post, I was trying to figure out WHY writing short stories is so satisfying. Maybe it's because it is so much more easily completed. Maybe it's because we really can polish every word to the shininess of a shiny thing. Maybe it's because the ideas that need short stories to express them have a tidy, attainable, holdable quality that long works don't. (Not so sure about that one.)

Help me out here. Why ARE short stories so - here I pause to look in my thesaurus for another word for "satisfying" and am given "cheering, convincing, cool, filling, fulfilling, gratifying, persuasive, pleasing, pleasurable, satisfactory" - all those things to write?

Meantime, back to being mean time ...

P.S. At first I had trouble finding images on Google for this blog's title. Then I realised I'd made a slight spelling mistake. I'd put an "i" instead of a "u" in the second word ...

Joan Lennon's website
Joan Lennon's blog


Penny Dolan said...

Congratulations on your stuck-in-ingness, Joan. Short writing is really useful but unfortunately doesn't get the big stuff still sitting there done. Sigh!

Elaine AM Smith said...

Short stories are satisfying because you get much more instantaneous gratification; the completed article, a job well done.