Tuesday, May 22, 2007

short shorts

Now, I could be referring in the title of this blog to something a friend mentioned yesterday that had caused her great embarassment when her father wore them to pick her up from school in the 1970s, that great fashion era. But actually I am talking about Slingink's 140-word short story competition. My story, Sorry, is one of the finalists and will be published in the competition's print anthology. I love flash fiction, the shorter the better in my opinion (as opposed to the short trousers, which can be too skimpy, I believe). This short story actually came from a longer piece of writing that I wrote during one of the sessions I have regularly with writing friends around the world. At a set time, we all sit down and write for 45 minutes based on a prompt or set of prompts that one of us has sent out. Then we spend a few minutes looking over what we have written, and we send it out. It's a powerful thing, to write simultaneously with someone, even if they're not in the same country. I feel the joint creative energies flowing. And the short, sharp writing time and the prompts tend to bring forth some bizarre stories.

So these 140 words were towards the end of a story probably around 700 words in length. I looked at them and thought, Hmm, this seems quite self-contained. I am delighted that the judge of this comp also found them to be so. But my point is that a writing exercise is often useful not for all the words it stimulates, but for perhaps just a small section, a little jewel which can be extracted and polished. I am not sure I will ever do anything with the rest of the piece, but it seems to me that it has already served its purpose. It got me to that 140 words and I won't lament the loss of the other 600 words. They were vital, but not for actual publication. Sometimes we have to recognize what to shave off a story, and in this case it was 75 per cent of the writing that had to go. This is a good lesson to learn - it's just as important to know what to let go as it is to know what to save.

1 comment:

Vanessa G said...

Congrats, T... well done, and I look forward to seeing this anthology. I know one or two of the other writers and the standard should be excellent.