Thursday, 28 February 2008

Sorted - I think!

Well, my first draft of the short story for Radio Kent has come out at 921 words so, as I’m probably only going to need to cut it down by 120 or so, this is a result as far as I’m concerned.

Despite my misgivings, I did manage to write something futuristic which was different but which stretched me and made me think about words and language in a slightly different way.

Because it’s such a short story I found myself adopting the language and techniques of poetry more than those of novel-writing which was interesting.
For instance, I found myself using a lot of repetition to create an effect and form a framework from which key details could hung.
Paragraphs were like stanzas, with recurrent themes.
There were a lot of triads, with this pattern tying themes and events tightly together.
I realised, as I was going through three versions of the story to get to the one I’ve ended up with, that, working with so few words, I had to angle everything in the story to the final line or two. There was no time to faff about, I had streamline everything so that it tunnelled down to the inevitability of the last word.

I know, I sound as if I’m writing a 75 word story not a 750 word story but I’m a novelist. I don’t have that focus and precision which natural short story writers have.
If I was to compare it to interior design I’m more maximalist than minimalist in terms of prose style.

So, has this foray into short fiction taught me anything. (Apart from ‘don’t ever do this again’?)
Having to write to a word count – well, actually a minute count – has made editing a much more vital part of the writing. Whilst in a novel you’re concerned to use the best words, and not to over-use words, in a story this short, every word has to earn its place, to move action or build effect. Though, being me, this has not resulted in a stripped-down style wihout adjectives or adverbs but in a more stylised approach to the material.

All this would make more sense if I could quote from the story but I figure I should give Radio Kent first dibs, so I’ll put a link up once it’s signed, sealed, delivered and I’ve recorded it.

Meanwhile I’m off to the day job today so need to put my autism hat on as we’re having an editorial meeting about a non-fiction publication which my boss and I have put together at work. More anon…


KAREN said...

Look forward to hearing it, Alis! I agree that writing to a short word count is very challenging, and does force you to use every word wisely. I've never tried to write anything futuristic and doubt I could, but maybe it's good to try new genres now and then? You might end up setting a future (see what I did there?) novel in a distant glaxay. Or something!

Re: your current novel - read it, loved it and it will (hopefully) be Book of The Week in next week's Examiner. I'll scan you the page when it comes out if you like :o)

Alis said...

Thanks Karen! So glad you liked Testament and it'd be great to get a scanned copy of the relevant page - but only if it's not too much trouble for you. Thank you!