So, I have to say, yesterday was quite a day, one in which I despaired a bit and succeeded a lot. I think I even impressed myself, a statement which will leave long-time readers of this blog in a state shock.
Due to some shifting plans, I found myself in need of a new short story I hadn’t expected to write at all, let alone this weekend. More than that, I needed it as soon as possible and it had to be shorter than I’ve ever aimed for. 3,000 words was the ceiling on this project, and I’ve only ever been under that once, with Cayle’s short, and even that was unexpected. The word panic did more than enter my vocabulary, let me tell you. There were a few other parameters, but they weren’t nearly as insurmountable as that word count felt.
Given the tight timeframe, I thought about adapting something I’d already been working on, then realized there was no way to get my one option under that word count without gutting it entirely. Yes, I considered doing so, but realized that a) I loved the story I’d written too much to do it and b) that constituted starting over, so I might as well start over with a fresh idea.
I tried to look upon this as a challenge while I cast about for the two basic requirements, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in a state of despair at the time. I can’t write that short, as many kinda-short stories I’ve written can attest to. I was certain I couldn’t develop an idea fast enough. I found something that twigged my brain just right though, and then found the other piece of this little puzzle (though a bit of research was required to get details right). I should add that I’m also not used to writing with parameters that don’t involve length. Still, I didn’t want to let down people who were counting on me, so I made some notes on the idea.
Said notes turned into a single short paragraph that outlined the story. I stared at it in amazement. Yes, it was a complete story. It was, in fact, the bones of a whole tale that I thought stood half a chance of coming in under the required word count. I held my breath and did something else for a half hour. Praying everything would be all right, that I wouldn’t hate it, I reread the outline. I liked it, possibly better than I had at first. Images and words began forming in my head.
Still expecting disaster (trust me, I almost always expect disaster), I opened a fresh document and gave this new secret project a title. I even liked that. I was suspicious. Definitely a sign of impending disaster, I thought as I started typing the first words.
I spent the next few hours or so alternating between banging away at the keyboard and tweeting (I swear, I needed the distraction). I was still certain it was going to stink, but after the first couple of paragraphs, I started to think I might produce something I could revise into a state of not-awful. From certain disaster to possibly not-awful is a big step, if you don’t already know that. 😉
When I was finished, I stared at the screen in such a state of shock that I didn’t immediately remember to type in the magic words. I’d done it. I’d written a whole short story. The day it was conceived. With parameters! And the final word count? A startlingly small 1,772 words. I looked around for the rest of the manuscript. I was sure I couldn’t really be done. I was.
I suppose all this goes to show that sometimes we’re capable of things we were certain we’d fail at. I think I needed that challenge, if only to prove to myself I could do it. I’m still amazed about it, and hope that when I sit down to edit tonight, I’ll find the story as first-draft-decent as I recall. Yes, I’m editing the beast tonight. No rest for the wicked after all. Maybe I’ll try the sub-1k word flash fiction realm next.
*Laughs maniacally, then starts to ponder*