2016 minus 21: that writing thing

Posted: 11 December 2015 in 2016minus, writing
Tags: ,

If you do even a brief search online you can find quotation after quotation from famous authors about the joys of deadlines. Not everyone regards them with the same mixture of bemusement and horror as the late Douglas Adams who famously commented that he “loved deadlines, especially the whoosh as they fly by.” Others have stated time and again that a deadline is the best cure for writer’s block. 

In a previous life, when I was first a practicing accountant and later a financial director (for the Americans reading, that’s a CFO on this side of the pond), my professional life was structured around, relied upon, and surrounded by, deadlines. Deadlines for accounts to be submitted to the taxman, to Companies House, to clients. VAT Returns had strict deadlines by which time they required submission. And reviews of sets of financial statements also had individual and cumulative deadlines. 

At the same time as the above, I had umpteen personal and writing deadlines. When I wrote an online comics column, the deadlines were a little more fluid, but not much. Ideally, the column needed to be submitted 36 hours before it went live. Occasionally, that dropped to 24. On more than one occasions, my editor received the column an hour or two before it went live. She was a very nice person and treated me much better than I deserved. 

When I started the fast fiction challenge, the idea was, every year – I wrote about 100 or so a year for some years – I’d write an average of one a day. Occasionally I’d skip a day, in which case, two were written the following day. That always seemed vaguely unsatisfying and eventually, it got to the point where it irritated me to the extent that when I did the final set of yearly stories, in 2010, I made a fateful decision.

In June 2010, I was invited to take part in an online project to create something each day in June. So, thirty days. Some people created works of art, some people created music, some people created fiction; one person, to my knowledge, wrote potted biographies of family and friends. I decided to write fast fiction, under the rules of the fast fiction challenge. Thirty days. I could do that. No matter what else was happening in my life, I would write one story a day, to answer one fast fiction challenge a day. For thirty days. 

As I approached the twenty-fifth story, I realised I had quite a few challenges that would go unanswered if I stopped at thirty days. So I extended it. And then at fifty days, extended it again, still writing one tale a day. At one hundred stories, I considered stopping, but decided against it.

I finally drew a halt in the mid one hundred and thirties. I still had almost a dozen stories to write, but I decided to call a halt at one hundred and fifty stories; For the last handful, I invited specific people to end of the challenge. And then it was done: one hundred and fifty stories in one hundred and fifty days, one every day, (some of them admittedly written in the wee small hours before I crawled into bed, and one of them written after a humiliating experience when I really really did not want to write anything.)

And that was it. I was done. Doing and dusted. Until 2012, when I write twelve in twelve days for Christmas (about more of which here.) At least with the fast fictions; I’ve continued to write in other formats. 

But I’ve written few, very few, short stories. I’m not sure why. I’ve written one novel, and have two more which are… slowly progressing. I’ve a graphic novel adaptation that is progressing slightly faster and a three-part screenplay for something that I’m less convinced than ever will work. And I’ve plots and outlines and too much else.

So, I’m not sure why I promised an old friend last week that in addition to the Twelve Days of Fast Fiction that I’d write two short stories before the year end. But I did. And I will. 

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