Sunday, 12 June 2016
The long and the short of it.
From an early age I knew I wanted to write novels. Whilst I enjoy writing and reading short stories - novels have always had first place in my literary heart, and for many years writing novels was my main focus.
However, when I started a Diploma in Creative Writing in 2007, I was challenged to write in other formats. Over the course of two years, I completed assignments in writing short stories, poetry, drama and screenplay and found that each discipline enabled me to improve my craft. Short stories helped me work on story arcs, character and creating atmosphere. Drama and screenplay aided writing dialogue, creating tension, conflict and turning points. Even poetry which I love to read but hate to write was useful in developing my understanding of the importance of every word.
So, when I finished the course and turned my attention back to 'Echo Hall', I also kept up writing short stories and drama. I continue to find that having a number of projects on the go at any one time is beneficial when I'm flagging with the main one. Whilst having submissions accepted and seeing a play I co-wrote performed, has built my confidence as a writer.
In 2010, my husband Chris pointed out a friend of his was in an online writing community called #fridayflash. Members of the community wrote a piece of flash fiction (stories of 1,000 words and under or 500 words and under, depending on your definition.) posted them on their blogs and shared them. At Chris' suggestion I joined in and was soon hooked on the form. Not only did I find it was writing a short #fridayflash at the start of the weekend was a great way to wind down, but after several months I could see it was really improving my writing and having a positive impact on 'Echo Hall'.
In some ways writing flash fiction and writing a novel are miles apart. One asks you to condense your story into as short a space as possible, the other to fill a canvas. One takes a relatively short time to write whilst the other can take years of thinking, dreaming and false starts before it is complete. And yet I enjoy both formats. I love the challenge of telling a tale in as short a space as possible. When I write flash fiction, I have to make every word count, giving the reader just enough information to fill in the gaps. Every word counts in a novel too, but there's more room for the story to breathe, to give focus to a minor character's aspirations,for themes and ideas to emerge and recur. I am now utterly entranced by both forms and will continue to write both so long as the ideas keep flying.
On 25th June, National Flash Fiction Day is marking its 5th birthday. I'm delighted to say my story 'Gingerbread' will be appearing in this year's anthology (my first ever commission!) and am looking forward to receiving my copy. As always there are a number of great events going on so do get along to them if you can.
I always like to join in NFFD if I can, so this year, I am celebrating in two ways. Firstly, I have introduced a new reward on the site - for £200 I'll write you a story of 1,000 words or less and throw in a copy of my collection 'Rapture and what comes after'. Secondly, for the next week, I'll write pieces of flash fiction prompted by you. All you have to do is leave me an idea below, or send me a thought on Facebook (Virginia Moffatt) or Twitter (@aroomofmyown1). It could be a scenario, a word, a quote, a character. Each day I'll pick the idea I like best and turn it into a story of betwen 500 and 1,000 words.
Send me your ideas and I'll get on with it!
(And if, by chance, you haven't yet pledged to Echo Hall yet and have been meaning to - you can do that while you're here :-))
I look forward to hearing from you.