Sorry about my absence from the blogosphere of late.
It is, of course, because my Nanimo project (the first draft of "Cogs & Cognizance") has kept my typing fingers busy - and, therefore, away from this blog.
But I also have been spending some of those precious words on a couple of short stories, and that's what I want to write to you all about today.
Why, while I was anxiously dragging out a little over 30,000 words of my novel (I'm up over 40,000 now) did I have far less difficulty writing about 16,000 extra words on those two shorts? Words are words: why did some pour out of me with little effort while others acted like trees planted with roots that delve for miles and refuse to be pulled for love or money?
I find short stories easier to write. I mean, of course I do: there's no intricate structure, no sub-plots, no side-quests - very few supporting characters, really. They're easy to plot out.
But the actual act of writing them is also much more simple. The words just pour out and onto the page. Compare this with writing a novel, where each syllable must be aggravatingly excavated and wrestled onto the page with furious force.
Well, see, short stories are more disposable. I don't mean that their worth is inherently less (some shorts are among my favorite works of fiction I have ever read) but if they suck they can easily be tossed away without my feeling that I have wasted very much of my time.
That story ended up being the worst piece of trash I have ever laid eyes upon? Never mind: DELETE!
There's little risk involved in committing those words to "paper". (I rarely write on actual paper.) I can be free to mess up with little lasting consequence.
With a novel, on the other hand - no matter how much I know that the rewriting process will take care of much that is wrong with the initial draft, and no matter how well I have outlined the story to ensure that the broad structure works - each piece of the tale still builds on the last. Each statement made by a character influences their behavior and that of the others who heard this pronouncement.
Each act affects the next, and the next, and the one beyond that. It's like building a house, where every brick lays on top of a foundation of previous bricks. And what happens if one of those bricks should crumble?
This is what stops me from writing the way I do on a short. There is no sense of the ephemeral about these words; each one matters. Each sentence determines the fate of the entirety of the (maybe) 80,000 words to come.
That weight presses down on every letter typed; each word feels the pressure of the mass of those yet to come.
Imagine an empty box that once contained a washing machine. Big, but light. If I ask you to push it five feet along the floor you could do that with one finger. No problem!
If I fill that same box with sand, however, and ask you to push it the exact same distance you shall have some trouble accomplishing the task.
That's how I feel about writing. In a short story, the words have less riding on them, fewer expectation laid upon them. They can flow from my fingertips without hesitation.
But when writing a novel, there is none of the same sense of unrestriction. None of the freedom from consequence that those same number of words enjoy in the shorter tale. Now so much rides on each character typed that they appear with hesitance and wariness, marching slowly out onto the page in a funereal procession.
I wish I could type with the same ease for longer works that I can for shorter; my job would be so much easier that way. Alas, however, I am unable and therefore the process of writing that first draft remains a long and arduous one.
âAt least I can take breaks to spit out a few short stories along the way.