I’m into the 2nd week of “How Writers Write Fiction 2016” and enjoying it as much as ever. The community is great, the content is great, it’s not too overwhelming time-wise. Every week you have an assignment to complete: so far this has been to write a 1000-2000 word story with emphasis on the aspect of craft that has been covered in the week’s video and readings. So this week it’s “Desire and Point of View”. You then get feedback from fellow course participants on your story.
Although it’s always good to get feedback, I don’t find this aspect of the MOOC to be much help. Most people tend to be too nice, which reflects I think our common difficulty to spend enough time with any one story to give really constructive feedback. I know I can’t – I’d have to print it off, read it a few times, make notes, then formulate a response. None of this is going to happen while I’m trying to keep up with the MOOC and life and work and kids. The best I can do is try to pick out what resonated with me most in the piece. Knowing that readers were able to follow and understand the story is about all I can hope for.
The real challenge of the MOOC, for me, is to come up with a story in a week. I’m not really a short story writer, for starters. I tend to think in the scope of longer works by default. So isolating an idea for a story is something I really have to work at and this inevitably takes longer than a day or two. I can’t start till I’ve watched the video and processed the instructions, then I have to let it all simmer for a while. I’ve started mind mapping (using MindMup) for ideas as I find this is the best way to focus my thoughts. For the first assignment, I decided to spin something off my NaNoWriMo prep. It’s not any of the actual characters but a situation that might happen off-stage in that tale. That worked really well as I adapted a few characters in my head that were quite well rounded.
This week has been much harder. I couldn’t come up with anything but a walk today inspired me to some historical fiction, something I’d normally stay well clear of. I’ve written it out tonight but it’s bad…so bad…because the characters are not well formed. So I will now be working with it, revising, rewriting, for a day or two before I have to let it go. I’m normally a slow writer and reviser, so this is particularly hard.
The pain is well worth the gain – I have short stories! A couple from last time around I was particularly proud of and I think may be worth working up into something I could submit to a magazine or competition if the right one came along. It’s also teaching me that – duh! – short stories can be fun and have a value and that I CAN write them if I just make myself get on with it. So I’ll stop blogging and GET ON WITH IT.