I set a modest goal of 20,000 words in July, and I’m pleased that I made it. I started a novel, which was a lot of fun to noodle around with. I had the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge take up one weekend, parenting take up who knows how long, and a few migraine days, but I did manage to produce 20,000 words, which is the most I’ve done in a long time. I like Camp NaNoWriMo because you don’t have to hit an arbitrary goal to “win.” It’s fun to have a cabin of people participating to chat with, and watching the progress bar fill up is satisfying. I don’t think NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in November) is for me. I don’t really enjoy working on one and only one project for that amount of time (I also started a short story during July), and the goal is unrealistic for my current life.
I got much better at just writing without editing as I went. This is a constant struggle. Just producing words as a goal is fantastic for me. I started writing without an outline, just an idea, and I ended up writing scenes I never would have come up with otherwise. I’m now probably ready to outline the novel, having figured out from the characters what they’re going to do. So it was a productive exercise even if it didn’t produce polished writing. Anyway, it was fun, and I’ll do it again.
Someone on Twitter responded to one of my microfiction tweets wondering how I used five prompt words in one story. I replied with the process I use, and I thought I’d put it here as well. I have no idea if it’s interesting; her conclusion was that it’s witchcraft. She also implied that I must have a lot of time on my hands, but I spend up to fifteen minutes on this in the morning.
I have a little notebook and I take a minute to jot down the day’s prompts. I have them all in one place so they can sort of…marinate together. Make friends. What other metaphors can I mix in there? Start a chemical reaction? I look at each word and see if one of them jumps out at me as a starting point. Sometimes one word anchors it and I check to see if any of the other words are a natural fit. Sometimes a combination of two or three jumps out right away. I try not to force it, but I’ll go through and muse on different combinations. If it doesn’t work, I drop it and do separate stories, or skip one or more of the prompts if I’m not feeling them. It’s supposed to be fun and creative, not stressful and discouraging.
So, here’s what that looks like for a couple of days.
There’s my little notebook. This is not my “public” handwriting, by the way.
Here’s my multi-prompt story from yesterday:
For this one, friendship and (inter)species jumped out at me right away. Okay, an interspecies friendship. Which species? Human and alien, because aliens are fun. Aliens can fall from the sky. Say an alien seeks shelter in a house after crash-landing? Hey, a detective could be looking for him. That could cause conflict, which you could call a schism. And there you go! It’s not great literature, but it’s a fun little story and might turn into a prompt for something bigger later. On reflection, I should have put the prompt hashtags in a comment. With that many, they really eat up my character count, and the detective part is choppy and abrupt. I still like the second half, but I’d rewrite it to have the beginning flow better and give better tension, and I might pull “sky” back out because it feels a little shoehorned in.
At the #detective’s sharp knock, Po squeezed into a vent to hide. “Sir, we’re looking for an alien creature on the loose, about so high?” Sam shook his head. Their inter-#species #friendship would be surely be tested. Was a #schism inevitable? Perhaps, but not today.
I was happier with today’s, partly because I didn’t try to keep the hashtags in the main tweet for very long:
So the first thing that popped into my head was that 80s song “Private eyes, are watching you, watching your every move,” so I sang that in my head for a bit while I looked through the prompt words. Scribble and poem came together right away, and riddle quickly followed, since a poem can be a riddle, and vice versa. I thought it’d be interesting if she didn’t intend to write a riddle. That would be a surprise…say, an EYE-widening surprise. I realized the book whose margins the character is writing in could be a diary…a PRIVATE diary. A magician’s private diary, why not. Why is she writing? Out of some impulse…to quiet her mind. Hey, it’s a magician’s diary, maybe he put a spell on anyone reading it to make them jot down this riddle. And maybe it’s the answer to a problem in the kingdom (with microfiction, no need to define the actual problem), which will take courage to solve. And we’re done.
So it’s definitely not witchcraft, but I’m not sure I’ve explained at all a replicable process. The little notebook with the words in one place is key for me. I have to see them all together, written down. And pick one word to start with, and build from there if you can. But I have plenty of days when the words don’t want to work together and I do at least a couple of separate tweets. The point is to have fun with the creative process and write something I otherwise might not, not to show off by forcing a bunch of words together.
“#Nobody will want to read this. For one thing, hair isn’t #unruly. It doesn’t have a will of its own.” “I think Medusa would disagree.” “And the way you try to #flaunt your vocabulary–a shirt can’t ‘exacerbate’ a woman’s cleavage.” “You need to get out more.” brieflywrite
I participate in a few twitter prompts, not always consistently and often not following the rules. Some of my post titles might be confusing if you’re not familiar with microfiction hashtags, so here’s the guide! Twitter allows 280 characters per tweet, and VSS (Very Short Story) prompts challenge you to create a whole story within 280 characters. This works for me better at some times than at others, and I often end up with something that’s not quite self-contained but is more of a writing prompt.
#vss365: a daily prompt word for producing a very short story in tweet-length
#flexvss: a newer daily prompt of a more common word (since #vss365 can be obscure).
#whistpr is another daily one-word prompt (for any art, not necessarily for a very short story)
#366FF, which has a monthly optional theme and a daily prompt (the FF stands for Fanciful Fables).
#bravewrite is another daily one-word prompt.
I’ve also done the weekly #brieflywrite and semi-daily #mentalhealthprompt as the whim strikes me.
These are mostly a fun exercise for my brain, and the reason I repost them on the blog instead of leaving them in the Twitterverse to die is that some may be writing prompts for future stories. I end up writing in genres or voices I don’t usually use because the time investment is so small and sometimes I’m surprised by what I come up with. I usually knock these off in the morning, but sometimes I let them marinate all day. Sometimes I combine prompts and sometimes I do separate tweets for each prompt. Some days I just don’t feel it and skip. Some days I come back to a previous word.
So for the weirdly short posts with hashtaggy titles, that’s what’s going on!