It’s been a crazy few months. Since you last heard from me on this blog Vice Media commissioned me to write and narrate an animated short that aired on HBO; the New York Times and NPR interviewed me about it; I began collaborating on a film project, and I finished my fourth novel less than a year after publishing my last one. You will hear a lot more about that from me soon on that last one, I assure you.
With all that happy news being said, I do regret how rarely I post here. Since launching this blog back in 2009 I’ve joined Twitter, I’ve launched a Facebook page, and I published my novels through Amazon. I’ve also switched jobs six times and moved three or four times. A lot has happened, and somehow I have fallen away from regularly contributing to this site.
I have an idea that would change that.
Two and a half years ago I joined a monthly writers’ group, and I give them all the credit in the world for helping me develop my craft and motivating me to stick with a first draft all the way through to the finish. When people ask me about the writers’ group I say, “I wrote two novels in my twenties, and I’ve written two novels in the last two years since joining the group.” It really has been a terrific experience, and we begin each and every single meeting by picking a sentence at random out of a book, thinking about it for a couple of minutes, and then writing a piece of fast fiction –ten or fifteen minutes, no edits, and being required to use the prompt sentence at some point– that we then read to each other before moving on to talking about everyone’s projects in earnest.
Some of this fast fiction is not bad. Don’t get me wrong: Some of it is awful, and I will not be sharing anything I deem awful here, but some of it is actually pretty damned good for a first pass on very short notice, and even the ones that failed to get where I wanted them to go might be worth discussing from a writer’s perspective of analyzing missed opportunities. Whatever the case may be, I am sitting on easily a year’s worth of good content that I can queue up and forget about. Having that much stuff ready to publish whether I want it or not might even shame me into contributing more regularly for the sake of variety if nothing else.
So, with all that said, let.s have a few rules in place before I jump in headfirst. My friends will probably chortle that it has taken me this long to put some fences around this whole thing. Yes, I do have rules in mind:
Rule #1: I will repeat these rules at the top of every entry so readers who come across this blog at random do not need to seek out the original thread. I guess this first one doesn’t need to be mentioned every time, but let’s say moving forward I will link here for the sake of people who might want the preamble.
Rule #2: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random, and that prompt will appear clearly labelled before the fiction and then clearly labelled again where it appears in the prose.
Rule #3: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.
Rule #4: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? It’s more impressive showing how few mistakes I made and what I managed to do in the time allotted rather than correcting my errors or improving my first efforts for the sake of appearances. The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.
Rule #5: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt, what I was trying to do, what I am happy with, what I am unhappy with, and some other general thoughts. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.
Rule #6: I have all my blog posts set up to automatically go out through Twitter. If I’m going to queue up twenty or so of them into the distant future, I will schedule them to go out at 3 am. I would not want to find myself in the midst of a happy moment or a sad moment tweeting some piece of irrelevant and therefore inappropriate short prose. Hopefully a 3 am posting time will keep me clear of that concern. I also reserve the right to reschedule these posts based on other things that should take priority on this blog.
And that’s it. Let’s begin! For the first one I’m going to wave Rule #6. I know when this is going out. I will also confess I am rather happy with this one. I am picking and choosing the order I post these writing exercises, so I will start off with one of my best feet forward. Here we go!
The Conductor’s Daughter
Even when we drew close, he remained utterly absorbed in his work.