February 17, 2010

Being Unafraid to Experiment

I've been trying different things out in my writing. I essentially get the most enjoyment out of writing novel length pieces - I like complicated stories and character development which I find I can't do in short stories. This transition for me has been the hardest to adapt to in writing short stories. The rules change because everything becomes more compact. The good thing is with short stories is that you can dedicate less time to them and use each one to focus on different aspects which interest you.

Sometimes when I write a short story, the plot is my focus and other times it is the language; ideally I will one day be able to combine both efforts and actually write something which is good. I think though, something I have to accept is not everything I will ever write will be worth pursuing.

I wrote a story recently which was pretty much biographical; an anecdote which I like to tell at parties and some find mildly amusing. I wrote it down in a short story form and found I wasn't enamoured with it. I had that mental block of changing what happened - since writing from real life makes me feel its forbidden to change things, a big mistake I am trying to get around - so focussed on using it to work on the writing. I went through the 6000 word piece I worked on it line by line trying to come up with the best sentences I could get. Even though I was rather happy with the writing style of the piece, something about it made me hate it in a way. I couldn't put my finger on it. The feedback I got was interesting, as in some people didn't know what I was trying to do with it - was it supposed to be a short story or not? What was the point of the piece? At least I had feedback the writing was solid, which I guess was the point of this exercise for me.

I did get some good ideas on re-working the story. If I can take the advice to kill my darlings and think of writing it in a story form instead of it being a well written anecdote I could do something with it. I just have so many different projects on the go and in April I plan to start re-writing the novel, I might put it in a draw for a while and come back later. It might get re-written and do something with it, or maybe I wont. But was it a pointless exercise? No. I learned a lot from it. It was a good exercise to go through something and really thing about the writing and form. 

I think when starting out it's good to experiment, even if the experiments don't yield something great, there is a lot to be learned from them (I should know this being an experimental physicist and all). Even just writing for the sake of it can help one improve a lot since the more you write the better you get. Experimenting helps us grow in different directions and acquire skills from trial and error. I think a lot of crap gets written that way, but there is a lot to learn from bad writing, and even mediocre writing which have some things which work in it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well looking at semi-fictionalised auto-biographical story writing does give a superb basis for writing. There are some good authors who have adopted this, my favourite being Hunter Thompson, particularly with 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'. Though he was writing as a journalist, he cast himself as the narrating protagonist, and also semi-fictionalised the events.
You have done creative work as well, and to dip in and out of reality and fiction in my view, gives a good expanse for different writing styles, and stories as well.
Just an observation.