Thursday, February 03, 2011

Thoughts on Short Fiction -- c.anne.gardner

I'll admit, readily, that I am lousy at the long form, which is probably why I never hesitate to say, "No," when people ask me if I ever plan on writing a novel some day. I am also lousy at short stories too. For some reason, the novella just seems to be the perfect length for my style and particular writerly mindset. However, I have been doing a lot more sculpting lately, and my current manuscript revision progress has been slow at best. I've been extremely busy with a few massive initiatives at work, as well, and lately I have been going for days at a time without even looking at or even thinking about my novella Death Dreamt. This isn't a bad thing for me, and I don't feel guilty at all or label myself a lazy writer. My creative mind just doesn't like to be stuck in one process for too long. I know that, so I don't sweat it.

Anyway ... with all this going on, I do fear that my writing will go stagnant if I don't exercise my skills in that department on a regular basis, so I have begun experimenting with flash fiction. Why flash fiction you ask, since I admitted that I was lousy with the short story? Well, a few years ago, at the [bad] advice of one of my writer friends, I submitted a few short stories to an online ezine. They were running a brief contest/critique service to promote their site at the time. My stories were rejected, of course, because I am shitty at it, but the critique, albeit brief, was very helpful. They said my writing was excellent but that I had a tendency towards the abstract and that readers wouldn't necessarily "get it." I thought that was an odd comment, since most of the lit readers I know absolutely relish the abstract, but apparently abstract was not quite right for this particular ezine. No harm done. Cut to the present day, and I have been thinking a lot lately about what I could do to keep the writing feeling alive while I work on other projects, and flash came to mind.

It was just a combination of odd things that led me to that conclusion. I have a writer's block widget that generates 4-5 unrelated elements each time you click on it and throws them at you all willy nilly in order to stimulate your creative mind. Things like wooden shoes, a girl begging, a roulette wheel, scavengers, etc. So, I thought I would see if I could write a bit of flash each day using all of the unrelated elements provided to me. Now flash is anything generally under 1000 words, but I have been deliberately trying to keep it under 150. I know, it's a tall order, but some of the stuff I came up with over the past few weeks has gone over like gangbusters with my writers group and critique partners. So maybe, just maybe, I have a knack for flash. Who knows, but I am going to keep at it because I find it very stimulating and challenging. I might even try to submit some, even though I am just not into that whole submission/validation thing. Of course, this is why I am not posting any here today, but if you want to read some, I do share select pieces with my Facebook writer group for critique/commentary, so friend me over there. If I decide not to submit, I might consider doing a collection under my own imprint once I get enough of them. It feels a lot like writing poetry to me, and maybe that's what attracted me to it. The shit might actually suck, but I like writing it and it’s best to work with what moves you at any given moment.

So my writer and reader friends out there: How do you feel about flash fiction? Do you write it, do you read it, and are there any great flash sites out on the interwebz you just cannot live without? The morning coffee break is a perfect time to read a bit of flash.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

As for the sculpture, you can see I am in manic mode with the little birds. People just love them. The kitty is a new project. A friend asked me if I could make a cat. I had no plans to but said I would try, because if I could pull it off, he wanted me to make one for him and incorporate his beloved Rusty's ashes into the cement mix. I thought that was a brilliant idea and a wonderful way to memorialize a beloved pet, so that's the kitty prototype pictured. I know they aren't great works of artistic genius, but they are my whimsical creations, and I am having fun experimenting, which I think all creative people should do from time to time, whether it be with their writing or something else. I think experimentation gets the blood flowing to the extremities like nothing else can. If anyone wants a birdie, just shoot me an email; we can work out a friend price.

The art this week is The Liver is The Cock's Comb by Arshile Gorky, 1944, since I was feeling in a bit of an abstract mood.


RL.Treadway said...

The sculpture's are adorable! I have also experienced trouble writing shorts/flash. Poems are sporadic, I write them when in 'bad' or whimsical moods. I have the abstract problem as well. lol. Testing oneself in alternate methods or even genres of writing does help. I used to think I couldn't keep a blog post under 2k words. Somehow I managed to go 1800. Still too much according to most, I hear. :p

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

RL, I just love your trapped in a well with the slinky thing on your blogger profile. Yes, that's the stuff I just love. I don't really limit myself on blog articles since I only write one article a week. I think I get away with that.

I am debating on starting a flash blog or rather a collective. Been tossing around the idea with a few writer friends, so we shall see how it goes. I am just loving it so far.

And thanks for the thumbs up on the sculptures. I am having sooooo much fun with those as well.

Jim Murdoch said...

I only read one flash fiction site faithfully, Nathaniel Lee’s Mirrorshards. He’s a wonderfully inventive writer and I highly recommend him. I have a few books of flash fiction. I have mixed feelings about the format in book form because – and the same goes for poetry – it’s a bit too easy to tear through them and not really appreciate them. Flash fiction to my mind is comparable to the comic strip. Every day I read Garfield and every day I read one of Nathaniel’s pieces.

I’ve not written many flash pieces myself. I never set down to write a piece of any length. I just write until I’ve said what I have to do and occasionally it doesn’t take me very long to say it. I keep meaning to do more, to write a thematically-linked collection and now I’ve finished the novel I might give that a go to avoid jumping straight into another huge project.

The animals are cute. If you ever get a hankering to do an elephant let me know. (My wife collects elephants.)

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Great, I'll add that site to my morning reading list. And I do agree, it is a lot like poetry.

I didn't start out with a deliberate mindset, I just sat down and wrote a piece that came to mind one morning and next thing you know, I am writing one every morning. I thought I would start out with an online journal first, invite other flash authors and then later when I have a couple hundred of my own, I might consider a collection, but for now, I am staying in the one-day-at-a-time mindset so I don't feel overwhelmed.

I hadn't thought about an elephant, until now. that might be fun. I'll put you down on my list.

RL.Treadway said...

I had to think a moment about what you referred to. lol. TY. Use it as a writing prompt for flash fic! :p

Brent Robison said...

At the end of the last century, I was active in an online flash fiction workshop, a pioneer in the genre, long since disappeared. During my years there, I got good constructive feedback that sharpened my writing skills, but in the end just felt too restricted by the word limit. I wanted to stetch, expand, explore in depth. Full-length short stories seem to be my sweet spot, because now I'm facing the fact that my two novels in progress may never happen unless I break them into short chunks. But not too short.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Hey Brent, I thought I would feel restricted too, but then the opposite happened. Once I embraced the abstract nature of the writing, my own writing, I found I could say a hell of a lot in just a few words. I stopped thinking: should I explain more? and asking myself if the reader was going to "get it" if I didn't elaborate. Once I stopped asking myself those ridiculous questions, the restrictions just fell away.