Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Short and Sweet

The last week's seen me writing a couple of short stories. This is interesting, because I've struggled with producing short fiction in the last couple of years.

The main thing has been the novels. As in the factor that's changed my working method, not just the projects that've taken up most of my time. I still love the short form for the intensity it offers, the focus, not to mention that it's a lot easier to take chances in a story- if you try something experimental in a short piece and it doesn't work, it's a waste of far less time, energy and work than if you do it in a novel. Much of what's best in horror is in the short form; one of the key things that pulled me back into working in the field was Nick Royle's anthology Darklands, a collation of short stories that showed the range and variety horror- good horror- could actually compass. The other, funnily enough, was Shaun Hutson, but we won't go into that...

When I started writing properly- i.e. producing work on a regular basis and sending it out- I wrote short fiction, at a rate of one story a week. Not writing every day, but mulling over the various story ideas I had and picking which one seemed ripe, then sitting down at a computer and writing it in a single sitting. Two or three if it was a long story.

Now of course you can't write a novel that way, not unless you're Philip K. Dick and off your dingers on benzedrine (not for me, thanks- as Chef once said, there's a time and place for everything, and it's called college.) That's a whole different ballgame, one that's about dailiness (to use Julia Cameron's phrase) and putting in a regular, sustainable measure of work each day. Difficult to mesh that with short-story writing, because by the time I write a novel, enough notes and a rough outline have been written that the writing can start straight away. Short stories were more intuitive, inspired, a place where I could still work on inspiration and fly blind. And I'd never written outlines for shorter work.

In the past couple of years, I've written a handful of short stories, usually for specific markets. It was difficult each time, and I was having to deal with the idea that maybe the short story part of me was running down.

But I have a deadline here- as well as The Faceless, I have to write a couple of stories involving some of the novel's characters, plus another for an anthology. And so...

I've started outlining. Just an A4 page of scribbled notes, mostly bullet-points, and then to work. And boy, has it made a difference.

One new story called The Sight was started on the 1st of June, and finished the next day. The same day I wrote the start of a new story, The Children Of Moloch, which is now just over half-finished. The outline is not your enemy if you're a writer; it's one of your best friends. You can even start writing without it and rough one out as you get a grip on what you're doing. But it reminds you roughly what you have to do, and it takes off the pressure to hold all then details in your head. Or to try and get everything done in one go.

I'll have to get back to the novel in the next week or so- there is a lot to do if I'm to to get The Faceless delivered for its September deadline- but it's just a very, very good feeling to be writing short fiction again, and to know the machine's not broken.

One last thing: music always serves as a good accompaniment to writing, but I couldn't find anything on my laptop that suited Children Of Moloch. And then I dug out a CD that I'd bought a couple of years ago and completely forgotten about: Two Suns by Bat For Lashes. It's a rich and beautiful album that I heartily recommend to you, good reader. Plus the music fits Children like a glove.

This track, particularly, seems to click with the story, so what better tune to play us out with? Till next time...




3 comments:

Mark West said...

Great post, Simon, good to hear you're writing some shorts and looking forward to reading them!

Cate Gardner said...

Excellent news.

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