I started a new project this week, something I’ve been thinking about for a little while. As I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for the Secret Notebook paperback proof to plop through my letterbox, I figured I might as well get on with it.
The project is to see if I have enough good flash stories from the last two years of writing to make a small collection. I started off writing flash fiction, partly because Mark A. King dragged me into it (it’s all his fault!), and partly because as I was working full-time then, it was great to embrace a form where I could actually finish something. So after multiple stories for Flash Friday, Angry Hourglass, QuickFic, FlashMobWrites, etc., I have a bulging flash-fiction file.
The downside to putting a collection together is that this involves reading two years’ worth of my own work. So on Tuesday I gritted my teeth and sat down at the computer (well, Monday was a bank holiday), opened many many documents, and began to read.
I think I read over 100 stories that day. That might sound like fun; however, when you’re reading your own work with a critical eye and making notes on each story as you go, it’s hard going.
However, it was also instructive. By mid-morning on Wednesday I’d gone through all the eligible stories, and a good half had fallen by the wayside.
Here’s what I found out along the way:
- Two years is a long time. In quite a few of the early stories I can see what I was trying to do, but it wasn’t coming off. There are some that I still like and which I think hold up, but most have been discarded, although at the time I was pretty pleased with them…
- Reading flash is much more tiring than reading a continuous narrative. I was jumping from light funny stories to ones that made me blink, and then back again, and flicking between medieval France, a pod in orbit, a red carpet, a county show, a drawing of a dog on a kid’s bedroom wall, a sports bar, ancient Rome… That made me think about how I could group the stories to make the flow a little easier. Hopefully my beta-readers will let me know if that’s worked or not!
- The stories which got the best feedback at the time (and/or got published) aren’t necessarily the ones I like best, or think are the best. There are a few stories which I never managed to place, but still love, and some which I got paid for which I’m keeping in for now – and if the betas don’t rate them, they’re going.
- Some stories which I liked just didn’t fit with the rest, so I’ve waved them goodbye. There are still some which stick out a bit, and they may suffer the same fate, depending on beta feedback.
The next step, now that I’ve wrangled the remaining flock into some sort of not-final order, is to re-edit the lot before I unleash them on the beta-readers. I’m very lucky in that several people who beta-read the Secret Notebook for me have agreed to do it again, and I’m asking a few more people if they’d mind lending a hand. My list of favours to repay is already way longer than my arm!
Hopefully in the next blog post I’ll be posting photos of the Secret Notebook paperback – but for now I’d better get my head down and my red pen out, metaphorically speaking. See you next time!