The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, February 18, 2008

So many stories... so little time

By Antonios Maltezos

… that’s what it feels like when I’m using (or is that abusing?) flash fiction as a means to force the words onto the page -- getting myself through a writer’s block. Let’s make a game of it? One flash a day? Three flashes a week? Two? Four? Let’s say it’s three – in a month that’s twelve. In three months, which in terms of the writing life is like a snap of the fingers, you’ve written thirty-six flashes. What’s in these flashes, anyway? Assuming they’re all different, that’s a lot of trivia! How many memories can one person have? How many grudges can a body hold? Wrong turns? Missed opportunities? I wrote six dog stories in 2007. Wtf? It feels right, yet wrong at the same time. Right… because I can easily overcome a certain kind of writer’s block – the writing everyday thing, but also wrong because all of this crazy writing doesn’t do f-all for the major block keeping me from progressing with the novel. Apples and oranges. Flash fiction and novel writing. One doesn’t lead to the other. Yes, both is writing. But…

And I speak for myself here…

I write my flashes in one sitting. The beginning and end are so close together, physically, it’s hard to separate them as independent experiences of flash. With my novel, the beginning is one demon I’d love to conquer by itself, wouldn’t give a shit how crappy the first draft of the rest of the book. If only I could create a beginning to this novel I could feel proud of. It may hold the answers to secrets of the novel I’m not even aware of yet. It’s the key to the level of richness that could follow. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Working through a flash idea is like landscaping in the sunshine, where developing a story into a novel must be what mining is like, easy to block out the darkness outside of that circle of light. I realize this might mean I’m not cut out to write a novel – I’m scared of the dark, in fact. Or, I’ve ruined my chances as a writer of best selling novels, gorgeous house, nice cars, with all the flash writing. I’ve sabotaged myself by picking up a bad habit (flash fiction) I can’t easily kick.

Maybe I can do both?

Bah! Bullshit.

Maybe there’s a way for a flash writer to make loads of money, buy that gated mansion? Don’t think so. I sent my collection of flash (70 pieces) to a reputable Canadian agent. I was lucky enough to get back a response. Basically, no one would want to buy so many stories from an unknown writer. On one level, this is meaningless. But on another, it begs the question: why so many stories? On your death bed, will you think back on a hundred lives, or just your own?

Why so many stories… there’s so little time.

Maybe I don’t want to get over my novel-writing block. Maybe I’ve been entertaining the notion that there’s another, more interesting novel story I should be pursuing. Maybe that’s just me bullshitting myself, stalling, because I love the thrill off flash fiction too much to stay away for very long. Maybe I already know what I need to do to get a novel groove going – drop the flash for a year and do nothing else but read novels and work on my own best seller. But that would mean changing from the person I’ve become. Shit. Had I only thought of writing a novel in my twenties. Before life started flashing before my eyes.


Blogger jsnider said...

I don't think writing flash fiction and a novel are mutually exclusive, as you suggest.

Maybe the flash fiction is your way of becoming filled with the ability to write many stories so that when you finally are able to commit to your novel you will have had all your 'flings'.

I am sure you are not writing a novel for a big house, car and so on, so why not accept the fact that the novel isn't ready to come out--just yet.

I bet it will though. All writing is in preparation for what comes after it. Writing is like life that way.

Frustration is often the step before understanding.

Mon Feb 18, 10:30:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

I'm pea-green with envy that you're able to write flash with such regularity, Tony. And you do it well. Keep on keepin' on, and enjoy what you're so capable of doing so well!

Mon Feb 18, 10:37:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

It's the difference between a boxer learning to snap his punches, and a boxer training on the heavy bag. If I eat an egg, have I eaten a chicken? I could be wrong, J. I agree about all writing being in prep for the writing to come. We're all just a little different whenever we sit down to write, or we should be. And yes, I'm frustrated.

Mon Feb 18, 10:45:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Thanks for the kind words, Mel.

Mon Feb 18, 10:48:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger TitaniaWrites said...

I kind of know what you mean here. I'm in a period where I'm pretty much only writing flash stories. And it's taken me a while to be ok with that, there was this demon on my shoulder whispering that I "should" be writing longer stories (no novels, not for me, no way). But I've given in to it now because for me, flash isn't an exercise, just to keep the fingers moving, flash fiction is almost as different from short stories as poetry is. It enables me to express something different, and, more often than not, in one sitting, as you say. Instant gratification is definitely part of it. But another part is the magic of the raw, intense process and the raw, intense product. There's something very special going on. Don't fight it. Go with it!


Mon Feb 18, 11:45:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Rusty said...

Oh man. I hear this, so loudly. You know I'm trying to write a novel in bits and pieces. I'm getting there (I hope). Like you, I've been writing flash for a long time, and I have so much material built up it's actually kind of intimidating--where would I send it all? And I know at this point I can get a story out in an hour or so, and I need to learn not to be satisfied with that. But God, sometimes, that 500 words I get in a day, flash or not, is all I can get, and I need to learn to be satisfied, if not happy, with that.

Mon Feb 18, 12:41:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Rusty said...

And what that last comment means is I'm confused. I feel your pain. That's all I was trying to say.

Mon Feb 18, 12:42:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Yup, Tania. It feels like it's one or the other, right? Sheesh, I feel another analogy coming on. I'm sure there are those who have no problem switching back and forth between forms, but it can't be an effortless transition. Rusty, you may be one of those rare birds who have it easier than most judging from the 'bits' of your novel I've read. You don't seem to lose the richness in the bigger story. Thanks for reading, you two!

Mon Feb 18, 01:52:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Chumplet said...

I'm sure you have way more experience than me, but I figure if you're comfortable writing flash fiction, you should keep doing it. If anything, it will keep you sharp, and ready for that novel when it's ready for you.

Do you submit them to magazines or anthologies like The Ultimate Dog Lover?

Mon Feb 18, 05:43:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Haven't been submitting much lately, but I may if I can accumulate some rewrites. The Ultimate Dog Lover?

Mon Feb 18, 07:52:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

What I get when I read this is a longing for something else. I don't think that your shorter pieces are giving you the sense of accomplishment that you desire. Might be time to move on down into the darkness.

p.s. I would stop calling flash "flash." It makes it sound too appealing.

Tue Feb 19, 01:22:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Anne, to me it's all story, all of it, even poetry. Calling flash flash is easy and convenient. Is it appealing, is it writing? Yah, sure it is. Do I want something more substantial? Yes. I also want to write a couple good poems sometime in the future. I know I have a novel in me, and that may be what drives me, the flash I write. Don't forget, I'm the dude who believes not making the attempt is the same as not failing. I still believe that to some degree.

Tue Feb 19, 03:03:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Flash is doable. Remember "Kilter?" I can remember the author's name. John Gould? 55 flash fictions, and it was shortlisted for the Giller (or was it the GGs?).

Unknown writer my ass, you're a member of the CWC!

Tue Feb 19, 11:56:00 pm GMT-5  

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