Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing with constraints

For me, my normal writing story is - concept comes to me, spend time obsessing over concept, do a little bit of plotting and then write. Sometimes with short stories I'll try writing to a theme if there's a competition or an anthology. But I often find that my creative juices don't like constraints. I once had a brilliant idea for an anthology submission that revolved around rain, but my mind was stubborn and the words refused to come.

But then a brilliant opportunity came my way. The editor of The Australian Literary Review invited me to write for an anthology with 12 writers, and me being only one of two contributors who were not already established novelists. That was an offer too good to refuse. I mean, who wouldn't want to write with Michael White, who is writing with James Patterson.

Don't despair - you'll find a way to write it!
The anthology is called CHESTER LEWIS and the concept is that each author writes a chapter that is dedicated to a certain decade of his life, from the details of his birth through to his 11th decade (yes he makes it to 110!) I wrote the sixth story, when he is in his fifties.

That meant I had to read the first five stories and ensure my story aligned. Yikes! What a task! I've never struggled so much to get 4,000 words out - even though I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Here is what I did to help me write this:

  1. Read and take notes. I had to list the important facts about his life, and take note of the potential foreshadowing the other writes had laid down.
  2. Write it from a POV that works for me. What do I know about a 50 year old man apart from my father? Hmm, not much. So instead I wrote from the POV of a young female journalist who was interviewing the title character.
  3. Set myself small writing goals. My normally writing sessions produce 1,000 words at a time in roughly an hour. For this one, I was happy to get out a few 100 words at a time.
  4. Reread the preceding stories as I wrote. Often I would catch something new that would help inspire words.

So have you ever written anything challenging? How did you overcome it?


    1. Perhaps I should set small writing goals instead of one big goal all at once. Thanks for the tip! And I hope your project goes well!

    2. I feel like there are always constraints of one type or another - ugh! And each require different ways of working around them. Good post, Sharon! :)