War of the Words

I’ve attempted a couple of flash fiction challenges lately to try and keep myself writing but I’m beginning to wonder if I should care more about creating. Finding the right words is one battle, but creating a story and creating something worth writing about, well, the battle begins here.

I’m forced to command this battle between my imagination and my writing all the while fighting Field Marshal Self-doubt who’s keen to destroy both.

Hmmm. I’m not sure this metaphor is working.

Anyhoo. At some point – usually quite quickly – my writing peters out. That flash of momentum, that writing spark is simply gone. Words I’ve already written seem clumsy and I can’t move on from my core idea, extend it and grow it. So I go back, I reread and then get trapped into editing what I’ve already written.

So I ask my writerly friends, these questions:
How do you keep a forward focus?
How do you encourage your ideas to grow?
How do you stop yourself from editing as you go?

I did manage to submit one story to Flash! Friday, helped by a very inspiring prompt and the achievable but precise count of 150 words . You can read the cut-down version here. The full version (which is not much longer) became this:


Walking Fairyland Bridge, Huangshan. Photographer: Jesse Varner


She walked with her hand wrapped in her father’s fingers unable to see beyond the other waists and legs moving with them between the parapets. She pressed herself to his side, the sword sheathed on her father’s back nudging her as he strode – one pace to her three. No one spoke. A distant drum kept the march steady, to belie the panic they carried with them like a silent scream.

She counted. In four drumbeats and they passed under the stone arch back into the mountain’s wall. Muttered whispers echoed down the tunnel as the last of the survivors jostled towards the promising light.

The sun did not belong here. She could smell urine and something else that replaced her hunger with nausea. Trees lay crudely hacked for their timber. People gathered around makeshift tents. Some carried water, some tended those on stretchers. Some slept in rows, others wept at their side.

The drum fell quiet.

‘Sanctuary’ they called it. Her father called it ‘home now’.

4 thoughts on “War of the Words

  1. Wow! I love your piece for Flash Friday. Such a powerful closing line, and you’ve been so clever about your use of the senses – smells, and whispering, and sensations. It’s a wonderful piece of flash fiction, and I congratulate you on it.

    As for your other questions – gah. I could tell you to make a pact with yourself to write to 5,000 words before you even think about going back to review it. I could tell you to plot your story meticulously and use it as a scaffold to get through a longer piece without having to review. I could tell you you’re brilliant and your ideas are great. These things, particularly the last one, are true, and I’ve often found the first two to be very helpful, but I guess I don’t have a ‘method’ for writing – I just do it. Having a deadline helps me – NaNoWriMo, for instance, gave me huge impetus.

    How about this: you do a piece of writing, whether it’s 200 words or 2000 words, and you save it carefully to your computer. You take a post-it and you write a summary of that day’s work on it while it’s still fresh in your mind, and stick it to your desk. The next time you sit down to write you look at the post-it and immerse yourself back into the world of your story, and you open up your Word doc, or whatever it is, and just start writing again from the moment you left off last time – no looking back, no reviewing, just trusting yourself that the work you did already is good and that the summary on your post-it is reliable.

    Worth a shot, maybe?

    Whatever you do, keep writing. You’re amazeballs. πŸ™‚ *hug*

    • πŸ˜€ I don’t think I’ve ever been called ‘amazeballs’ before. Haha! *falls off chair*

      *takes a moment to compose self*

      I’ve come to realise that I write in seizures. Short bursts of writing separated by long gaps of thinking about my writing. The longer the thinking-phase the more likely I am to go back a review my work for inspiration – this traps in me into an early editing-phase.

      If I’m honest, (and this really only occurred to me just now) I also back-read to find confidence, to show myself I *can* do it.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’ll certainly give your suggestions a go – but I think I also need a shot in the arm of self-discipline rather than my usual poison of self-deprecation.

      *hug-back* πŸ™‚

      • Well – fantastic. All of those conclusions you’ve come to are so helpful and useful. That’s the problem with asking others for advice; everyone writes in such individual ways, and everyone has their own methods, that what works for one won’t work, perhaps, for another.

        Thinking about your writing is a vital thing, too. Can you work on keeping your thinking-times short, so that you’re less inclined to self-edit when you start writing again? Back-reading to fuel your confidence is something I do, too, and I think it’s positive. Next time you do it, look for all the good stuff – the sentences that sound good in your mind, and the word choices that are powerful and pretty and exactly what you wanted to say, and the pieces of dialogue that are funny or moving or help with the plot, or whatever. Look for the good, and not the bad, and then move on to the next bit.

        I hope the suggestions help! Whatever you do, keep going. You’ll always have a reader, and a fan, in me. πŸ™‚

  2. Pingback: Self-Criticism: The Good, and the Bad | SJ O'Hart

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s