The Short Fiction Experiment — A to Z Reflections
Well, the A to Z Challenge is done and dusted, but, truth be told, I’m still pretty exhausted from the whole thing. If I go dark and disappear from the Interwebs for a while, you’ll know why. But not before I write a post about the whole experience.
This was my second year participating in the challenge, but this is my first reflections post on it. I didn’t do one for last year, mainly because I didn’t really have anything to say. This year, however, I do. This year, I had a goal, and I wanted to explore the whole endeavor, as well as talk about what it might mean for the future of the blog (well, that sounds ominous, but it’s not, really).
My goal for the challenge this year was to write a series of flash fiction stories of about 500 words or less. I wanted to do this because writing short fiction is something I’ve struggled with. My last attempt to write a short story of about 7000 words resulted in a 19,000-word novella. In other words: fail. (It’s still a good story though. So, really: win.)
Now, after doing the challenge, the idea of writing a 7000-word story sounds like sheer luxury. That doesn’t mean it still won’t be challenging, because it will be. A short story should be like any story, and have a clear beginning, middle, and end. And I know a lot of the stories I wrote for the challenge don’t fit that brief. Some of them were weird explorations or a moment in time. Other stories seemed like (and readers commented on this more than once) that they were part of a greater narrative. That there was more to the story not being told. And that, I think, is the biggest challenge of all. To make a story stand on it’s own, without wondering “what happens next?” Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to completely do that. Even my longer fiction has a tendency to leave doors open. I think it has to do with the way I view the world. Endings are often beginnings to something else, and I think that reflects in my writing.
Anyway, my impression was that, for the most part, my stories were too long—and some of them certainly were. The longest story came out at 1800 words. On the other end, though, the shortest was about 100. So I tallied up the numbers and then averaged them out. The result was about 500 words per entry. Mind. Blown. So, on average, the exercise was a great success!
My take on the whole thing
I feel like this whole challenge has been great for various reasons. I met a lot of amazing new folks and found quite few new blogs to follow, and got some new subscribers to my blog as well. Yay! I’ll also be bundling up the stories into an ebook and giving it to my subscribers as a thank you for putting up with me. And, of course, I got to flex my short story brain-muscles (now there’s an image), and as a result, I feel better equipped to write short fiction than I was before. Win.
It’s also given me a lot to think about. Namely, the type of content I share on the blog. I had so much fun writing the stories and sharing them, and they also seemed to have been enjoyed by others. It makes me want to continue along that line and to keep writing and sharing short fiction, if not regularly then semi-regularly. What kind of stories they will be, however, I’ve not yet decided.
A couple of the stories I wrote that stand out (to me) as possible contenders for re-writing and/or expanding are Candleberry and Xanthoceras. But even these are taking a backseat to what’s really been occupying my mind: Hazel and Holly.
At first, I was thinking I might try writing a novel about them at a later point in time. Because, though I don’t yet know their story (I’m what’s lovingly referred to as a “pantser” as in, I write by the seat of my pants), it seems to be one that needs a novel to be told, and not a short story. Yet I dislike the idea of a novel for two reasons.
- I’m already working a series on novels that will take up the bulk of my time for at least the next two years. I could possibly write it alongside one of the other novels, but even if I did, I have a hard time seeing it published before 2017. And since it would be side-project, 2020 is still probably more likely.
- It doesn’t really help with my idea of wanting to share shorter fiction on my blog.
And that’s when I came to my current idea: serialization.
Now, I’ve never tried writing serialized fiction in my life, and no, writing a series of novels doesn’t count. When I think of serialized fiction, I think of short, chapter-length stories that can stand on their own feet by providing exciting content that entices the reader for more. And that’s the goal I have in mind for this project. Whether or not I’ll be able to pull that off, however, is a different matter completely.
I’ll be honest, the idea of trying to write serialized fiction freaks me out a little bit, and I haven’t completely committed myself to the idea of it (yet). But, on the other hand, it’s a new challenge that could help me grow as a writer, and that’s pretty exciting. I feel like it’s something I’d like to try, I just need to work up the nerve and go for it. Which, honestly, is pretty much the story of my writerly life. It was really hard for me to put my fears and self-doubt aside and start writing in the first place, and then again to start this blog. So this could just be another step in that long and winding journey for me.
And now, some meaningless stats.
Just for funsies, here are some stats regarding blog traffic. We installed Google Analytics just a few days before the challenge, so it’s given me access to information about the blog I never had before.
Most viewed stories (in descending order):
- Vinegar Tree
- Umbrella Tree
- Twinberry Tea
- Quiver Tree
Lastly, some blogs
Here are some of my favorite blogs during the challenge. Due to being The Slowest Reader In The World, I wasn’t able to visit all of these every day, and some I didn’t find until late in the challenge. But these are the ones I tried to get around to as much as I could. In no particular order:
The Multicolored Diary — Epic stories from across the world.
MopDog — 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary
Djinnia and the English Language — Featuring posts about Wicca and paganism and history behind holidays.
Tasha’s Thinkings — Fictional Deities and Demons
Sophie’s Thoughts and Fumbles — Emotions and reactions in writing
Garden of Eden Blog — Exploring the unconscious through dreams and their connection to our waking lives.
The Scheherazade Chronicles — Reflections from a caregiver caring for her mother in the final stages of dementia. Poignant and moving and beautifully written.
Positive Letters and Inspirational Stories — A tour through British Cornwall
J.H. Moncrieff — Creepy stuff.
A Doorway Between Worlds — Rogue words from A to Z. You know, the ones you can never get right.
Celine JeanJean — Stories from childhood. Some real, some made up.
Wee White Hoose — Scottish folklore
Storytelling Matters — Daily ghost posts
Writer In Transit — Flash fiction stories based on a photograph and word prompts, all under 300 words (consider me awed).
Scattergun Scribblings — Flash fiction of 100 words or less (more awe), based on a word prompt.
The Old Shelter — The Roaring Twenties
Tanya Miranda — Lighthearted, cute short stories, with an occasional creepy one thrown in.
And that’s a wrap.
What do you think? Would a serialized tale of Hazel and Holly be one you’d like to read? Are there any stories from the A to Z Challenge you’d like to see explored further? And how glad are you the challenge is over? Even if you didn’t participate, it must be nice seeing the blog and social media feeds go back to normal.