A few non-FF friends and family members have asked recently how my Friday Fiction process works, so I’ve been thinking about it and I thought I’d share the thoughts. If you’re looking for Fiction, move right along, this is a piece of introspective rambling!
Every morning, I check my phone. It’s pretty much the first thing I do. On Wednesdays, I make a point of finding the FF prompt picture. I get emailed when Rochelle posts, so I usually find the picture there. I don’t read her story, I just look at the picture.
Sometimes it’s hours before I have chance to write, sometimes sooner. Occasionally, a story idea pops straight into my head when I see the photo. More often, it percolates around and turns into a sentence. Sometimes that’s a piece of idiom, other times just a random phrase. Last week, it was “Rain stopped play”, for example.
That sentence might lead me to a favourite character (Melanie / Luke and Matty, etc) or to someone new. If I really come up with nothing, I can usually persuade Melanie to say something, but that’s a last resort. Whether preconceived or not, the character usually comes to me. Even if I don’t have a story in mind, I tend to start typing. It often feels more like transcribing than creating – the words pop into my head as though a character is speaking there. Call it a muse, inspiration, whatever; it doesn’t feel like hard work.
Oftentimes, the point of the story isn’t clear until halfway through. This week, for example, I knew Mum was shopping at the brickabrack store to fill a hole in her life, but I had no idea she was doing it to see Jim. In fact, Jim didn’t exist in the beginnign and I had thought we were about to hear about Dad’s reaction to her purchases. (For the record, he would not have been impressed.) But then Jim popped into my head and I realised why Mum was going there. It brought me full circle to how Mum was trying to brighten her life. I realised about the same point the reader does.
The process of writing the first draft took less than 5 minutes. Like I say, it’s more like transcribing than creating, and I can transcribe a lot more than 100 words in 5 minutes.
Tweaking comes next. I’ve been doing 100 word stories long enough that my first drafts usually come within 10% of target, so it rarely needs a major edit. In this case, I added Jim’s name at the start and polished up the echoes between the first and last paragraphs. That took me to 105 words, so I lost an extraneous bit where Mum also bought gifts at the store. Maybe another 5 minutes in total.
Sometimes it’s different. Sometimes I realise while writing that the story wants to be 500 words. At that stage I either ditch the idea entirely, or look for a nugget within in that’s actually what the story is about. It takes a bit longer, but still I never spend more than 30 minutes on the writing part.
That’s why I generally still post FF stories even when my life is busy and I haven’t got time to eat breakfast!
Creating the post, uploading to Facebook and InLinkz takes at least as long as writing. I draft in Word so there’s an onscreen word count function, then copy into WordPress before I set up tags etc. In total, from sitting down with the laptop to hitting ‘share’, it’s usually about 30 minutes, sometimes less, never more than an hour.
The real time-consuming part comes afterwards. Part of the fun of FF is reading other people’s stories. I never look at theirs before I post mine, but afterwards I read Rochelle’s story and then head to the linkup page to read a collection of others. It’s a long time I’ve managed all the stories, but I have my favourite writers, and then I read a random selection (roughly a quarter of the group) as they get posted over the next few days. I can keep up with comments from my phone, so I read every comment and try to respond promptly too.
I love feedback! Even negative feedback is good for me. I try to make my FF’s like icebergs – at least as much going on below the surface as above it – and I love it when people comment on some of those hidden meanings. But I also enjoy seeing other interpretations of my stories. Sometimes people find a whole other version I didn’t even know was there, and those comments are some of my favourites too! As I like to say, the Reader is always right.
Does any of this surprise you? If you’re a FF writer, what does your process look like?