I am working on three things at the moment: the Matt story that I've been writing since last July or whenever, and which I currently think is trash ('A'); a short story that I wrote about Thomas (ugh, don't even feel like typing his name; hence, hereinafter 'T') which I finished in 5 hours or so and which I have been editing like crazy ('B'); and a 400-word 'flash fiction' about, again, T, which I want to enter in a competition ('C'). I want to write a little about these.
Regarding A: I am really, really struggling with this. The original draft, barely finished, was way too long, way too repetitive, and the language way too disgustingly purple. I cannot find the right style, the right words, the right technique. I don't know what the point is. My paragraphs float without a purpose. The point that I had wanted to convey now seems a touch too indulgent. Should I persist? Why not, I think. It is written in a rather standard narrative style, and I guess it's good to practise different prose styles, so I might do it for this limited reason. But I currently think it's trash.
Regarding B: I am almost afraid to say this because there is an inverse relationship between self-praise and quality...but I quite like this one. The use of language is mostly deliberate. Thought went into what I want to convey and where I want to convey it. The current draft is in so much better shape than the original. I have asked a few people to read it (John, Richard, Raffael) and have received useful feedback. It is actually gratifying when your reader gets what you're trying to do; it shows that it actually worked. Also, Richard made my day when he told me that he loved (his word, not mine) the very sentence that I think is the best line in the whole thing. So I'm tentatively pleased with this one and I hope, at some point, it gets published somewhere.
That said, I'm not sure it's the style that I want to pursue. It is definitely a style that comes easily to me because it's very...emotionally rambly. Like verbal diarrhoea. It is easy to write in this way for me because it's just like writing a blog entry, in the sense that there is no exposition or scene-setting, just a steady, frenetic stream-of-consciousness-esque ('esque' because it's not stream-of-consciousness in the technical sense; it's no Virginia Woolf, let's just say) narrative that alludes to plot and is emotionally charged. Sounds just like my blog entries, no?
But my comfort with this kind of style is also my weakness, I think, in terms of writing. I am not a subtle writer at all. I don't consciously subscribe to 'less is more'. I like writers who write floridly, flamboyantly, who use metaphors and write sentences with multiple commas and semi-colons. These are the writers that I keep reading, shying away from the likes of Hemingway (still never read him) and appreciating but not loving Orwell. Penelope Fitzgerald is probably the only really restrained writer whose works I have liked, followed by A S Byatt. Of course, it is true that subtlety and flamboyant language are not mutually exclusive; the best writers can be subtle and flamboyant at the same time (such as Angela Carter). So my issue is that I need to find the right balance between the two.
In the same vein, another thing that I took away from talking to Richard and John is I am that annoying writer who underestimates her reader's intelligence and bludgeons the reader over the head with my intervention. I hate writers who do this; I hated The Lord of the Flies for this reason. So I have to scale back on those instances in this piece.
Regarding C: I honestly don't get the point of flash fiction and find it all too flashy, no pun intended. But I came across a flash fiction competition by a Cambridge-based organisation, if I'm not wrong, and I was sitting on a bench in Jesus Green on Sunday evening, writing in my diary about T, and I would look up from the page whenever I heard the loud revving of an engine, my heart treacherously and irrationally hoping to see his car... I thought about this on my way home and I thought, This idea is self-contained enough to fit a 400-word 'story'.
So I wrote it. And re-wrote it. And re-wrote somemore. And now it's in a much better shape than the original draft. Is it challenging trying to tell a story in 400 words? For someone prone to verbal diarrhoa, hell yes. But the virtue of this exericse is to make sure, as far as possible, that every word and sentence counts -- which is one ought to do anyway.
But the point of it became clear only yesterday when I was PMSing and full of sorrow about the T fiasco. With that point in mind, the sentences became more purposeful. Still some improvement needed, but when are we ever happy, completely happy, with the work that we produce, especially when it's so personal -- not just because it is about a personal event, but also because of what it means to us?
All right, this entry is losing coherence. I am tired. I don't want to write about T. He takes up too much of my time and emotional energy as it is.