Writer In Motion – Thoughts on Prompt

Title in white on greyscale laptop and notebook on a desk

These next five/six weeks are going to be a bit different to usual as I’m participating in the Writer In Motion project – where I start with a prompt and write a short story, posting from first draft through to final draft. As a perfectionist… yeah, not looking forwards to sharing the first draft with you next Saturday. Still, it should be good for me.

If you want to find out more about Writer In Motion, click here.

Apologies for how long this ended up being. As the project is about showing process, I wanted to show my (semi-panicked) thought process in full. Enjoy nearly 2000 words of spooling ideas and scattered thoughts. I’ve done my very best to resist the urge to edit, to get it in another order or correct the sentences to full ones.

Let me caveat it with this is not my normal process. Normally a story sits in my mind for months – if not years – before I start the planning. Then there are a few months before I start writing. I have less than a week to plan and write a first draft.

Friday 31st July

First things first, a confession – I am not entirely doing this by the rules; my story will not be based solely on the prompt. This month, I’m supposed to be wrapping up the edits on my current book and sending it out to betas and then starting the planning and research for my next book.

As such, I want this Writer In Motion project to help me switch into the new project, so I want it to be part of the world and plot I have been slowly building in my head for half a year. I want it to form part of their backstory, to help me understand their pivotal moments better. I have a mental list of key characters and a very vague idea of what might a key moment for them. So I’m going to see which one the prompt feels like it might fit.

Saturday 1st August, 5pm

The prompt has just gone live, and here it is:

OK, so what do we have here?

A yellow/gold house (concrete according to the picture description from the original picture site). It’s perched in the mountains, with lush vegetation around it. Sunset, I think. While it’s isolated, the colours make it a cosy, warm isolation – the introvert’s dream escape for a few days recharge, rather than the back-of-nowhere-exile for an extrovert.

I’ll be honest… nothing is sparking. Maybe it’s just because we’ve come back from a visit to a sculpture park and one of them is buzzing my head with a short piece. Maybe it’s the pressure of first seeing this. So I’m going to let this sit for a little bit (haha, a few hours, in order to get this posted on time) and finish the book I need to write a review for then return.

Saturday 1st August, 11pm

I’ve let the prompt sit for 6 hours now. I’ve slogged my way through a review copy, had dinner, and started a puzzle in the meantime. All of this has led me to an inescapable conclusion: my initial decision yesterday about tying it into the world of my next project might not happen. (This is why the timings are in – I decided NOT to delete anything, as the point of this is to see my thought process in full.)

I can’t think of anyway that this ties into that world. It’s way too modern and not British at all. My gut reaction was that it was Latin American – lower slopes of the Andes, maybe – but the photographer is based in India, so I’m thinking more like slops of the Himalayas. I doubt I have the time to do an image search of the flowers, the only really clue.

Either way, not 14th century Britain, and it’s the image that’s speaking most to me – the colours and warmth. It’s not linking back to my project at all. And, all things considered with how behind I am on edits, I’m not sure I’m ready to start thinking about the next project right now.

So, what now?

A bit about my writing process; I’m a planner. As in I plan down to the last beat and every detail of the world planner. I like doing this – it helps me work out where a story is going to go and if it will work. It takes time, though, and I don’t have that this time. I have a week to write a first draft under 1000 words and post it. My planning typically takes months of dedicated research and working out the right plot by outlining and re-outling in different mediums.

This project is going to require a basic, basic planning to be measured in mere hours rather than weeks. Essentially pantsing it for me.

So yeah, freaking out a little over that.

And I need an idea, pronto.

The last time I wrote “short” fiction was at school, for my GCSE English Language exam and coursework. I say short – I hand wrote three full booklets. And before that a practice one, which was… longer than average.

The top tip I remember from them was about making it a moment (one I completely ignored every time, and wrote a short story about an attack or a discovery). They said focus on setting the scene, evoking an emotion. Shall we see if I can follow that this time?

Going back to the colours and image, it’s both warm and drained at once – the scuffed concrete that glows in the sunset. A time of day where the yams start coming more frequently. That harsh concrete cuboid in a lush forest – the way it sticks out. Something inescapable, that disrupts everything. But something that can be built around, worked with. (Yes, this waffle is pretty much a direct transcription of my brain process.)

I’m currently processing grief in the light of a recent bereavement. Not sure how far along the path I am – feels kinda far? – but this image feels like it’s speaking of grief and healing. Going back to my gut reaction earlier of it being the solitude that an introvert needs to recharge, what about someone staying at an isolated cabin for some period of time to get away after a loss? The struggle to keep going, to have a minute to get away so you can grieve alone without feeling their grief too, but also the fear that isolating yourself is going to make it work?

Oh no… am I going to attempt something of a more contemporary/general fiction style? I rarely read this, never written it. Well, I guess taking part in this process was about trying something new and pushing my craft. Let’s see if I can write something without magic. In 1000 words or less… (I am an endemic writer of long works.)

So, rolling with this idea, someone approaching the cabin, numb with grief, and showing them getting somewhere along the path to feeling ready for a new normal while there. Not ‘over it’, but feeling more able to take the world on.

Start with going through the motions, avoiding the topic (do I want to ever explicitly mention the exact bereavement or just let it be picked up from clues?), and slowly engaging more with the setting. Getting a cup of tea. Cold mornings. Sunrise. Sunset. This would mean pulling out the description the further along I get into it (is it going to be an explicit place?)

Which also suggests the sentence structure is going to be more fragmented to start with, and slowly get more ‘normal’ as it goes on, to mirror that progression.

Hahahah, this is going to be a long first draft, I bet. It’s fine – reduction edits exist. It will also contravene my teacher’s advice if it’s a journey. I suppose if it gets long, I can always stick with the first section and make it a moment?

Now to do a bit of research into the actual planning. There’s a post being recommended in the hashtag, so I’ll read that and see where else I go. I need to post this tomorrow afternoon sometime, so one last entry tomorrow morning, I think. A night of sleep might help.

Sunday 2nd August, 8am

Slept on it, and well, we’re going with the short contemporary/general fiction on grief. And I’m going to work through that post linked above. However, it doesn’t seem to fit very well to what’s shaping up in my head.

1: Name a problem: Well, grief.

2: Create a character: a woman who’s just lost someone (still unsure who, but big – a parent? a parnter?). Why a woman? Well, that’s what I know. Not sure what person we’ll write in, but that’s something to try out.

3: Why does the problem matter? Well, it’s grief. The woman needs to work out how to adjust to a new way of living, while feeling overwhelmed and numb.

4: Obstacle that holds them back: I think that’s self-explanatory – grief is such a weight. There’s fear of the new normal, going on without that loved one.

5: Narrate 1-3 attempts to solve it: Hmmm, I think it’s more of a progression of small moves than attempts that fail.

6: Turning Point: I feel processing grief, for me at least, it actually doesn’t have a turning point but a culmination that you often can’t see coming until you look back.

7: What happens next: I want to end it on a hopeful note but one that acknowledges there’s still that grief to process and work around. It’s not over quickly

Well, that is the slightly chaotic process. I think I have an outline and a place to start writing. Now I can go and read the blog entries of my friends taking part. I didn’t want to read theirs until I had an idea for myself in case it influenced me.

Read the rest of this series:

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