21 days, 17 stories so far. Some are short and complete (awaiting a second draft), some are nearly done and others barely begun, but all the incomplete ones have some vague signposts on the way to a reasonable ending. It has occurred to me in the last couple of days that it could take me the rest of the year (in between work on the crime novels) to finish off these stories. I may end up with a work-in-progress folder that’s more full than usual for quite a while. Still, it’s proving to be something of an adventure, this short story a day lark (I know I’ve missed a few days). I’ve discovered that some vague ideas or interesting titles have sparked long, involved stories that demand time, care, and a high wordcount. I’ve also discovered that a couple of promising ideas that I thought would prove to be good foundations have barely sustained a piece of flash fiction – I’ve written less than a thousand words, said all I had to say and reached the end thinking ‘well yes, but so what?’. I’m guessing those ones will be abandoned and will never see the light of day.
Writing a different story each day means the characters are coming thick and fast; an interesting variety but I’m suffering a mental block on names and have resorted to familiar names as placeholders which will have to be replaced when I’ve thought of something better. I’m changing location, time, point of view, gender, age, genre and approach with nearly every story. I’m noticing improvements in my writing style, I’m surprising myself with some of the choices I’m making, and of course my good old subconscious is beavering away in the background making connections and sowing subplots that seem to have written themselves. In short, I am having fun.
I have come across something of a dilemma, though, which I’ll air here and welcome comments on. If you’re writing a novel and the main character has a particular profession it makes a lot of sense to do research and do it well. If, however, you’re writing flash fiction (say, less than 1000 words) and the exact nature of a person’s job doesn’t matter, only that they’re desk-bound (or the exact nature of their research doesn’t matter, only that they’re plausibly alone in a lab or jostling for first author on a paper), how important is it that it’s spot on? If the research would take as long as writing the story and it’s for a point which is almost an aside (if it was genuinely an aside I could rip it out), would the writers out there do that research anyway, or just wing it and avoid specifics? Would the readers mind? With my reading hat on (not to be confused with the noir trilby), I’d say I’d be unlikely to notice or care unless it was my job that was being described, and I’m a lot more forgiving in a short story than I am in a longer work (if we’re hurtling through the plot together I’ll look the other way if you the writer get confused for a moment). Any thoughts?