Learning to Stretch
One of the assignments for my writers group was to write a story in a way that was outside of our comfort zone. For the historical fantasy writer that meant writing a story about glittery vampires. Our southern Gothic writer chose to delve into the fantasy genre, penning a story containing an old Greek character in modern times. For myself, it was hard to decide what was outside of my comfort zone, after all I already tend to write cross genre. After much consideration the obvious answer hit me. Our assignment had a 700 word limit and the more I considered that humongous limiter, the more I realized that it was that very limiter which was outside of my comfort zone.
Much of my work tends to be verbose and contain many ten-dollar words. H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe are my favorite authors to read if that tells you anything of the way I enjoy manipulating vocabulary. This style pushes most of my stories past the 5,000 word mark. So, to keep a cohesive story under 700 words is not only outside of my comfort zone it is also a great exercise in brevity.
Today, I managed to create a story from beginning to end with a complete plot arch and everything, all under 700 words. During the entire process I had to remind myself of the word count limit. This prevented me from going off on purple prose or extravagant description. All dead weight had to be cut and many of the flourishes that I tend to include though they don’t always strengthen the story, were also trimmed off.
The end result was a much tighter story than I am used to writing. I learned about my weaknesses in the creation of prose and also some of my strengths. From now on I will take what I’ve learned and apply it to my future writings. As all exercises should, this one has made me a better writer and it is because of that I plan on doing this again.