Clarion West Write-a-thon: Week 3 Recap

Writing went a little smoother for me this week. I had fewer distractions and more time to write and was thus able to push myself a little bit more. The prompt for the flash workshop this week was to write a letter that speaks truth to someone powerful. As soon as I saw the prompt, I knew exactly who I wanted to write to. The letter that flowed out of me was short, curt, angry and bitter-sweet.
I laugh a little at this because last week, I wrote about how much of an overwriter I am, and how I need to plan around all of these extra words. I believe the format of the fiction we had to produce had a lot to do with the shortness. I didn’t have to feel around for structure this time. I had to write a piece of fiction in a form already familiar to me, which sliced away some of the effort. Letters are all about getting to the point quickly, so my first draft was only 800 words long.
Once I started re-reading the letter to edit it, however, I found that I didn’t like the ending very much. I realised that my villain was a victim in the system that they were working to empower, and even though I thought that they were despicable, I felt the need to add some more nuance to the letter but I wasn’t sure how.
This was where the write-a-thon community came in. During one of the writing sessions, I asked for help and my community came through with suggestions and encouragement that helped me to expand the draft from a one-dimensional collection of 800 words to an angry, sad but sympathetic 1500. While the story still has a problem or two, I don’t think that I would have been able to improve it and expand it if I was working purely alone.
Writers really need their community, and I am so happy that the write-a-thon was able to provide that space for me.
Flash wasn’t the only thing I worked on. I also began sneaking up on a short story I started drafting earlier this year. Rather than simply re-reading it, I decided to retype it to recapture my old head space so that I can finish the story. As I was typing, I found myself making edit notes about all the unnecessary details I could remove, and the evocative details I could write in shorter, colourful words.
Usually, my self-critiques would make me upset, but this time I felt happy. I came into the flash workshop with the intention to teach myself how to write tighter and more evocatively. Now, just three weeks in, I’m already beginning to apply what I learned to my self-generated work. I’m proud of this progress. I’m both pleased and grateful that I’m just halfway through the write-a-thon and already achieving my core goal.
This is a win for me, and I’m excited to see what next week’s challenge will teach me.

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