Tuesday 23 November 2010

An Incy Wincy Story

Just a quick note to brag about my most recent success - a second win over at TXTLIT. If you don't already know about TxtLit and you're a writer with a mobile phone, it's well worth having a look. The tiny word count (actually it's a character count, and you've got to fit all those spaces and commas, dashes and semi-colons into your limit of 154 characters) forces you to really scrutinise each and every word.

They've quoted me on the site saying how powerful a single word can be, and that's something that applies to fiction (or writing in general, actually) of any length, although it's amplified when you're trying to squeeze a whole story into 30 words or less - mine tips the scales at 28. For instance, the word "ripcord" in my story is not only a key element of the plot, but it saves me dozens of words of description - I don't need to mention parachutes, aeroplanes, gravity, etc: it's all implied by those 7 characters.

This is a way of thinking I'm trying to apply to my other writing. I know I have a tendency to over-write, and I think it's something that separates aspiring writers like me from the people who've already made it - that confidence in what they're writing that lets them just sit back and think, "Yeah, that's enough. The readers will work it out." It can be difficult to resist hammering the point home, just to make sure everyone knows exactly what you're saying. I'm starting to realise that's an impossible goal. Some people will never get it, others won't want to. The readers who are on your wavelength will tune in naturally, and they'll respect you for not spoon-feeding them.

It would be easy to be a bit sniffy about TxtLit, and question the literary merits of it and other formats that consist of so few words. But I'll defend my story as just that - a proper story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has a point of realisation after which nothing will ever be the same. It has backstory. Whether or not it is written with flair is not really for me to comment, but I'm pleased with the way it turned out. I'm not going to claim it as one of the masterworks of modern fiction, but any writer who takes on a challenge like this has to spend time thinking carefully about words, about sentence structure, and about how readers interpret their work. That, I'm convinced, can only be a good thing.


Ray Cluley said...

Good work - it's one of the best winning entries they've had, in my opinion.

Dan Purdue said...

Thanks, Ray. It's very kind of you to say that.

(and you clearly have excellent taste in fiction!)

Nik Perring said...

Congrats, Dan!

Nik Perring said...

Love the story too!

Dan Purdue said...

Thanks, Nik!

Teresa Stenson said...

It's sac magique. Which is French for ACE.

Dan Purdue said...

Thanks, Tree. What's the literal translation of that, though? "Sac" means "bag", doesn't it?

So you're saying it's a magic bag, or a bag of magic? Ace.

Chloe said...

Hi Dan,
I followed a link to this blog from the txtlit site. I enjoyed your entry very much.

I won txtlit ("biography")... ooohh... some unspecified time ago (possibly early last year) and always mean to enter but rarely remember. I've been runner up a few times but now people are getting their second wins in, perhaps I need to pick up my game!

I too didn't get anywhere in Biscuit this year. Though, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I didn't deserve to. I find flash fiction very hit and miss.

Liked featherweight too by the way.


Dan Purdue said...

Hi Chloe,

Thank you. Much-belated congratulations to you on your TxtLit win - and, yes, you should hurry up and join the double-win club (not sure if anyone's got the triple yet...). Get to it, girl!

TxtLit seem to have missed a trick - I wouldn't mind them sending a text each month to let me know the theme. As you say, it's the kind of thing that can just slip your mind and all of a sudden it's month's since you last entered.

Pleased to hear you liked Featherweight, too.


Dan Purdue said...

Month's? I meant months, of course.

Chloe said...

Of course.

A race to 3 wins it is. I wonder if it's annonymous judging or if they know which phone numbers have won before...