For The Love of Short Form Writing

As writers, we face two main challenges within our craft. Firstly, finding inspiration: where does the next great story idea come from? If you are anything like me, I spend an awful lot of time wondering when the well will dry up, versus actively feeding it. I’ve become better at increasing the supply of creative ideas, so that fear isn’t quite as strong.

A third challenge is the belief that writing should be a joyous activity. The delight of being a writer is that we get to play again as adults. Sometimes, of course, it is difficult to find the time to do so. There are endless tensions between the things that we ought to be producing, and those things we want to produce.

Working on projects for other people has been a challenge that I have had to overcome. I am not referring to my MA project in this, which has been and still is a delight. I just wish I had more time to dedicate to it whilst persevering with another project. It was during this time that I remembered tanka, the other form of Japanese poetry. Rather than haiku, which demands three lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables respectively, the tanka adds an extra two lines of seven syllables. Much as I love haiku, the tanka is another beautiful way of creating a vignette. Within five lines, you can create a complete sketch.

Amidst the remains
I realized who I was
Simply not myself
Adrift, at sea, suffering
Lost in my own deep sorrow

by Casey Bottono
(Originally published in Lyrical Passion Poetry ezine)

For the time-crunched writer, short-form writing represents a kind of play that has been forgotten, or buried under the responsibilities of adulthood. Whether you’re writing stories or poems, such writing is a good way to keep the machine oiled so that when you finally return to the projects that ignite that spark, the magic can flow.
Writing is, after all, a form of magic. There is something about the written word which isn’t specific, but it is nonetheless a lure towards balance. The inability to find time or inspiration to write creates an imbalance within us which culminates in an intense fear of the blank page. Though we know it, though we know it intimately, and we know that we will fill it, the terror remains. Short-form writing is a way to disrupt that terror before it begins.
Short-form writing is both a beginning and a continuation. If you’ve never picked up a pen or tapped at a keyboard before for creative purposes, short form writing provides a useful jumping off point. For the experienced author, it is a kind of writerly First Aid kit, something to which we can return when necessary to replenish the well.
If you are struggling with a project or with motivation or some other aspect of the craft, I urge you to indulge in some form of short form writing. It greases the wheels, and might just get you going again.


From Small Beginnings…A New Novel

I’m a writer – that naturally means I have a number of projects going on at once. Thanks to the Faber Academy, I now have another on my plate. Last Friday’s QuickFic prompt was an instant success.


Within a couple of hours, I’d written and edited a 250-word piece which introduced two of my favourite characters I’ve ever written. It’s still in the very early stages, but I’m very excited. If you want to keep up to date with how it’s going, though, you’ll have to sign up for my newsletter.

I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a project since Stones in the Road, and that’s saying something. I’m looking forward to taking the journey with these new characters, and ultimately to bringing you along with me.


Freewriting on a coach trip

Hi, friends.

I hope this post finds you well. I know I said I wouldn’t post until after the broadcast on Monday, but I wanted to afford you a glimpse of what happens inside a writer’s head when sitting on a coach for seven hours. The opening paragraph of the piece below was pecked out on my Kindle whilst travelling back from Somerset late this afternoon. I could have an ethical discussion about people watching, but I’m not entirely sure this is the place or the time. Feel free in the comments, though.

A woman sits, three rows ahead, in an Excel spreadsheet of a shirt. Green, purple and white, each “cell” clearly separate from the others. It’s a new one on me, and I don’t know what to make of it. I find myself hoping it isn’t a harbinger of trends to come. There’s no way I could wear something like that without somebody calling the Fashion Police. That being said, I am the last person qualified to comment on taste. Hitherto, my penchant was for check shirts which didn’t flatter, and the occasional dark blue number. Never a dress or a skirt…I would have to perfect levitation for a skirt to become even a remote possibility.

On the outbound journey, I studied the shirt intently, wondering what exactly must have been the motivation behind the design. It’s certainly quirky, and individual. I didn’t come to any conclusions, though…and after what felt like an eternity, we were finally permitted to disembark the coach. Four hours’ travelling is not fun at the best of times, pretty much regardless of the destination.
My other significant discoveries at this time were that reading whilst in motion does make me feel nauseous. Previously, I’d thought it didn’t…that I was somehow impervious to something that seemed to plague the rest of the non-driving population.
Hillary Rettig’s excellent book The Seven Secrets of The Prolific is well worth feeling nauseous for, though. I will write a longer review soon, after I have had a chance to digest and implement some of her thoughts.

If you want to hear more about Stones in the Road take a listen to Source FM this coming Monday, when I will be discussing the book and the story behind the project with the presenters of the One and All show from 9.30am BST. (Find your local time here.)

Take care,