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This post has taken a little while to write because it has taken me a while to decide if I should write it at all. I wanted to write about my current project but this week I have felt a little lost about the whole thing. Every time I try to organise my thoughts about it I just get more confused, and it is starting to feel like I’ve gone for a walk in the woods and not only forgotten which way I came, but why I’m there in the first place.
When I decided I would write about the project I also had to figure out how much I really wanted to share. I have trouble explaining this project to friends, face to face, from fear of speaking wrongly and making it sound more or less than it actually is. I also worry that they might not really care about all the detail, and think maybe I should just settle with “I’m writing a book”.
Regardless, I set out to write this post about my book and in doing so found more to worry about.
For now, I’ll start at the start.
Last year I wrote a story called Kiss Like I Cry that was published in a wonderful online lit-mag called The Pygmy Giant. It was a little story about a girl trying to get on with her life while her mother drinks her way through hers. I was really happy with the story and even happier about the good comments I received about it. One commenter said she would be interested to read more about the girl and her brother. This is what first gave me the idea for my current project; a collection of intertwining stories.
Teenagers were a common theme in my writing at the time so I had a bulk of stories and characters to work with already. Initially I hadn’t imagined any of them for a collection, or even that they would overlap, but when the idea got stuck in my head I couldn’t think of them any other way. Then I started writing new stories for these characters, expanding the overall story little by little, and pretty soon I had a whole group of teenagers with interconnecting friendships and lives.
It has always been important to me, when writing, that the stories can stand on their own, despite the fact that they are intended to overlap. I want people to be able to read one of the stories and not have too many unanswered questions about the characters, but be interested enough to want to read a another story, focused on them. This week I have been going over the initial stories and writing quite a lot of notes and character outlines for those involved. I also finished three whole stories and am really happy with how things are going, however, all the time in the back of my head I have been asking the question: will people care?
Adolescence is a common theme in a lot of writing and myriad masters of the short story have covered it, so why would anyone care about my representation?
In thinking about that question and writing this post I have come to the conclusion that I don’t care. I have become so enamoured with these characters that they have assimilated into almost every story I have written in the last year and I feel like I need to tell their tale before they will leave me alone. I have had a number of the stories I imagine for this collection published already and have received great feedback on them so people do enjoy the stories.
I can’t fully explain how amazing it is to get good feedback from readers but it is a level of excitement that never dulls. Knowing people like my writing is what gives me courage to keep sending out my work, but it is not why I write; I think I forgot that somewhere along the way and writing this post has reminded me.
I’m in the woods to enjoy myself not so everyone knows I’m here. I write because I love to tell stories, whether I tell them to anyone else or not.
So, while I can guarantee that I will finish this book I cannot say whether I will show it to anyone.
Alex writes short stories and occasionally things a little bit longer. He has had fiction published in places like Wilderness House LIterary Review, Metazen and Spectre Magazine and has a story in the National Flash Fiction Day anthology Jawbreakers. He is currently working on a collection of stories, a novella and his blog at alexthornber.wordpress.com.