5-day Short Story Challenge – Day 4

Day 4: Waiting

From Tania Hershman

One of the most important parts of the writing process for me, whatever form I am writing in, is not-writing. It’s knowing when to stop, before it becomes me writing the story instead of the story telling itself to me. This is something you get a feel for with experience – writing is a muscle, the more you write, the more flexible it becomes and the more you get an idea of how best you might write. This can change over time, however. Some people write in complete silence, some with music, some secluded, some in a cafe – some do all of those things or find their own unique way. The way I write – with no plotting, following the story as it unfolds – means I’ve had to become comfortable sitting in the not-knowing. Letting go into uncertainty, I wait until my character or narrator tells me what’s going to happen next. So, what I am going to ask you to do today is not to write, but to engage in a kind of conscious not-writing, a creative waiting.

Today’s task is this: re-read what you’ve written over the past three days, and then let it sit in the back of your mind. Carry it around with you all day, mull it over using your brilliant story sense until you get a hint of what might happen next. Think about what it is your character might want and what drives them. For me, thinking too logically can get in the way of my story sense; interfering with the imaginings and the process that ends up with me surprising myself with my own story. Imagination and logic are different beasts. Logic can stop you fantasising, can say to you “Wait, that armchair would never speak” or “You can’t possibly defy gravity”. But in fiction, in a story, anything goes. So, try to turn off your thinking brain and let the story-in-progress sit in another part of your mind to gently simmer.

Even if you get a sign for where to go next today, don’t write it. Wait. Let that urge to keep writing build up. We will satisfy it tomorrow. I’ve found that my writing knows much more than me. Trust your story sense and trust your character.

And while you’re not-writing, here’s some reading to feed your story sense:

She Was Looking for This Coat by Jon McGregor

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel

Greenly, Everett and Marion by Ravi Mangla