500 words or less: the introduction (plus kudos for Jonathan Coulton)

I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to write more fiction (and a bunch of people who have read my fiction have told me so too). But I’ve been really bad at writing fiction for a really long time. Recently, I stink at it. I’m boring. I can’t finish anything. So then I was thinking maybe I need to stop being so tense and that maybe I need a. pressure and b. permission to suck a lot.

So here’s the plan. Every day I’m going to open a book at random from somewhere in my house and pick a word. And every day, more or less, I’m going to write 500 words or less about that word. And I’m going to post it here. I started already, yesterday, with Library, and today with Comb, because I forgot to post this intro yesterday. Sorry about that.

500 words or less, every day (more or less). A lot of of the 500 words are going to be plotless (entire stories in 500 words are hard). Some of them — lots of them — are going to be very bad. Many of them may be significantly shorter than 500 words. And, um, we’ll see how long I can keep it up. I’m not so good with the follow through. But that’s my idea.

I got this idea, by the way, from one Jonathan Coulton, a singer/songwriter who writes and records (and releases, for free, on his blog) a song a week (except up until right this very moment I was misremembering it as a song a day, which is why I picked 500 words a day (more or less). Darn! Darn! Darn! I could have gone with a week! argh!). He describes his “Thing a Week” like this:

Thing a Week is my forced-march approach to writing and recording. Since September 2005 I have posted a new song every Friday in an effort to keep the creative juices flowing and to prove to myself that I can actually create on a schedule. It’s been a real learning experience – I’m not always happy with the outcome, but I’m learning to let some of the details go, and I’m figuring out how to keep from censoring myself all the time.

See his song list here. Lots of these songs are really, really great. Try, for example: Code Monkey, Flickr, Baby Got Back, Ikea, Re Your Brains, Mandelbrot Set.

2 thoughts on “500 words or less: the introduction (plus kudos for Jonathan Coulton)

  1. Laura, you should join us for NaNoWriMo this year (nanowrimo.org)! It’s a great way to write a first draft, and it really makes no difference if you’re terrible! In fact, being terrible can be very liberating, and the high-speed pace gets you to the point where you can actually write something good.

    Plus, the South Bay NaNoWriMo group is excellent and meets weekly even outside of November to write, so you’ll meet an excellent fiction-writing support system.

  2. Excellent approach. Neil Gaiman when asked recently how someone became a fiction writer said something along the lines of “90% of becoming a writer is just showing up”.

    I liked the fishwife tale.

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