When I write I typically start with a small idea or a simple scene and sort of allow the story to happen. Sometimes the story ends with that moment. To be honest most of my stories are small. I don't want to say they are short stories, because while they are short, I am not certain that the tag of short story fits them. They are what I think of in my head as small.
Small stories are just little ideas that do not have far to go in their journey. Sometimes small stories can grow into big stories, but mostly they are just small. They tell what they came to tell and then are done. I like small stories as they are easy to complete and incredibly satisfying.
I tend to find that small stories are ones that have little outside influence on them. I write them off of a thought that randomly pops into my head or something I saw in passing. Their inspiration is so fleeting that there really is not far for them to go, or much for them to feed on and grow.
It is when my inspiration is larger and has more scale that a big story is born. I always think that they will just be small stories, perhaps a scene or two, but that is never how it works. One scene turns into two, two into ten, and before I know it I have been feverishly writing for hours and have ten thousand words that have poured from my finger tips onto the computer screen.
My biggest problem is keeping the momentum. Writing isn't a job for me or even a hobby that takes my full focus. Finding the time to be consumed by a story can be tricky in my day to day life. Finding the sort of inspiration that will continue to feed a growing story is also no easy task.
Unless I use music. Music never really ends. Even if it is just one song that inspires me all I need is to hear that song again and suddenly the story begins to churn and bubble and is ready to again consume me so it can grow.
A few years ago, only days after faire had ended, I was sitting at work and decided to listen to the CD of some of my friends. Their group is called Travelers Song and they sing mostly folk and drinking songs with a lot of Irish influence*. I had a scene that had been flashing in my head all morning and I decided that I should write it out as I was listening to this CD.
Five hours later I had ten thousand words in a file and an entirely new world alive and well in my head. This was no small story. This story was a creature that was alive and growing by leaps and bounds. I nurtured the story, I brainstormed it with my writers group, I brainstormed it with the husbeast, I jotted ideas and scenes on napkins in restaurants, I let it live in me.
Slowly though, as a story is want to do, it became quiet and still until it finally lay dormant. When I sat to work on it nothing new came about. The same old things just rattled around in my head. No one was moving anywhere or doing anything. My story had no future because there was a problem in the present that had to be solved before a path could be chosen.
If she lives it means one thing and if she dies it is another. Or does she really matter at all? Perhaps she was just a device to get things started and the story does not live in her but in the men. Still if she dies it changes how the story lives in them.
These questions were ones I couldn't answer. I killed her and nothing happened. I let her live and nothing happened. The story was not ready to grow. The story was ready to sleep after its growth spurt. So I left it to sleep. I had other stories and other projects to work on. If this story was ever to grow into what it should be it would do it in its own time.
I know a lot of writers who would say that is something you should really not do. Once you leave a story like that you have pretty much admitted it is dead. If you leave it alone too long nothing will ever come of it. I can not say that they are wrong. I can't say that most of the time I never go back. That is why most of my stories are small.
This story though, it was born of music. Every time that Travelers Song pops up on my iPod there is a fluttering in the back of my mind. I think fondly on the slumbering story, a warmth in me as I remember how good it felt to be consumed by it in those first few days. Still it is only a stirring.
Then it happened quite unexpectedly. Yesterday The Briar and The Rose played through on shuffle, and the words just never left my head. The tune haunted me through my work, and late into the evening. I lay in bed unable to sleep, still hearing the song, only I realized that was not all I was hearing.
I was hearing words.
The story was awake again.
I threw myself out of bed and at my laptop, typing away with a renewed conviction. The story that had lay silent for nearly three years was chattering on in my head as though it had never stopped. It had begun to grow again. The girl was alive, the men had purpose, the path was so very clear.
Half an hour and almost three thousand words flew by. I sat smiling at the screen filled with a contentment that comes from creating something new. I pasted my new words into the file with the rest of the story. It was raw and ugly, names that I had forgotten were substituted with crude place holders, dialogue was choppily thrown down, descriptions were barely hashed out, but it was there.
It was my story, there and finally ready to grow.
*I am certain the boys would bill themselves differently but that is the best I can do without just dumbly saying 'Its pretty music!'. What? I am not a music person. I like it or I don't.