Home for a Fish – The Process

Home for a Fish is story number nine in the #52ShortStories challenge.

**SPOILERS BELOW. If you have not read the story and want to be (hopefully) surprised, come back to this when you’re done.**

Last week, my wife and I cleaned out one of those closets that just seems to be a vortex for those I-don’t-know-where-to-put-this-thing items. Among them are a bunch of board, card, and dice games that we played a lot before we had a child (We look forward to the day he’s old enough to enjoy them too). Included in that bunch was an awesome kit of dice called Story Cubes.

I knew instantly that these had to be the source for the next tale, so I grabbed three and rolled:

Oh boy.

In a sense, I love boundaries. They force me to make a decision. I think this works for so many people and why an American fast food joint like In ‘n’ Out does amazingly well. The menu is limited which ends up making lunch an easy proposition. Do you want the burger, or would you rather have the burger? Maybe a burger would be better instead.

So I took my three dice and dove in.

Some interesting things I’m discovering at this stage in my journey:

Folk wisdom wins again: You can’t please everyone all of the time. It’s been interesting to see the varied opinions depending on the reader’s preferred genre and style. So far, this is my first reader’s favorite story. She likes my ‘lighter’ fare. But, I’ve had much more solid responses among my writer friends on my more ‘literary’ pieces. One advantage to writing these short stories is that I can truly experiment without a lot of upfront investment and steer future works toward the appropriate audiences.

I’m relying less and less on planning before diving into the writing. I don’t foresee that working for something novel length, but what do I know. That’s just guessing at this point. But, I’ve been happy with having an image or an idea in my head and letting it grow naturally from the writing. Things certainly seem to be more fun this way.

The writing is coming more naturally. I’ve developed a rhythm over the past couple of stories and I feel like I’ve crossed that threshold where writing nearly every day is built on muscle memory. It’s just something I do every morning after I exercise. I fret maybe a little, maybe not at all. But the heartburn isn’t there nearly as much as it was 7 stories ago. To me, this was my primary goal with this challenge and I couldn’t be any more ecstatic now that I’ve finally built this habit.

I guess it’s true that writing isn’t some dark art beyond the standard means of improvement.

Practice, practice, practice.

Discipline, discipline, discipline.

It works. There aren’t any shortcuts, and let’s be honest: Wouldn’t it be a shame if there were?

Here’s the (VERY BARE) general scratch file:

And the daily journal entries:

-Phillip

4 thoughts on “Home for a Fish – The Process”

  1. “I couldn’t be any more ecstatic now that I’ve finally built this habit.”
    You deserve it matey. You’ve put in the hard work, now it’s becoming second nature. I can see that in the quality of your writing – you’re getting more time to spend on the story, the setting, the feeling, rather than the mechanical elements. Like driving: eventually changing gears, feet switching between pedals, eyes flicking to mirrors – it becomes second nature. It allows you to focus on the road, the experience, the feeling.

    I want some of that! I’m not a short story person, so I’m going to do NaNoWriMo. Worked out a few possible kinks in my diary to beat the Day Job into submission. Time to work on the right muscles.

    Also, a lovely little story. Like that it went where it needed to go. You are creating quite a back catalogue of living, breathing, feeling, characters.

    1. Thanks, mate (I love saying that, even though it’s so non-American)! Your analogy with learning how to drive is right on the money. Funny, I had the exact same thought yesterday as I was driving home from work. It’s all about getting to the point where you can barely remember how you got from point A to point Z, but there you are and everything’s just fine. 🙂

      Really happy to hear you liked the story as well. I’m trying to inject some more humor into my work as that’s a big part of me, outside of writing.

      Also, fantastic news that you’re going for NaNoWriMo and doubly fantastic you’ve found a way to make time for it. If you can nail that habit of getting the 1,667 words down each day, you’ll be all the better for it. My only advice is not to get discouraged. Honestly, I didn’t think I was a short story guy either, but if you do find that the novel isn’t helping move you forward, there’s no shame in turning NaNoWriMo into ThreeShortStoryWriMo or NaNovellaWriMo.

      Do you already have an outline or set of ideas to work from or are you diving in headfirst?

      1. Cheers mate 🙂 Finishing up an outline now. While I’ve worked on my fantasy novel (which has taken a real downturn because of Day Job), I occasionally switched tracks and wrote ideas on an Urban Fantasy story I had in my mind. Totally irreverent, violent and cheesy. It was kind of like kicking back with a beer after snotting it up with expensive gins for too long. I knew NaNoWriMo would be hard, so I decided to flesh that out so that the writing would be fun – and if I turned out trash…well, it would suit the style of writing :-). Have it about a quarter outlined. Using a variation of an agile method I’ve put together. Aim is to get that done next week (out of the country again with Day Job, but hopefully I’ll get some done on the flights).

        Your advice is useful. My aim is for 50k words. On the UF if possible, but I’ll take them on anything. It’s about building up that muscle. I have the outline of my Fantasy novel done too, so I can always switch to that if I need a breather. The key for me is simply getting bum in seat time. Hopefully shifted a few Day Job things around and Claire, my wife, is totally supportive – wish me luck!

        1. Both of those books sound like just the thing I like to read, so let me know when you’re ready for a first (or second) reader. I like the attitude you’re taking too… Actually a genius idea to go at it expecting it to be garbage. No expectations that way except to get to the end!

          Best of luck on your travels and writing. I have faith in you!

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