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How to write more happy stories in 2013 – my writerly new year’s resolutions!

December 31, 2012

So, the project I’m embarking upon in 2013 and have so far been quite quiet about (due to deciding whether or not I’m going to be dumb enough to undertake it) is to write one flash fiction every day for the duration of 2013.

Yes, this is a new year’s resolution of sorts – the kind of ‘write something every day’ one that most writers make every year. However this one isn’t just write something every day, it’s write and finish something cohesive and readable every day and even now it feels like I’m staring into a precipice even thinking about attempting it!

I want to do it, though. Not only will it be (at the very least and even if it proves unachievable) good writing exercise but if it does pan out into something decent then I’ll end up with the raw material for a whole new single author collection by this time next year.

What’s sparked this possibly unhinged venture is a desire to expand my writing repertoire. Sure I’m a genre writer and I’m quite happy in the speculative fiction niche, but something that was said at the Cheshire Prize for Literature evening this year got me thinking: ‘short stories always seem to be sad’. It’s very true. Even the best collections, like the Fiction Desk and Cheshire Prize anthologies, seem to be overwhelmingly bleak. Not even just speculative genre writing (and I have to admit, horror can be a bit grim at times!), but the type of quiet family life and relationships tales that you often see in general fiction and literary collections also tend towards the sorrowful side of life. So I’ve become determined to write some happy stories.

I’m not sure what it is that makes short stories focus so much on the tragic. I think that often, making something traumatic or setting your characters against insurmountable odds is a quick and easy way of delivering a literary punch. It’s far harder to gain reader sympathy and write an entertaining story about somebody who lives a happy and fulfilled life than it is to get them to identify with failed relationships and childhood hardship. I find it easier to write a happy ending to a ghost story than to a real-life scenario, too – life often isn’t happy and it’s hard to write it as such without coming across as trite (which I suspect some of my ghost stories do, but I’m a sucker for a happy ending and it seems somehow easier to write a saccharine ending to something that’s diluted with a bit of supernatural darkness.)

So my writing resolution for this year is: a story a day, mostly non-supernatural and mostly heart-warming, without being trite. A tall order. I think the hardest thing is going to be coming up with so many little plots and creating rounded stories: a vignette a day would be easy, but ultimately not too satisfying to read. My aim is to end up with a sort of chart of a year – to see if the seasons and weather and events and moods subtly affect my tone and subject so that I (hopefully!) end up with a fictional picture of a whole year that a reader could share, one day at a time. Hopefully my speed-writing experience earlier this year at the Poetry Takeaway will help with the inevitable writer’s block as well. I’ll keep you all posted on progress (which I’m hoping won’t involve giving up after a week!)

For more new year’s resolutions, you can check out my guest author post on the fantastic Author’s Electric blog.

Hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a smashing 2013!

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