November 13, 2014

Read, Write, and Be Merry

In the past I have used this blog to accompany my various reading and writing projects (some more successful, some less) and I am hoping that this tactic may also be of assistance for my current project, a sort of private and belated NaNoWriMo, or actually, a NaShoStoCoWriMo (as I am working on a short story collection rather than a novel), or most accurately a PeShoStoCoWriMo&1/2 (personal-short-story-collection-writing-month-and-a-half), but enough with the acronyms.

What I actually have is an idea for a collection of short stories - more than just a bunch of stories I want to write that could add up to book length, but also not one of those novel-in-stories doodads that kids today all love to write for reasons far too depressing to get into right now. The closest exemplars I can think of would be something like Borges's A Universal History of Infamy or Bolaño's Nazi Literature in The Americas.

There's another way Bolaño factors into this project; in his posthumous collection of articles and speeches Between Parentheses there is a characteristically short piece called "Advice on the Art of Writing Short Stories" (you can read it here), which seems to me just as much a parody of such articles as an actual collection of tips and list of writers that should be read or avoided.

I found his first few points the most interesting:
(1) Never tackle stories one by one. Really, if you tackle them one by one you could be writing the same short story until the day you die. (2) It's best to write short stories three at a time, or five at a time. If you've got the energy, write them nine at a time or fifteen at a time. (3) Careful: the temptation to write them in twos is as dangerous as deciding to write them one by one...
Though the first point seems instinctively to be a greater danger when writing many stories at once, and though I'm sure Bolaño himself wrote some of his own stories in pairs ("Two Catholic Tales" from The Insufferable Gaucho immediately come to mind), and regardless of whether he was joking or not, I am going to try and work on all of my stories more or less at once.

Of these stories, one is already completed (and published), in other words, dead and buried, leaving me with eight stories, plus two or three more ideas that might develop into stories later. There are a few reasons I've decided to try this method. First of all, some of the stories require a lot of research, which can get boring and lead to general passivity and/or random internet browsing. Second - since the stories all have similar themes, I'd like to avoid repetition as much as possible, and I think that constantly moving from one story to another will make me more aware of any similarity that occurs between situations and/or characters.

I'm still not sure how much I'll be tracking my progress with each story, or even the whole project, on this blog. Naturally, actually writing the stories is the priority here, but I'm sure that if something interesting comes up I'd want to blog about it. I'm also not too sure how to go about the whole thing - I'd probably start on one story until I get stuck, but then instead of procrastinating for a while I'd just move on to another story, and so on, but there's no telling before I get started. For now, I'll just leave you with an cryptic list of code names (NOT titles) for the planned stories:
  1. Prague
  2. Footnote
  3. 100
  4. Heir
  5. Detective
  6. Utopia
  7. Homeless
  8. Futurism
  9. Zealot (?)
  10. Ionia (?)
  11. ???
P.S. Since I have been away from this blog for so long, some of you (not many, I'm sure) might be wondering about my other projects and/or life. In a nutshell - the novel I started all the way back in NaNoWriMo 2010 is now finished and looking for an agent / publisher. My play (in Hebrew) is currently running in Tel Aviv, plus I'm happily married and have a wonderful 16 month old son.

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