photo of post mortem photography

Idle Fiction Jam Post-Mortems

The Idle Fiction Jam (henceforth IFJ) has pulled me back into writing fiction, and my first taste left me enthusiastic about continuing to do so. I want to make the most of this opportunity, which I’ve been trying to do by forcing myself out of my comfort zone with the stories written thus far.

By way of context, one of the reasons I largely stopped writing fiction some years ago was recognition of my numerous weaknesses as a writer. A few off the top of my head would include weak characterisation, stories driven largely by the exigencies of plot and a propensity to over-write. I’m not being unduly harsh on myself in search of reassurance, kind-hearted reader; that’s a sober self-appraisal.

I decided that if I were to write fiction again I wanted to make a break with my past work and attempt to address these weaknesses. For better or worse that’s something I’m trying to do with the IFJ.

A jam is an ideal place to experiment. A deadline forces you to commit to decisions and set words to page, and it forces you to cut your losses and call a story done. The old saying goes that a story is never done, a writer just stops working on it, but such a stark cutting-off point leaves you very aware of outstanding issues. I think that’s a good starting point for reflecting on and critiquing your own work, identifying flaws as well as successes. It also leaves you free to move on to fresh challenges rather than get bogged down in endless rewrites.

I’ll aim to follow up each IFJ story with a short post-mortem a couple of weeks after publishing each story, to put a little space between the two. I’m confident that these exercises will be of utility to me; their interest to others may not be great, but I hope that by posting them publicly I will (1) commit myself to actually writing them, and (2) be more honest in my self-critique, knowing that these words might be read by others.

The first post-mortem, of ‘A Person-Shaped Thing is a Person‘, will follow tomorrow, and the second, of ‘Readers Like You‘, another week after that – around September 15th. Subsequently stories and post-mortems should adopt a nice fortnightly cadence. Aaah.

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