Friday, 8 October 2021

Speedwriting by Helen Chambers

Do you scribble new pieces at high speed, or take a leisurely stroll through them?

I’m a slow writer. I favour letting an idea simmer at the back of my mind (weeks, sometimes months) before even putting pen to paper. When an idea is half-formed, I write - often still working out what it’s about. Once I have some sort of structure, I transfer it to the computer and begin the fun stuff: editing, pruning, tweaking, counting words, reading aloud (so long as no one is listening) and then resting it (drawer time) so I can revisit with a fresh eye. 


But speeding is fun. Recently, I attempted the ‘Furious Fiction’ competition, run by the Australian Writer’s Centre. We had a setting, four words (earth, wind, water and fire) an item (insect) to include, and a 500 word limit, submission in two days (give or take, depending on time zones).

High on adrenaline, I wrote a story in one evening, edited on and off throughout the next day, and submitted. Sadly, the story wasn’t placed, but I’ve got another story to work with. What an exhilarating way to write! 

The following month, despite reading the prompt, inspiration didn’t strike, so it clearly isn’t a regular occurrence for me.

Over the years, some of us at Wivenhoe Writers have entered the NYC Midnight competitions (micro, flash and short story, at different times). You’re allocated a genre and specific prompts - and have to submit within 24 hours. 

Retreat West’s monthly micro (100 word) competition allows 10 days from prompt to submission, which I find a pretty tight deadline!

We all know how a submission deadline focuses our minds. Writing and submitting a story almost overnight pushed me right out of my comfort zone with a surprising result, and I’ll definitely try it again.