When I post a story on my blog, what you see is the final product: sparkly clean and fine-tuned to linguistic perfection. What I don’t show you is what kind of effort goes into writing a mere 500-word story. So, I thought some of you might be interested in a little “behind the scenes” look at Impossible Words.
The first thing I do is pick a challenge. I keep a list and add to it whenever an idea comes to mind. Okay, scratch that—I keep several lists. One in my wallet, one on my computer, one on a sheet of paper in a drawer in the house…you never know where you’ll be when inspiration strikes. 😉
Once I’ve decided on a challenge, I have quite a bit of prep work before I can begin writing. To give you an idea of what that entails, I’ll use my latest story to demonstrate.
My last challenge was to use at least 25 unique words whose third letter is P, in a story less than 500 words in length. The first step is to start writing down every word I can think of that has a P as the third letter.
In this instance, I wasn’t at home when I made the list. I’m often not—but if I am, I’ll usually type them into Excel rather than write them out by hand. (More on that later…) If I’m having a hard time coming up with a decent collection of words to fit my criteria, I’ll turn to Google. For this challenge, I didn’t need to take it that far.
Once I feel my list is a fairly good size, I analyze the words to see if there’s a “theme” that seems to encompass a handful of the words. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a nice place to start when you have a blank canvas, but it’s not critical to cranking out a story.
The first sentence is always the easiest. I write a lot of “first sentences” that never go any further than that. Sometimes I’ll write the first one, study my list of words, and realize I need a change of direction. Luckily, it doesn’t happen every time. 🙂
Then things start to get a little tricky. Not only do I have to make sure I use a certain number of words from my list, but I have to keep track of the ones I’ve used (since I can’t count the same word twice!). To do this, I make a tally mark every time I use a word, and I also put a check mark next to the word so I know I’ve already used it. (If I list my words in Excel, I highlight the cells instead.)
Once I’m finished, if I wrote the story by hand, I’ll type it into Microsoft Word. If I’m writing a story that, for instance, doesn’t contain any E’s, I’ll do a search of the doc for “E.” Yes, I do find slip-ups after I’ve finished, and it’s a pain in the butt to fix them!
And that’s how an IW story is born. A lot of work for a one-page story, but no one ever said challenging yourself is a quick effort!