A Herculean Task: Start Writing Fiction Week 2

Some weeks ago I expressed difficulty at completing the final task set as part of Week 2 of the Start Writing Fiction course on FutureLearn. It’s taken this long to get back to it but I have finally completed the difficult task and I am ready to move on to week 3, which I aim to work on tomorrow evening. It is now week 6 so I have some catching up to do (and that’s not even taking into account the three new courses that started this week, one last week and one the week before that I’ve barely looked at).

Towards the end of last week I was working on an article for my Magical Creatures for Magical Worlds series for Mythic Scribes. Spoilers, it’s the Hydra. Defeating it was one of the tasks of Heracles (I focused on Greece at university, I refuse to use the Romanised version of his name; it even pained me to use it in the title of this blog post, and that’s not even his name, it’s a phrase based on his name). This inspired me to read a bit more about Heracles, and led me to consider the possibility of rewriting his Labours as an exercise.

This fits perfectly for the Start Writing Fiction course. This is a piece I will be returning to during the rest of the course, and if I want to actually complete the course by Christmas that means I need to be writing something that isn’t going to suck up all of my time with reworkings, worldbuilding, replotting, plot complications, character additions, character removals, character amalgamations, doubts, rewrites and crises of confidence. A Heracles rewrite gives me the perfect opportunity to bypass at least some of the steps in that process – particularly the plot and the world, which come as part of the package – so I can focus on what’s important to this particular learning process: showing character and learning about writing.

I don’t know if I’ll get a finished product with this. I’d like to. I feel somewhat guilty about “cheating” by using an existing character, one that is not my own creation, but as far as my own original fiction is concerned at the moment there’s a lot that’s up in the air and it’d be a big enough task just to settle on a story, before I even got into the business of writing an introduction about the core character which reveals their personality and tells the reader something about them.

Writing about the Labours of Heracles isn’t a Herculean task. There’s a good starting point, the introduction to why he’s doing these labours, and twelve clear episodes for which I already have the source material in a handy paper book format, along with some sticky bookmarks which may eventually replace the receipts currently being used as bookmarks for the important bits (where it starts, the explanatory notes, and the index entry for Heracles).

What may prove to be a task more suited to the scale implied by the title of this blog post is what I will do after I have finished the Start Writing Fiction course. There are a lot of stories in this head of mine.

There’s a short story I wrote last week based on a randomised exercise from Chaotic Shiny. I think it has potential, but there’s some work to be done to get it where it needs to be. I think I’ll leave that til the weekend, at least. Put my Saturday morning aside for it, maybe.

I’ve got another short story part-way written off the back of another prompt, a story I expected to be some 600-1,000 words and which has already more than doubled that with much still to write. I’ve been working on that one for a few days, but already there are bits I want to go back and change, and I’ve realised that, as per usual, I’m rather lacking on the characterisation of my two characters. A completely new second draft may well be needed for that, but I’ve got to finish it first.

Last week I started reading through a swathe of documents that were part of one story group I was working on when I was a student. While the stories themselves are hackneyed and very much a fingerprint of what I thought made good stories during that period in my life, there are some concepts, some worldbuilding elements, perhaps even some characters, I would like to keep. On that front, then, I’ve got a fair bit of work to do to work out which bits I’m keeping, which I’m throwing away, and how to fill in the gaps both new and old. Not to mention actually getting some sort of story out of it. I’ve started chipping away at that project, but it could be some time before the work pays off, if it ever does.

And in the meantime, I’ve got to keep plugging away – with the proofreading and editing, the writing of blog posts and articles, and with short stories as I try to make at least enough at this that I can continue to justify to my mother why I’m not signing on for JSA (I refuse; I quit my job for mental health reasons, I’m not about to put myself in a situation which will make things worse again), and ideally actually pay the bills with it.

 

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