Writer’s Notebook: Bored of paragraphs

I’m spending the week at a creative festival/retreat, which is a great opportunity to think about my writing a little.

A good place for thinking

I started the 2020s wanting to produce more writing in public. Since then I’ve published 7 zines of writing, and almost a year of a weekly substack. I enjoy short stories, and I’ve been more engaged with my writing than ever before. But I’m also feeling a frustration/excitement around form.

Back to my MA days and even before I’ve been fascinated with fragments. What is the smallest meaningful unit of fiction? With social media we are used to consuming narrative as interspersed streams, extracting narrative without convenient beginning, middles and ends. Paragraphs and chapters seem less interesting than self-contained pieces of text. Story is important, but it’s not everything. Our lives are composed of moments more than plots. And I think that fiction should reflect this.

There are antecedents – Kafka was a master of aphorism and fragment. Moorcock’s New Worlds stories of Jerry Cornelius were divided into tiny chapters with tabloid titles. Neil Gaiman described epics in single comic-books caption.

I’ve started playing a little with this on a Mastodon thread, and it’s harder than I expected. But it’s something I want to play with more.

In the past, I dreamed of a novel being published by a major house. I think that polluted my writing a little. Now I’m giving up on that, moving beyond it. I talked with Kate Boucher this week about the importance of having a practise, of art that satisfies ourselves as much or more than it satisfies an audience. Moving beyond having a market for a fitness function.

I want to play, to open up multiple threads without thinking of any possibly publication. To see what emerges.

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