Finding Freedom in Restriction

OK, I’ve been writing some more this morning, warming up for some larger project work this afternoon and something seems to be happening. It seems all my flash fiction absolutely must have an exact word count. 50, 100, 200, 500. I can’t stop it. This morning I wrote a rough draft of a piece of flash fiction and it came in at 207 words. This is wholly unacceptable. Of course, when I tightened it up, it then became 184 words. This is equally unacceptable. Work must be done, and so, 15 minutes later, I had a wholly acceptable 200-word story.

It’s become my own mini Oulipo rule, writing to an exact word count. But then perversely, the more restrictions we place on our writing, the more freedom we have. A blank screen with the freedom to write anything of any length is horrendous. Start placing some restrictions – whether it be subject matter, word count, not allowed to use the letter ‘e’ – and suddenly the mind works in magical and creative ways to fashion something out of those restrictions.

I’m going to try some regular Oulipo stuff soon. Perhaps a story that doesn’t include the letter ‘a’, or maybe some swapping out of nouns for others seven entries down in the dictionary.

In terms of a precise word count, I love the challenge of extracting as much meaning as possible from as few words as possible. I’ll leave it to you to decide as to whether I’m successful. Onwards people. Thank you so much for reading.