Forming Fractals



A change of tack, for this blog post.

I’ve spent much of the last two, three years writing two full-length works of fiction – one screenplay, one novel. Both have their virtues, neither is perfect. Neither has had any discernible success and both need lengthy rewrites.

I have plans for these rewrites but, for the moment, I have lost the mood to do long-form work and I have especially lost the mood to continue wrangling with these two particular pieces.

What I feel I need – OK, OK, what I feel I want. It might be the same thing – right now is lots and lots of short, sharp practice. I think I need to spend a period of time banging out piece after piece after piece, sending all these babies out into the world and seeing what happens. That sounds casual and heedless. It’s not. Each piece will be crafted to the best of my current ability. But my current ability needs to evolve and for that, I need more interaction with the outside world. A regular turnover of short pieces is better suited to that goal than the time-consuming construction of long ones.

It’s practically scientific, really. Repetitive circuits of testing, feedback, reflecting and then testing again, testing better. Literary PDSA cycles.

The other value of this approach is that it should, I hope, teach me to create better fractals. I have recently become seized by the notion that every story is constructed of fractals.

A story has a shape, does it not? A Beginning, Middle and End, more or less. Well, that Beginning also needs a shape (its own beginning, middle and end). So does the Middle and so does the End. Similarly, the middle of the Beginning will need its own shape and so on and so forth, down through each chapter, each scene, each little moment.

Au fond, the whole story is constructed of tiny moments – each, ideally, with its own perfect shape. See? Fractals – sort of. For the story as a whole to work, a significant proportion of its individual fractals must be well-enough formed. How many do you have to get right for the story to work? Where’s the tipping point? I don’t know – I wish I did. And what does “getting it right” even mean? Again, I don’t know. I’m hoping that this time of short, sharp practice will help me work it out.

So, since New Year, I have let fly a veritable swathe of short submissions (all of which are available to read on this website). Two have been ignored outright. I’m still waiting to hear about five others. And still, I have a few more planned. I might try for one a month. I’ll record the yays and nays on the Balance Sheet. If I’m in a good enough mood, that is.



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