Amazing commission: Write five short science fiction pieces on specific themes for a corporate brainstorming/innovation event. The catch: all five stories required in a month.
I’m good at meeting crazy deadlines but this was going to take up every second of my brain to make it. I asked for a rush-job bonus bringing the fee up by 50% to £2,000 ($2,800). When they agreed, I got started.
This is how I did it –
Day 1: I’m brainstorming on all the themes and spending my spare time walking, with a goal of finding a strong premise for each story. How exciting!
Day 8: I have 10,000 words of notes as well as a title, premise and format for each story. Now all I have to do is write them. Piece of cake.
Day 9: New plan: one fast-draft story a day, trying to put my premises into words. I want to work on the stories in parallel to give me some distance from each draft. Also, it’s impossible to know up-front which ones will be the problem stories (please, don’t let them all be problem stories!).
Day 14: Panic: only one usable story so far.
Day 15: Two weeks left. Client asked for drip feed of stories so they could consider formatting/printing requirements. Cue hysterical laughter. I very politely told them no. Still focusing on one story per day, cycling through them starting with weakest first. I’m pretty sure I can do this. Probably.
Day 17: Stressed and not sleeping. Revising stories starting with the strongest. Let’s get the best ones out of the way.
Day 22: Four stories drafted and received feedback! Revised two of those already, just need a final pass. One needs restructuring. One needs serious work but I think I know what to do. Completely stuck on the fifth story. Ten days until deadline. Remind me again why I’m doing this?
Day 25: Three good ones are complete and I’ve submitted them ó five days ahead of schedule! The fourth one needs some touching up but it’s just about there. Story five is still broken.
Day 27: Story four submitted. Don’t talk to me about story five. I have lost the will to live.
Day 28: Wrote all night as I can’t sleep anyway. Threw away everything I’ve done on story five and started over. Might have something good. Might have deranged ramblings. I can’t tell until I get some sleep.
Day 29: YES! One more pass and I’m sending it in.
Day 30: I win. Stories accepted! Next plan? Sleep for a week!
Would I do it again? Not without the bonus, I’ll tell you that! The month was a total write-off. But, finishing it was fun, and proved just how much I could do when I needed to.
Sylvia Spruck Wrigley was born in Germany and spent her childhood in Los Angeles. She now lives in Andalucia where she writes about plane crashes and faeries, which have more in common than most people might imagine. Her fiction was nominated for a Nebula in 2014 and her short stories have been translated into over a dozen languages. Her first novella, Domnall and the Borrowed Child, was published in 2015 by Tor.com and is available now at all good book stores. You can find out more about her at http://www.intrigue.co.uk/
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