What I Wrote on my Summer Holidays

You defend yourself with the weapons you have

Oh, is it February already?

It’s not easy, that hard smack of reality after a long pleasant dream. By which I mean, I just finished a long holiday visiting family and friends, and now I’ve returned to work. Ugh.

Travelling made it difficult to pursue my regular projects – they look at you funny if you try to put a PC tower through the airport x-ray machines. So I put those off and went with a side project for the three weeks I was away from home.

Full credit goes to my brilliant colleague Jodi Cleghorn, whose ability to come up with energising writing prompts eclipses my feeble efforts. Every time she make a suggestion I end up producing three times as much work as I expected to. I should really put her on a retainer.

Jodi’s prompt, via Facebook, was simple: write a story every day for a whole month. Write one line on the first day, then two lines on the second, and so on, until you’ve written 31 lines on the 31st of January. That is (if my maths doesn’t fail me) 496 lines in total.

It’s a brilliant idea – building momentum without building pressure, creating a habit that feeds itself, and creating a story that would not otherwise have existed. It’s the perfect low-pressure holiday writing job.

I made things harder for myself by interpreting “line” as meaning “complete sentence”, and furthermore estimated an average sentence length as being about seven words, for a story length in the vicinity of 3500 words.

You might note the last sentence I wrote contained 35 words.

My estimate was…a little off. I finished the month’s word count at roughly twice my original guess. And the story itself isn’t done – it still has two major scenes to add, which will run to at least another thousand words, if not two.


Length issues aside, the story has been an utter pleasure to write. It’s a Weird West fantasy of sorts, about an exiled seamstress haunted by her brother’s ghost, and a retiring military officer who makes her a barbed offer. It’s called “The Dressmaker and the Colonel’s Coat”, and right now I think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written.

(I could be wrong about that. I’m a lousy judge of my own work).

I’ll continue working on it for the next few days, keeping to the same accelerating pace. When it’s done, I’ll preview it in my newsletter, which should go out early next week.

And then I’ll get back to rebuilding my pre-holiday routine: editing the novel and writing the next chapter of my serial.

Oh, I suppose I should going my day job too. I’m suspicious though. It smacks of reality, and who needs that when you have fiction?

“When the town of Mirror Springs threw a shindig to welcome the Colonel back from the war, she set tongues wagging when she paid a call to the exiled dressmaker, Molly Bright.”
That’s the first line of “The Dressmaker and the Colonel’s Coat”. You can see more than mere intriguing tidbits by signing up to my newsletter here:

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2 Responses to What I Wrote on my Summer Holidays

  1. I am just now properly returning to routine after Aurealis judging and even that feels like a jolt. I hope you’ve managed to get back into the swing of it all.

    What a cool writing prompt! And nice work on sticking with it through your holiday. Out of curiosity, did you find it difficult to pick up where you left off each day?

  2. Lexifab says:

    Elizabeth – great work getting through the Aurealis pile. Honestly that feels like a mountain I’ll never be able to climb.

    During the holiday I didn’t tend to have much difficulty getting going. I tended to have a fairly clear picture of where each scene was going, so it was mostly just a case of reading over the last few sentences and then starting to type. Typically the first sentence or two would be hesitant and probably nonsensical (I’ll let you know after I’ve had a go at editing it) but not after that.

    The story has a distinctive voice that I lost in a few places, which I’ll need to patch back in, but it wasn’t too hard to pick up the thread and run with it.

    It’s such a good pushy technique that I want to use it again. Not yet though. I’m *still going* on that story (it’s sailed past 10000 words and is now heading for open waters).

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