Writing constraints

Before MFA school, I’d never thought about writing constraints. I’d never heard of them. In undergrad, the goal was always to write as much as possible. Until I wanted to submit short stories for publication and realized I was writing way too long. But the way I wrote short stories–and it’s been a long time since I’ve written one–was as an impulse. That first drafting had to be a single impulse. You can edit the heck out of a short story but I always wanted that initial drafting to be uninterrupted as far as my process. It was a big problem when I started writing a novel because, not being a fan of chapters back then–still not sure after writing a novel with chapters if I’m so much a fan or just grudgingly accept them–I didn’t know how to maintain the flow. And it showed. I rewrote the entire middle portion of my first novel. Not because the flow was wrong but because I let readers get a hold of it and they liked it too dang much. I may have employed writing constraints on the second novel during drafting but I can’t remember them. Word count constraints. I did once write a story without using the letter “I.” What a pain.

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