A Torrent of Story: Meet David Grigg
In November of 2011, while many authors were attempting a 50,000 word novel during National Novel Writing Month, I introduced the Flash Fiction Project on Google+. This project offered authors an alternative to NaNoWriMo, asking writers to create a piece of flash fiction for a shared visual inspirational image. Most participants created anywhere from one to fifteen pieces of flash fiction, but David Grigg wrote a piece of fiction for every day of the project. Just released, his A Torrent of Story includes all 30 pieces of original fiction paired with commentary on his writing process. David was gracious enough to agree to an interview about his participation in the Flash Fiction Project and his newly released work.
Becky: What first inspired you to participate in the Flash Fiction Project?
David: I was fairly new to using Google+ and didn’t initially have a lot of people I was following, but somewhere along the line I saw a reference to your project. It appealed to me a lot because I have always wanted to write fiction, and indeed had written and had published quite a few stories and a couple of short books for early teens. But that was a long time ago, when I was in my twenties and thirties. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to get back to writing, and as I’m now 60 and trying (vainly!) to retire, I was keen to try my hand again. The Flash Fiction project appealed to me as a way of forcing me to confront this desire and really do some more writing.
Becky: At what point did you decide to tackle writing a piece of fiction for every image prompt in November?
David: I certainly didn’t start out with that aim in mind, and in fact was dubious about whether I could write anything. The first day’s photo gave me a lot of concern and I struggled to get the story done in time. I managed to hit the second day, too, although with a rather short story in a slightly strange tone (it’s a myth, I guess). On the third day I really stumbled. I was running very short of time and only managed to get a short poem in place – that still niggles at me, by the way. I’d love to be able to say that I wrote 30 stories in 30 days, but no, it’s 29 stories and one poem! Anyway, the fourth day came around and I managed to write something for that. And then on the fifth day I was on a bit of a roll and my long-supressed creative urges were coming to the fore. That was when I decided to really go for it.
Becky: I know there’s been a publishing gap for you, but has there been a gap in fiction writing for you as well?
David: Yes. I literally hadn’t written any fiction for 26 years. The last story I wrote was in 1985, and it was published in an anthology that year.
Becky: Why did you decide to take your fiction and create a published work?
David: Well, there I was at the end of the month with 30 pieces of fiction and some 33,000 words. I could try (and probably still will) to polish up some of those stories and sell them commercially; but there was something about the whole collection of material, all written very quickly, that I thought could have value to others who are trying to write. In particular I thought that my creative process – how I managed to come up with a story idea based on those challenging images, every single day, could be useful for other aspiring writers.
Becky: Can you tell me a little about your typical writing process?
David: I’m not sure that there’s anything ‘typical’ about it yet – I have still to try writing outside of the Flash Fiction Project and determine if I can keep the process flowing. But how I operated during the project was like this: In about mid-afternoon my time you would post up the challenge image. I would spend most of the rest of the day and evening thinking about it on and off. Sometimes I would come up with a story idea before I went to bed, but most times I wouldn’t. Then I would lie awake for a while, thinking it over and perhaps starting to get an idea or two. Typically I would then wake up at about 3 am, and usually quickly settle on a viable idea, and go back to sleep. Then in the morning I would sit at the breakfast table with my iPad – my wife and I both have iPads – and after I had eaten I would pull up a text editing app on the ipad and start typing. I can’t type very well on the iPad, but then I’m thinking pretty slowly when I write, so the typing really doesn’t slow me down. Once a draft was done I would spend maybe another hour polishing it a bit, and then upload it.
Becky: Something tells me that writing on an ipad is a tad bit different from how you wrote fiction in the 70s and 80s.
David: I started writing on an old Olivetti manual typewriter, which required a lot of force on the keys. When I taught myself to touch type (in my mid teens) I felt like I was building muscles on my little fingers! After I got a paying job I acquired an IBM Selectric typewriter (like you see in Mad Men) and that was a lot better, but there was no capability to revise or edit. You just had to re-type. It was completely different back then, but it did have its advantages. When you have to re-type a whole novel to get another revision, there’s a whole process which happens in which I found that I was transforming the writing as I read the previous draft and typed the next. Editing a digital text isn’t quite the same.
Becky: One advantage I’ve seen to G+ is the ability for self and indie published authors to talk about their work. What advantages do you see for authors using G+?
David: The biggest advantage is just the community feedback. I’ve found Google+ to be, in general, a very friendly and supportive place. It’s a really good way to connect to others; but I do think that a project like yours is a great complement to this, because it gives a focus.
Becky: What suggestions could you offer others considering self-publishing right now?
David: I would say that you mustn’t underestimate how hard it is to attract attention and readers. You are now competing in a free marketplace of many thousands, perhaps millions, of others trying to attract the attention of readers. That’s very daunting. The easy part is to write and publish your work to somewhere like the Amazon Kindle Store. But will you sell any? Will anyone read your work? Just how do you get those eyeballs on your book? I am finding that it is very, very hard. This is where a traditional publisher does have an edge, if you can have your work accepted. That’s the challenge, of course.
David: A pleasure. Thanks so much for your support and encouragement. And particularly, thanks so much for your idea of the Flash Fiction project.
David Grigg is co-owner of Rightword Enterprises in Melbourne, Australia. He offers writing, editing, proof-reading and digital publishing services, with specialist knowledge in the areas of science, computer technology and interactive media. He can be reached on his website and on his blog.
Becky Raymond is a nonprofit professional, avid knitter and novice gardener who enjoys writing, blogging and writing book reviews. She lives in central Vermont and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.inquisitivehippo.com.