Normally I write short stories. There is a discipline to it, trying to write a story that is complete but compact. And there is definitely a challenge in writing something that makes sense and is engaging when you only have a certain number of words to tell it in. Besides, the short story form seems to suit my butterfly mind. It allows me to develop an idea, write it down and move on before I become bored with the whole thing.
This does have its drawbacks, though. I find it very difficult to sustain a story to 10,000 words – let alone the 100,000 that most publishers seem to demand for a modern novel! It’s not that I just stop writing, leaving my story hanging in mid-air. No. What happens is that I start to close down my story. I resolve the various plot threads, I try to give the characters their endings, and then everything is brought to a (more or less) satisfactory conclusion.
Still, I am trying my best to overcome this. I recently embarked on a project that I think might actually be worthy of receiving a longer treatment. While doing some research into the history of my family, I discovered an interesting but little-known incident: the Larne gunrunning of 1914. As I looked deeper into events surrounding the incident, I found myself fascinated by the personalities involved, the political machinations surrounding it and the actual logistics of smuggling guns into Ireland. The more I looked, the more I became convinced that there was a story here that needed telling.
That’s when I hit another problem. For those not familiar with the recent history of Ireland, it has been a rather turbulent two or three centuries, the events of which still have repercussions to this day! And some of the people of Ireland have long memories and can be very touchy about certain subjects. So, rather than risk the wrong sort of attention by dramatising the actual events, I decided I would write a story that was a fiction based on the events of 1914, with names and places changed to suitably muddy my trail.
Oh dear. If you think writing historical fiction is hard work, it’s even harder trying to disguise it! I have had to alter the details of the events, changing them so that while they are accurate, they are not accurate enough to offend people. I have had to invent characters who, while they reflect the people involved, are not the actual people themselves. I’m also trying to play up the farcical elements of the whole thing. A sense of humour can be a wonderful defense. In short, the whole thing is a minefield and I feel like I’m dancing around the craters!
Will I actually bring this project to a conclusion? Will I break through the 10,000 word barrier? Will my story even see the light of day? I have no idea, but I’m going to find out!
OMP Admin Note: John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #ONeMillionProject Blogger. His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.