Time does fly, or probably more accurately, drags us along behind it, at high speed, across the pavement of seasons. But in any case a year has come and gone since I started doing the flash fiction challenges for Terribleminds. A year, I can hardly believe it myself.

Given all the crazy challenges Mr. Wendig’s thrown at us, I have to say that writing wise it was a pretty wild ride. I wound up getting tossed everything from Lovecraft to Wuxia (yeah I had to Google that one myself), and had to put characters through situations including mysterious cemeteries, sinking cruise ships, and dinosaur filled police stations. Okay, honestly that last one was my own fault, but the madness was on par for the challenges, so that’s close enough!

I mean seriously, as an example, a Horror-Comedy, during the Apocalypse, inside an Insane Asylum, with Sentient Fungus? Where does he come up with this stuff?? Oh wait, I’ve read his books, so I have to assume the same mind… or possibly some sort of dark portal he keeps in his basement. Not sure which is scarier… Well either way I thought we got thrown some very cool curve balls.

Before I posted Black Rain I’d never written flash fiction, or posted a finished story, well, anywhere. I didn’t even have much a blog. So that felt like a pretty big stepping off point, and as scary as it was putting something out there, it felt pretty great as well. Putting something up publicly sure is different than leaving it safely locked on my laptop, but even if I was just tossing the words into the vast void of the Internet, it felt like an accomplishment of sorts to have a bit of myself floating out there.

After that story the challenges kept on coming, and soon enough I was hooked. Every week was different, and come Friday I was never sure what to expect, but I knew it would be interesting, challenging, and probably a whole lot of fun. Sure some weeks the stories tried to bite and claw me on the way out (that’s what the whip and chair are for, duh), but even when I was having to wrestle them into submission, or chop the living heck out of them to squeeze them into that 1,00o words, it was never boring.

I don’t know if my writing got better over the weeks, but I know I learned a lot, and found myself enjoying new genres I’d never considered, or even heard of in some cases. As difficult as it sometimes was, I almost relished what would come with the dreaded RNG and trying to figure out how I’d make it work. Some weeks I don’t think the stories did work, whether from the idea being too big, or my grasping of it not solid enough, but the nice thing was that the next week there was another challenge waiting for me. And either way I’d know more than I did the week before.

Above all though I found that writing to a deadline for 52 weeks, (even if self-imposed), and to word count, came easier as time went on. I went from commonly having to trim hundreds words from each story, to being able to feel out ahead of time if the bones of the story were too big for 1,000 words, and whether or not there’d be enough meat left to make the telling of the story interesting. For me, someone who always writes long, that felt like growth.

The challenges weren’t just about the writing either. There’s a pretty great group of talented writers over at Terribleminds who are always encouraging. For a new writer, I don’t think there’s anything better than a couple well timed, “I liked it”‘s to keep you going. Over time I found that tossing our brains at the pointy spikes of the same challenges each week, to find out what would stick, really created a sense of camaraderie. At least for me. There were few things cooler than seeing someone else take the same challenge and spin it in a completely different direction, or write a great response that left me looking close to see how they did it. I’m certain I learned as much from all of the other writers there as from my own toe stubbing, fumbling around in the dark.

So a year’s come and gone and lot of words with it. Some got chopped, some got burned with hot fury, and then had those ashes buried, and some saw the meager light of day on my blog. I plan to keeping adding more. Perhaps from Terribleminds challenges, or perhaps from other places, but I know that all of the prompts and challenges Chuck gave us are a great start. I’m excited to see where I can go from here.

If anyone’s looking for a fun writing challenge, go check out the Terribleminds blog. There’s a new prompt looking for a victim, I mean subject. Wait. Participant. Yeah that’s close enough, a new participant, every Friday.