Truth time: This is mostly an excuse to link to a story I wrote that was published as part of the Short Fiction Break 2018 Summer Writing Contest, which you can find here. It’s called Trial by Fire and involves a prisoner being offered a chance at freedom … as long as she can pass the trial.

On the other hand, I also have something to say about how I wrote this story, and maybe learnt a lesson from it, although I’m not sure what that lesson was.

The theme for this competition was Redemption – a character finds themselves in a low place, but things get better. I entered mostly on a whim, a week before the deadline. Then I tried to write a story about relationships and moving on after a loss and it just. Did. Not. Work. I could see the shape of the story in my head. I knew how I wanted it to feel. But there were no words, or if there were words, they were terrible words that just didn’t make sense. The story wasn’t working. For six days.

On the seventh day I sat down to write and went, how about I try a new concept? Then an image of a prisoner being offered a second chance came into my head, and I ran with it. I wrote this story in a couple of hours, edited a little, then submitted it. It was one of those stories that arrives in your head almost fully formed. This time, the words just came.

This is probably the only time I experienced real writer’s block, the kind that isn’t coming from laziness or lack of confidence. I’m not sure what I learned from having that experience. Maybe there really are some types of stories I’m not cut out to write. Maybe I don’t have the particular tools to write this kind of story yet. Either way, the solution seems to be not to stop writing, but to find another approach, even if that approach is wildly different.