A New Personal Challenge

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* A New Personal Challenge
* What Is A Short Story?
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“A new piece of work will drag the old piece of work after it. … Sometimes you’re just tired. You’ve done a thing too often. … I go do another short story. The energy I borrow from that, I go back to the novel, and boom, everything comes into focus again. So you borrow energy. Find ways to borrow energy.” Ray Bradbury

“The intellect is a great danger to creativity . . . because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth—who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads ‘Don’t think!’ You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.” Ray Bradbury

A New Personal Challenge

As some of you know, a long while back (April 2014) I started writing at least one short story per week. That started a streak that lasted either 70 or 72 weeks (I forget). I broke the streak intentionally. Why? Beats me. Probably because I’m a moron.

Anyway, from April into October of that year, I wrote only short stories and nonfiction, which primarily consisted of entries in my then-fledgling Journal. Even after I started writing novels in mid-October of that year, I continued turning out a new short story every week.

Many call that The Bradbury Challenge. Ray Bradbury once advised a group of would-be writers to “write one short story per week for a year. It’s impossible to write 52 bad short stories.”

Of course, he was right. By the time anyone writes 52 short stories, if those stories are between say 2000 and 10,000 words each, s/he will have practiced writing fiction to the tune of somewhere between 102,000 words and 520,000 words of fiction, all ostensibly while studying and then applying new bits of craft.

To put those numbers in context, most fiction writers feel really accomplished if they can turn out 100,000 words per year.

If the writer can combine this challenge with a dedication to Heinlein’s Rules (especially Rule 3) and to writing into the dark, so much the better. (See Bradbury’s admonition to “Don’t think” above.) If you can do that, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful and probably very prolific professional fiction writer.

(By the way, if all you’re writing are those short stories, even if all of them are 10,000 words each, that’s still an average of just over 1 hour of “work” per day. 10,000/7 = 1429 words per day. So there really are no excuses, especially for those of you who enjoy writing short stories.)

Anyway, here I go again.

As I wrote several years ago in my poem Rejuvenation (free PDF copy),

“It’s time to reconnect some frazzled ends,
unbend a few warped planes, demagnetize
a short in my long circuit.”

In other words, I need something to help me get back to how I used to be as a writer, how excited I used to feel each day to get out of bed and rush to the writing.

So I’m starting a new personal challenge. In addition to keeping up with writing my novel(s), starting today I will begin writing at least one new short story every week. The due date each week will be Sunday at midnight, because who doesn’t need a little drama? (grin)

Because I’m doing this for fun, I’m placing no restrictions of any kind on myself re word count, genre, or whatever else. Only that I must write at least one short story per week. I’m not out to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I’m only out to have fun.

Come to think of it, I might not even publish them. Or maybe I’ll publish them only on Stanbrough Writes or only in collections.

My goal is to write at least 1 short story per week for 100 weeks. If I write more than one during a week, that doesn’t count for the following week. If I miss writing one during a week, the streak ends.

In other words, the goal is not to write 1o0 stories in 100 weeks, which would mean I could skip a week or more and then play catch up. And I promise, if I make it to 100 weeks without missing, I won’t break the streak intentionally this time. (grin)

So all that remains is to ask the question: Anyone out there want to join me?

It would be great fun to share this with other writers. Not to critique each other’s work or any of that inane nonsense, but just to share our accomplishment.

I might even create a new section in the Journal called The Bradbury Challenge or something like that. If you join me, you would keep me apprised of your progress. You would email me with the title of your short story, the genre and the word count, and I would post it in the Journal once a week. If you publish it or post it online, be sure to include a buy link or a view link. Of course, you could jump in at any time.

Hey, you can’t beat free publicity.

What Is A Short Story?

Much has been said about short stories being a “tighter” or more restricted form of fiction than novels, that the short story is a form that requires greater economy of words, the compression of thoughts into quicker live-action bites, etc.

I know that instinctinvely sounds right. After all, a short story is presented in a smaller package. But the smaller package really only means there are fewer words inside. It doesn’t mean anything inside the package is more compressed or compact, or that it should be.

Some also spout that writing short stories requires special skills, deeper but somehow briefer descriptions and so on. In fact, you’ll find that nonsense in almost every commercial how-to book out there on writing short stories.

And all of that (and more) is a pile of fresh, steaming, bovine excrement.

In any good story, long or short, it is necessary to

  • hook the reader at the start with an enticing sentence or paragraph
  • ground the reader in the setting of each scene through the POV character’s physical and emotional senses and opinions of the setting
  • keep the reader at depth with engaging writing, every word of which comes from or through the POV character
  • keep the reader turning pages with appropriate pacing
  • a cliffhanger at the end of each scene to pair with the hook at the beginning of the next scene, and
  • a satisfactory ending and denoument (to entice the reader to find more of your work)

All of that is necessary in a good short story just as it is necessary in a good novel or a good series. The only real difference between the short story and the longer story (novella or novel) is this:

A short story is about One Event.

It really is that simple. You might even say a novel is just a short story that got out of hand and kept going.

I’m excited about this new challenge, especially when I think of all the new people I’m going to meet and the new adventures they will graciously share with me. As I said earlier, I’m doing this only for fun. But I’m also excited knowing I’ll probably get some new novels out of some of these stories.

Some of those new stories and novels probably will be in my existing series (Wes Crowley and/or Rider Jones westerns, Blackwell Ops thrillers, Stern Talbot detective/PI mysteries, The Journey Home SF, The 13-Month Turn SF, the Nick Spalding action-adventure series, etc.) but some will almost certainly be stand-alones or even the beginning of new series. It’s all very exciting.

I do hope some of you will load up and come along.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Are Orca the Serial Killers of the Sea?” at https://www.suecoletta.com/orca-verse-serial-killers/. Special offer in this. Scroll to the bottom for her announcement.

See “Kickstarter for My Books” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/kickstarter-for-my-books/.

See “Workshops in Kickstarter” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/workshops-in-kickstarter/.

See “Anatomy Of A Book Signing” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/03/anatomy-of-a-book-signing.html.

See “Ray Bradbury’s Greatest Writing Advice” at https://lithub.com/ray-bradburys-greatest-writing-advice/.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1390 words

Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)

Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051
Day 5…… 1451 words. Total words to date…… 11502
Day 6…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for March……… 1451
Total fiction words for 2023………… 54275
Total nonfiction words for March… 13280
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 54610
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 108885

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. See My Best Advice for Fiction Writers at https://hestanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/My-Best-Advice-for-Fiction-Writers.pdf.

6 thoughts on “A New Personal Challenge”

  1. I’ve wanted to do this challenge ever since I heard about it! I’ve been known to write novels a lot more easily than I do short stories, and I’ve wanted to change that for a while. Maybe I’ll join you, Harvey. Like you, I’ve been feeling like I need to reignite myself as a writer and get back to the excitement and fun I had before, so this is very timely!

  2. Very seriously considering it, Harvey. If I do, I would probably start closer to April 2nd, as I’m trying to get a novel finished. Looking forward to seeing your progress and hopefully a lot of others!

    • Thanks, Tony. I’m trying to finish a novel too. (grin) See Bradbury’s first quotation. I’ll add you to the list and wait to hear from you.

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