In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Instructions for the Recommended Intensive
* Bradbury Challenge Reminder
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“”You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” Audrey Hepburn
“I think Story 7 might be a breakthrough for me on Critical Voice. It flowed very easily. I know I’ll have setbacks but feel like I’m learning to deal with it. The title popped into my head a bit after reading the Reavis Wortham link (“In the Air Around Us”) in your journal of a few days ago. I didn’t know what the story would be until I started writing it but there was no doubt about the title. I also didn’t know that it would be humorous.” KC Riggs
Folks, this is what practice—i.e., putting new words on the page, in this case writing a new short story every week in the Bradbury Challenge—will do for you. If you aren’t trying it and if you want to be a productive writer, you really should.
Instructions for the Recommended Intensive
Thanks to Peggy K for helping me think-through this intensive. I’ve added considerably to it since we talked. Just in case anyone else would like to take part in the writing intensive—even on your own, without reporting anything to me or to anyone else—here’s what I recommend:
First, determine realistically how many hours per day you can devote to writing. If necessary, decide also on which days of the week you can write.
But—and this is important—if you can devote a certain period of time to writing, be sure you don’t let anything else get in the way of that. Ctitical voice excels at stopping you from writing in the first place, and if you don’t start, you can’t finish.
The following is for a participant who can write up to two hours per day on weekdays and up to twice that on weekend days. Feel free to adjust the numbers according to your schedule. The whole purpose is to do something that’s fun and enjoy the freedom of the process:
For your first assignment, write a short story of around 2000 – 2500 words. On weekend days, maybe extend that to 3000 to 5000 words. (You should be writing around 1000 words per hour or more. 1000 words per hour is only 17 words per minute.)
Put the desired length into your subconscious so it will know the length you’re looking for. Then forget it. Don’t think about length as you write. A certain length is neither necessary nor a requirement.
We’re going to use the proven, fool-proof story starter: a character with a problem in a setting. This isn’t a story “idea,” but it really is an excellent story starter, and that is literally all you need.
Each day, spend a few seconds coming up with a character, including his or her name. You should be able to picture him or her at least vaguely: tall, short, slim, overweight, hair, clothing, etc. and what he or she is wearing and/or carrying, if anything. Whatever pops into your head is fine.
The character will also have a problem of some sort. This doesn’t have to be “the” problem/conflict of the story. Just something to get you started. It can be literally anything.
Maybe it’s a locked door that shouldn’t be locked. Maybe it’s an untied shoelace or a stone or something inside the shoe. Maybe it’s a forgotten cell phone, a suddenly remembered birthday, etc. In the opening, the character will deal with that problem to some degree and then continue into the story.
Now drop that character with that problem into a setting and write whatever happens. Again, the setting can be anywhere, inside or outside, home or office or under a clothesline, etc.
An example—In one story I started this way, a young man (character) opened the front door of his home, briefcase in hand, stepped out onto the stoop and noticed his left wingtip was untied (problem). Just as he crouched to set his briefcase on the stoop and tie his shoe, there was an explosion and the wooden doorframe above his head splintered where a bullet plowed into it.
Go ahead. Given that beginning, tell me you couldn’t write the next sentence and the next and the next. (grin)
That’s all there is to writing into the dark. Just keep writing the next sentence until the character leads you through to the end of the story. Don’t second-guess, and don’t make anything up. Just write the next sentence and the next and the next as the story unfolds around you.
In the scenario above, is there another person inside the house? S/he would have heard the gunshot too, yes? Is there a child inside? What action does the main character on the stoop take next? Roll off the stoop to one side or the other? Scramble back inside through the door? Something else?
What about the shooter? Does s/he fire again? Abandon his or her location? What is that location? Where did the shot come from? Are there neighbors? If so, what’s their reaction? If not, why not? Is this on a farm or ranch?
I’m not saying you should think about all those things (or any of them) while you’re writing. Just that you should keep writing and go deep. So there you go. Keep it going.
I recommend taking a break about every hour. If you do take a break, when you return to the story I suggest you read over what you’ve written (as a reader, not “looking for” anything) and allow yourself to touch the story as you go. When you get to the white space again, continue writing.
The critical voice shouldn’t intrude because this is not serious at all. It’s only a game and it’s only a bit of fun. If critical voice does flare up, tell it (maybe even aloud) to leave you alone, that it has no place in your fiction. Shove it aside. Show it you’re the boss.
If you need help, my recommendation (and offer) re Quiet the Critical Voice (and Write Fiction) remains.
- If the story wraps in however many sessions you give it, that’s wonderful. You can publish it if you want, or put it into a collection, or do nothing at all with it. Doesn’t matter.
- If the story doesn’t wrap but wants to continue (hey, it happens) that’s fine too. Run with it. You can either set it aside and start something new the next day OR you can continue the same story the next day, etc. (I’d rather see you write a series of short stories, though. Doing that is a better, more thorough way to develop trusting WITD, getting story ideas, and cycling.) But whichever way works better for you is fine. I won’t urge you to completely abandon a longer work if the story wants you to continue.
- If the story doesn’t take off within the first few hundred words and you don’t want to continue, that’s fine. But don’t save it. Toss it out and start something new. Same guidelines, though not necessarily with the same character.
Okay, I think that’s it. This really is all up to you, and it really is as simple as starting with a character with a problem in a setting. Just remember that this doesn’t matter. It’s all only an exercise. It’s only for fun.
Bradbury Challenge Reminder
This seemed an appropriate time to remind everyone we have an ongoing Bradbury Challenge. The challenge is to write at least one new short story each week. The point of the challenge is to create a streak. The purpose of a streak is to drive you to the computer when you might not otherwise go.
Sometimes, it’s easier to take part in a challenge if you hold yourself accountable to someone. If you want, you can report to me each week on Sunday (or anytime before the Journal goes live on Monday morning) and I’ll tell our limited little part of the world what you accomplished.
To participate, send your results to me via email in this format: Author Name “Title of Short Story” XXXX words Genre
Of course, you can jump in at any time. If you break your streak, you can restart it. I’m not keeping track, I promise. And this is a win-win. No matter how many or how few stories you write, you will definitely have more at the end of your personal challenge than you had when you started.
Talk with you again soon.
See “37 Years” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/37-years/. Mona and I have also been married for 37 years. In June it will be 38.
See “Romans, Horse Asses, US Railroads, Space Shuttles, and Common Writing Paper” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/05/romans-horse-asses-us-railroads-space-shuttles-and-common-writing-paper.html.
See “Most Banned Authors of All Time” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/most-banned-authors-of-all-time/.
See “Writer’s Block? Maybe You’re Writing in the Wrong Format” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/writers-block-maybe-youre-writing-in-the-wrong-format/. I included this link only to give you a visceral taste of what it must be like to live in Hell. If you want to see what the myths can do for you, read the excerpt. If that isn’t enough, read the article. (Hint: so-called “writer’s block” comes from trying to “figure out” what should be in a story.)
The Journal…………………………………… 1560
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 11… 0323 words. Total words to date…… 19819
Day 12… 2445 words. Total words to date…… 22264
Day 13… 3184 words. Total words to date…… 25448
Total fiction words for May……… xxxx
Total fiction words for 2023………… 83464
Total nonfiction words for May… 4590
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 86280
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 169744
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.