Personal Challenges, Studying Fiction, and on Critics

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Welcome
* On Personal Writing Challenges
* When You Study Fiction, and on Critics
* Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

My corollary — Keep learning. Your best today must be better than your best yesterday.

“The [Bradbury] challenge is the best practice for WITD for me. I can really give up attachment and let the characters and story go.” KC Riggs


Welcome to Ann G. and any other new subscribers or readers of the Journal. I hope you will find it useful.

Get the Archives and other free downloads at the Journal website. And I don’t do the ambush thing requiring an email address. Just click the links and a PDF will download in a new page.

I also recommend reading “I Believe in You”.

If you wanna see my tired old mug, catch this half-hour video where Vin Zandri and I are chatting about writing and a bunch of other stuff.

And here’s a second video of us chatting at The Writer’s Life.

On Personal Writing Challenges

The purpose of any personal writing challenge is to stretch yourself. Not to “the limit” because there are no limits, or there are only self-imposed or self-accepted ones.

A challenge is more to get your writer’s blood pumping a little harder. To keep you upright in the saddle and plodding forward even when you’re tired and don’t really care whether you finish the ride.

My own current personal challenges, both writing and business, are

  • Writing 3000+ words per day every day — I’ve already revised this one to every writing day, but I also strive to maintain an average of at least 3000 words per calendar day (see the next entry). Two mantras help with this: Keep Coming Back and Writers Write.
  • Writing every day — Life happens, so I constantly fall off this one and climb back on. The climing back on is what matters.
  • Posting to the Writing in Public substack — As I’m writing a new novel, I post whatever I’ve written that day, every day. The primary purpose is to drive me to the keyboard even when I don’t feel like it (which thankfully is rare).
  • Posting a new short story every week on the Stanbrough Writes substack — The stories are written, but I have to remember to read over them and post them, usually several in advance.
  • Learning at least one new thing about the craft every day — This is essential to keep moving forward and getting better at the craft. Moving backward or marking time in place is not an option.
  • Juggling time — This is based on two precepts:
  1. If I’ve done it before, I can do it again, and
  2. I can always do One More Thing

In fact, I’m considering starting up my YouTube channel again. (grin) Probably for thoughts on writing, maybe things I forget to include in the Journal.

Whatever you write — short stories or novels or plays or scripts or songs or poetry — if you set personal challenges for yourself, your work will benefit.

When You Study Fiction, and on Critics

I often advise you to read fiction by top authors whose work you enjoy, first strictly for pleasure.

And yes, I also encourage you to read my fiction. To me, it just stands to reason that if you learn about writing fiction from me, you would also want to know whether I put into practice what I preach about in the Journal. (grin)

Awhile ago, a writer friend told me he loved the way my characters described a feature in the distance as the characters approached it. “I’m gonna steal that,” he said.

We joked about him “stealing” it, but the truth is, he had already stolen the technique, if not the particular words.

It had already sunk into his creative subconscious, and it’s still there.

How to Study

In any story or novel you read, as you come across a particular passages that blow you away — be it a passage that amazes you or an opening that intrigues you and pulls you into the story or a chapter cliffhanger that forces you to turn the page and begin the next chapter — mark it with a dogeared page or a slip of paper or an annotation on the ebook.

Then, after you’ve finished reading the for pleasure, go back and study the passages you’ve marked.

You aren’t studying them to “copy” the author’s style or to mimic his or her words. You study those passages to attempt to understand HOW the writer blew you away. What exactly about the passage or how it was presented affected you so strongly as a reader?

As you figure that out, what is important to your understanding will seep into your creative subconscious and become part of how you write. It will become part of your own style.

Above all else, DON’T go into the study of a specific genre or of fiction in general seriously.

ALL fiction — despite anything ever written about any of it by any critic — is only “important” as a few minutes or a few hours of entertainment, nothing more.

Plus, if critics knew anything that matters about fiction, they would be writing it, not talking about it.

Now, having written the word “critic” several times, I have to go wash my hands. To be safe, I’ll wash-out my mouth too, and scrub my palate and tongue.

Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting

Anyone can jump in (or jump back in) and join or rejoin the challenge at any time.

This is a great way to jumpstart your writing and get more practice pushing down the critical voice. (See KC’s quote in the Quotes of the Day above.)

There is no cost.

Notice, there’s also no pressure re submitting or publishing. That’s up to you.

The point of this challenge — the point of all writing challenges — is to have fun and grow as a writer. Learning to keep track of your writing is a bonus.

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

Short Fiction

Erin Donoho “Two Friends” 832 Historical
George Kordonis “Just Cause 3853 Suspense
Chynna Pace ”
Christopher Ridge “Drumstix 4200 SF
K.C. Riggs “Las Tres Cruces” 2904 General Fiction

Longer Fiction

  • Alexander Nakul *The Meerkat Watch* 1000 Urban fantasy (6061 total to date)

Congrats to all of the above for still being in the mix.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Biological Responses to Anger

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1050

Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)

Day 1…… 4086 words. To date…… 4086
Day 2…… 3609 words. To date…… 7695
Day 3…… 3971 words. To date…… 11666
Day 4…… 4129 words. To date…… 15795

Fiction for November…………………… 33303
Fiction for 2023…………………………. 351947
Fiction since August 1………………… 237275
Nonfiction for November……………… 10720
Nonfiction for the year……………… 238610
Annual consumable words………… 587050

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 7
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 7
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 78
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 235
Short story collections…………………… 31

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Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.