Revisiting Fun in Challenges

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Welcome
* Revisiting Fun in Challenges
* The Bradbury Challenge
* The Writing
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“People are what they do, not what they say.” James Lee Burke

“[J]ust go play. Have fun. Tell yourself stories.” Dean Wesley Smith


Welcome to Oleg and Thomas and all other new subscribers to this Journal. If there’s anything I can do to help with your writing, feel free to let me know. You can reach me directly at

Be sure to check out the free, downloadable, searchable PDF archives and other free downloads on the Journal website at

By the way, I urge everybody, don’t miss the articles linked in “Of Interest” today, especially the first two.

Revisiting Fun in Challenges

Something in Dean’s post yesterday struck me: “A challenge for some people brings up PRODUCT FOCUS. It takes the [writer’s] focus from having fun telling a story and puts it on how many words did I write, have I written, and in comes critical voice.”

Yep, I get that. A challenge can also shift the writer’s focus from just having fun to the feeling s/he “has to” finish a story by a certain time, so still product focused.

I think that problem—the fear of “failure” if you don’t write a story one week or if don’t finish one by a particular time, etc.—is why some folks who are involved in the challenge freeze up and either miss or almost miss.

I’m sure it’s also why some who said they wanted to be publicly involved in the challenge (reporting numbers to me each week) haven’t submitted a story yet. (We’re about to head into the fourth week.) They’ve either already given up or (more likely) they keep putting off their start date. Which is fine, but you can’t enter a challenge and begin a streak without starting. (grin)

And finally, I suspect it’s also why some are just following along in the shadows, taking part in the challenge on their own, without the pressure of reporting to me every week. And I want to emphasize quickly, that’s also perfectly fine. I’m actually doing the same thing, following along in the shadows, with a challenge Dean started. Not because I don’t want to report my numbers—I happily report numbers every day—but because I don’t want to pay him for the privilege. (grin)

But that pressured feeling that either delays your start or stops you cold—I know that feeling too, and I know it extremely well. After all, I report my numbers in this Journal every time I post a new edition. I do that partly to hold myself accountable, and partly to show you what is possible if you sit down and Just Write.

I never post my numbers to show off or to dangle a carrot or to compare myself with anyone else. The only person I’m interested in comparing myself with is myself at an earlier time.

But again, what’s important is that you write. If my Bradbury Challenge helps with that, whether you take part publicly or privately, that’s wonderful.

So let me just say this: Fearing “failure” as a writer as the result of participating in a challenge is just silly. If you take part in any challenge at all, publicly or privately, when your streak ends you will have written more than you would have if you hadn’t participated in the challenge at all. That is not a failure, my friends. That is a success.

Changing the Rules of the Challenge—To all of those who are currently involved publicly in the challenge, I’m changing the rules a little: You don’t “have to” report the story title and word count to me at all. Either way, I’m canceling the Monday morning posting of Bradbury Challenge results.

However, in place of that, I’ll do this: When you finish a short story for your own personal story-a-week challenge, IF YOU WANT TO SHARE, send me the title and word count and I’ll be happy to share it with everyone else in the next edition of the Journal. If you DON’T want to share it, that’s perfectly fine too.

That should remove all pressure from the process. Just have fun writing at least one new short story per week. After all, that’s the whole purpose of the challenge in the first place.

Because I already report my own efforts under the Numbers section, I won’t report my own short stories otherwise.

More on OpenAI/ChatGPT

My friend Garry Rodgers posted about his new book, OpenAI/ChatGPT — A Fiction Writer Talks Shop with a Bot. I’ve linked to his post in “Of Interest.”

Of course, I left a comment. In part it reads

“If by ‘writing tools’ we’re talking about actual tools, like spell check, thesauri, etc. I’m all for it. But when that definition is expanded to include allegedly ‘creating’ (I use the term ‘allegedly’ because in actualty, it’s ‘constructing’) any part of a fiction—so the setting or the POV character’s opinion of the setting, scenes, dialogue, etc.—I consider it a cheat. I will never use it, and I include a statement to that effect in the backmatter of every publication.

“Eventually, I believe many writers will use generative AI to create ‘original’ fictions and then claim sole ownership. I also believe the practice will be widely accepted socially, probably with no more emotional reaction than a shrug. And if that comes to pass, then college students also should be able to use that same ‘tool’ to prepare essays on college exams.”

Why do I feel that way? Because I learned early that much in life boils down to right or wrong no matter how strongly the individual or society rationalizes it.

A lie is a lie no matter how often or how many times it’s repeated and no matter how much time has passed since it was first uttered. Even when the lie has been all but universally accepted as the truth, it is still a lie. And cheating is still cheating even when society chooses not to condemn it.

As I learnned from ol’ Wes Crowley awhile back, Upright is not a matter of degree. In every moment, you either are or you aren’t.

The Bradbury Challenge

Yesterday, two writers in the challenge reported the following:

Tony DeCastro, “The Gods of the Eclipse,” 1000 words

Christopher Ridge, “Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” 1215 words

Thanks for that, guys! Anyone else, feel free to jump in, publicly or otherwise.

The Writing

Like Dean, I’ve had a bit of a slow start (or re-start), but the writing is picking up again now. Thank goodness. I want so much to get back to turning out at least one novel per month, and eventually to hitting 3000 words per day of publishable fiction again. And of course I wish the same for you.

To show my own progress as I shadow Dean’s 9-month challenge, I’ve added a few new lines to my Numbers section below. Should be fun to watch.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Slow Starts Are Perfectly Fine” at

See “Atticus Experience” at But be sure to read the comments too. Excellent.

See “OpenAI/ChatGPT — A Fiction Writer Talks Shop with a Bot” at

See “The Tools And Services I Use In My Author Business” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1240

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…… 1886 words. Total words to date…… 13388
Day 7…… 2002 words. Total words to date…… 15390
Day 8…… 1060 words. Total words to date…… 16450
Day 9…… 1903 words. Total words to date…… 18353
Day 10… 1143 words. Total words to date…… 19496
Day 11… 0323 words. Total words to date…… 19819
Day 12… 2445 words. Total words to date…… 22264

Total fiction words for April……… 9457
Total fiction words since April 1… 9457
Total fiction words for 2023………… 75645

Total nonfiction words for April… 6900
Total nonfiction words since April 1… 6900
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 69160

Total words (fiction and this blog) since April 1…… 16357 (to shadow Dean’s challenge)
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 144805

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 don’t care how you write, only that you do. However, I am a prolific professional 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 progresss as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.