The Great Challenge

After I turn in today’s story, I will only need eleven more stories to complete The Great Challenge (52 stories in 52 weeks).

At the beginning, I found the challenge truly difficult. I had never written a short story so quickly and I agonized with lots of false starts, bad middles, and stories that didn’t have a proper ending. I was terrified as each weekend rolled around and I didn’t have a story.

Around the tenth week something clicked within me and it became easier. Never actually  became easy, but predictable enough that I could get my stories in with confidence. There were even a few times when a story just rolled out of me.

It’s become hard again. Not because I don’t know how to do this. Writing 41 stories in 41 weeks pretty much tattooed the seven point plot outline on my soul. I know what a good opening looks like. I immediately recognize an idea that is too big for a short story. I understand the types of characters and settings that will come easily to me and those that come hard. I have a feel for endings and validations.

When I began the Great Challenge, I was stuck. I had three novels I was working on. My favorite suddenly became too precious for me to rub my dirty author hands on. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t push it forward through the mental drumbeat of “I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.” I entered the Research Trap where I thought if I just did enough research on 38 AD Alexandria I would eventually be ready to write the story.

The other two novels didn’t work either for reasons I didn’t understand at the time. After writing 41 stories, I now know why those two novels didn’t come easily for me. I had trouble with the same settings in short stories and it taught me about my shortcomings as a science fiction writer.

At the beginning of 2019 I decided that a short story a week would be a good way to learn storytelling and an opportunity to experiment with characters. I was right about that and I’m glad I did it.

What has become difficult about writing a short story a week is that I want to work on novels again. I want to spend more time with the characters. So often in the last two months I’ve finished a story and sent it to Dean regretting that it was over.

The need to get a story in whether I’m sick or travelling or dealing with disasters is tough. I’d like to sprawl for a while, spending time in a fictional universe without having to complete the story in what feels like a New York minute. I’d like to get drunk with my characters and my muse and laugh all night.

Writing a short story a week means that I need to keep an eye out for the ending and that I need to tightly control the middle so that it doesn’t sprawl out of control. It is a wire act each week. That I’ve learned to do this is immensely important to me. But I’m ready to move on.

Only eleven more weeks. In the meantime, I am contemplating which universe I’ll be writing the next novel in. I’m listening to my characters, those who I’ve developed through the short story a week challenge. I’m letting them make the case for who gets a longer story. They all have compelling cases.

I hope your own work is going well this week and that you’ve found resources within yourself to continue on. Be well, friends!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. It gets better the more you write. I was terrible at setting. I learn things really well and there’s a LOT of people in the lower two levels of writing who actively say setting isn’t important. So I learned that wrong!

    Now I’m working another area, which comes from Deborah Chester (Jim Butcher mentioned her books at the conference). She says to keep the plot simple and the characters complicated.

    1. Setting is important and it is hard to do gracefully. It is an area I work on quite a bit. Though some settings come easier than others. Chester’s book is on my list to read. Are you finding it useful?

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