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!