Julie Duffy has hosted a short story writing challenge every May since 2010. The premise is to write a complete story every day in May and September. They do not have to be long, but it needs to be finished. You can use the daily prompt provided by Julie or not. You can make up your own schedule and chose days to write or not.
Here are 15 Learnings from this year's challenge:
- If you are going to write using characters from your NANOWRIMO novel make sure you REREAD part of your novel. It makes it a lot easier which should have been obvious to me. I had a little too much time between trying to write with my characters and the last time I touched the novel. My brain does like connections I found. If I allowed my subconscious to lead the way certain stories produced are going to fit nicely into my manuscript.
- My Bradbury Trio reading challenge has changed the way I write. I can tell a difference in the way I fit story puzzle pieces together the more varied input I read.
- I like to have conversations about writing which is not new learning, but the depth of the conversation was different. I like the action of a small group of people talking about writing practice and anything parallel to the writing life. I have year long relationships with many of the writers in the community which allows truthful discourse. I do still like the idea of a small group to write with in real life. This group available to me, I just need to go to the meeting in Hyde Park! I have a poet friend whom I have written with at a restaurant. We plan to meet in June again.
- I like prompts. Julie raised the bar with the prompts this year. Her website was redesigned as well so going to the page every day was pleasing.
- My experiment with process went well. I decided to do a free write before I wrote my full story every day, except day 31. I feel the stories produced were more concise and in order.
- I filled a whole notebook in less than a month. I wrote most everything this May in notebooks, three total. Some stories were not in the main book primarily because of where I was writing. I coded the stories and the free writes so I can identify them later. I like the idea of the handwriting and then when I type I will get a revision in as well. My Google Drive seems emptier!
- I like the idea of prompt combining. I would take ideas from Julie and Sarah Selecky and my own imagination and crafted some fun stories I would have never otherwise. It is like a game and I love it.
- I need to develop a coding system for stories I want to go back and revise for submission. I know for my own process I have to let these stories sit for a bit before I go back to them otherwise they are too fresh. It can be as simple as a star or a color code in Google.
- Even though I am writing a story every day, I can still submit and revise. These actions must happen in the afternoon or at least after I have written the story for the day.
- I can fit a lot of writing into a day.
- After a writer friend posted in our Slack channel about stories that are not done but over 3000 words, I started thinking about partially done narratives and why I write them. Sometimes this is because of time or writing circumstances. Sometimes it is because I think I will remember where I the story was headed when I am able to come back to the story. I have learned to make notes to myself so I do not lose the original idea. I may not write that direction when I come back to the page, but at least I have the benefit of what I was considering.
- As a teacher, I often say that kids need to tell the whole apple opposed to the slice. Usually means they’re lying or tattling when telling a story, but sometimes it’s just they’re giving the story from just their perspective. I have to remember that in my writing, the slices of the apple fit together to make a whole piece of fruit. This may mean within the context of one story or how a series of flash fit together for a bigger picture.
- The last 3 days of the challenge were rough for me. I wanted to write every day but the pressure to get a whole story — even flash — made me feel uncomfortable. I did it. I had come this far so I could do a few more days. I knew that I would be mad at myself if I just let it go.
- I only rearranged Julie’s prompts twice. The “Conflict of Two Characters Going 2 Directions” prompt I swapped with “The Story I Want to Tell”. If a story is poking at me to write it, I write it. The last day’s prompt was about writing about a writer. I couldn’t force the character to be a writer so I wrote about a boy who sees ghosts, but tries to deny it.
- I am happy to have completed the challenge again and to be moving forward with a stack of 31 stories and a community of like minded writers! I am looking forward to the freshness of June and new opportunities.