[Write on Wednesday] The Lie, Revisited

I’ve been browsing the archives here at StoryADay, unearthing some gems from the first year I ran the challenge.

I also decided to recycle a prompt or two. Here’s one from the middle of May 2010:

Ooo, the lie. We’ve all done it. We do it all the time, even though we know we shouldn’t. Sometimes we get away with them and other times they come back to bite us in the most spectacular fashion.

The Prompt

Write About A Lie

Is it a tiny one? A whopper? Does no-one find out about it? Does that mean your character really ‘gets away with it’? Does it spiral out of control and become a Fawlty Towers episode?

GO!

What Are The Last Three Books You Opened?

Sometimes, when it’s hard to pick a writing project, it can be useful to take inspiration from other authors.

Sometimes, it’s good to review what kinds of books we’re reading and ask whether or not they are helping us in our writing.

Sometimes, it’s just fun to challenge our friends.

So here’s my challenge to you: tell me about the last three books you opened

(Not your favorite books, not books you wanted to read, not books you think will impress me. What books did you open? And yes, this can be in ebook, audio or picture book form)

Share your #last3books on your blog or social media and/or in the comments below. Then post this challenge to your friends.

Magnificat Year of Mercy Companion

This is part of my challenge to myself to read a spiritual meditation every morning. I hope that this will continue all year (and if it does, I may ‘retire’ it from this list.)

A mixture of personal stories, poetry, reflections on scripture, lives of the saints and litanies, it’s a positive way to start the day. It makes me less selfish.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I’m switching back and forth between the ebook and the audio version, because a, it’s looooong, b, it’s huge fun, and c, the narrator, Michael Page, is fabulous.

Set in a densely realized fantasy world, centered in one city, but so deeply developed that I have confidence there’s a whole universe around it. Locke Lamora is a lovable rogue, who, with his gang ‘The Gentleman Bastards’, tries to pull of the biggest scheme of his life and ends up in more trouble than even he could ever have imagined. There is magic in this universe but it is expensive, therefore it is sparely, which makes me happy. I prefer relatable tales of people getting in and out of scrapes on their own wits and training.

It’s an incredible feat, especially for a debut novel. The language is rich and earthy and witty (like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s lovechild, if it had been abandoned and raised in a gutter). It is long though. I kind of wish it was a series of three shorter books, so I could enjoy one, put it down and sigh, and then look forward to he next one. There’s certainly enough story there, for that. But that’s not the choice they made, so I’ll be picking this on up for some time to come.

Unstoppable by Bill Nye

In spite of the negative connotations of the title, Bill Nye’s book about the mess we’ve made of our planet is far from a downer. In fact, the “Unstoppable” force he’s referring to is not climate change, but us: humanity.

With his trademark chatty tone and irrepressible optimism, he points out all the problems we face and encourages the next generation to be bold, and believe that they can come up with solutions, if only they care enough.

Great read.

 

So, those are the last three books I opened. What about you? Leave a comment!

Don’t forget to share the challenge. Here are some updates you might use:

What are the last three books you opened? Take the #Last3BooksChallenge http://storyaday.org/last–3-feb

 

Dare to share the last three books you opened? Take the #Last3BookChallenge http://storayday.org/last-3-feb

[Write On Wednesday]

In honor of Groundhog Day, today’s prompt encourages you to tell a story over and over and over again…

In honor of Groundhog Day, and one of the best films ever made about an obscure holiday, today’s prompt encourages you to milk one simple plot for all it’s worth.

The Prompt

Write A Very Short Story About An Incident In Your Character’s Day, Then Make Them Relive That Incident

Tips

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday]”

SWAGr February 2016 Check-In

Every month we gather here to discuss what we’ve achieved and commit to making more progress in our creative lives in the coming month. We call it our   Serious Writer’s Accountability Group or SWAGr, for short! (We’re serious, not sombre!)

What people are saying about StoryADayMay 2014

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing.

(It doesn’t have to be fiction. Feel free to use this group to push you in whatever creative direction you need.)

Did you live up to your commitment from last month? Don’t remember what you promised to do? Check out the comments from last month.

And don’t forget to celebrate with/encourage your fellow SWAGr-ers on their progress!

****

Examples of Goals Set By SWAGr-ers in previous months

  • Write a story a day in May – everyone!
  • Revise at least 10 short stories – Iraide
  • Write two short stories. – Jami
  • Attend one writers’ conference – Julie
  • Write fable for WordFactory competition – Sonya
  • Re-read the backstory pieces I wrote in May and see if I can use them within my novel – Monique
  • Research the market – Jami
  • Focus on my serial – Maureen

 So, what will you accomplish this month? Leave your comment below (use the drop-down option to subscribe to the comments and receive lovely, encouraging notifications from fellow StADa SWAGr-ers!)

(Next check-in, 1st of the month. Tell your friends. )

A Month Of Writing Prompts 2015
Don’t forget, if you need inspiration for a story you can still get ALL THE PROMPTS from StoryADay May 2015 and support the running of the StoryADay challenge at the same time. Give a little, get a little :) Click here.

[Write On Wednesday] Zeitgeist

Are you even moved by an injustice in the world? A news story? A historic event that you feel has stories in it that haven’t been told?
DSC_1639

It can be hard to figure out how to write a story that is of the moment, but doesn’t become irrelevant when the news cycle moves on.

Yesterday’s Reading Room post was all about a story just like that and it pointed one way forward: set your story in the moment (in that story’s case, it was during the Occupy Wall St movement), but make the story about more universal issues. The protagonist of “We Was Twins” was not part of the the Occupy movement, but got caught up in it anyway. He was struggling with issues of poverty, life after military service, grief, estrangement…issues that are universal and timeless.

This week I encourage you to try something similar.

The Prompt

Write a story set in a specific time/place in history, but tell the story of specific individuals dealing with issues that are both specific to them, and part of the human condition.

Tips

  • You might write a story about an idealistic twenty-something who goes to help at a refugee camp in Europe only to find that she still gets picked on by people because she can’t stand up for herself.
  • You might write about someone working on Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, but with an intriguing complications in their personal life.
  • What if your main character got caught in Winter Storm Jonas on their way to do something life-changing?
  • You could combine this idea with ‘evergreen’ occasions, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, the first day of spring. Write a story like this and you can republish it every year, or sell it to a publication that’s looking for holiday stories. Make sure your protagonist has an interesting story to tell, that you can highlight/echo/make poignant with the holiday you choose.

Go!

[Reading Room] We Was Twins by Fiona Maazel

This story takes place against the backdrop (as they say) of the Occupy Wall St movement. As well as being a really good story, it’s a great example of how you can take a hot news story and use it to ground your story without risking it seeming dated, later.

How does that author do this? Well, let me set the scene for you. Continue reading “[Reading Room] We Was Twins by Fiona Maazel”

Beyond Word Count – Other Ways To Log Your Writing Progress

I’ve made a case for logging your word count to keep yourself accountable, to give yourself a pat on the back, to encourage consistency and good writing habits.

But it doesn’t have to be word count.

WHEN WORD COUNTS HELP

Setting a word count goal makes sense if you’re working on a novel and want it finished by X date.

It also makes sense if you want to become a faster writer.

WHAT IF THAT DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU?

It might not make sense to set a word count goal  if you’re still struggling to create a writing habit. Or if you’re writing flash fiction.

And what if you’re int he editing (or marketing) phase of a project, but still want to feel productive?

In these cases, you might want to to track the number of days on which you worked, to see how your writing practice is becoming part of your life.

HOW TO LOG YOUR DAYS

Set a goal for the number of days a week that you will Write Something (or Work on Project X).

  • Make a new column in your StoryADay Writing Log. Call it “Days Worked”
  • Any day when you work, just type “YES” or a “+” in that new column.
  • If you want to get fancy — set up conditional formatting to turn the cell green when it finds that text in the field).

If you like to keep your logs in a more tangible form:

At the end of the month, step back and gaze at the ‘heat map’ of your work progress. Hopefully there’ll be enough ’stickered’ days to make you smile. If not, make a commitment now to do better next month.

KEEPING YOUR GOALS REALISTIC

If you can make an unbroken chain of those days that’s great. But bewarE! Setting so high a bar can backfire. What happens the first time life gets in the way and you miss a day? You feel terrible. You get demotivated. You quit.

Rather, I’d suggest setting a goal to write on a certain number of days a week.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE INFORMATION

At the end of the month, look back at your log see how much you achieved and if any patterns emerge (are weekends good or bad for you? Do you write more when you’ve had more sleep? When the kids are in school?). You can see where you might make changes or improvements.

NO GUILT

Again, try to not use the log as a weapon to bludgeon yourself with guilt. Use it to analyze and study (and to face) what’s really going on.  Try to increase your goal a little from what you actually achieved this month (not some abstract and possible unrealistic ‘ideal’).

Whatever type of log you choose, use it to keep yourself accountable, spur positive changes, and reinforce good work habits.

Because all of these things get you closer to where you want to be: writing.

Are you logging your writing days or word count? What methods do you use, and how do you use it to help you progress? Share in the comments, below!

[Reading Room] The Appropriation of Cultures by Percival Everett

Described as a ‘delightfully subversive’ story, “The Appropriation of Cultures” by Percival Everett is definitely both of those things.

I listened to this story as part of a Selected Shorts podcast. It was read by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (who I knew as Captain Montgomery from Castle . He turns out to be a wonderful storyteller who gets out of the way of the story and is blessed with a voice I could listen to for days).

It’s described in the show notes as a ‘delightfully subversive’ story and it is definitely both of those things.

The story starts with an affluent college graduate who seems like a bit of a wastrel, spending his time living off inherited money, reading and playing jazz with ‘the old guys’ at some dive bar.

The story’s trucking along just fine until one night Daniel is playing at the bar and some college frat boys come in and request that the band “Play Dixie for us”. Continue reading “[Reading Room] The Appropriation of Cultures by Percival Everett”

How I Used Word Count Tracking To Write 100,000 Words

How I used the StoryADay Word Count Logging tool to write 100,000 words last year, and why you should be logging your progress too!

Do you log your word count?

I’ve been logging my word count (on and off) for the past couple of years. Last year, without really trying too hard, I managed to write 100,000 words of fiction. That was the end of one novel, several short stories (a couple published) and the first half of a second novel.

If I’m so productive, why bother logging my word count, you say?

Come closer and let me whisper into your ear…I’m productive because of the word count log.

Here are four ways  logging my progress helped me meet my goals: Continue reading “How I Used Word Count Tracking To Write 100,000 Words”

[Reading Room] How To Become A Writer by Lorrie Moore

I approached this story with some trepidation, as I’m always wary of writers writing stories about writers. Or, in this case about aspiring writers.

But this was salted with enough wry humor to draw me in. Take the first lines:

First, try to be something else, anything else. A movie-star/astronaut. A movie-star/missionary. A movie-star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserable. It’s best if you fail at an early age…

The author saves the character from an annoyingly sardonic tone by baldly relating what the teenaged writer can expect after slaving over her first story.

Show it to your mom. She is tough and practical. She has a son Continue reading “[Reading Room] How To Become A Writer by Lorrie Moore”

Don’t Let Guilt And Shame Derail Your Writing Goals

Not living up to your New Year’s Resolution? Now is the time to reset — to recommit — before guilt and shame derail the rest of your year.

You probably set some pretty ambitious writing goals at New Year. Did they include writing a certain amount every day or every week? And now, are you find it hard to even log your word count because you’re afraid of what you might see (or not see)?

That the sinking feeling you get when you’re disappointed in yourself is not something installed in us by a malevolent designer to make our lives miserable.

What you’re feeling is guilt. And the point of guilt is to alert you to something you’re not happy about, so that you can change it. Continue reading “Don’t Let Guilt And Shame Derail Your Writing Goals”

[Write On Wednesday] Aphorisms Are Ace

Finding a topic for a story, then, needn’t be hard. Try your hand at this week’s prompt and remember to have fun (even if your story is dark and depressing): Use An Old Saying As A Title

Not every story has to be sparked by a deep desire you need to share with the world.

the first rays
Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining! Photo by: Richard West

Sometimes we write for fun. Most people read to be entertained.

Finding a topic for a story, then, needn’t be hard. Try your hand at this week’s prompt and remember to have fun (even if your story is dark and depressing).

The Prompt

Use An Aphorism As A Title

Tips

Anchoring Habits For A More Productive Writing Life

To create a regular writing habit (and stick to it), try scheduling it immediately after something you already do regularly…

There is a very helpful technique for creating new habits, known as ‘anchoring’1.

Anchor In Sand image
Photo by: Plbmak

The idea is this: you don’t think about brushing your teeth before you go to bed at night, or showering when you get up. It’s just something you do.

If you want to create a new habit (and stick to it), try doing it immediately after something you already do by rote.

So, if you want to remember to floss your teeth, say you’ll do it after your morning tooth scrub. If you want to brainstorm ideas for stories, say you’ll do it as soon as you’ve poured your first cup of coffee.

Choosing Your Anchor

Your anchor has to be something that works for you, specifically. Continue reading “Anchoring Habits For A More Productive Writing Life”

  1. I didn’t make this up. It’s being studied by Dr BJ Fogg, a human-behaviour scientist at Stanford University

SWAGr January 2016 Check-In

Every month we gather here to discuss what we’ve achieved and commit to making more progress in our creative lives in the coming month. We call it our   Serious Writer’s Accountability Group or SWAGr, for short! (We’re serious, not sombre!)

What people are saying about StoryADayMay 2014

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing.

(It doesn’t have to be fiction. Feel free to use this group to push you in whatever creative direction you need.)

Did you live up to your commitment from last month? Don’t remember what you promised to do? Check out the comments from last month.

And don’t forget to celebrate with/encourage your fellow SWAGr-ers on their progress!

****

Examples of Goals Set By SWAGr-ers in previous months

  • Write a story a day in May – everyone!
  • Revise at least 10 short stories – Iraide
  • Write two short stories. – Jami
  • Attend one writers’ conference – Julie
  • Write fable for WordFactory competition – Sonya
  • Re-read the backstory pieces I wrote in May and see if I can use them within my novel – Monique
  • Research the market – Jami
  • Focus on my serial – Maureen

 So, what will you accomplish this month? Leave your comment below (use the drop-down option to subscribe to the comments and receive lovely, encouraging notifications from fellow StADa SWAGr-ers!)

(Next check-in, 1st of the month. Tell your friends. )

A Month Of Writing Prompts 2015
Don’t forget, if you need inspiration for a story you can still get ALL THE PROMPTS from StoryADay May 2015 and support the running of the StoryADay challenge at the same time. Give a little, get a little :) Click here.

[Write On Wednesday] Myers-Briggs-plosion

Myers-Briggs

Today I’m encouraging you to put some personality conflict into your story.

The Prompt

Put a particular personality type into a situation they would never choose

Tips

Use the Myers-Briggs personality types (hover over the table at the bottom of this page, to get a list of characteristics for your main character).

Take some of the traits that define your character and put them in a situation completely unsuited to those traits. See what happens.

For example, Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Myers-Briggs-plosion”