Site-Wide Activity

  • Last week I talked about reading and writing stories with divided storylines that come together at the end.

    The example I gave, Shakedown by Elizabeth Gonzalez, had a fairly traditional narrative structure. […]

  • Yesterday I reviewed Shakedown by Elizabeth Gonzalez, a story that doesn’t seem to be able to make its mind up whether it wants to be about the renovation of an old steam train, or about a fiesty old man in a P […]

  • I picked this book up because a, it was written by a Pennsylvania writer and b, because of the glowing review written for it by Karen Russell and short story writer and novelist whose writing I love (literary but […]

  • Get the free Get Results Worksheet,
    and catch all the ideas this post gives you

    Let’s be honest: fame and fortune would be nice, but it’s not really the reason we write, is it?

    We write because we need […]

    • Thanks Karen. It’s tough when life gets in the way!

      Here’s a technique that might help you urn that “writing bits and thinking” into productive writing time: keep planning and breaking down the novel into “scenes that need to be written”. Then, when you have a little time & energy for writing, pick a scene and ask: ‘why does this need to be written?’ and “what’s at stake in this scene?” and “what are the protagonist’s external and inner struggles in this scene”. Then set a timer and just write. Make notes about “things that need to be foreshadowed” or “stuff I need to research” or “this needs to be fixed”, and just write!

      Good luck and I’m so glad this article helped!

  • In James Blish’s Surface Tension (which I reviewed recently), the author took the idea of space travel and did something a bit different with it: instead of humans arriving on a new planet and terraforming it to […]

  • 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! […]

    • I’ll go first!
      Last month promised to
      * Write blog posts on ‘practice’ here at StoryaDay – DONE, big long, juicy helpful posts plus podcasts.
      * Make a decision about the mystery series I wanted to write – DONE (postponed for now)
      * Write one short story >1200 words(#12For12stories) – DONE (so happy!)
      * Explore the Scrivener Training I bought ( – DONE! (it’s good)
      * Outreach for StoryADay – Not so much…

      I also used the new form I created to keep track of my SWAGr goals. Did you?
      form screenshot
      But I also some writing done on the next novel, and created an online extra to go along with the article I have in Writer’s Digest this month. I also spent a lot of time working on improving my health, which was on my non-SWAGr goals and that went well.

      For February:

      * Outreach for StoryADay (looking for guest blogging opportunities)
      * Write one short story >1200 words for #12For12Stories
      * Blog and podcast about Persistence (here at StADa)
      * Work 3 days a week on background for the next novel
      * Outline the 2017 Month of Writing Prompts ebook (& start writing)

      I’m going to keep it to that for now, because that represents quite a lot of hours already. Enough to keep me focused but not so much that I set myself up for failure. Also, I have a couple of Life Events happening in February that are going to suck up time (including an appearance at the AWP Conference in Washington DC. Anyone else going?). It’s good to bear that in mind…

      • The 12for12 idea sounds interesting! Probably more manageable for me than StoryADay usually is. 😛 If I finish ‘Mortmain’ this month I might try do 12for12 this year, since that’d put me on track.

        And as always, the amount you’ve done per month is impressive!

        • Thanks! I like the #12for12 because it’s an ongoing reminder all year. And it allows for creating something of quality.

          I’m thinking that StoryADay May might turn up some ideas and drafts that will ‘feed’ the rest of the year. Here’s hoping!

    • Hi!

      So, for January, I said that I would:
      *complete both short stories that are currently in process: I completed & submitted one in the middle of the month and have another (although not the one I meant in my goals!) that I am submitting today; I decided I would to the #12for12Stories, so that is encouraging me on these.
*work on this novel further: yes and no. I did more, but at this point there is a lot of thinking needed and I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked.

      *2-3 blog posts on my blog: I wrote 2 on the tv and film I’ve been watching lately.

      And moving on for February:
      *a short story to finish by mid-month (it’s 1/2 done)
      *edit the story I submitted in January (the editor of the anthology got back to me & is maybe interested with some changes)
      *submit to one other source with a story I already have
      *more on the novel: I have to figure out a plan on what I’m going to do next
      *screenplay course: I’m starting this near the end of the month & need to figure out what I’m going to work on. (My work-in-progress is a political thriller that has been far overtaken by actual events, so….)
      *2-3 blog posts on my blog
      So that’s a lot and probably more than I can finish. We’ll see.

      As always, thank you, Julie, for doing this!

      • Yay! Well done on the progress and congrats on the potential anthology contribution (that’s probably top priority then, right?)

        Have you ever tried the Snowflake method for outlining a novel? Not that you have to be an outliner, but it really helped me with the process of ‘thinking through’ what came next. Also: Stuart Horwitz’s books and Dave Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines all had exercises in them that helped me break through massive blocks on novels (mostly by making me write copious notes and focused background material, that, in turn, made me realize what was important and what needed to happen next. Just ‘thinking’ never works for me because my brain is too…ooo shiny!)

        The screenwriting course sounds interesting. I imagine that’ll feature heavily in your March SWAGr to do list 😉

      • And thanks for the thanks. It helps me, too, but it’s nice to know I’m not yawping into the void with these posts 🙂

    • So! I wasn’t around in January much for a good reason; I have a… rather difficult home life, and have been struggling for a while attempting to get out, but being unable to. In January things got bad enough I reached out to friends for help, and one of them was able to. So I and my sister are moving across a couple states at the end of this month to live with the friend! It’s a bit terrifying, but I’m guessing everything will be a bit easier when I’m not in this place anymore.

      On top of… everything relating to that (lots of research, prepping, sorting through belongings, navigating very difficult conversations)
      -I managed to finish and submit ‘featherweight’ to Apex. It got promptly rejected, so I submitted it to Liminal Stories, where it was rejected again. Slightly discouraging but also good, as I’m shooting for 50 rejections this year (I’ve heard the method helps, and it seems to be, a little). So that’s 2/50 already. This month I’m going to sub it to Strange Horizons, and possibly Shimmer if it’s rejected by SH within the month.
      – I wrote most of another short story, ‘The Mortmain’. This month I’ll attempt to finish it and send it out somewhere as well; it’s always better to have a couple stories in the air at once.
      – Also this month I’m going to practice using Duotrope to find markets and track submissions; I finally caved in and got a subscription and it’s looking to be very useful.
      – and in non-writing news, this week is going to be packed with stuff pertaining to the move. Lots of practice packing and so on.

      • Wow, that’s a lot going on. I hope the move is a step in the direction you need to be traveling. I’ve done some big scary moves, myself. If I have any advice, it’s to trust yourself and try not to have regrets 😉

        Good for you, for having some writing goals as well, to keep you focused on other things, too. Good luck with those submissions. I’ve been rejected by some of those markets myself.

        I started a blog called 101Rejections a few years ago. I never set a time limit, but I’ve stepped up my Rejection Efforts in the past year and am up to 26 now. It’s a pitifully low number, really. It adds a little sick humor to the process when I can tally up another milestone closer to my 101! (I got the idea from “Go For No!”, a book mainly for sales people.)

        Good luck with everything. Looking forward to hearing how things are going in March.

        • Thanks for the well-wishes, Julie and Kylie! It’s been a pretty difficult time and there’s rough days yet to come, but I ought to be in a much better place come March. 🙂
          I’m probably going to start recording my rejections on my blog as well so I can keep track of how long they took, where pieces have been, etc. I started shooting for a specific number because I saw another author using it, but for the life of me I can’t remember who it was. And I’m trying to step up how often I send stuff out too – I was doing really well about sending stuff out Feb-August of last year, but I’ve had very few things going since then (got distracted by my anthology contribution and got blocked on writing short stories). It’s good to know some other people are recording them too. 🙂

    • Hi. Last month I said I was going to write a story a day but for some reason slacked off . I think this was mostly because my schedule changed along with the kids events as well. I did get an acceptance into a nice anthology called The Sanitarium. This month I’m doing a story a week and indie publish.

      • …also it might be because a story a day is REALLY TOUGH, even with the peer pressure and threat-of-humiliation of making it public during May!

        Congrats on the acceptance and good luck with your Feb goals!

    • Hi Julie, well done on achieving your goals. I always like reading what you have done or are doing, which provides inspiration. I love the photo of your SWAGr progress sheet. Seeing a filled out version makes it seem much more effective. I looked at the template last month, but that was about it.
      Last month I was looking to draft at least one chapter a month of my novel. January has been a difficult month for me and although I started the next chapter I didn’t get far, approximately 1,000 words. I managed to revise one of my earlier short stories and submitted it to a performance group for their Valentines event. However, I received an email this morning and it was not one of the chosen stories. Oh well, one step nearer my 101 rejections.
      On a more positive note I’ve started two more free online courses; a re-run of the genealogy course I did last year and a film making course which I’m looking at in relation to scriptwriting. Although these reduce writing time, continued learning and development is a good thing.
      Going forward for this month, I want to finish last month’s novel chapter and maybe start the next one. Also I have one or two short story ideas that I want to progress leading to a competition entry in a couple of months time.

      • Thanks for the feedback, Malcolm. I’ve got my Feb worksheet filled in already and my “what else is happening this month” box is pretty full, so we’ll see how I get on. Just have to focus, I guess.

        Sorry about the story rejection, but I’m sure the revision was worth the time, anyway.

        Good luck with your chapter and short stories

    • This month I’m taking my first steps toward using Scrivener as a primary writing tool. I received the app for Christmas as an incentive to write the novel whose premise I’ve been kicking around for five years. I plan to use it to compile, format and push out my first story collection, as well.

      Julie, if you have suggestions for Scrivener training books, I’d appreciate hearing them.

      Also, I’m pushing myself to write at least a story a week, this month. But then, that was my goal for 2016 AND 2017, as well. But you have to keep pounding these things home by announcing them the world, right? Accountability!!

      • Hi Joe,

        Sorry for getting back to you so late, but I HIGHLY recommend It’s video based (which I don’t always love) but this works REALLY well. His vids are short and targeted and explain both how and why you might do a thing in Scrivener.

        How are the story-a-week stories coming along? (Accountability, remember?)

    • I love it. I didn’t love it until I used it for a non-fiction project and came to understand the value of having all the different files.

      Then I wrote an novel in it, using a new file for each scene. It was such a GIFT when it came to tweaking and moving things around while editing. No more scrolling for a huge Word file, that hangs and hangs…and crashes.

      Not to mention the Snapshot feature. Oh my!

      The LearnScrivenerFast lessons have taught me a whole bunch of new things. Basically whenever I think “Can Scrivener do XYZ” the answer is almost always ‘yes’ and the training usually has a quick ‘how to’ video showing me exactly how to do it. [I need to find out if he has an affiliate program, if I’m going to be such a raving fan 😉 ]

    • Congrats on the great reception for the new box set and novel.

      I’ve got a similar mailing list goal. We should compare notes. It’s hard NOT to get distracted by that.

  • Happy January!

    This month’s theme has been ‘Practice’ (as in setting up and maintaining a healthy writing practice).

    Here’s what you might have missed:
    The January 2017 episodes cover […]

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  • Lynda Kirby became a registered member 3 weeks, 6 days ago

  • Sometimes it’s hard to write, or hard to get started, or hard to remember why we put ourselves through this! That’s when you need to assemble your cheerleaders…In this episode I talk about what my cheerleaders […]

  • Every month we get together to declare our intentions for the month in the SWAGr post’s comments.

    But when the month rolls around to the 20th or so, it can be a bit hard to remember what you committed to doing […]

  • Verdict: Fabulous.

    Surface Tension is a science fiction story originally published in 1952 and so qualifies as being either from (or near) the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of science fiction. (I found it in The Big […]

  • I’ve always been impressed with how much fiction StoryADay friend and participant Alexis A. Hunter pushes out into the world: over 50 short stories in publications like Apex, Shimmer and Cricket.

    In 2017, s […]

  • This episode is a companion piece to this blog post: Be sure to check it out for more details and to find all the exercises I talk about in the podcast. Another new episode of […]

  • To stick to our good intentions and create good writing practices, we have to stay excited about our writing. Meeting a word count goal or an hours-in-chair goal isn’t always enough of an incentive to break t […]

  • 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! […]

    • Happy New Year to everyone. Not much change from last month, I’ve managed to write another novel chapter in December. I want to speed up the remaining chapters, so I’m aiming to do at least one chapter a month, ideally two but that may be on the optimistic side. For January I’m also going to revise one of my (much earlier) short stories to submit to a performance group for potential reading at their Valentines event in February.

      • Good stuff, Malcolm. I’ll be sure to ask about that chapter (or two) next month!!
        Good luck with the short story submission. Do they dramatise it or just read it for you?

    • Ha! Yes, we’re all big-achievers around here 🙂

    • Your day job did have some claims on your time, I suppose, after your break.

      What software have you used in the past for formatting? Curious to hear how you get on with Vellum.

      Good luck with the novella!

    • Good for you, Todd!

      You’ve got three different strings to your bow, there (although if the writing blog is more of a Show Your Work kind of blog, then it’s not really a different set of muscles). So you’re probably going to need to be disciplined. Maybe you already are.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve tried doing “fiction in the morning, non-fiction in the afternoon” but that doesn’t really work for me. I need to binge all one thing on one day. Don’t be surprised if your best intentions are torpedoed by your natural inclinations. As long as you’re putting in the work one way or another, you’ll be fine!

    • Ok, here’s what I promised to do last month

      * Finish a short mystery novel 45,000 words by mid January, which means having the story broken out and about half of it written this month — HMM, I’m stalling on this, which makes me wonder if I’m trying this for the wrong reasons. Taking another look and revisiting this commitment…
      * Record 1-2 more podcasts – DONE
      * Write four blog posts for StoryADay – Didn’t write four but did write three, including one really long one, with worksheets and an accompanying newsletter.
      * Lots of critique reading and commenting – DONE
      * Read ten short stories (You can see my picks here) – Read a lot, but not all from this list.

      For January:

      * Write one substantial short story every month this year. This is a challenge I’m doing with fellow-StoryADay-participant Alexis A. Hunter. You can follow/join us on Twitter #12for12Stories. The idea is to build up the portfolio of stories that we can be sending out to publications (on a rotating basis. Submit, be rejected, send out again, repeat until accepted).
      * Write blog posts on the subject of Habits (this year’s editorial calendar for StoryADay is up. If you want to guest blog, let me know.)
      * Make a decision about the mystery novella
      * Lots of behind-the-scenes StoryADay Stuff (this is a bad example of a goal, because it is so non-specific, but rest assured, I have secret notes)
      * Explore the Scrivener training I bought: 3 lessons a week minimum.

    • Hi, all,

      I didn’t post at the beginning of December (out of Nanowrimo exhaustion ;-)), but my plan for December was to work on my Nanowrimo novel (which I have spent a lot of time on and am very happy with) and develop a couple of short stories (which I have done and am working on for January 15th and February 15 submission dates).

      For January:
      *complete both short stories that are currently in process
      *work on this novel further: which means, finish re-reading, decide on what subplots need to be added, as well as changes to the main plot
      *2-3 blog posts on my blog (which I have been neglecting)

      For the year,
      *finish this novel
      *finish the screenplay I have been toying with for a while, including taking a more advanced screenwriting class (which begins at the end of February)
      *I like the idea of 12 stories in 12 months. This month I hope to get two done, so we’ll see how this goes. Building a body of work to submit is something I have tried to do, on and off, for the last few years (I have been somewhat successful with this).
      *And, of course, continuing to post regularly to my blog.


    • This is my first SWAGr post 🙂

      My writing goal for January is to post to my blog at least once a week. This is an even smaller goal than you might think. I’ve just started eating low sodium (again – I’ve been off the wagon for years, despite having medical conditions that improve with a lower sodium diet) and plan to post my progress weekly.

      Part of me feels this isn’t a “good enough” goal for SWAGr, but that’s the part of my psyche that doesn’t like me. Down the road I do want to be writing fiction regularly. This blog goal is a baby step in that direction.

      • Hi Hope, and welcome!

        Believe it or not, I’m a big fan of the tiny goals that let us feel like bigger goals might be possible. I know: hard to believe, coming from the person who came up with StoryADay May! But the rest of the year, I’m a firm believer in achievable goals.

        In my experience, having a list of topics, ahead of time, really helps with getting blog posts out. You might find that having a set time to write it, every week, helps (that doesn’t work so well for me, but you never know). Figure out what works for you, learn from those times when it doesn’t work, and keep pressing on. Good luck!

        Post the link to your blog here, and I’ll come and check in on you >:)

        • I have a bad habit of turning something I love into a chore, then not wanting to do it. So I have a plan to post every Sunday, but I’m leaving it open when I write and edit the post. I’ve already started on next week’s post, because I’m still excited about it 🙂

          My blog is 🙂 It’s super simple, which is all I need right now.

    • Last month, I decided to not write at all. Things were very stressful personally, and with two writing exchanges, stress levels were too high. Letting myself not write without guilt was incredibly freeing, and ended up allowing me to start a story in the last days of December.

      This month, I’m trying to get back into blogging, which will hopefully lead me back into writing fiction again. I’m focusing on writing small, trying not to get too broad in scope and overwhelm myself again. Small goals, but ones I can keep.

  • The Allure of the Fresh Start
    I love the idea of a fresh start, don’t you?

    It doesn’t matter when it happens (New Year, the first day of spring, the start of a new academic year), I’m always ready with my li […]

  • Hopefully, you’ve been doing something looking back at 2016, making note of all the places where you did wonderfully things.

    Now it’s time to look forward to building on them next year. This ‘look forward’ […]

  • Today’s writing prompt is ripped straight from my 6th Grader’s homework folder, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. 

    I’m steeped in (as well as 6th Grade homework) Lisa Cron’s fabulous latest […]

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