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

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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!

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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!

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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”

10 Books Short Story Writers Should Have On Their 2015 Wish Lists

This week’s Reading Room is a little different: 10 (+1) books to add to your Holiday-of-Choice wish list as 2015 draws to a close. Enjoy!

Short Stories & Essays (To Learn The Craft)

I buy this every year and it has yet to disappoint. Curated by high school students and founded by Dave Eggars, this is a collection that is both quirky and keeps me feeling young!


Yes, everyone but British writers (someone idiosyncratically defined, if the reviews are to believed) are excluded from this 2-Volume collection. But I like a little focus in my anthologies, don’t you? (Side note: you might want to complement this with something from the Best American series. I couldn’t, in good conscience, link to their “Best Short Stories” edition because it is so resolutely ‘literary’ and I usually end up hating it, but YMMV. Their Mystery one looks interesting, and I wish they had more fiction genres to choose from.)


There’s nothing quite like reading the well-crafted words of Smart People on Important Issues to inspire you to get back to writing. Lots of essays in here from diverse voices.


ENCOURAGEMENT TO EMBRACE CREATIVITY

This wonderful call to artistic arms was hugely influential in my decision to start StoryADay. Gentle and encouraging it definitely helps you if you’re struggling with the whole permission to write thing. If you think you NEED to be doing stuff for other people before REWARDING yourself with time to write, Ms. Ueland will set you straight….


I haven’t read this one yet, but … Elizabeth Gilbert! Have you seen her TED talk? And she’s fabulous fictioneer in her own right, so sign me up for a copy!


I really bought this to use with my kids, but it turns out it’s a Rescue Pack for adults who have forgotten how to play. There is nothing a writer needs more than to be an Explorer of the World and Keri Smith shows you tons of ways you can have fun out in the real world again, noticing all the little details that fiction requires.


Bite-sized hits of inspiration that propel you off whatever soft surface you’re slouched on, and send you running to your keyboard/notebook/tape recorder. Slightly less profane than the unfiltered, blog version of Chuck Wendig, but no less kick-ass.


PRODUCTIVITY AND THE WRITER

If you haven’t discovered this book yet, it’s well worth a read. It talks about resistance and why we need to break through it.


If you HAVE read “The War of Art” (above) and are sick of bloody Resistance and want to know WHY it’s kicking in and what to do about it…this is the book for you. I received a review copy from the author Mark McGuinness but liked it so much that I’ve bought it again three times to give away (you can enter for a chance to win a copy here). Seriously. Read it.



If I might be allowed a little self-promotion, this book has 60+ ways to break writers’ block and some REALLY nice reviews on Amazon (thanks, guys!)


Here are a few bonus recommendations, from Amazon (all links in this article are affiliate links, which means Amazon gives me a kickback to help offset the costs of running this site. If you’re uncomfortable with that, write down the titles, then search for them at your retailer of choice.)


What would you add to this list? Comment below!

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Giveaway: Motivation for Creative People by Mark McGuinness

Hey, I’m doing a month of book giveaways: some of my fave inspirational and craft books for writers.

First up: Motivation for Creative People by Mark McGuinness. Fabulous look at all the reasons we avoid working, and how to change that.

Make sure you’re on the mailing list to hear about more giveaways this month!

Enter for a chance to win the paperback from Amazon, no purchase required (US residents only, sorry!)

 

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NaNoWriMo Word Count Tracker

I know you lot are always up for a challenge. A significant portion of the crew here takes on NaNoWriMo each November.

So I have a gift for you.

A Month Without Math

NaNoWriMo Tracker from StoryADay.org

I’ve created a word-count tracker that dynamically calculates how many words you need to write every day to hit your targets. It works whether you faithfully write 1667 words every day, or whether you binge-write 5,000 then sleep for 48 hours before writing again. Just plug in your numbers and the spreadsheet will tell you your remaining daily average number of words required to hit the magic 50,000.

But That’s Not All

If you hit the minimum daily number of words required to stay on track, the spreadsheet rewards you by turning the ‘Words Today’ cell a happy bright green.

NaNoWriMo Tracker with green gold stars

When you hit the magic 50,000 words, all the remaining “Words This Month” boxes turn green too.

(It’s silly, but it is incredibly motivating to see those little green boxes stack up!)

Available Everywhere

(as long as you can access Google Drive, that is).

This is a Google Sheets document. That means it’s stored in the cloud and you can update it from anywhere you can log in to Google: on your phone, in the coffee shop, in bed, from your laptop, during meetings (ahem!)

Easy To Use

This comes with foolproof instructions including “Where to type” and “Where not to type” and “how to use this again next year/for other projects”.

NaNoWriMo Tracker instructions

Download a copy now, to your Google Drive (you’ll need a free Google account) and use it with my best wishes for a frantic, fiction-filled month of creativity!

 

Good luck!

Julie

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All About Amazon’s New Exclusive Rights Grab and Royalties Changes

I’m hearing a lot of outrage and panic about the new Amazon Kindle royalties announcement. I’m also hearing a lot of misinformation.

Before you grab your pitchfork, your flaming torches, your tar and your feathers, here’s what you need to know:

The Basics

THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO ALL KINDLE BOOKS

This agreement applies to books that are (voluntarily by the author) enrolled in Kindle Select — a program that is not required in order to put your ebooks on Amazon, but is an optional agreement that renews every 90 days until you tell it not to, to offer your ebooks ONLY on Amazon in exchange for some benefits. Those benefits include higher royalties in some markets, the ability to use Amazon’s custom-build promotional programs (like Countdown deals and advertising), and enrollment in the Kindle Lending Library and the Kindle Unlimited program.

In Short: if you chose to enroll you Kindle ebook Kindle Select, you offer Amazon the exclusive right to sell it, for 90 days. They make it available to people who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and people who like to borrow (not buy) Kindle ebooks. [Back To Top]

WHAT IS CHANGING?

If your Kindle Direct Publishing titles are enrolled in the Kindle Select program, the way you are compensated will change ONLY for Kindle Online Lending Library borrows and Kindle Select purchase.

Instead of everyone being given the same amount for every title borrowed, authors will be compensated for the number of pages they wrote and their readers read, as a percentage of all pages read across the program.

That is, if people borrow and read 1,000,000 pages’ worth of content and 1,000 of those page are yours, you’ll get 1,000th of the Global Fund’s money. (Previously, everyone who enticed borrowers to read at least 10% of their borrowed title, got a flat fee, whether their book was five pages long or 500. If they didn’t hit that 10% mark, you got nothing.)

In short: You will receive more money if readers actually read your books, less if they don’t.

If your books are in the Kindle Online Lending Library or Kindle Unlimited programs you have already opted to make your e-books available exclusive at Amazon. This is not changing. [Back To Top]

WHY HAS AMAZON MADE THIS CHANGE?

According to their announcement it is in response to author feedback.

Authors who work hard on their books and produce useful/entertaining titles are (reading between the lines) miffed that they get compensated the same as authors who slap up any old rubbish, promote it well and get a bunch of people to download it, even if it is never actually read. Amazon has decided to incentivize authors to write good/useful books by rewarding them per page read.

[Presumably this will also help readers because lazy authors are not going to bother putting out books that don’t make money — totally editorializing here- JD] [Back To Top]

AUTHOR FAQs

WHAT’S ALL THIS ABOUT AMAZON DEMANDING EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS TO MY WORK?

They’re not.

You can use the Kindle Direct Publishing system (KDP) without giving up any rights. You grant them non-exclusive rights to distribute your title. You can publish it elsewhere too.

If you want the benefits offered by Kindle Select, then you may grant them exclusive rights (for 90 days) to sell your ebook.

This is not changing. [Back To Top]

WHAT IS KINDLE SELECT AND WHAT ARE THESE SO-CALLED BENEFITS?

Kindle Select is an optional program. You decide to give Amazon the exclusive right to sell your ebook for 90 days. In return they put your book into the Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Online Lending Library (KOLL) programs. In some markets you get access to a bigger cut of the profits on your sales (70% instead of 30%). You also get access to various promotional tools Amazon has built for their customers (Countdown deals, free promotions, best-seller lists etc.)

At the end of each 90 day period your agreement auto-renews unless you tell Amazon otherwise (mark it on your calendar if you plan on un-enrolling. I did!)

See the terms of service here.

This is not changing. [Back To Top]

WHAT IS THE KINDLE ONLINE LENDING LIBRARY (KOLL)?

Amazon has created a fund of money (currently $10m annually) that compensates authors every time their book is borrowed by an Amazon Prime customer.

[N.B. In 28 counties (NOT including the USA, where Amazon is based) Public Lending Rights compensate authors when their books are bought or borrowed from public libraries. Amazon brought this model to their online lending library, even though it was a new idea in the US. I applaud them for that. – JD]

You can opt out of enrolling your book in KOLL.

This is not changing, although the way you are compensated is. [Back To Top]

WHAT IS KINDLE UNLIMITED?

Kindle Unlimited is the newest of these programs. Think of it as Netflix for books. Subscribers pay a monthly fee and can download as many books from the Kindle Unlimited library as they want. Authors are compensated from the Global Fund.

This is not changing, although the way you are compensated is.

ARE MY BOOKS AFFECTED?

Did you sign up for Kindle Unlimited when you went through the Kindle Direct Publishing program?

No?

Then no, your books are not eligible for the Kindle Online Lending Library or Kindle Unlimited, so you are not affected.

If yes, your books are affected.

  1. You have three choices:
    Remain in Kindle Select and allow your books to auto-renew at the end of your 90-Day term (found in your Dashboard)
    Remain in Kindle Select for now and opt out at the end of your 90-Day term.
    Contact Amazon before July 1, 2015 to be removed from he program before the changes take effect. [Back To Top]

WHEN DOES THIS TAKES EFFECT

July 1, 2015

I HATE IT! LET ME OUT!

If you want to take your books out of the Kindle Select program before July 1, 2015 because you don’t want to be part of this new royalty structure (or for any other reason), you send the ASIN of your book (the unique ID in the Amazon store, found in the book info page) to https://kdp.amazon.com/contact-us and tell them to remove it.

In other words, you can get out of your current 90-Day exclusivity agreement now, if you want to. (I assume this is a one-time offer, because the terms may be changing mid-way through your current agreement — JD) [Back To Top]

WAIT, THIS KIND OF SOUNDS LIKE A WIN-WIN FOR SERIOUS AUTHORS AND SERIOUS READERS

Well, I think so. I laughed when I read the announcement. [Back To Top]

WHAT THE AGREEMENT SAYS

FROM THE AMAZON EMAIL AND WEBSITE ANNOUNCEMENT

Beginning July 1, 2015, we’ll switch from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read. We’re making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.

Royalty payments under the new program will be different

As with our current approach, we’ll continue to set a KDP Select Global Fund each month. Under the new payment method, the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read instead of their share of total qualified borrows.

Here are some examples of how it would work if the fund was $10M and 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:
The author of a 100 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed 100 times but only read halfway through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
We will similarly change the way we pay KDP Select All-Star bonuses which will be awarded to authors and titles based on total KU and KOLL pages read.

You can enroll in KDP Select at any time by visiting your Bookshelf. If you no longer want your book(s) to be included in KDP Select you may unenroll from the program by contacting us with the ASIN of the book you would like to remove.

Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC v1.0)

To determine a book’s page count in a way that works across genres and devices, we’ve developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we’ll use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it.

This standardized approach allows us to identify pages in a way that works across genres and devices. Non-text elements within books including images, charts and graphs will count toward a book’s KENPC.

When we make this change on July 1, 2015, you’ll be able to see your book’s KENPC listed on the “Promote and Advertise” page in your Bookshelf, and we’ll report on total pages read on your Sales Dashboard report. Because it’s based on default settings, KENPC may vary from page counts listed on your Amazon detail page, which are derived from other sources.

Reporting

After this change, you’ll be able to view your Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) Pages Read in your Sales Dashboard report by marketplace and title.

We’ll continue to update this Help page with more information on your KDP reports, KU/KOLL royalties, and KDP Select Global Fund payouts as the changes roll out.

[Back To Top]

*WHY I’M QUALIFIED TO TALK ABOUT THIS

I’m not a lawyer and I’m not privy to any inside information…anymore.

BUT I was the first Director Of Author Services at the first company to offer print on-demand publishing AND ebook distribution directly to authors. My bosses tried to get two of the leading booksellers of the time to invest in our company (hint: one was named after a big river). This was wa-ay back in the late 90s, early 2000s — before Nook or Kindle or Createspace and certainly before we were big enough that any of the traditional publishers had to take us seriously or start dreaming up agency pricing.

Throughout that negotiation process I got a pretty good impression of the management styles of the two booksellers we were dealing with. One seemed all about the bottom line (which meant keeping traditional publishers happy) and the other seemed to genuinely want to make the world a better place for readers — to the extend that they did not invest in our company, in part I suspect, because we didn’t have that piece figured out yet.

I’ve thought a lot about indie-publishing in the digital world, read (and edited) and lot of publishing agreements, explained the new world of publishing to literally thousands of authors (from NYT bestsellers to newbie & wannabe authors). I’ve used these programs myself.

I currently use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing — some of my books are currently enrolled in the Select program, some are not. I have also used Booklocker, Xlibris, Lulu and Smashwords. I’ve also sold e-publications directly from my website using e-Junkie to manage the shopping cart and potential affiliate relationships. I’m currently trying to interest traditional publishers in both fiction and non-fiction projects that I believe could benefit from the relationships and power of the traditional industry.

I’m a fan of Amazon but I’m an informed fan. I read this agreement carefully from the perspective of an author, a reader and someone who understands the new-indie models inside and out and has had access to some of the brightest minds in this space over the years. [Back To Top]

For an interesting, well-thought-out counter-argument read this article by erotica author Selena Kitt. (Erotica is a big seller on Kindle).
And here’s a look at the program and what people have been saying about it (this one comes out slightly in favor of it, I’d say).

So, what do you think? Have I missed anything? Do you think I’m misinterpreting things? Are you still worried? Comment below!

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Guest Prompt from Gabriela Pereira – with submission guidelines

 Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.36.08 PMGabriela Pereira is the Chief Instigator at DIYMFA.com, the home of the do-it-yourself MFA in creative writing. In her new podcast series she has interviewed everyone from agents, novelists, writing teachers to marketing and networking guru Guy Kawasaki! You should definitely check that out!). She is hard at work on a DIYMFA handbook due out next year from Writer’s Digest Books.

This prompt is a little bit different today — and it comes with the possibility of publication.

Over at DIYMFA they’re launching an anthology and the only stipulations are that you write to the theme and use the custom-built Writer Igniter feature at DIYMFA to somehow spark your story. It’s a fun little slot-machine of a prompt generator that Gabriela had custom built for her site. It’s kind of irresistable…DIYMFA.com logo

The Prompt

The theme for the anthology is ORIGINS. The deadline is August 31, 2015, so you have plenty of time to brush up whatever story you sketch out today.

The rules are as follows: spin the Writer Igniter (no more than three spins!); take a screenshot of your result (ALT + Print Screen on Windows; CMD + SHIFT + 4 on Mac, then draw a box around whatever you want to capture); then write a story.

The finished story should be up to 2,000 words. See more guidelines for submission here.

Go!

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How To Sign Up

To sign up to do the challenge, you only have to promise you’ll do it! You can write stories anywhere, post comments on blog entries and pat yourself on the back.

If you’d like to be part of the online community please send an email to editor at storyaday dot org and include the username you’d like to use and promise me you’re a real human :)

I’ll get you signed up as soon as possible.

(I’m being slammed by spam signups so have turned off the self-service signups for now. But YOU are more than welcome to join us! Just send me an email.

Julie

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How Reading Short Stories Made Jacob Tomsky A Better Writer

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.31.05 PMAre you familiar with the Short Story Thursdays emails?

Every week for almost five years, Jacob Tomsky has been researching and sending a short story to an email list of rabid readers. He doesn’t write the stories (he’s a best-selling memoir writer and budding novelist), but he does curate them.

Driven by his mood, he plucks a story that speaks to him from the vast slush pile of Public Domain works, and sends it to thousands of his Internet friends.  Not only that, but Tomsky writes a passionate (and often expletive-laden) exhortation to readers as to why they should read this week’s story. If Tomsky’s ‘dispatches’ are the amuse-bouche of Short Story Thursdays, the stories are the meat.

Since he’s been doing this for four years, he must always really loved short stories, right?

“I actually hated short stories for a really, really long time. Maybe I still kind of do,” he laughs.  “I don’t buy short story books, I never did. I was never a fan. I love novels. That’s what I like to read and that’s what I like to write.”

How It All Started

So here’s how it all started: Tomsky had a full time job he hated, in a hotel.

Bored, he began printing out short stories from the web – using company paper and company toner– because it “would look like I was working, like I was just reviewing documents or something.”

When a similarly-bored bellman asked him what he was reading, Tomsky stumbled onto something that has kept him sending out his dispatches weekly, years after breaking free of the job he hated.

“This was not a man that you would consider being a lover of literature at all and he read it and said ‘what’s next?’” Tomksy said. “I really got joy not only out of the minor escape it gives you from work, but also the fact that I was exposing people to short stories that had never even considered it before.

“People were talking about literature and that was very exciting for me as a long time lover and a writer of literature. I was able to get people to read these short stories, [people] that had never read before.”

Why short stories? Well, apart from their utility as a good cover at work, Tomsky points out,

“Everything’s shortening, our attention spans are dropping. I don’t think it’s even a bad thing. Twitter’s 140 characters, Vine videos are 6 seconds. Everything is so short and people’s attention spans are rapid fire.”

Short stories seem like the perfect way to get people reading, “…and I pick really short ones. Really short. So it’s just something people can read on the train and not feel like they’re having to trudge through it.”

The Beauty of the Short Story

Because he’s posting stories mostly from public domain, Tomsky is rediscovering some older writers, some who have been largely forgotten.

“This week’s story,” he says, about a recent Dispatch, “is making people cry. I’ve had six people email me already and say this story made them cry… I couldn’t even find out any information abou this author. The fact that I get to breathe life into these forgotten authors is wonderful.”

Another advantage of reading older works is, “some of this langauge is just amazing. It’s not even antiquated, we just don’t speak like this. Some of these words have fallen out of favor. Phrases and just the tone of language has changed so much. To get to read something …that’s so different from any other sentence you’ll read in the rest of the week, has been wonderful.”

Of course, the short story form has evolved a lot since its invention, and many of the stories Tomsky finds irritate readers because they aren’t subtle or don’t  have the emotional impact of modern stories. And, a frustration for Tomsky is that the public domain collection is ‘a sea of white males’.

Still, Tomsky sees a a benefit to reading these stories week after week. “There’s been some great writing…and it’s kind of great to see what we expected from short stories in the past. Those were pure entertainment in the past. It wasn’t entertainment that was vying for attention with any other form of entertainment, you were just happy to be reading anything.”

He adds, “There have been some stories I’ve read on public domain that I think are better than anything I’ve read publishing now.”

Benefits As A Writer

Although the New York Times called Tomsky’s whose memoir is titled “Heads In Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality” ‘an effervescent writer’, he wasn’t writing humor before SST.

“I had three novels pior to that and none of them had a joke in it,” he says. “It wasn’t until I started ShortStoryThursdays that I started with the humor.  I think that really primed me for when I had to write a funny book about the hotel world.  I was totally ready because I had been practising.”

Another, unexpected benefit of writing to a group of strangers every week was a surge of confidence in himself as a writer, that came simply from turning up week after week.

“It took out the whole ‘bullshit inspiration’ crap. You just have to sit down and write no matter what. You kind of trust that…there’ll be quality in there.”

Even In The Middle of An Ocean

No-one’s better at coming up with excuses than writers (it stands to reason: we’re creative!). But Tomsky even kept up his weekly dispatches during a four-month stay in South Africa AND during a ten-day crossing of the Atlantic on a freighter from Liverpool to Philadelphia.

“So I told [everyone] I’d be missing a week,” but in reality he queued up a post and had a friend hit ‘send’. “Then, when I was in the middle of the ocean, it just dropped on them,” he laughs.

Track Your Progress

Another tip for boosting your confidence as a writer is to keep track of how much work you’re doing.

While working that hotel job that he hated, Tomsky started tracking his progress.

“I was like, I’m putting 50 hours a week into a job that I hate, that’s going nowhere. How much time am I putting into my art? So I used to clock myself and tape the papers up on my wall. That was very helpful.”

“It’s such a weird, ‘spooky art’. Any way that you can normalize it and bring it into some kind of standard reality, it’s helpful. And if that’s clocking it—like you would yoru time at work—that at least gives you a feeling of progress. Feelings of progress are extremely rare in this art.”

Just Write

So is he cured of the writer’s enemy: doubt? Tomsky gives a qualified ‘no’.

“It still happens every week. Every Thursday I’m like, f*ck I don’t know if I can write anything good, but I do it consistently, and somewhere in my head that helps me …Looking back on a rather successful string of SST dispatches really does give me the courage just to sit down.

“Definitely more writers should do that,” he says, equating writing practise with the benefits of going to the gym. “I always tell people tha—and not just to bring up the fact that I’m going to the gym! The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better you get at it. It’s not even magic it’s just straight up practice.”

 

Two of Jacob Tomsky’s favorite short stories in the public domain:

Arabesque The Mouse by A. E. Coppard

The Inconsiderate Waiter by J.M. Barrie

 

Thanks, Jacob!

 

To sign up for a new short story in your inbox every week email: shutyourlazymouthandread@shortstorythursdays.com

And check back here during May 2015 for Jacob Tomsk’s Guest Writing Prompt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrity Guest Prompts Are Coming

Writing prompts can be great: a way into a story without having to stare too long at the blinking cursor; writing exercises that force you to dig deeper; a way to support StoryADay May…

…But even better than that, writing prompts can sometimes be a peek inside the head of a successful writer.

Last year we had Neil Gaiman kick things off four us, joined by his fellow NYT Bestselling author Heidi Durrow, author and gracious host of Writer Unboxed Therese Walsh, illustrator and author Debbie Ohi, mystery novelist Elizabeth Spann Craig, WritersHelpingWriters authors Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman, Hugo award winning short story writer (and novelist) Mary Robinette Kowal and more.

2015guestprompters2

This year we’re back on the Hugo track with a Cambell Award Winner (the award for best new writer in SciFi) and multiple Hugo nominee Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant); New York Times bestseller and Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin; Bram Stoker and Edgar Award winning writer Joe R. Lansdale; novelist John Dixon (whose first novel Phoenix Island was the inspiration for the CBS series Intelligence); Writer’s Loft mentor and novelist Charlotte Rains Dixon; DIYMFA.com’s Gabriela Pereira; novelist and creative writing teacher at Rosemont College, PA, Gregory Frost; mystery novelist Meg Wolfe, paranormal mystery author Phil Guinta, and the NYT Bestselling author and host of the fabulous Short Story Thursdays email dispatches, Jacob Tomsky. And more to follow.

(Pause, for brief squeeeeeeeeeeee!)

These working writers have come up with some fantastic writing prompts for you (one or two of them scare me a little!).

These prompts will only be appearing on the blog, so keep checking every day for your look inside the brains of some of the most creative people working today!

oo0oo

If you’re not signed up to receive the daily prompts by email, you can do that by making sure you’re on the mailing list and selecting “Daily Prompts During the Challenge” as one of your options.

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Dial-A-Story for Short Story Month

This is an awesome (and quirky) opportunity for you to have you story published during May. I spoke to organizer, Meriwether O’Connor by phone earlier this month and she told me she’s bringing back an old idea that worked really well when she was publicizing earlier novels. In the age of podcasts and on-demand radio, the idea of calling a telephone number to have someone read you a story has something of a charming, olde-time aire, doesn’t it? Submit now!! 

Appalachia North invites you to celebrate National Short Story Month with us by submitting a short, short story to appear on DialAStory. Stories can be any length or genre but those with a reading time of not more than three minutes will have a definite advantage. Even if yours isn’t selected to be featured, you can still participate. How?!

One of the highlights of the project is breaking down the wall between performer and listener. With that in mind, callers are invited to respond with a spontaneous or written storyor tale of their own after listening to the featured piece. This way, the author or performer steps down to become the listener while the audience themselves steps forward to become creative and active as the performer or yarnspinner. You are also welcome to read your favorite short story out of a book in response if you prefer.

Our featured book of short stories for May will be Joe Potato’s Real Life Recipes: Tall Tales and Short Stories by Meriwether O’Connor. Nominated for a Weatherford and chosen Editors’ Pick by Story Circle Review, Joe Potato is a darkly humorous grit lit work with both an Appalachian and Texas flair. Bestselling author Carolyn Chute (The Beans of Egypt, Maine and Treat Us Like Dogs And We Will Become Wolves) said, “A strong writing voice like (O’Connor’s) is rare”. Submitted stories are not required to be in a similar genre as the featured book.

Please send your story or tall tale to appalachianorth@hotmail.com by midnight E.S.T.Friday April 24, 2015. If you snail mail, it needs to arrive by the same day at PO Box 57 East Dixfield, Maine 04227. Check back here later for the phone number to call during May, National Short Story Month, to hear or respond to the stories and tales presented on DialAStory. Hope to hear from you.

 

As I understand it, there’s no payment for this venture, but it does sound kind of a fun way to celebration Short Story Month!  – JD

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