StoryADay May 2012 Registrations Are Open

It’s here: the day you’ve been waiting for. Registrations are now open!

I'm writing a story a day in May 2012

(If you have a username from a previous year, it should still work. Just sign in, above, and make yourself at home.)

What is StoryADay May?

It’s my challenge to you: to challenge YOURSELF to write every day, not “some day”.

Write and finish a story every day this May. That’s it. 

Of course that’s not ‘it’, really. There’s a very welcoming online community I’d love you to be a part of, there are prompts, there is hand-wringing and high-fiving, and an amazing sense of discovery as you push yourself be a more productive, better writer.

Would You Like To Know More?

The Rules are here and there’s a nifty FAQ here, to tell you all about the StoryADay challenge, how to use the site, and where to get you awesome Participant Badge for display other places on the web.

If you would like to register a StoryADay/yourusername blog you can do so during registration. Because of Evil Spammers, however, I’ll turn this feature off when the challenge actually starts (I can only spend so many hours policing this).
So get your blog now if you want one.

Note: you do not have to have a StoryADay blog. Feel free to post about your StADa progress on your personal blog, on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, wherever you like to hang out. You’re more than welcome to simply get a username and drop in to the StADa forums and hang out.

I’ll be posting (optional) daily prompts at the site. You can find them on the home page. If you’d like to receive them by email every day, you can sign up for that here. You should, however, be coming up with your own ideas, too, because a lot of mine will focus on form or a particular technique, and you’ll still need your own Story Sparks for the content.

If you have questions, comments, concerns or find a bug in the site, please email me at julie at storyaday dot org.

I’m getting excited! How about you?

Keep writing,

Julie

Julie Duffy

P.S. Do you have your complimentary Creative Challenge Workbook? Go through it now, to keep you fuelled up throughout May!

Grammar Resources for Writers

Later this week I’m running a teleseminar on Editing and Revising for Short Story Writers

(You can find out more by signing up here)

This seminar won’t be a grammar lesson because I’ve noticed that most of the writers around here are, well, pretty good writers. But, in case you need a little help, or have that one rule that always trips you up, here are some great grammar and style resources for you:

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tricks

Mignon Fogarty is possibly the most famous grammarian around these days and this page is a great start for those little grammar niggles that plague you.

Grammar Grater

This is a fun grammar and words podcast from Minnesota Public Radio. It’s short (6-8 minutes) and entertaining. Just the thing for a quick drive or during your morning shower!

Grammar Bytes!

Straightforward, clear definitions plus a test-your-own grammar section. Oh, and a gorilla.

 

Chicago Manual of Style

If you write for magazines or newspapers in the US, this is the style guide they probably use. The site requires a subscription but it is exhaustive — and you can get a free trial.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

A great resource from Purdue University. Lots of good stuff in here.

 

But for all this, the absolute best thing you can do to improve your grammar is read lots and lots of really well-written books: immerse yourself in awesome grammar. (I recommend Dickens, P. G. Wodehouse, Norton Juster, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, A.S. Byatt, oh and many, many others).

You cannot immerse yourself in wonderful writing and come away worse off. You cannot read perfect grammar and not absorb it.

So, I repeat the best advice ever give to any writer: read, read, read!

Short Story Contest 2011 Winners

Before we start, I just want to say that StoryADay May is about creativity and output and getting-the-words-on-the-page. It’s not about judging or being judged. But then I threw a writing contest in to the mix too. Why?

To encourage everyone to go back into their new story pile and start to learn to revise and polish and take their writing seriously.

And lots of people did. From all the entries there can be only one winner, but I enjoyed reading every entry. I was proud of every one of you for writing it down and for taking the chance on showing your stories to someone else.

If you don’t see your name below, please don’t fret. (I promise you not one story I read in the entries made me think, “Ugh, this person should stop writing”.) Just keep writing and reading and telling your stories.

And check out the end of this post for a special offer of a free online workshop all about editing your stories.

Now, on to the main event.

Contest Results

Our judge elected not to award a second and third place prize, so we have a winner and a short-list of nine honourable mentions.

First Place:

What’s On The Inside by Kelly Buchholz

Our final judge Heidi W. Durrow said,

“It’s a disturbing, but well-realized story–the tone and structure and language all making it work! Congrats to the winner!”

Kelly will receive the first prize of $50, copies of The Novel and Short Story Writers Market (Writers Digest Books), The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass and Rory’s Story Cubes (Gamewright Games).

In addition to the winner, we have nine Honorable Mentions. They are:

Connecting Flight by Alexis A. Hunter
Ninety Nine by Aaron Shively
The Reading by Monique Cuillerier
Drawing Faces by Neha Chaudhuri
Matchmaker by Almo Schumann
After Math by Bridget Sutton
An Unlikely Alliance by Danica West
Evaluation M-047 by Amanda Makepeace
Childhood’s End by Sam Webb

Each of these writers will receive a copy of the StoryADay journal – excellent for jotting down story ideas!

Thanks To Our Judges and Sponsors

Huge thanks go to our final judge, Heidi W. Durrow, whose first novel The Girl Who Fell From The Sky (Algonquin Books, 2010) won the Bellwether Prize and NYT Bestseller, and has just been picked by the city of Portland as its Everybody Reads title for 2012. You can listen to Heidi in conversation with Terry McMillan live online on August 18, and you can see Heidi at the Pen Center USA’s Dirty Laundry Lit event in LA on August 27th.

Huge thanks also our first-round judge Melanie Rigney. Melanie is the former managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, a seasoned writing contest judge, frequent speaker at writers’ conferences, author and editor.

Thanks also to Gamewright Games for providing copies of Rory’s Story Cubes, an awesome creativity tool disguised as a cute dice game.


A Special Offer For You

Editing your writing is hard, but it’s one of the things that makes the difference between a first draft and a published draft.

On Sept 9, come and learn about the different levels and stages of editing with StoryADay.org’s own Julie Duffy.

In this teleseminar you’ll learn about:

  • Understanding the different levels of editing and how to use this knowledge to keep from being discouraged,
  • How to figure out what you need right now,
  • DIY editing,
  • How to effectively get editing help from others.

You’ll also receive an exclusive money-saving offer on my upcoming series of writing seminars aimed specifically at short-story writers.

Sign up for the Creativity Lab to hear more about the free editing seminar.
(The Creativity Lab is different from the StoryADay Advance List, which is only about the challenge. The Creativity Lab is an infrequent newsletter, chock-full of tools and information to help you in your writing life).

Thanks!

Writing Contest 2011

So you’ve spent a month writing stories. Now what?

Announcing: StoryADay.org’s First Writing Contest!

I am thrilled to announce that Heidi Durrow, author of last year’s breakout debut novel (and NYT bestseller) The Girl Who Fell From The Sky has agreed to judge our first ever StoryADay Writing Contest.

Anyone who has a StoryADay username and has been writing this May (I’ll have to trust you on that) is eligible to enter one story in the contest. There is no entry fee, but there are prizes!

  • 1st Prize: $50, A copy of the Writers Digest Short Story & Novelist’s Markets book, a copy of The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass, a box of Rory’s Story Cubes
  • 2 Runners-up: $25 and a box of Rory’s Story Cubes.

The deadline is June 15, with results announced in early August. There will be two rounds of judging. The first round will be judged by experienced editors and working authors, the final round by Ms. Durrow.

You may submit using a special submission from that will go be up by June 10, 2011. Details to be posted here.

Click here for the complete rules.

FAQ

Is the contest open to everyone?

Only to people with a StoryADay username.

I was writing during May but didn’t sign up at the site. Can I still enter?

Sorry, no. This is only open to people who were in the online community. It’s a way for me to reward the community and ensure that only stories written this May get entered

But that’s not fair is it?

No, not entirely. But it’s the best I can do. Sorry. I will rethink this for next year.

How will you ensure the contest is fair?

Entries will go to judges without names attached. Beyond that, judging is entirely subjective as it is with all writing contests.

Will Heidi Durrow read all the stories?

No, she is going to read a short-list of ten. The first round will be judged by working editors and writers.

When will the results be out and how will I be notified?

Not later than August 15. Results will be posted on the site (http://storyaday.org) and entrants will receive an email telling them the winners and runners up.

How are the prizes funded?

The prizes are funded mostly by me, Julie Duffy of StoryADay.org. The copies of Rory’s Story Cubes were generously provided by Gamewright Games.

If I don’t win, does that mean my story is no good?

No, it very definitely does not. I have judged these kinds of contests myself and can assure you that judging is entirely subjective. If your story is not picked, all it means is that it did not appeal to this particular set of judges in this particular month as much as someone else’s story did. Keep writing (and submitting)!

An Accountability Buddy: The Productive Writer’s Secret Weapon

Today’s guest post from Melissa Dinwiddie is a wonderful primer on how to use the StoryADay community to help you become more productive than you ever dreamed. Thanks, Melissa!

Farewell to Polina!

Do you know one of the most effective things you can do to get your writing done?

Make yourself accountable.

I don’t know the statistics, but it’s a well known fact that if you want to reach a goal, speaking your commitment — including your deadline — to someone you know will hold you to it makes you dramatically more likely to actually do it.

Accountability is a powerful tool, and there are a number of ways you can integrate it into your writing practice. One of my own secret weapons is an accountability buddy.

Here’s what I’ve learned about maintaining an effective accountability partnership.

At the start of the year I was in a mastermind group (another great accountability tool), assembled with the express purpose of helping each other accomplish one specific goal in the month of January. When that group dissolved, a couple of us decided to keep checking in with each other.

At first our monthly calls started to get a little chatty — understandable enough, since we liked each other and had come to think of each other as friends.

This is an inherent danger in any accountability relationship. The problem, of course, is that chatting does not make for finished projects and completed goals.

Accountability partners have to be vigilant, and must keep coming back to the purpose for their partnership. If you want to chat, set up another date specifically for that. During your accountability check-ins, stick with the agenda: keeping each other on track.

This is exactly what I did at the end of a particularly chatty call. “Before we hang up,” I asked, “what’s your next step?”

My buddy confessed that she had a novel that had been sitting in a drawer for way too long, and what she really wanted was to get it edited and up for sale as a download on her site.

“Aha,” I responded, kicking into coaching mode, “so what’s stopping you?”

I asked her realistically how long she thought the editing would take, and when she said “about four hours,” I suggested (okay, I practically insisted) that she do it this week. In other words, I held out an expectation that I thought was achievable.

With my kick in the butt, she was ready to take on this project that she’d been putting off, so the next step was to set up a check-in schedule that worked for her. She committed to emailing me a progress report every night before going to bed, and set a goal of a 2-3 chapters per day.

Although it turned out four hours was an underestimation, I’m pleased to report that in less than two weeks my buddy had finished editing her entire manuscript and was ready to tackle the production side of getting her novel made into a downloadable ebook format. She swears she never would have gotten there without my help.

Do you think this kind of partnership might work for you? Give it a try! To keep you on track, I recommend sticking with the same structure every time you meet. The following questions are a good jumping off place:

  • What did you achieve since we last checked in? Did you accomplish your goal?
  • What didn’t work? What are you going to do differently next time?
  • What goal do you commit to between now and the next check-in?
  • What can you use help with?

Remember to reserve your chatting for another time, and let me know how it goes!

Artist, Writer and Inspirationalist Melissa Dinwiddie helps creatives (and “wannabe” creatives) to get unstuck, get unpoor, and just plain play bigger. Find her at her blogs, Living A Creative Life and 365 Days of Genius.



Win! Win! Win!

Leave a comment with your best tips for boosting productivity and/or working with other people and win a copy of Rory’s Story Cubes, a wonderful dice game that doubles as a story-telling tool. Roll the dice and make a story from the extremely cute images on the dice.

 

Today’s winner will be a random draw, so you get extra entries if you post about StoryADay on your blog, Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else (yes, I’ll give credit for blog posts from yesterday). Just leave me a comment saying where you posted.

Special thanks to Rory O’Connor and the lovely folks at Gamewright Games for donating this prize.

First Story Cubes Winner(s)

Ack!

There were so many great comments on yesterday’s post about creativity and productivity for writers that I had a hard time choosing a winner.

And in the end I chose two (and am suffering horrible guilt about leaving out all the other people who wrote great comments).

But don’t fret, because you can all enter again to win another copy of Rory’s Story Cubes on the next post, which is all about how to work with an accountability buddy to make your writing life more productive than you ever dreamed.

This next giveaway  will be a drawing out of a virtual hat (red), and you can get extra entries for posting about StoryADay in other places. See the Accountability / Writing Buddy post for more details.

Highlights from the creativity post comments

Thanks for all your great tips on creativity and productivity.

Brenda said,

1) Go someplace (a mall, a casino, etc.) and people-watch. I try to make up backstory for the people I see.

2) Listen to instrumental music. Classical and Drum music work well, as does the genre aptly called “Trance.”

3) I grab a box of cheap colored pencils and doodle. Sometimes the doodles end up being a creature, or a map of a fantasy land, or a character. I’m not an artist, by any means, but even my second-rate scribbles (lol) can cause a spark that becomes a story.

I think the reason that these 3 usually work for me is that they all have one thing in common: they make writing fun again.

Trina, in confessional-mode, spoke for many of us,

I say I have no time, but if I truly go back and look at how much time I spend on Twitter or surfing the Net, I have plenty of time. Guilty as charged.

MJ gave me a reason to stop feeling guilty for gossiping about strangers,

Myself and my boyfriend stole the idea of sitting in a restaurant and making up stories about the other diners from a movie we watched. It can be a lot of fun and generate a ton of ideas and helps with character development.

Janel had two great points,

I plan on pulling several prompts every night in May.

I’ve just decided that I will write to ease the stress instead of looking at the stress as a writing block.

Dominique’s suggestions were,

I overcome theses moments of writers block by keeping a pen and pencil around to writ down any great thought’s , plot ideas, or character lines. I also Take a trip to the bookstore to look through coffee table books full of images related to the subject I am writing

Steven made me feel a little less schizophrenic,

I was telling a friend about some story ideas I had mulling around in my head, she said that it must be busy “in there”. I told her that at times it seems like a cocktail party,…Once I get at least the outline of a guest’s story to paper, they tend to back off and let me relax.

Brandy is, like many of us, a list-maker and note-taker,

1. Keep paper and a pen/pencil everywhere; in the car, my purse, on tables, on window ledges, etc., because I never know when inspiration will strike and not having materials near me could kill or stall a great idea.

2. Install whiteboards with markers in different areas of the house and several larger ones in your office/studio. I have found that having a place where it is okay to write in an nontrational way helps me free my thoughts. ..Having a wall of white boards in the studio/office allows me to write “on the walls” which is something we have been trained not to do since childhood…

3. Write EVERYTHING down…My grocery lists end up with story ideas, character quotes, and settings along with the bananas and soup…

You can read all the comments in full here.

 

I have decided to award today’s prize to Brenda and Brandy, but thanks to everyone for taking the time to share your tips.

 


[Monday Markets] Seedpod Publishing

Seedpod Publishing is a “micro-publishing cooperative” — which sounds to me like a collection of authors and publishing people banding together to distribute literary fiction, digitally.

They publish books and help with promotion and distribution – all digital and Digital Rights Management free, so your readers can read your book wherever they want, not linked to any particular device.

They also curate a Twitter stream of 140-character tiny tales at @seedpodpublishing . You can submit your Twitter stories here. (I particularly like their Publishing Rights section, written in Real English!)

From the Writers’ Guidelines page:

We believe that writers can and should be supported financially by the community. Because of this, the free versions of our books are made possible by donations as well as by advertising from organizations that are doing socially just work. Our aim is to nurture the work of writers and keep literature accessible for all.

It’s intriguing alternative to both traditional publishing and go-it-alone self-publishing. I’ll be watching with interest.

[Markets for Writers] Postcard Shorts

Inspired by a postcard-length short story by science fiction master Arthur C. Clarke, Postcard Shorts accepts stories that are, well, postcard length.
PostcardShorts.com screenshot

(That translates to about 250 words)

Pretty much anything goes, as long as it’s not completely devoid of merit (in the Editor’s opinion). The Editor’s decision is final.

The copyright for anything you submit is wholly yours. You own it. This site just displays your work.
– from Postcardshorts.com

This is not a paying market but it is bite-sized and very tempting.

[Markets for Writers] Six Sentences

Six Sentences is a place to publish just that: six sentence stories.

Six Sentences screenshot

It has been one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites For Writers and publishes a new six-sentence story every day. It’s a great (non-paying) market for flash fiction writers.

It offers readers the chance to vote the story “good”, or “spectacular” (a ratings system I love) and provides a link back to the author’s site.

Check out the writer’s guidlines here or read some recent six-sentence stories.

[Markets For Writers] Ploughshares Emerging Fiction Writers Contest

Ploughshares literary magazine was founded in 1971 at Emerson College. This years Emerging Fiction Writers Contest is open for submissions from Jan 16 -Mar 15 2011

Ploughshares

Ploughshares Emerging Fiction Writer's Contest screenshot

Eligibility

We define an “emerging writer” as someone who has no book, has won no major awards, and who has published fiction in less than five national publications. (A national publication is any magazine or journal, online or in print, with an ISSN number.)

Works should be less than 5,000 words. Entry fee:$20

Full contest rules

[Markets for Writers] Fiction Fridays at Write Anything

This one is less a true ‘market’ and more a community writing opportunity.

Fiction Fridays at Write Anything

The excellent folks at Write Anything (a multi-author writing blog) put together a challenge every Friday. You write, you post it at your own blog and you post a link at their site. Simple!

Upcoming themes include: “The Million Dollar Idea”, a Valentine’s theme, and a challenge to write a story in an 1880s, Western town.

From the website:

How To Play:

1. Check this page for the weekly challenge.

2. Write for a minimum of 5 minutes… AND THEN KEEP GOING!

3. NO editing. ( well.. do the obvious spelling and punctuation.. but nothing major)

4. On Friday, post it to your blog.

5. Come back to Write Anything and leave the link to your post using the Link generator.

6. Visit other’s posts and leave constructive comments.

7. Use Twitter (with our hashtag of #fictionfriday) or Facebook etc to tell your network about the stories posted up….

They also encourage you to record your story and submit the link for Spoken Sunday. I’m a real sucker for both reading aloud and listening to other people read aloud, so I’ll definitely be doing this!

[Writers’ Markets] EveryDay Fiction

EverydayFiction.com sends short fiction to readers via email every day of the year.

Everyday Fiction screenshot

I was really excited when I read about this, because what are writers without readers? It’s all very well for someone to slap up a website and hope readers come, but this one has a built-in distribution system and it has over 2000 subscribers.

They pay $3 per story and take First Internet Rights and an option on First Anthology Rights. They have published two print anthologies so far.

They accept stories of up to 1,000 words and use the standards SFWA boilerplate contract (this is a Good Thing).

from EverydayFiction.com’s guidelines:

We believe in the importance of being paid for your writing, even if it’s only a token amount. At this time, we are able to offer three dollars for each published story, to be paid via PayPal, with the option to donate it back to Every Day Fiction if you are so inclined. In addition, if requested we will set up a free Author Forum for you right here at EDF where you will be able promote your own writing.

More importantly, publication also includes an opportunity to promote your writing beyond Every Day Fiction. We will gladly provide a link to your blog or website, and if you have a book on Amazon, we can link to that as well.

Finally, the author whose story is the most read in a given month will be featured in Every Day Fiction’s monthly Author Interview–a chance for our readers to get to know you, and a further opportunity for you to promote your blog or website and any books or other publications you may have out there.

[Markets For Writers] Portland Review Online

What to do with your stories once you’ve written and polished them?
Submit, of course! Here’s this week’s market:

The Portland Review

The Portland Review has been publishing exceptional short prose and poetry since 1956. The most recent issue featured poetry by Ursula LeGuin.

They read submissions from Sept-March update: Reading period has been extended until April 1 2011

Full submission guidelines

Special notes for the online edition:

We’re looking for new or established authors of flash fiction/micro/prose-poetry and poetry for our website. We need your scannable, digitizable art. We need your willingness to interview and to be interviewed. Most of all we need your attention.
Written works should be under 1,000 words. Neat on the outside, hot like a Mexican jumping bean on the inside.
Art (graphic, mixed media, etc.) should be in pdf, jpeg, gif, tif form and reasonable in size. We don’t necessarily need ideal beauty, but evidence of an attempt at mastery or sloppiness in leaving at least your heart or brain in the work you produce.
Both art and written work may be sent to: portlandreviewonline@gmail.com