Daily Prompt – May 8: 55 Fiction

It is possible to write a story in 55 words

Daily Prompt LogoA lot of people aim to write Flash Fiction because they think it’s going to be quicker than writing a longer story. Don’t they know their Blaise Pascal? (“”I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.”)

55 Fiction

It is possible to write a good story in 55 words (the title isn’t part of  the word-count, but must not exceed seven words), but it’s not necessarily a quick thing.

Still, Saturdays tend to have more ‘running around’ time than ‘sitting at a desk time’ for many of us, and that might equal ‘thinking time’ if we’re lucky.

So grab your idea right now. Then, while you’re folding laundry, or taking the kids to soccer, think about how you can deliver a punch in 55 words. Think about which elements of your story you can strip away to cut it down to 55 words. What is essential in your story?

Week 1 – Story A Day So Far

Thanks to everyone who responded to my questions about how your week is going. I’ve collected some of the responses…

We’ve made it to Day 7! Congrats to everyone who has written anything, or still plans to! And thanks to everyone who responded to my questions about how your week is going. I’ve collected some of the responses below.

When I had this idea to write A Story A Day, back in March, I knew I was going to need a crew to keep me honest, because I knew it would be hard. My non-writer friends a families gave me that ‘uh-huh!’ look and said things like “that’s ambitious”.

With the help of a few people like Debbie, Carol, Robert and Eden, and the Twitterati, word spread rapidly and I discovered that there are tons of writers out there just as hungry for an excuse to focus on their writing as I was. Tons of people who took “That’s ambitious” and made it a cheer, not a groan.

So now, I have — according to my Story A Day Dashboard — 77 new friends, who are all serious enough about their writing to want to do this challenge. Not everyone is writing every single day and not everyone is finishing a story every day they start one, but everyone is serious about their writing and that is such an inspiration to me.  (Sorry, I’m gushing)

FEEDBACK

Story length:

The shortest story people are laying claim to is 25 words. The longest is over 3000

Tips for keeping going:

@mapelba says  “As Ann Lamott said–butt in chair. It helps to listen or read an interview with a favorite author sometimes. Oh, and I’ve given up a lot of TV. That helps.”

@Cidwrites says: “The excitement of my friends who are doing this helps a lot!”

@KristenRudd says: “My trick so far is to mull my story all day, while I’m doing whatever it is I do. I think about the directions it could go, but I mostly think about how to open it. Then, when I can finally sit down after the kids are in bed, the dishes are washed, and I’ve done everything else that needs doing, I’m excited about the story that’s been buzzing all day. If I have the opener, I can sit down and just WRITE (That said, neither story went where I had planned. Characters kept popping in and announcing themselves, changing the story). Who knows if this will hold up – we’ll see! Ask us again in two weeks!

“My other trick was to sign up my kid. I have too much pride to be outdone by a seven-year-old, so I’lm guaranteed to write every day.” (I love this one!)

@Wendolin says: “I keep going because every day I wake up and the first thing I think about is . . . what will I end up with today? I go about my morning chores thinking about possibilities. I make this challenge the focus of my day, and though I have many other things to do, I keep the story in the back of my miind, cogitating, adding and subtracting, until at last, I just have to sit down and start writing, no matter how much laundry there is in the hamper.”

Thanks everyone! Keep writing!

Daily Prompt – May 7: Steal An Opening

Getting started can be a huge obstacle to overcome…so cheat!

Daily Prompt LogoGetting started can be a huge obstacle to overcome. Faced with the prospect of having to start a new story every day we can start second-guessing our ideas, our style, our ability…All of this makes getting started even harder.

So cheat.

Steal An Opening

Go to your bookshelf and pull down a book you admire. Look at the first paragraph. How does it start? Is it a description of a place? Does something dramatic happen? Does someone talk?

Look at the structure of the opening and use it for your own stories (this is how apprentices have always learned, they copy their masters’ work, and gradually find their own style). Copy your master-writer’s structure, but insert your own details.

For example, I pulled Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea off the shelf. Its opening sentence is,

The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-wracked North-East sea, is a land famous for wizards.

(Isn’t that a great sentence?)

My story might begin,

The Arcologie Sando, a huge fractured semi-dome that rose up from the rock-strewn desert floor, was famous for producing arcolonists.

OK, hers is still better, but borrowing from the master, gave me a way in to my story.

Go to your bookshelf and steal an opening line from the best. Make it your own, and see where it leads you.

Go!

Daily Prompt – May 6: Field Day

Field Day

Write a story set at a school sports day/field day or other special event where parents turn up and the worlds of home and school collide.

Today I’m off to supervise hordes of screaming children at Field Day at the kids’ school. (It’s what my school would have called “Sports Day”, with sack races and obstacle course and suchlike, except I don’t remember my parents ever having to help out).

In honour of my noble sacrifice, today’s prompt is:
Primary school children, sports day

Field Day

Write a story set at a school sports day/field day or other special event where parents turn up and the worlds of home and school collide.

Work from your own memory of school or your experiences as a parent/aunt/grandparent/child-free-friend, whatever you have.

Surely there are a few opportunities for conflict and resolution among the sack races and the potato-and-spoon contests!

Daily Prompt – May 5: Cinco de Mayo!

Write a story based on an incident at a cultural festival.

Daily Prompt LogoIt’s Cinco de Mayo, which people in the Americas know as an excuse for a party, thanks to immigrants from the Mexican state Puebla (according to Wikipedia it  “commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862,”

Mostly now it’s an excuse to don over-sized sombreros and drink Corona. But it brings us to today’s prompt:

Festivals

It’s hard to grow up anywhere without attending some kind of cultural festival, whether it’s the English village fete, a religious festival (St Anthony’s Feast in the North End of Boston, for example) , or a nationality-based one (a Burns’ Supper in Scotland, St Patrick’s Day in the US).

Write a story based on an incident at a cultural festival. Add details from the activities, colours and smells of the festival to make your story real.

Daily Prompt – May 3: Gadget Lust

Write a Story Featuring A High-Tech Gadget

I love my gadgets.

But even if you’re not a gadget freak, an early-adopter, a lover of all things tech, you can’t really escape the stuff.

So today’s prompt is

Write a Story Featuring A High-Tech Gadget

It could be a cell phone that accidentally redials, and gets the owner in big trouble.

It could be an iPad, a Kindle, a GPS unit.

Maybe the hero of the story hates technology. Maybe she loves it.

OK? Go!

Daily Prompt – May 2: Obituaries

…Obituaries are wonderful sources of lifestories, character sketches, intriguing stories.

I know, kind of morbid for a spring day, but obituaries are wonderful sources of lifestories, character sketches, intriguing stories.

I like to think of stealing from the obituaries less as grave-robbing and more as creating a tribute to a life lived. So, today:

  • Go to Obituaries.com (yes, it exists!). Pick an obscure newspaper, Ignore the celebrities. ‘
  • Try to find the most ordinary person, or the person with the most detail. Think about what it might have been to live their life, know them, encounter them once.
  • Write a story based on one incident in your person’s life, including at least one detail your learned in their obit.

[Could you write about Bonnie and a great-grandchild on their first trout-fishing afternoon together? Would it be a perfect moment? A farce? A dramatic turning point? What did the river look like, sound like? What did she notice?]

Go!

Daily Prompt – May 1: Wikipedia Newest Articles

Today’s prompt: go to the Newest Articles section of the front page of Wikipedia…


Today, go to the Newest Articles section of the front page of Wikipedia.

  • Choose one. Scan the titles, stop at the first one that grabs you and click. Don’t second-guess yourself.
  • Read the article. As you read, look for some detail or phrase or idea that strikes you.
  • Write your story. Don’t try to retell the story as it was told in the article. Focus on the idea or detail that caught your imagination. Turn that into a story.

GO!

Story A Day: 2 Days To Go!

AKA: What Was I Thinking?!

OK, I”m a little nervous. Two days until we begin this journey of writing a story a day.

But it’s a good nervous. It’s an energetic nervous. I’m like a stallion in the gate, ready for the off. Quivering a little.

Already I’m noticing benefits from this Story A Day project…

starting gate

Photo by:letsbook / Permission:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

AKA: What Was I Thinking?!

OK, I”m a little nervous. Two days until we begin this journey of writing a story a day.

But it’s a good nervous. It’s an energetic nervous. I’m like a stallion in the gate, ready for the off. Quivering a little.

Already I’m noticing benefits from this Story A Day project:

I’m looking at the world in a different way: looking at everything as a story idea, noticing details, smelling things, wondering how I would describe situations, feelings, people, objects.

I’m connecting with other writers.

I’m blogging about writing and making it a priority.

This might get tough around May 13 or so, but I’m ready. I’ve got my family and friends primed to nag me about my writing, I’ve got a little black book of ideas. I have some backup strategies for days when it’s tough (keep watching this blog and your inbox for those strategies as the month rolls along).

What about you? Are you making preparations? Are you winging it? What do you do when you need to write but get stuck? Are you excited?

Let me know!

An Interview NaBloPoMo Creator, Eden Kennedy

National Blog Posting MonthIn 2006 Eden Kennedy, of fussy.org, inspired by National Novel Writing Month started her own ‘month’: National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). For those of us who can’t possibly hope to carve out the time to writ a novel in a month, NaBloPoMo was a great alternative: commit to posting something every day, and see what happened.

I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to come away with both new friends and an increased sense of creativity, as I viewed my world in terms of potential creative writing opportunities.

Now, NaBloPoMo is a year-round event, with hundreds of people posting daily.

NaBloPoMo was a big inspiration for StoryADay.org, so I emailed Eden to ask her a few questions:

How long has NaBloPoMo been running?

[EDEN] I started it in November of 2006, running it off my own site, fussy.org. It was basically just a blogroll and a list of prizes people kept donating for me to hand out to random people who managed to post every day that month. A lot of people liked it because it was an alternative to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you write like 6,000 words a day. I, like many others, failed at my NaNo attempt, so it’s like we started a little underachievers club by doing NaBloPoMo. I moved everything over to nablopomo.com in November 2007 so it could become more of a social network, and thousands of new people signed up, to my surprise. Eventually so many people were asking if I could make more events throughout the year, and not just in November, that I decided to just go monthly.

Do you participate every month?

[EDEN] I only participate in November. It’s the original month, and still the month we get the most traffic for, two or three thousand people. The rest of the year we get maybe 400 or 500 people each month.

What have other writers told you they get out of it?

[EDEN] A real sense of satisfaction at having come up with something to say thirty days in a row. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the will to write something that’s actually worth reading, and not just phone it in or post a YouTube video or something. For most people, one month is enough, but there are several die-hards who go on to post every day for a year or more.

Any tips for keeping going in the middle of the month when the enthusiasm wanes?

[EDEN] Photos. Posting a photo can either be a great writing prompt, because readers will be interested in whatever the story behind it is, or else it can stand by itself as a post and give you the day off. Nothing wrong with that!


Thanks, Eden!

Interesting point about the photos. Who says your Story A Day story couldn’t be a comic strip, a photo essay, a particularly evocative picture?

Four Days Until Story A Day in May – Some Thoughts and Links

So, only four days left until we begin our Story A Day challenge.

Nervous? Thinking about backing out?

Yeah, me too 😉

panicked eye
Don't Panic!

So, only four days left until we begin our Story A Day challenge.

Nervous? Thinking about backing out?   Yeah, me too 😉

Some Things To Expect From Me

Daily Prompts

I’m going to be posting a daily prompt, which you should feel free to use or ignore. The prompt will be on this blog, but you can also

(I think I’ve got most of my bases covered there but if you have somewhere you’d like it to appear, let me know and I’ll look into it.

Articles & Interviews

I’m also going to continue posting articles on the craft of writing.

There might be videos and audio, and you should certainly feel free to post the same kind of things.

I may not post my actual stories every day, but I will be posting a log of my writing at in my personal Story A Day journal.

Places You Can Post Your Progress

If you’d like everyone here to know that you have written your story for the day, post about your progress in the Victory Dance group.

You can also post in your personal Story A Day blog or on your own blog, if you have one.

If you need inspiration, check out the posts on this blog, the resources page, and the various Story A day groups.

An Interview With Robert Brewer, Host of WD’s Poem A Day Challenge

Remember: A little something is still more than a lot of nothing.

Robert Brewer, Poetic AsidesRobert Brewer is the Poetic Asides poetry blogger for Writer’s Digest, and is in the midst of hosting April’s Poem A Day Challenge.

He took a few minutes to talk to me about what this particular creative challenge has meant to him and the poets who took part.

What did you expect to get out of the PAD challenge?

Going into the first challenge, I really didn’t know what to expect. I remember telling my wife (before she was my wife) over the phone the night before the first challenge that I didn’t know if anyone would participate–or even who would participate. Luckily, hundreds of poets participated the very first day, and many of the poems were very good.

What did you actually get out of it?

First, I got 30 poems out of it. Second, I developed a relationship with several poets and found myself with a very active community on the Poetic Asides blog. The best part of these challenges is hearing from first-time poets and poets who have not written in months (or years) who found inspiration in the prompts and then went on to continue writing poems beyond the actual challenge. That’s one of the main things I try to accomplish is to enable poets to easily create their own prompts.

Did you get any surprising feedback from other participants?

I did. The quantity and quality of poems posted always surprises me (even now). Beyond that, I was surprised by how the Poetic Asides community developed as a whole and how some participants created their own Poetic Asides critique groups. One poet even created a database to help poets track their and other poets’ poems.

What should people do to prepare for a creativity challenge like this?

Just try to clear some time each day to write. Outside of that, try to keep an open mind each day, because you never know what the next prompt will be (unless you’re psychic). Also, have fun and don’t worry about revision; there’ll be time for that later.

What are your best tips for keeping going when the novelty wears off around the middle of the month?

I believe in breaking big tasks into smaller tasks. So, think of the month in terms of weeks or 4- to 5-day increments of time. Another trick, write shorter if you’re just struggling in the middle–or get silly. Remember: A little something is still more than a lot of nothing.

Thanks Robert!

Don’t Try To Do Too Much in One Short Story

The best short stories can say a lot, but they don’t try to do too much.
A short story is not a novel…

one candle
The best short stories can say a lot, but they don’t try to do too much.

Writing a story a day is going to be a huge challenge. Inventing characters and settings and inhabiting them for just one day? Huge.

Don’t try to do too much.

We don’t have the time or space to tell wandering epics.

We have time for one incident or one central character or theme [1. by the way all of this is also not true. In writing rules are made to be broken. Except that one about the apostrophe. I will hunt you down and smack your palm with a ruler if you put an apostrophe before the “s” in a plural!]

If your story starts to wander towards an interesting side character, slap that character’s hand and promise him he can be the hero of tomorrow’s story. If you find yourself backtracking to show too much of what happened before the ‘now’ of your story, file the idea and write a prequel tomorrow.

The beauty of writing aevery day is that you don’t have to do it all today. You can write tomorrow. In fact, you have to!

Finish Today, Plan For Tomorrow

So finish the story you started (even if you’ve fallen out of love with it) and make note of all the other ideas that were so good they butted in today.


Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.
-Ezra Pound