Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.
via Neil Gaimans Journal.
This except comes from a compendium of New Year’s Wishes from the master of modern storytelling, and champion of creatives, Neil Gaiman.
All of the New Year’s wishes are inspirational but this one struck me particularly.
- We struggle to find time to write.
- We make excuses for not doing the thing we love, in case we’re not good enough.
- We say we’ll be creative another day, just as soon as we’ve cleared out plates of these urgent (but not necessarily important) tasks.
Try to do something creative today.
Then do the same tomorrow.
It’s worth it. I promise.
Need help getting started? Breaking Writers’ Block: A StoryADay.org Guideis chock-full of 60+ suggestions for ways to get started, even on the hardest day.
Welcome To StoryADay May 2014!
To kick off our 5th Year of writing a StoryADay in May, I have a special treat for you: a guest prompt from the fabulous Neil Gaiman.
On the day I contacted him he was, sadly for him, stuck in an airport. The prompt he suggested for us was pretty heartfelt:
The Prompt from Neil Gaiman
- This is a wide-open prompt. You could use it to write tragedy, comedy, satire, slapstick, sci-fi, fantasy, realistic fiction….anything you want.
- Think of a character desperate to get home. What is stopping them? What is their most basic reaction? (Frustration is a wonderful way to strip away a character’s layers and show us what they are like at their core. In Mr Gaiman’s case I would suggest that he is basically a generous and decent human being. Instead of responding to my request, he could just as easily have cursed, deleted my email and put me on a list of spammers… What will your character do?)
- For the first day of StoryADay May I always suggest writing a really short story. It’s a great way to warm up, and it’s all too easy to get lost in the beginning of a story and find yourself heading into a 3,000 word behemoth. You’ll never be able to sustain that pace for the whole month, so start small. Start with a victory.
- Aim to write no more than 1200 words. That gives you 300 words to establish the scene and your character, 700 words to make things happen, complicate things, create a crisis/climax, and 200 words to wrap it all up.
When you finish your story today, leave a comment below, or join the Victory Dance group in the community and share you thoughts about the first day, there. (Haven’t joined the community yet? Join here
Thanks again, Mr Gaiman. I hope you got home all right…
I have BIG NEWS.
Celebrity Guest Prompters
Firstly — and I have to put this first because otherwise my head will explode — our first Guest Prompter for the month of May is none other than rock star author NEIL GAIMAN!!!
He’s providing the writing prompt for May 1, so don’t be late! (You can sign up to getPrompts By Email, if you haven’t already).
There are lots of other published authors and writing teachers lined up to share writing prompts during this Fifth Anniversary StoryADay May, so don’t miss out.
A Month Of Prompts…Today!
New this year, I’m offering you the chance to plan ahead, with the brand new Month Of Writing Prompts ebook for 2014!
The idea of sitting down to write a new story everyday, cold, is pretty terrifying. But it’s less terrifying with a bit of forward planning.
For the past few StoryADay challenges, participants have told me that it’s really useful to be able to peek ahead at the upcoming writing prompts. Last May and September I supplied a week’s worth of prompts at a time to people on thePrompt By Email list.
This time, however, you can get the whole month worth of prompts today. Use them this coming May, or at any time in future.
(If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get a free reading app for your favorite gadget, here. Also, the ebook will not have the celebrity guest prompts, only the 31 written by yours truly. You’ll have to come to the site for the guest prompts.)
To celebrate the launch of this new ebook, it’s going on sale today at $0.99. The price will slowly creep back up to its list price of $6.99 by April 30, (this is an Amazon Countdown Deal, if you’re interested in that kind of thing), so get your copy sooner rather than later.
Are You Ready?
Now, before you let your nerves get the better of you, remember that YOU SET THE RULES for yourself. If you think five days a week, or one story a week is what you can manage, that’s fine. Come along for the ride anyway. Take advantage of the community (I’ll open up the site for new registrations on April 25. Mark your calendars!) and tell your friends, because peer pressure is a wonderful thing!
Don’t forget to grab your graphics to let people know you’re taking part and browse the resource section for inspiration.
Need to Warm Up?
If you’ve bought the Warm Up Course Home Study
version before, now’s the time to dust off your copy. Or if you’d like your own copy, there is a 10-day accelerated version too, perfect for warming up before May 2014. I’ve opened a new group
in the community for anyone who wants to go through the course now. Let me know if you need access and don’t have a username yet (email@example.com).
Here’s what the course does for you:
- Start writing in small, manageable chunks that will boost your confidence,
- Generate 45 Story Sparks that you can turn into short stories,
- Learn to carve out time for your writing, and break through your fear and block, by writing straight away,
When the course is over you will have:
- 10 completed stories,
- More story ideas than you can use during the StoryADay challenge, so you never sit down to a blank page,
- The confidence to know you can make writing an on-going part of your life,
- Practice and discovery of your best working habits.
Get access now
In the mean time, I apologize for the extreme fan-girling at the start of this email (but I’d do it again) and:
P.S. Remember that all these tools (including the daily prompts) are optional. Access to the site and the community remain free, forever. StoryADay May exists to encourage you to give yourself permission to tell your stories!
One of the things I love about short stories is the way they can play with form. They are, at their best, unpredictable. “Orange” by Neil Gaiman (which I found in the Best American Non-Required Reading 2011 anthology) is a perfect illustration.
Written in the form of answers to a police interrogation, the story never actually tells you what those questions were, leaving you to both speculate and laugh out loud at times. It unfolds gradually from the shallow answers given by a teenaged girl about her less-than-perfect homelife, to something much more complex and true. And funny and touching and hopeful and sad.
That the protagonist is answering a interrogation tells you immediately that something has gone wrong and you read in part to find out what. But after a while, as I often find with Neil Gaiman’s writing, you are reading just for the sheer joy of it. His use of language and character are masterful, engaging and accessible.
After reading this story, I immediately called over my precocious nine-year old son and read it again, over his shoulder. Upon finishing, he flipped back to the start to read it again too. It’s like that.
Highly recommended if you feel you’re getting into a rut with your short story writing and need some inspiration for a shake up. Or if you just want to read a fine, well-written short story.