Non-Traditional Love Story – a writing prompt for May 27, 2017

The Prompt

Write A Non-Traditional Love Story

Tips

  • You could use non-traditional partners for your love story (it doesn’t have to be romantic love; and if it is, it doesn’t have to be between straight, white people).
  • The way you tell the story could be non-traditional (it could be told in a non-narrative form).
  • Here’s my review of The Sentry Branch Predictor Spec by John Chu (with links to the story).

A Refusal – a writing prompt

Continuing our week of prompts aimed at creating rich backstory for novelists and short story writers alike, today we create an alternate story for your protagonist.

The Prompt

There is a moment in every story where a protagonist has to make a choice: to take up the challenge of the story or to turn away. Everything else flows from that.

Today, write a story in which your protagonist makes the other choice. 

Tips

  • This will, of course, result in a shorter story than otherwise.
  • It will still have fallout. (Think: It’s A Wonderful Life, Sliding Doors etc.)
  • Examine that fallout in a story.

Don’t forget to leave a comment, or do your Victory Dance in the community.

The Protagonist’s Journal – A writing prompt

Continuing our series of prompts to help novelists as well as short story writers, today I encourage you to move forward a little in your protagonist’s timeline, but still stay before the main story.

The Prompt

Write a story about the days leading up to the beginning of your novel, or your story’s big incident. Alternatively, write a journal of those days from your protagonist’s point of view.

Tips

  • Use this story to ‘brain dump’ all the stuff that your reader doesn’t want to wade through before they get to the jumping-off-point for your story.
  • You can use this knowledge to season the story later, with a light hand.
  • Remember, you can recycle these stories are freebies and giveaways to help you promote your novel and build your audience.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know how you got on, or post in The Victory Dance

Welcome to Week Two

Okay, you made it! Welcome to Week Two.

| jump to this week’s writing prompts |

Week 2 Elements of Story

[Remember, if you want ALL THE PROMPTS NOW you can get them in the ebook A Month of Writing Prompts 2016, and help keep StoryADay free at the same time!]

This week we’re going to get a little more serious, but still keeping the stakes very low. I want you to remember that nothing you’re writing this month needs to be brilliant. The point of all of this is to get you writing a lot so that you can find out

  • what it is you really want to be writing
  • what your strengths are what your weaknesses are and
  • how to get over that hesitation when you start to write, and instead find your way to the place where the writing is flowing.

Having said that I don’t want this to be a waste of your time.

So this week we’re going to work on some skills that you’re going to need as you get into crafting your stories when the month of short story writing is finished.

This week I’m going to give you three different story structures that you can use with the story sparks that you’ve been collecting (you have been collecting stories parks haven’t you?) We’re going to take a look at

  • Setting and incorporating setting into your story so that readers feel like they’re part of the action.
  • Ways of making your protagonist a rounded character by giving him or her some flaws.
  • Antagonists and villains and how to incorporate them without making them flat but also without letting them take over the story.
  • Sidekicks and secondary characters to see what they can do for your protagonist and your story.

If you’ve already written a story a day for seven days I’m confident that you are discovering your best practices. Hold onto that knowledge while we dive deeper into the nitty-gritty of storytelling this week. Work when your energy is highest. Squeeze writing into tiny pockets of the day if you have to. Harness your community and your support group and get them to keep you accountable. It’s going to get harder this week, but it’s worth it. Keep writing.

This is important to you.

You deserve this.

Tips For Success In Week 2

It’s getting harder this week so take all the lessons you’ve learned from last week and make them work for you.

  • What was the best time of day to write?
  • What did you do on your most successful days? How can you replicate that this week?
  • What did you do on your worst writing days last week? How can you avoid those things this week?
  • Did you read any short stories last week? Try reading some this week, to help recharge your imagination.

The Prompts

Tips For Taking Part

  1. Write a story every day (you don’t have to use the prompts)
  2. Come back to each day’s post (or this one) and leave a comment telling us how you got on.
  3. Encourage other people to keep going!
  4. Even if you’re not using the prompts, click on the links above, because the comments of those blog posts are where the community discussion’s happening for StoryADay September 2016!

Keep writing!

P.S. Want me to read all the prompts to you in my soothing Scottish accent? Check out the new podcast on iTunes, Android, or any other podcast player.

Happy 6th Birthday, StoryADay May!

Six years ago today, I posted this at StoryADay.org

 Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 7.14.40 PM
(Of course, the site didn’t look like that, back then. And look, I haven’t even set up any categories for the posts yet. Bless.)

That first year about 100 writers joined me in my harebrained scheme, largely due to the fact that the very lovely Debbie Ohi is unable to resist a challenge (or the urge to blog about it), and spread the word.

Since then, thousands of writers have started writing again, written their first-to-be-published story, embarked on careers as novelists and generally had a ripping good time.

We’ve started hosting challenges in September too.

I’ve published books and run courses.

Neil Gaiman, Gretchen Rubin, Heidi Durrow, Joe R. Lansdale and more have posted guest writing prompts for us to enjoy.

And this year, in less than two months, the seventh annual StoryADay May starts up.

Are you in?

How To Set Your Writing Rules

The point of doing this challenge is to push yourself to do more than you thought you possibly could.

The point is to unleash the flood of creativity that comes when you have to write every day.

The point is not to give you yet another way to fail at a creative endeavor.

So yes, you should set yourself a goal that seems momentous, preposterous, monstrous even. And maybe for you that will be: writing 30 stories in 30 days. But maybe it will mean writing a story on five out of seven days.

Obey ImageThe StoryADay Rules say there is one rule, “Write and finish a story every day. That’s it.”

They then promptly go on to talk about all the ways you can add to — or subtract from — that absolute.

I know it’s a bit confusing. It’s my fault. I appreciate rules, but I’m just not very good at being told what to do and I fail to see why I should expect other writers to be any better. Hence…

So, here follows my attempt to make sense of the part where the site says “set your own rules.”

What Do You Mean “Set Your Own Rules”?

The point of doing this challenge is to push yourself to do more than you thought you possibly could.

The point is to unleash the flood of creativity that comes when you have to write every day.

The point is not to give you yet another way to fail at a creative endeavor.

So yes, you should set yourself a goal that seems momentous, preposterous, monstrous even. And maybe for you that will be: writing 30 stories in 30 days. But maybe it will mean writing a story on five out of seven days. Or limiting yourself to 100 word stories. Or taking Thursday’s off.

If you know that your Saturdays are packed with people and obligations, sun-up to sun-down; or if you have tried the challenge before and noticed that you always failed to finish a story after five days of successes; or if you are a member of a religious group that takes the holy day extremely seriously, don’t torture yourself. Write it into your rules that you get to take certain days off.

How Do I Know What A Good Set Of Rules Is, For Me?

And if you haven’t done the challenge before (or if you haven’t written anything for a while) I strongly encourage you to stick to the basic rule: write and finish one story every single day for a month.

I know that sounds ridiculous in itself: surely if you haven’t been writing you should warm up a bit, ease yourself in? No. Sorry. This is not like running a marathon. You’re not going to pull a muscle or ruin your knees.

If you haven’t pushed your short-story writing before, you have no way of knowing what your boundaries are. Only by trying to write a complete story every day for 30 days can you know whether or not you can do it. Or how close you can come. And the effort is its own reward.

If, however, you took part in May, you’ll have a good sense of how much time you could make for writing, and what your goals need to be.

Just be honest with yourself. If you wrote 12 stories in May you might be secretly disappointed in yourself — or you might be thrilled. It all depends on you, and your circumstances. Just set yourself a goal that’s a little more ambitious than whatever you accomplished before and promise yourself you will push and push to get to it.

The Second Rule

The second absolute rule you should set yourself is to treat every day as a new day until the end of the month.

No going back to finish yesterday’s story – until next month
No berating yourself for yesterday’s shortcomings
No looking ahead and saying “I’ll never make it!”
Try your utmost to stick to your writing rules today. Forgive the past, and forget the future. Just write today.

What If I Fail?

Well, first of all, I have a problem with that word: “fail”.

Did you try? Then you didn’t fail. Did you complete a story every day for a month? No? Hmm, well, did you learn something about your style or your voice or your writing method? Did you write more than you wrote the month before (or in any month before. Ever.)?

There may well be days when you fail to finish a story. Forget it. Forgive yourself and move on. You are in pursuit of a great challenge here. Keep after it.

It’s entirely likely that some of your stories are great steaming heaps of passive voiced, prepositionally phrased, tedious prose peopled by heroes who wouldn’t know a plot point if it pointed right at them. Don’t give up on them. Keep writing until you get to the end. Even if you have to kill someone (in fact, that can be kind of fun). Pushing through to the end of a story teaches you so much more than giving up and starting afresh. Finish.

And if it gets to midnight (or whenever you go to bed) and you simply cannot finish today’s story: get some rest. Let it go and vow to start afresh tomorrow.

When the month is over, you can revise what’s worth saving, and learn from what’s not. While the challenge is still running, just keep writing. Strike the word ‘fail’ from your vocabulary. So long as you are writing, you cannot fail. Pat yourself on the back. You wrote. You got complete stories out of your brain — where you didn’t even know they were lurking — and on the page. You are courageous and to be congratulated.

Can I Adjust My Rules?

Yes. Absolutely. This is your challenge. I’d rather you adjusted your rules than gave up. Just don’t be too easy on yourself. This is meant to be a, er, challenge!

In Conclusion

Set ambitious goals
Try to meet them. At the very least, put some kind of ending on each story.
Be hard on yourself every morning and kind to yourself at the end of every day.
Treat every day as a new challenge (don’t look back!)

Writing In The Fast Lane – Interview With AdorablyAlice

As writers we’re curious. About everything. About people, technology, history, our neighbours, everything.

I’m particularly curious about other writers and how they work, what keeps them going, why they do it.

So here’s the first in a series of interviews with writers, starting with writers who took part in the StoryADay challenge last May.

AdorablyAlice was one of our most active writers during the first challenge. In this interview she gives a lot of credit for her writing success to her secret weapon: her friend and mentor: Cid (also a StoryADay veteran). I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below, picking out one thing from this interview that stood out for you: something that sounded sooooo familiar it made you smile, or something you’d like to try in your own writing life.


Before you started StoryADay how would you have described your writing life?

I used to write a lot when I was younger. Sometime after high school, I stopped. It wasn’t until NaNoWriMo 2009 that I began writing again. So between NaNo and StADa, I was still trying to find a balance between work, school, life and writing.

What made you decide to do StoryADay?

Cid. I found out about StADa through her, and because short story is my weakest point, I thought it would be a good challenge. Plus, I thought it would help me get into the habit of writing daily.

What did you expect to achieve? What did you actually achieve? What did you learn during the challenge?

I wanted to write something every day, and I wanted to get stronger at writing short stories. I did write everyday, but I think I’m still weak in writing short stories. I learned about Twitter fiction, which intrigued me, and I actually wrote a few TwitFic pieces.

How do you make time for writing?

This is a good question. And when I have an answer that doesn’t involve neglecting chores/cooking, I’ll let you know.

Why do you write? What keeps you motivated?

I am most productive on #writersdatenight (yes, I have to include the Twitter hashtag). Once a week a group of five writers (including myself) meet at McAllister’s to eat, socialize a little and write. Because the other four ladies have been writing longer than I have, I feel motivated to write a lot when I’m around them. The sound every one typing is motivating. I’ve tried other writing groups, but they’ve been more socializing than writing, so I don’t enjoy them as much. Lately, Cid has been setting goals for me. Write 5K and get a book. Write 5K and have a Glee marathon. It works. She’s awesome.

What are your aspirations?

Well, I’d love to be published and that’ s definitely a long term goal, but more short term…I’d like to finish a story. Well, I’ve finished a few, but I don’t revise. So a good aspiration would be to go back and revise…lol

Do you have a project or website you’d like to tell people about?

Well, there’s Book-Addicts. There are four of us (Cid’s one of them) and we basically review books across all genres, interview authors, have guest blog spots and book giveaways. It’s a pretty awesome place for people who are as addicted to reading as we are. www.book-addicts.com – get your fix!

I also have my personal website, www.adorablyalice.com, I keep up with how I’m doing as a writer, offering the lessons I learn as I delve into the mysterious ways of The Writer.

Thanks, Alice! (And you can read more about Alice’s experiences with her writers’ groups and productivity in this blog post – which features a fun cartoon from my own writing friend and secret mentor, Debbie Ohi.)

[And one more thing: I’d love to interview you about your writing, no matter what stage you’re at or whether or not you’ve done one of these creative challenges, so leave me a comment below if you’d be willing to chat.]