StoryFest 2019 Is Coming!

This is for everyone – whether you wrote or you didn’t. If you wrote in a previous year; if you wanted to write but couldn’t make it; if you wrote one story; if you simply read and enjoyed someone else’s.

This is our chance to celebrate, and boost both the short story and our friends in StoryADay.

StoryFest 2019

June 29-30

storyaday.org

What is StoryFest?

StoryFest is a weekend when the stories take over StoryADay.org.

On Jun 29, the front page of StoryADay.org will change to one dedicated to you and your stories. It will be full of links to your stories, online, until June 30

It’s our end-of-year party, our recital, our chance to share our work with readers.

(It’s also my birthday month, so consider your participation as your birthday gift to me!)

How To Celebrate StoryFest

  • If you wrote even one story in this (or any previous) StoryADay, submit one to be featured on the site’s front page June 29-30.
  • Nominate someone else’s story to be featured.
  • Spread the word: from now until StoryFest, tell everyone you know on every social network (especially the ones with readers in them) about StoryFest. Tell them to come to the site June 29-30 to read new and exciting work by up-and-coming future stars of the literary world!
  • Post the graphic on your blog, your Facebook timeline, tattoo it on your leg, whatever! (Get your graphics here)
  • Come to the site June 29-30, follow a link to a story, read it and comment on it.

How To Submit/Nominate A Story

Simple.

Fill Out This Form.

Be ready to supply your storyaday username, your real name or psuedonym, a link to the story you’re nominating, its title and a summary, a link to a story by someone else (optional but karmically recommended).

Deadline: Thursday, June 27.

This gives you a few days to pick your story and possibly polish it a bit. If you can get it to me before the deadline I’ll love you forever, though, as it’s going to take me a while to organize all the submissions.

StoryFest FAQ


Does my story have to be online?

Yes. We want to create a reader fanbase for you. Stories must be posted somewhere online, in full.

Is it OK if my story is on my personal blog (or other site).

Absolutely. Just supply the link.

Will it be considered published?

Your story is not being published by StoryADay, but you should be aware that some editors still consider a story that has been posted online, as having been previously published. If you think this is your last good story ever, by all means guard it with your life. Or, if you plan to submit it to a publication in its current form, you may not want it posted online. Otherwise, I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about this.

Does It Have To Be A Story I Wrote During StoryADay?

Yes. I’ll have to trust you on this. But it can be a story you wrote in a previous year.

Why Do I Have To Select A Genre Label?

Try not to agonize over this. I know most fiction is really cross-genre. It’s just short-hand for readers. I know I’m more likely to plump for a Speculative/Sci-Fi story or a mystery before I will read a fantasy story. As a reader, you don’t want to scroll through a long list of stories with no clues as to which you might prefer. Genre labels simply help readers make a quick decision, rather than being paralyzed or overwhelmed and not clicking on anything. Just think like a reader, grit your teeth and pick a genre.

Can I Submit Erotica/Horror/TheWierdStuff?

Um, okay. But I’d appreciate it if you’d label it as such, so as not to scare the grownups.

Can I Revise My Story?

Absolutely. Polish it up, shine its little shoes, put a bow in its hair and send it into the world looking its best. But don’t take too long! And remember, you’re unlikely to ever be 100% satisfied. Polish it a bit, then let it go.

Deadline is Thursday, June 27.

[Write On Wednesday] Your Character’s Voice

Today we’re going to play with making your characters sound distinctive.

Voiceover Microphone

The Prompt

Write A Story With Lots Of Dialogue That Teachers Us About Your Characters

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Your Character’s Voice”

Creating Compelling Characters

Plot happens outside, but story happens inside

Donald Maass, The Emotional Craft of Fiction
Caution Magnetic Magnet

For people to love your story, they need to love (or love to hate) your character.

The most beautiful writing in the world, the most exciting action sequence in history, neither of these will make people love your story.

But a compelling character will steal their heart, sneak into their memory, and make them come back to your writing over and over again.

Wouldn’t it be great to have raving fans?

How do you make your character compelling without spending too many words tracing their inner thoughts? How do you balance character growth with action?

Step 1: Know Your Character

None of us step out into the world in the morning as a fresh new creation.

We walk out of the door with hang ups and passions and prejudices and ingrained behaviors, all of which come from a lifetime of having experiences and reacting to them.

Lisa Cron, in her excellent book Story Genius, talks about this brilliantly:

You have to know your character’s childhood damage, she says, and the protective behaviors they created. If you can set your story at a point in their life when those behaviors no longer serve your character, you have automatic conflict built into your story (and conflict makes stuff happen!)

Top Tip: do some ‘discovery writing’ about your character before you ever try to write the actual story. It will make your first draft go soooo much faster.

Resources:

Step 2: Nobody’s Perfect

In our quest to make readers love our protagonist, we can forget to give them flaws.

But how do you give them a flaw, without making them unlikeable?

The best resource I’ve come across came from the podcast Writing Excuses, where they talk about playing with three different characteristics as if they were sliders on a mixing board. Your character can be competent, proactive, and sympathetic, but they can’t be 100% (or 0%) of all three at the same time.

Contractors say, “You have have a job done well, fast, or cheap. Pick two.”

At any one moment in a story, a character can be extremely competent, extremely proactive, or extremely sympathetic. Pick two.

And then play with those levels throughout the story. (Think about how Hermoine Grainger changes over the course of the first Harry Potter book. At the start she is the most competent and proactive of the three friends, but nobody likes her. By the end, she has given up some of that proactivity and learned to lean on her friends. She acknowledges that Ron is more competent at wizard chess, and lets Harry be the one to face the last big challenge…and we like her a lot more, for it.)

Top Tip: Playing with character competencies is a great way to make them more or less sympathetic without having to give them a ‘tragic flaw’.

Resources:

Step 3: Show Their Inner Conflict In Action

In critique groups I usually hear two opposing critiques of character, depending on the writer’s natural tendencies:

  • The writing’s beautiful but it’s a little…slow (translation: nothing happens!!) OR
  • It was very exciting…but I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care (translation: explosions and chases are great, but your character has no inner depth)

Whether you naturally write lots of action, or spend a lot of time dwelling on inner feelings, a good writer needs to be able to balance action and inner conflict, to create compelling characters.

One of the best ways to do this is to turn off the inner dialogue and show your character taking actions or interacting with physical objects that

  • Are symbolic of their inner struggle
  • Matter to this character for a specific reason (which you know, and can reveal to the reader)
  • Remind the reader of the stakes, without you having to spell it out.

For example, in the beginning of the movie Die Hard, a watch-word for action-based storytelling, John McClane picks up a picture of his happy family from a desk in his wife’s office…and winces.

In that moment (right before he gets embroiled in the explosions and flying bullets) the viewer remembers that this is not just a wise-cracking action hero. He’s a man who is losing his family and isn’t sure how far he’s willing to go, to put it back together.

That’s the question the rest of the film answers.

And it’s the reason we, as viewers, care.

Top Tip: Turn off the inner dialogue and give us a moment, filled with all five senses, where your character demonstrates their emotions, on the outside.

Resources

Big Final Caveat

All of this kind of craft-based instruction is useful for developing your writing…but only if it doesn’t slow you down while you’re creating first drafts.

If you’re writing the first version of a story do not stop to worry about ‘showing not telling’ or whether your character is sufficiently proactive in this moment.

All of this can be fixed in the rewrite.

And one of the best ways to figure out what’s working and what still needs work in your story, is to show it to other readers.

Perhaps the idea of a critique group terrifies you. Or maybe you’ve been in groups in the past that were frustrating, or just ‘meh’.

If that’s you, I have a gift for you: a free guide to critique groups, including:

  • All the personality types you’ll encounter in a group
  • How best to interact with each
  • What you need to know to to give and receive great feedback

Don’t waste time being afraid of feedback, any longer. It’s the single most important thing you can do to get your writing closer to the point where you can really begin to delight readers and build a raving fanbase.

Download the Critique Primer Now

[Write On Wednesday] Secondary & Background Characters

Short stories don’t have a lot of space for non-main characters, but if you’re going to include a best friend or comic relief, make sure they earn their word count!

1-2-3 Chick-A-Dees! by JD Hancock

The Prompt

Write A Story That Gives Your Secondary Characters Something To Do

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Secondary & Background Characters”

Writers: Burn Your Business Cards

‘Creative’ is not a noun…Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title, not the work.”

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

I read Chapter 3 of Kleon’s latest book this morning and it stopped me in my tracks.

Not because I didn’t know and understand what he said.

I have, after all, made a name for myself as the person who entices writers to actually write during May & September every year.

But because it made me wonder: am I actually doing the verb?

diary writing

What Do You Do All Day?

Continue reading “Writers: Burn Your Business Cards”

[Write On Wednesday] What A Character Wants

For today’s Write on Wednesday writing prompt, I’m digging into the archives.

This writing prompt, from 2012, talks about how to use your character’s desires to power a story and contains important tips on how to keep your short story from become a barely-begun novel.

La mela del desiderio

The Prompt

Write a Story In Which Your Character WAAAAAAANTS something

Read more

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

How is your writing going, now that StoryADay May 2019 is over? Are you ready to write a story today? Leave a comment!

SWAGr for June 2019

Post your goals for this month and let us know how you got on with last month’s goals.

SWAGr logo

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing.

(It doesn’t have to be fiction. Feel free to use this group to push you in whatever creative direction you need.)

Did you live up to your commitment from last month? Don’t remember what you promised to do? Check out the comments from last month.

And don’t forget to celebrate with/encourage your fellow SWAGr-ers on their progress!

Download your SWAGr Tracking Sheet now, to keep track of your commitments this month

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Examples of Goals Set By SWAGr-ers in previous months

  • Write a story a day in May – everyone!
  • Revise at least 10 short stories – Iraide
  • Write two short stories. – Jami
  • Attend one writers’ conference – Julie
  • Write fable for WordFactory competition – Sonya
  • Re-read the backstory pieces I wrote in May and see if I can use them within my novel – Monique
  • Research the market – Jami
  • Focus on my serial – Maureen

 So, what will you accomplish this month? Leave your comment below (use the drop-down option to subscribe to the comments and receive lovely, encouraging notifications from fellow StADa SWAGr-ers!)

(Next check-in, 1st of the month. Tell your friends!)

2019 Day 31 – Roll Call

This it! The end of StoryADay May 2019! You are an absolutely rockstar for being here today!

Do me a favor? Leave a comments below, and answer these two questions:

  1. How many stories did you write
  2. Did you meet your goal (or get close enough to feel proud of yourself)?

But don’t forget to write today’s story.

The Prompt

About A Writer

Normally I don’t encourage stories about writers because it seems kind of cheap (and uninteresting for the readers), but today I think you’ve earned it.

  • Use this prompt to write a story about a writer like yourself who has just undergone a big challenge.
  • Or satirize the idea of writing about a writer.
  • Or use it any other way that occurs to you. (And hey, it worked for Stephen King, so who am I to question it?)

Use all the tricks you’ve been practicing this month to show us what a day in the life of a writer can be.

Planning Ahead

You’ve achieved so much this month. I’m so proud of you.

To keep the momentum going, mark your calendars for these StoryADay events throughout the year.

  • Serious Writer’s Accountability Group (SWAGr) – 1st of every month (sign up for reminders here)
  • Critique Week, June 21-27 – A chance to get your story reviewed by your peers and by me (more details coming soon)
  • StoryFest, June 29-30 – where your stories take over the front page of StoryADay.org. Watch your inbox for details
  • StoryADay September – wherein we do this all again! And your next chance to join Superstars for the rest of the year. Signups begin in August.
  • Critique Week, October 20-17 – A chance to get your story reviewed by your peers and by me (more details coming soon)
  • NaNoWriMo Support Group – for members of the Superstars group only.
  • Critique Week, February 22-29 – A chance to get your story reviewed by your peers and by me (more details coming soon)
  • And much more, including weekly writing prompts on Wednesdays, posts in The Reading Room, podcasts, interviews, and workshops.
  • Use the StoryADay Events calendar to stay up to date

Go!

Don’t forget to leave a comment saying how many stories you wrote this month, and how you feel about it! Then come back tomorrow to record your June goals in the SWAGr post.