2024 Day 4 Check in with Julie

“What’s the point of writing another story, today?”

In which I discuss the importance of daily writing practice, sharing my own inner resistance to this challenge (yes, even after all these years) and how I ultimately find joy and fulfillment in the writing…and you can too!

Follow along with all the check ins by subscribing here

2023 Day 8 Check in

A vlog about how my StoryADay May is going…

Today’s prompt is here

Week 1 is a wrap!

Today I was pretty happy with the very short story I wrote. When I got to the end I discovered something interesting, which I share in this video.

Also: now’s a great time to assess what went well last week and what you’ll keep/do differently during this coming week of the challenge (I talk about this, too, in this video)

Keep writing,

Julie

2023 Day 7 Check in

A vlog about how my StoryADay May is going…

Today’s prompt is here

Week 1 is a wrap!

Today I wrote badly and learned some things. I also got to hangout with the StoryADay Superstars and talk about writing, and it was moving, and inspired.

Hey you: if you’re reading this and writing at all: you’re pretty unusual and you’re pretty amazing.

Keep writing,

Julie

2023 Day 3 Check in

A vlog about how my StoryADay May is going…

Today’s prompt is here

I found today’s prompt challenging, perhaps because I was feeling the pressure to write about something weighty and important, which made me feel intimidated and stuck. But then I remembered my collection of Story Sparks, and I found inspiration in a personal experience that I gave to a different character.

I decided to write the story in third person and present tense to make it more experiential for the reader. This was different from what I had been writing the past couple of days, which were more narrative in form.

Through this experience, I was reminded of the importance of just getting started with writing. Even though parts of the prompt made me resist at first, I found that I had unknowingly incorporated them into my story.

Trusting yourself as a storyteller and putting words on the page, even if they feel choppy or imperfect, can lead to magic in your writing.

So, don’t fret about finding the perfect topic or having everything planned out. Just start writing and let the interesting stuff happen. Nobody needs to see it, and you might just end up with a big, stupid grin on your face like I did.

Keep writing, and stay tuned for tomorrow’s prompt on keeping things short!

2023 Day 2 Check in

A vlog about how my StoryADay May is going…

Day two of the challenge and I’m feeling great.

But, I made the classic mistake of not planning ahead, so I spent the first half hour doing admin instead of writing. I’m going to fix that tomorrow by planning my morning better.

The prompt today was from Mary Robinette Kowal:

“What’s in your character’s pocket?”

I used characters from my work in progress and wrote a self-contained story that I can later use as a scene in my novel. Other participants are using the challenge to push forward their work in progress in various ways.

What will YOU do?

Don’t Let Shame Kill Your Creativity

In this video post I talk about how shame shuts down the exact processes we need for creativity and what you can do about it.

Spoiler alert: I talk about reducing your expectations, celebrating every single tiny thing you do that contributes to your writing life, and collecting Story Sparks.

Find out more about Story Sparks here

Julie’s Current Favorite Writing Tools

Books On Writing

Save the Cat Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody

save the cat cover

This one makes the most sense to me of all the books on story structure. Your mileage may vary.

If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland

This book (written in the 1930s) brought about my re-awakening as a writer, and probably still informs all my soap-box rants about your right to write.

Anything by Donald Maass

Writing the Breakout Novel, The Emotional Craft of Fiction, his new stuff…anything. Possibly everything.

Pens & Paper

I know, I know, like you I type faster than I write, but i also find I need to ‘think’ on paper/ When I’m handwriting, I like the pens and paper to be yummy. These are my current faves

Pilot Custom 823

This is a real splurge, but I used mine every day (a lot) for 8 years and never once did it feel scratchy. Because of the plastic barrel you do have to be a little careful not to drop it. Pilot will replace defective pieces, but if you break it, you’ll have to buy replacement parts!

TWSBI

This is a great mid-priced fountain pen that has the same voluminous ink reserve as the Pilot 823, one of my favorite things! I hate having to keep ink on hand or stop writing to refill too often.

Lamy Safari

A great entry-level fountain pen to try out if you’re not sure ink pens are for you. This has a really comfortable grip and you can swap out the nibs, so if one becomes worn or if you fancy a thinner/fatter stroke, you have options. They also come in fun colors. This one uses cartridges or a refillable converter. You’ll have to fill this one more often than the TWSBI or the Pilot, but sometimes that’s the fun of a fountain pen: trying out new inks!

Leuchtturm 1917

After years of mourning my college-staple (the A4 spiral-top notebook, narrow rule), which I couldn’t find in the US, I moved to side-bound spiral notebooks that always annoyed me because i caught my hand on the spiral when writing on the backs of the pages. Plus the paper was pretty thin, especially once I started getting more inky with my pens.

Then I discovered Moleskine notebooks (8.5×5.5″) and was pretty pleased with them, until someone put me on to the Leuchtturm1917.

Not only is A5 in size, which is just that little bit wider, allowing for more words per line, but it comes in all kinds of papers: blank, lined, square-grid and, my new love, dotted. The dots are faint-but-not-too-faint. The paper is creamy. The two (count ’em TWO) ribbons allow me to mark different sections. The pages are numbered and there are pages for an index at the front. It comes with a standard pocket-for-keeping-things-in at the back and labels to put on the front cover and spine, if you’re that way inclined.

Plus, did I mention the pretty colors?

I choose one color scheme for the year ahead and stock up on three or four. They are my one-notebook-to-rule-them-all and I keep everything from shopping lists to meeting notes, journal entries, mind-maps and random calculations in them. Periodically I go through and update the index so I can find things. This works MUCH better for me than trying to have topic-specific notebooks which I inevitably leave somewhere or put somewhere ‘safe’ and never have to hand when it matters.

I create a few blank pages at the start of every month for an overview of what I have coming up and for me to log my daily achievements. I usually get about three months’ out of one notebook.

Washi Tape

A brilliant artist friend told me about this trick: line the edges of important pages in your journal with washi paper. It folds nicely and doesn’t need to stick out, but you can always find the right section of your ntoebook at a glance.

Tabs

Having said that, I also buy these tabs from Ink + Volt and use them too. I only really use the monthly ones (I have a section in each notebook for a daily log.)

I don’t go crazy with the tabs, because if I have to make too many decisions about the ‘right’ place to write something I’ll stall out, but I do like to have the monthly overview easily accessible.

(As I mentioned, I keep the index up to date from time to time, so that I don’t have to make those kinds of decisions every time I open the notebook!)

Planner

I use a lot of digital reminders and calendars, but I love my paper planner. The Ink + Volt Planner has been my best friend since I discovered it in about 2015. I like the way the days are laid out in the week view (morning, afternoon, evening – perfect for someone who knows they need to get to stuff ‘at some point today’ but doesn’t like to be hemmed in by specific time expectations – hey! If I decide to go for a walk at 2pm instead of writing an email, I don’t want my planner judging me).

It also has a lot of journaling prompts (which I rarely use) and goal-setting sections, including a monthly 31-ish-day challenge (which I do tend to use).

It encourages you to set goals for the year, month and week AND to review them weekly. I find this helpful.

Digital Staff

Google Calendar

I use this for scheduling everything from family stuff to writing appointments to workshops and events I have to be at. If my calendar (and phone) aren’t buzzing, I have no sense of the passage of time. I could chastise myself about this or I could learn to accept it and work around it…with digital nagging!

Calendly

Just as I cannot be trusted with times, I cannot be trusted with details or timezones, so I use Calendly to schedule anything that involves another person, like interviews for the podcast or 1:1 calls with the Superstars. It syncs with Zoom and Google Calendar, so all my digital minions can conspire to get me where I need to be, when I need to be there.

Scrivener

It’s an optional extra when it comes to writing, bit if you are interested in going pro, or keeping track of everything you’re writing, Scrivener can be a wonderful tool. I used it for one project and learned just enough to make it useful for that. Then I started asking “I wonder if Scrivener can…”. The answer was almost always ‘yes’. I use it a little less now that I’m working across Mac and PC operating systems, but i probably should bit the bullet and figure that out.

Google Docs

As a ‘work anywhere’ word processor I find Google Docs the way to go. It’s not quite as powerful as Word in some ways, but sometimes that’s a good thing. It’s a lovely, clean interface and I never have to worry about hitting ‘save’.

Timelines

If you’re interested in figuring out how long things take you, I recommend this tracking tool. YOu do have to manually start and stop sessions (if you can’t handle that, you might want something like ‘Rescue Time’ which automatically tracks all your digital pursuits), but I like the fact that I can have multiple sessions running at the same time, so for example, I can see that I’m spending 1 hr in my business (running a writing sprint) but I’m also sneaking in about 3/4hr of fiction writing time.

Trello

These visual boards are useful for planning projects and keeping tasks together. Because most of my work is project based (meaning I might do one tasks every few months, rather than every day) it helps me make checklists every time i do a thing. Then, months later, when I want to do it again, I can go back to Trello and find it!

Here’s a sample board I made to show how an author could plan their social media content

Learning

Learn Scrivener Fast

I love this course. It’s arranged in bite-sized pieces with tons of video delivered by the engaging Mr. Joseph Michael,, Every time I think “I wonder if Scrivener can…” I go here first, to figure it out. Sure, you could use a search engine and comb through years and years of (possibly out of date) free info, but sometimes it’s worth the investment to get well-curated and updated info.

Product Launch Formula

This marketing course might seem like a weird thing to put in a writers’ toolbox, but learning how to sell without feeling sleazy is a really useful life skill as well as an essential career skill, in case you want to make money from your writing. Everything I learned about how to structure an offer, so that people feel invited in to a book, course, or other experience, I learned from Jeff Walker and his Product Launch Formula Coaching team. There are lots of other people teach his methodology now, but I’ve found my home here.

Communicating with My Audience

Website

I use a WordPress site self-hosted and have used site hosts Bluehost and WPEngine. Bluehost iswas a fine starter-host, and WPEngine has better support. I also recommend Elementor and Divi if you want to build custom pages.

Email – Convertkit

I have used Mailchimp in the past, but moved on to Convertkit a number of years ago. I’m pretty happy with them. (They have a free plan for people with fewer than 2,000 subscribers, so it’s a pretty good way to try this out)

It’s important to have you own email list because you don’t ‘own’ any of the followers you’ve gathered on social media. If Facebook or Twitter decide to ban you, how will you get in touch with your fans? Easy, if you’ve invited them on to your email list.

BUT to run an email list properly you should be using a service like Convertkit, that makes it easy for people to opt in AND out of your mailings, and keeps you within the laws on these things (not to mention making your readers not hate you!)

Social Media Scheduling – Later

I do a lot of manual posting but when I want to make sure things go out regularly, I use Later.

Course Platform – Kajabi

For a while I hosted courses on my own website server with a WordPress plug in, but I decided to go with the much more slick and attractive Kajabi, after a few years. It’s pretty over-powered if you aren’t running a course for a lot of people, but for my StoryADay courses it’s a wonderful asset.

Community Chat – Slack

I never wanted to take my community onto somebody else’s platform, so no Facebook groups for me, ever! Slack is like a group-chat/message board on steroids. The free plan is fine, thought it has some limitations. I’m always looking for the next killer app (as we used to say, back in the day…)


That’s a lot, I know. Nobody needs all this stuff. All you need is your imaginations and way to record your stories (either on paper on in someone else’s ears) but since people often ask, I thought I’d make a list. And now I have.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links and I may receive compensation if you make a purchase through them.

What are YOUR favorite tools? Leave a comment!

Networking Without Nerves, a conversation with Coach Larissa Sjarbaini

Crafting a writing life isn’t all about knowing where to put commas and how to develop characters. It’s also about engaging with other humans. This week I’m in conversation with Larissa Sjarbaini, a high performance coach, about how to do that and why you might want to, even if you’re an extreme introvert. And stay tuned for an opportunity to develop your own game plan for a writing life

LINKS

Set Yourself Up For Success sign up now!

Q&A For May 2022

We got together this morning for a writing sprint and to get some questions asked and answered, about the challenge.

Watch it now:

I know it was too early for some of you, but I opened up a Q&A session about StoryADay May this morning and recorded it, so you don’t have to miss out.

Some of the questions answered:

  • When do the prompts arrive (and how)?
  • Where do we comment?
  • Should we post our stories somewhere?
  • What are Story Sparks?
  • What will the Fun-Size Challenge tasks be like? 
  • What if I ‘fail’?


You can watch me, and some veteran StoryADay writers, tackle these questions in  the replay here or, if you’re subscribed to the StoryADay Podcast the audio version of it should show up in your feed today.

SIGN UP FOR STORYADAY MAY 2022

If you haven’t yet signed up to participate in the Classic Challenge or the Fun-Size Challenge, you can do that here.

(If you have signed up already you would have received a “Day 0” email from me, yesterday. No need to do anything further.)
If you don’t sign up, I can’t send you daily emails during the challenge, but you’ll still get my weekly(ish) notes of encouragement.

Still have questions? Post’em below.

Haven’t signed up yet? Get on that!

Announcing the StoryADay Fun-Size Challenge


Whether you’re easing back into a writing routine, need a break from your magnum opus, or just want to inject a little fun into your day…

YOU ARE INVITED TO SIGN UP FOR THE STORYADAY MAY CHALLENGE

New For 2022: 2 Ways To Play

This year, for the first time, I’ve created a Fun-Size StoryADay challenge—one month, one story—to ease you (back) into a daily writing practice that fits your life.

Your Perfect Writing Day

Imagine opening your email each morning of May and finding an encouraging note, writing prompt or tiny task that will start you off on the right writing foot.

No guilt, just an invitation to let your inner writer come out and play.

What’s In the Fun-Size Challenge?

Each day you’ll receive a tiny task to lead you through the process of writing one story during the month

  • Week 1 – Ideas and preparation
  • Week 2 – Developing your ideas and beginning to write
  • Week 3 – Working through the middle and ending the story well
  • Week 4 – Tidying up and planning ahead

PLUS anyone who signs up will have the option to enter the ‘review lottery’ and may get feedback on their writing, live on a group call.

By the end of the month you will have a draft of a story that didn’t exist 31 days before.

Perhaps you, like StoryADay writers Gabrielle, Marta, Kim, and Lex, will have created the draft that gets you your first, second or fiftieth fiction publication.

Or maybe, like Laura, or E. Rankin, you’ll make your first paid sale.

And how great would it be if, at the end of May, you are like StoryADay writer Michele who finally created “that daily writing habit”, or Robin who says “I have become a real writer”? Or Jeff, who says “every day, I have that desire to put in a little time with my writing and I’m confident that will always be there for me, now.”

Even if you need to take a day or two off, the tasks are manageable enough that you’ll easily be able to keep up. Importantly, you’ll keep making progress towards your goals, throughout the month.

(And don’t worry, for all you hard-core challenge fans, the classic 31 days, 31 prompts, start-and-finish-a-story-every-day version is still an option, with new writing prompts every day, and a lively community to keep you going!)

If you’ve been looking for a way to break through your blocks, fight the fear that comes with perfectionism and high expectations, and simply have some fun with your writing again, join us this May for the free StoryADay May challenge.

A Foot in Both Worlds

keeping one foot in each world—living up to your obligations to other and saying ‘yes’ to your need to write—-takes time and practice.

I took a week away from my writing. And I want to tell you why, and why it might (or might not) be a good idea for you to do the same.

It’s not like the timing was perfect…I’m two weeks out from putting on the 13th StoryADay May challenge, and this year I decided to make it easier (on you, not me) by creating a whole new Fun-Sized Challenge. (Have you signed up yet?)

But frankly, the time is never right. Not for vacation, not for a crisis, and certainly not for you to become a writer.

So what are we to do?

Continue reading “A Foot in Both Worlds”

New! StoryADay ‘Fun-Size’ Challenge Debuts this May 

Introducing a kinder, gentler challenge for busy writers

Every May writers challenge themselves to write a story a day, to stimulate their creativity and create lots of new drafts. This year for the first time, the founder of the StoryADay May Challenge, Julie Duffy, is issuing a new ‘fun-size’ challenge for people who would like to write, but find the idea of writing 31 stories in a month intimidating.

Continue reading “New! StoryADay ‘Fun-Size’ Challenge Debuts this May “