Day 31 – The Story Of You, Superstar

Here we are: the last day!

Today I’m sharing the final Superstar post with everyone, because I think everyone needs to take a moment to celebrate!!

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I hope that you have found this illuminating, frustrating, exhilarating…

I know there were days when you weren’t thrilled with what you write and that there were days when you surprised yourself or made yourself really happy.

More than that, YOU know that you have 31 days under your belt, of writing whether you felt like it or not.

(Even if you didn’t write every day, I’m willing to be there were days this month when you wrote when you didn’t want to and you finished a story even when you thought it wasn’t worth it and that act of finishing showed you that you can do this.)

You’ve pushed yourself and I want you to take some time today to make some notes about what you’ve learned, about your rhythms of writing; about how things work for you.

I can give you advice, and Stephen King can give you advice, and none of it really matters. It’s great to put yourself in a community of people talking about things that matter to you, and you can learn from other people’s examples, for sure, but the only way to discover how you write, is to write.

At the end of this 31 days, you’ll have learned something about your rhythm, your practice of writing.

The Prompt

Write a story about a creative person who has just completed, or is in the throes of completing a massive creative effort.

(And yes, this can be autobiographical).

Youc ould tak us thorugh the manic process of trying to finish up the work. You can show us their post-event hysteria/collapse. You can have them reflecting on the effort.

Pay attention to the physicality of it.

Go anywhere you want with this.

It doesn’t have to be serious. It can be self-indulgent (you’ve earned it!)

Looking Backwards And Looking Forwards

I hope this has been a great experience for you.

Write your story today and then take a moment to blog or journal or tweet or whatever you do to celebrate and share.

Take some time to really revel in the fact that you have devoted these 31 days, regardless of how much you were able to turn up, or how often you were able to write, or how good your stories were, you devoted this month to paying attention to your inner writer.

You have these materials now, you can come back at any time and dive back into these prompts, the meditations, the forum. You’ve met these people who have gone through this experience with you and you’ve made some connections. I hope you will stay in touch with each other. Having a cohort of people to help each other out is an amazing thing. These people who know and like you will be your biggest boosters, so stay in touch. Take advantage of the fact that you have this group of people how have shared this experience with you.

(And if you weren’t part of the Superstars group this time around, keep watching your inbox for the next opportunity. I’ll be running this again in September and next May, at the very least.)

Make your plans for the rest of the year. As you’re writing your celebratory blog/journal entry and going through the worksheet about what you’ve learned this month, think about your plans are for the rest of the year, the rest of the next five years…

Think about how you can put into practice. everything you’ve learned in this month to honor your urge to write to be creative, to write. If you need to be part of a group of people who commit to writing regularly, then you’re going to need to find a group. It might be the SWAGr group–come along on the first of the month, and make sure you’re on the SWAGr notifications list by signing up at the bottom of this page. Maybe you need a real-life group fo people who meet in a cafe on Saturday mornings and does a write-in. Find one. Look on Start one!

Whatever you need, figure it out, commit to doing it.

Set yourself some goal. Make most of them attainable, but think about having one big, scary, outrageous goal. Think about the steps you can take to get yourself closer to realizing that goal, or at least working towards it.

Thank you for coming along on this journey. I learn a lot from you, and from producing these materials, so I really appreciate you being here. I love getting to know you and building this tribe of people who are on each other’s side as we strive to be writers everyday, not ‘someday’.

Write your story today. Journal about your experiences this month. Watch your inbox for more information from me in the months ahead, and most of all…

Keep writing!!

And don’t forget to sign up to receive reminders about the Serious Writers’ Accountability Group (SWAGr) below!

What are your plans for the months ahead? What would you like to see here at StoryADay to help you reach your goals? Leave a comment (or a link to your blog post) below.

Day 30 – Change Your Point Of View

Welcome back to the penultimate day of your month of extreme short story writing.

After setting you free yesterday, I’m putting a few more limits on you again today.

The Prompt

Take a story that you wrote earlier this month, and tell it from a different point of view

The point of this prompt is to show you that sometimes a story benefits from being told in a different way. Noir stories work in first person because that’s what we’re used to. Something set in a Victorian era works well in Third Person Omniscient because that’s how Dickens wrote–it’s what we’re used to.

Use this prompt as an excuse to play with a story and make it richer, through voice.

Day 29 – The Story You’ve Been Waiting To Write

Here we are, the final three days of this extreme month of writing.

It’s so impressive that you’re still here, that you’re still writing, that you’re still coming back to this.

I know you have stories you want to tell, that the world needs to hear.

Your experiences, your outlook, your way of expressing yourself, are unique in the history of the world and I’m so glad you’ve come this far, and you’re still writing.

And I know you’re going to continue to write, because you’ve come this far.

Today I’m giving you a prompt that might seem a little lazy from me, but there’s a reason.

The Prompt

Write the story that you’ve been hungering to write.

I’ve been very proscriptive this month, telling you what you write, and you’ve been writing for four weeks. You’ve got stories in your head that are nipping at your brain, whispering “tell me!”, so today I’m setting you free.

Tell one of those stories.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote today

Day 28 – Use These Words

This is the kind of writing prompt that puts so many limits on your story that you can’t worry about making the story good. Sometimes you end up with a good story, but the silliness of the prompt removes all pretension and blocks.

The Prompt

Your story must include these words; ink, previously, work, breeze, seven, run, delicious, example, spontaneous, barb.

This is a fun one to share in the comments!

Day 27 – Start At The End

The Prompt

Start a story that begins with the ending, then immediately jumps back in time.

e.g. “It all started 12 hours ago.”

Think of this as the way someone might shoot a heist movie: a character is being led out in handcuffs and a voiceover says, “It all started 12 weeks ago.”

(In a short story you probably need to keep the scale in hours as this means you don’t have too many scenes.)

Don’t worry too much about getting this perfect. Feel free to be cheesy. Just have fun. Leave a comment to let us know how you got on!

106 – After The Challenge

This week I share some of the prompts from week 4 of StoryADay May 2018, talk about creativity and limits, and encourage you to dive into the community at StoryADay.

Also, I talk about drug discovery and wheelbarrows…


Serious Writers’ Accountability Group (SWAGr):

Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

Day 26 – The Sale

Today’s prompt lets you practice your dialogue and thinking about communicating your characters’ motivations to the reader.

The Prompt

One character is trying to sell something to another character. .

This could be metaphorical: they are trying to sell them an idea.

It could be literal: they’re trying to sell them a car.


Leave a comment letting us know how it went (and what you decided to sell!)

Day 24 – Disappearing Act

This week’s theme is, in part, to encourage you to try out stories that use each of the types of story threads from the MICE quotient.

The Prompt

Tell a story that features a disappearance

This could be an Intrigue/Idea story. At it heart it has a question, or a mystery or a big idea.

It could be the disappearance of a person, a cultural phenomenon, or of the bees, or of Arctic Ice. Or it could be something more nebulous. Your story could be serious or slapstick. What will you come up with?

What did you make disappear? What kind of story did you write? What tone did your story take on, today? Leave a comment and let us know!

Day 23 – Pick A Detail

The Prompt

Choose a detail that only your character would notice in this story

(This exercise is borrowed from Donald Maass’s The Emotional Craft of Fiction, a book I highly recommend.)

Think about your character’s past, so that you know what matters to your character, what background they came from.

As an example, I noticed a vase in my in-laws’ house because my parents had the same one. It was really the only notable thing about the vase! It tells you something about our relative backgrounds that our parents chose the same decor…

You might pick something with more emotional resonance: a smell, a song, a flower.

Tell a story about your character that includes a detail that tells us something more about your character.

Day 22 – A Rude Awakening

Welcome to Week Four!

This week I’m providing you with story starters, to give your imaginatiosn a little kickstart.

The Prompt

Your character wakes up in a space they don’t recognize.

They could wake up in a white van, a locked room, or anywhere that is completely different form their everyday. This gives you the opportunity to explore your character in interesting ways.

There may be other people inside the space, outside the space, interacting with them, or not.

Have fun with this, today!

Day 21 – News Flash

The Prompt

Write A Story As A News Report

This could be a TV report with a panel of pundits yelling at each other, a reporter on the street, the voice of a producer in your anchor’s ear…

Or, this could be a traditional newspaper report.

Remember to tell a story, though! Then tell us all about it in the comments.

Day 20 – I’m Gonna Sit Right Down

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Form Of A Series of Letters


  • You could do social media updates, conference call, letters, records.
  • In this story remember that each party in the story has an agenda, conflicts.
    You could tell three different sides of a story
  • Your format will affect the type of language that the characters use: in letters things might be more formal, in texts it’ll be more brief.

Remember to leave a comment to let us know how you got on!

105 – Is It Time To Quit?

The problem with doing something hard (like writing) is not that you aren’t good. It’s that it’s hard to know how long to work before you decide that you really aren’t any good. 

(Hint: It’s longer than you think. And you may never be able to tell!)

How to keep going when you’re not sure if you should.


Resources mentioned in this episode:

My author interviews at NaNoWriMo’s blog:

Jerry Jenkins:

DIYMFA’s 101 Course:



Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

Day 19 – Direct To Camera

May is far from over! Don’t give up now. And if you’ve just discovered StoryADay May, it’s not too late to jump in. Here’s today’s prompt, and you can find a new episode of the podcast here: Is It Time To Quit? (spoiler: no!)

The Prompt

Tell A Story ‘Direct To Camera’

This is probably going to be in first person.

Write as if you’re writing to your best friend, or talking directly to a police officer, or relaying this to a room of strangers.

if all else fails, stand in front of your phone and tell the story. Tell a real story or a fairy story. See what this does to your writing.

Leave a comment and tell us how it went today!

Day 18 – It’s A Bit One-Sided

The Prompt

Write a story today in which the reader only hears one side of the conversation

This could be a telephone conversation, a text conversation, a series of social media updates, a series of letters, whatever.


Bob Newhart telephone does this in telephone calls

Watch Neil Gaiman read his story Orange here or read it here

104 – Getting Your Mojo Back

In Week 2 of StoryADay May 2018 we’re working on craft-based writing prompts (character desires, conflict, structures, openings and endings). Picking up skills and putting down words.

But now that the novelty has worn off, what can you do to rekindle your excitement about writing every day for a month?

Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

Day 16 – We Need To Talk

Extra! Extra! A fabulous new collection of 100 word stories has just hit the shelves. It’s called Nothing Short Of 100 and it comes from Grant Faulkner (also the head honcho at NaNoWriMo), Lynn Mundell and Beret Olson, all of

To see four excellent examples of a 100 word story, hop on over to the publisher’s site now. Or pick up the book from Amazon or request it from your local indie bookstore.

 Today we continue our look at short stories as not-mini-novels and play with them in ways you can only play with short stories!

The Prompt

Write a story completely in dialogue

It’s probably best to keep this to two characters because it’s harder to have more than two characters, without attribution.

I want you to keep it straight in our heads, who’s talking, simply by the way they talk.

A guy who works on Wall St should sound different from a farmer from a rural area.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us what you wrote today!

Bonus: Writing Contests as Prompts – a guest post from Elise Holland

Elise Holland HeadshotToday’s bonus prompt comes from Elise Holland, writer and editor of the 2Elizabeths online literary magazine

There are so many excellent contests available to short form writers.
Sometimes the clear-cut parameter of a deadline serves as inspiration, and
many contests are genre specific, creating a built-in, detailed prompt.

In order to provide a precise prompt, I suggest looking into submitting
your work to Nowhere Magazine’s Spring 2018 Travel
Writing Contest. Beneath the prompt, you will find my tips on how to find
writing contests, and how to use each set of submission guidelines as
future prompts.

The Prompt

Until May 31, 2018, literary travel magazine Nowhere is seeking
contest submissions from young, old, novice, and veteran writers.
Specifically, they are looking for stories with a strong sense of place.

Send your fiction, nonfiction, or essay, but be certain to specify which
genre your work falls into at the top of your manuscript. Submissions
should be kept between 800 – 5,000 words in length. The contest winner will receive $1,000 and publication in Nowhere. For further details and
to submit your work, visit the magazine’s website here.


  • You can access a free database of writing contests from Poets &
    Writer’s, here. For a minimal fee, you can access additional contest databases and information for writers through Writer’s Market or
    through Duotrope.
  •  When you write for a contest, be sure to carefully read each set of
    submission guidelines. Each publication will seek different stories based
    on criteria such as genre, word count, and deadline. Use these criteria
    dutifully to hone in on your story, and to ensure that your work is
    considered by contest judges.

    • Many contests will be genre-specific. For instance, the contest for Nowhere is seeking work revolving around travel. And later this
      year 2 Elizabeths, the magazine I edit, will host its second annual Love & Romance Writing Contest. (Grab a copy of our submission guidelines, here.)
    • Use these genre-specific contests to propel you into your work. You can
      either be hyper-focused and choose to enter work only into the genre you
      write, or you can choose to enter a variety of work into different
      genre-specific contests, expanding your repertoire.
    • I’m a firm believer that limitations breed creativity. And that’s exactly
      how I would encourage you to view word count restrictions pertaining to a writing contest. It can be a fun game, squeezing an entire tale into a
      limited number of words, and it’s a fantastic exercise in the economy of
      your words.
    • As you peruse any of the aforementioned databases, consider which
      contests you might like to enter. Use these contest deadlines to help you
      build your own editorial calendar.
  • Many writing contests require participants to pay a submission fee. This
    is generally intended to cover the prize which will be paid to the
    winner(s), as well as to keep the publication running.
  • When submitting your work there are a couple of key terms to be aware of:
    simultaneous submissions and multiple submissions.

    • The term simultaneous submission means that you will be
      sending the same piece to several literary magazines or journals at the
      same time. Most publications accept simultaneous submissions, but some do not. If a publication does not accept them, this will be stated in their guidelines.
    • Should your work be selected for publication by one magazine, it is
      important to notify other publications where you have submitted that piece.
      This courtesy will prevent complications, and will keep you in good graces with various editors, should you wish to submit to them again in the future.
    • The term multiple submission means that you are submitting multiple pieces to the same literary magazine or journal. This is generally accepted, but if it’s not, that will be specified in the submission guidelines.

About Elise Holland

Elise Holland is the editor of 2 Elizabeths, a literary magazine
focused on poetry and short fiction, with an emphasis on romance and
women’s fiction. Her work has been published inWriter’s Digest Magazine, The Writer’s Dig, and at DIY MFA. Find Holland online at

Day 15 – The List

Welcome to Week 3! You’re still here! I’m very impressed…

This week we’ll be looking at some of the fun ways short stories can be written that are nothing like mini-novels.

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Form Of A List

Ideas for your list story:

  • Shopping List
  • 10 Things I Hate/Love About You
  • To Do List
  • List of books the character has/wants to read, with commentary (also movies)
  • A list of deceased childhood pets
  • A list of your character’s fears

Suggested reading

  • In the video I credited this story to Lydia Davis, but of course it is Jennifer Egan: To Do.
  • You can also look at McSweeney’s list articles, which are a little more snarky commentary than character stories.


This is a great refresher after a week of deep narrative work.

Go and have some fun!


Day 14 – M.I.C.E. and Where Stories Start & Stop

Today I want to give you an overview of something that I find useful when figuring out where to start and stop a story and how to keep it on track.

It’s called the MICE Quotient and I learned about it from Mary Robinette Kowal, though it was invented by Orson Scott Card.

The letters stand for:

M – Milieu
I – Intrigue/Idea
C – Character
E – Event

Each letter tells you what type of story you’re telling.

Milieu story

This is largely a story about place. Usually your character arrives in a new place at the start, and most of their struggle is about them neogitating that place, learning about it, trying to escape it. The story ends when they leave that place or they fit it.

EXAMPLES: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Ever After.

Intrigue/Idea Story

A question is posed at the beginning of the story. The story ends when the mystery is solved or the question is satisfactorily answered.

EXAMPLES: Sherlock Holmes, Arrival/The Story Of Your Life

Character Story

A character starts off with an internal conflict and, by the end of the story they have changed it, or rejected the idea of change, or at least understood where the problem lies.

EXAMPLES: Die Hard (Seriously, John McClane has issues at the start of that movie!), The King’s Speech.

Event Story

External forces change the world at the start and drive the struggle in the middle of the story. At the end of the story the status quo has been restored or a new normal has been established.

EXAMPLES: The Hunger Games, The Parent Trap, disaster movies!

The Prompt

Pick a dominant thread for your story today, based on the MICE categories. Work towards the ending that fits the story type you chose.

I was introduced to this idea by Mary Robinette Kowal, who talks about it on the Writing Excuses podcast. She also made this excellent infographic, to help keep things straight.

Me? I give a workshop about this and how the first three Die Hard movies fit into different categories. Tell your favorite conference organizer to book me now!

Day 13 – Start With A Bang

Today we continue with the third of my ‘fairy story’ structures: Hansel Gretel.

The Prompt

Start with a life-changing moment and lead your characters through the story to show us who they become.

hansel and gretel story structure


Hansel and Gretel starts off with a bang: two kids, alone in woods, abandoned!

What are they doing to do?

After the big opening, all their struggles teach us about the kids’ characters. By the time Gretel finally kicks the witch into the oven, grabs her brother and they make their way out of the witch’s cabin, we know enough about these kids to know they’re going to be OK.

How can you replicate this for your characters?


This is a big week at StoryADay: we’re creating a lot of skills that will help you build stories throughout the rest of the month and beyond. Stay tuned!

And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know you’ve written, how it’s going, and what you’re learning.

Day 12 – You May Be A Swan

Today’s story structure is a little more balanced, and is illustrated by the Ugly Duckling story.

The Prompt

Use the Ugly Duckling Story To Write A Balanced Story With The Life-Changing Moment In The Middle

Unlike in Cinderella, the Ugly Duckling’s life-changing moment comes in the middle, and then the author spends the second half of the story revisiting situations like the ones that led him to the crisis point. Where he met cruel children at the start, he meets nice children after his transformation. Where he met mean animals at the start he meets kind animals after his transformation. Where his family was horrible to him at the beginning, he gets to reconcile with his mother at the end.

This means we get to see what kind of character the Ugly Duckling has even after his transformation. This structure is a good one to use when your character’s struggle is mostly internal.

To make life easier for yourself, unfold the story in the opposite order to the way you built it. Nest the encounters, like this:

[mother] [animals] [children] [CRISIS] [children] [animals] [mother]

Day 11 – Cinderella Story Structure

For the next three days we’ll be writing stories based on their strcuture. Today’s will be very familiar to anyone who’s heard the words ‘three act structure’ or ever heard of “Cinderella”.

The Prompt

Write a story in which your hero wants something, tries and fails to get it, and eventually has their life-changing moment at the end of the story.


  • Let you character want something. In Cinderella’s case she wants happiness. Your character might want anything from fulfillment to a piece of chocolate cake!
  • This story structure ends when the character realizes what needs to be done and makes the decision to pursue it or to walk away. In a short story you don’t have to show was the rest of the events. The arc, the journey, for the character is over at the moment when they see the path to pursuing their goal.

Day 10 – Let’s Make These Stories Flash

Yeah, yeah we’re writing super-short stories this month (well, some of us are!), but do they flash?

The Prompt

Write a story in under 1000 words focusing on creating one billiant image in your reader’s mind.


  • The image you leave in their mind doesn’t have to be visual. It could be an idea.
  • Really focus on making everything lean and making every word count. Make sure your story is about one thing, one moment.
  • Aim to change your reader’s mind about something, whether it’s a person, an experience or a condition of life.

[Writing Prompt] Day 9 – Character Desires Are Key

Knowing what a character wants, tells us what’s at stake in the story. Conflict between the character’s desire and their circumstances will keep your reader hooked.

The Prompt

Establish, within the first couple of sentences, your character’s desire. Put them in a situation that conflicts with that desire. Tell us how it works out.


It’s important for a reader to know what your character wants.

Once they know what your character wants, is afraid of, would never do, or desperately wants to do, the reader knows WHY they’re reading this story. That will keep them reading.

Keep it simple. In a short story, you can only examine one of your character’s desire.

Day 8 – All About Conflict

Without conflict or friction in your story, nothing  interesting will happen. Today we focus on making sure two opposing forces run into each other in your story.

The Prompt

Put your character in a mundane, everyday situation. Then introduce a strong element of conflict.


Continue reading “Day 8 – All About Conflict”

Day 7 – Playing With Character with Playwright Jen Silverman

Today’s guest prompt comes from Jen Silverman.

Jen Silverman is a New York–based writer and playwright, a two-time MacDowell Fellow, and the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant and the Yale Drama Series prize. She was awarded the 2016–17 Playwrights of New York fellowship at The Lark and is a member of New Dramatists. She completed a BA in comparative literature at Brown University and an MFA in playwriting at the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and was a fellow at the Playwrights Program at Juilliard.

Signature Short Story Guide

For more advice for burgeoning short story writers, Download Signature’s Compact Guide to Writing Short Stories!

The Prompt

My approach to story-telling has always been character-driven. I’m fascinated by characters who are driven by overwhelming desires, who risk big, who long to transform.

Much of my professional writing has been for the theatre, as a playwright, and so when I teach writing, I focused on unlocking new understandings of characters, and accessing their individual voices.

This prompt is about exploring the “engine” of your main character. What drives them? Who are they when the stakes are high and their back is to the wall? Pick one of the following 4 scenarios and explore: how would they deal with this situation?

  1. Backed into a corner, your character tells a lie to protect him/her self.
  2. Your character has been plotting blood-chilling revenge on someone. Now both are sitting down to dinner together.
  3. Your character goes to a psychic, who tells them something frightening that changes how they see their future.
  4. Your character is obsessed with something. They think they will do anything to obtain it. The person they love most in the world stands in their way.


  • Ask yourself about your protagonist’s initial instincts? Are they a runner? A fighter? A lover? Fearful or forward? Visceral or heady?
  • The story you’re working on doesn’t have to contain stakes this high, for this prompt to be useful. Maybe you’re writing a quiet naturalistic story about a relationship dissolving.
  • The work you did to unearth your protagonist’s emotional range can still come into play, with the dial turned down to 5 instead of up to 10.

For more advice for burgeoning short story writers, Download Signature’s Compact Guide to Writing Short Stories!

103 – StoryADay May 2018 is Underway!

The first week of StoryADay May 2018 is drawing to a close. In this episode I tell you about 

The webinar I did with NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program, Marya Brennan:

The Superstars program, and how you can still join (today):

Here’s where you can find all the prompts for StoryADay May 2018:

And I answer a question about burnout and revision during May.


Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”