We talk about the pillars of a writing life, why Gabriela wanted to create a do-it-yourself DIYMFA, and that old favorite: Imposter Syndrome.
We talk about the pillars of a writing life, why Gabriela wanted to create a do-it-yourself DIYMFA, and that old favorite: Imposter Syndrome.
Before StoryADay, all the roads on my writing journey were under construction. It was worse than sitting in rush hour and the detours diverted to dead ends.
Since StoryADay, some of the lanes on my writing journey have opened up, and while my writing habits are far from cruising, I’ve begun to pick up speed. I feel great that I pushed myself to address a creative void that seemed unable to fix itself.
I published one story during a 2016 contest, Beyond Comprehension, but I consider my most significant writing success is making my family laugh at stories I’ve shared.
Even as a sporadic participant I was floored at how much I gained.
I find my creativity was sparked and often on long drives I get snatches of stories. Having voiced telling me their adventures once again is a glorious feeling.
Beyond invigorating my writing habit, being part of the group has helped me in ways I didn’t expect and helped push me out of my comfort zone. Group chats, podcasts, and Slack are forms of tech that I avoided before but now can navigate slightly better. It was rather fortuitous since I needed to use Zoom and make a podcast for school this year!
I’m not expecting that I’ll have 31 amazing stories that can be polished and published at the end of May, but my goal is to carve out time to write something other than coursework every day.
I have been exploring different ways of finish writing pieces. Beginning something is not that difficult for me, bringing it to a conclusion is.
And StoryADay May – ever since 2010 – has been helping me see that I can indeed finish what I begin!
Seeing the pool of story drafts at the end of the month is such a boost to one’s writing self. I’m truly grateful that you began this community. It is an honor to have seen you work diligently at making it what it is today. Thank you!
I have finished story drafts of various sizes in various genres! It feels amazing. I couldn’t have this without signing up for StADa every year.
Currently, writing successes are personal milestones of leaping over technique-related obstacles.
I am slowly learning not to dread the blank page, and not to let my logical side crush my creative one by acting like a haughty school teacher.
The StADa format really helps with that because the only goal is to reach the finish and iron out story-kinks later.
Oh it is so good to feel part of a warm, generous and contributive community where everyone’s focus is on helping each other with their writing processes.
Being part of it also increases accountability and in my case, it breaks me out of shyness – which is an important part of learning to share your work with people.
Thanks, Neha! It’s been wonderful having you here since the beginning!
Before I found StoryADay I had been back to writing for three years after a long break.
I was not confident in what I was writing and I was not consistent. I would start stories and never finish them. I had book ideas coming up left and right but nothing outlined on paper.
I came across StoryADay when I was randomly googling about short stories. I thought it was interesting to find a group that would be writing a story every day for a month.
I have always been up for a challenge so I joined.
Since doing StoryADay I am more confident and constant than I have ever been in my writing before. I am finally sharing my writing again with others and I’m putting myself out there for critics.
The writing I produce now is finished and more polished than it had been previously. Within the next few months, I will start sending out queries to get my stories into the world.
My biggest success in writing has been completing multiple short stories and finding confidence again in my creative process. I completed my first draft of a novel I had been working on for two years thanks to the encouragement of our NaNoWriMo group this last year.
It has been absolutely amazing to be part of the Superstars group and to have fellow writers at all different levels to talk to.
I haven’t had the opportunity to be part of a writing community until this last year and it has truly changed my life. It has been great to share my writing successes and struggles within this community. Everyone has been very supportive.
The progress I have experienced in this group has been a driving force to keep pushing my craft. Meeting up with blank pages daily can be daunting at times but when you know there are others doing the same thing it makes all the difference. This experience has taught me writing does not have to to be a lonely process people have made it out to be when you have a community of writers to turn to.
Katherine Back has been a member of the StoryADay community since 2017. Today she reflects on her writing journey since then. Thanks, Katherine!
Before StoryADay, I was alone and didn’t even know I was on a journey.
I had four 6-week workshops, a handful of 1200-2000 word drafts, 6 full journals dating back 20 years and a list of one-line story ideas piled up next to a series of nomadic desks that always wound up in a corner of the least used room in the house.
I knew I wanted to write, needed to write, that everything in my life went better when I was writing.
What I didn’t know was that I was the only one from whom I needed permission to take the time EVERY DAY to write.
Now, I have established a regular writing practice in which I write something every day. I can start, finish and revise a story. I have an arsenal of resources to which I can turn for instruction, encouragement and motivation.
The blank page is a very exciting place for me.
I feel light and giddy when I am writing or planning to write or talking to other writers.
Saying out loud, “I am a writer”.
StoryADay Superstars gave me a place to be a writer and a community of writers who support me in my process regardless of what that looks like on any given day. The members of this family give the gift of accepting critique as lovingly as they offer it.
I feel whole and connected.
Thanks, Katherine! We love having you as part of the family, too!
My first StoryADay (in 2011, I looked it up) came a few years after I started to take my writing seriously. I had not yet had anything published.
Eight years later, I have had more than a handful of short stories published and I have a novel about ready to send to potential publishers (and am well into another).
My writing practice has greatly matured. I’m very happy about all of that.
(I also still feel very insecure about it and as if I’m not as far along as I “should” be, but that’s life.)
Generally, I feel like establishing a solid writing practice is my biggest success. More particularly, I had a story published last year (Leaving, in the anthology Bikes Not Rockets) that I am really proud of, more than others.
This community has always felt supportive and welcoming. It has provided me with external accountability, which I rely on. All in all, it’s just a great place.
You can read more from Monique at notwhereilive.ca
An Interview with Superstar, Tammy L. Breitweiser
Before StoryADay, I was writing frequently, but missing a critical component – finishing.
Neil Gaiman has been quoted as saying, “You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” StoryADay solidified this idea for me.Read more
One of the best things about plugging into the writing community — online and off—is that you find yourself surrounded by people with creative and innovative ideas that spark your creativity as well as their own.
One such person is Gary Zenker who is, among other things, a writer and a game designer.
Gary’s new storytelling game, WritersBloxx is the perfect tool for StoryADay writers, who already enjoy writing prompts and want to be more productive. Continue reading “WritersBloxx – A Box Of Story Prompts Disguised As A Game”
I’ve always been impressed with how much fiction StoryADay friend and participant Alexis A. Hunter pushes out into the world: over 50 short stories in publications like Apex, Shimmer and Cricket.
In 2017, she has committed to writing a new short story every month.
That sounded like my kind of challenge, so I asked her more about it. Continue reading “Write 12 Stories This Year – A Challenge From Alexis A. Hunter”
Every word of that title is important, so go back and read it again.
Doesn’t that sound appealing?
The first time I came across Stuart Horwitz, I was struck by the way his writing instruction bridges the gap between Pantsers and Plotters, and how he provides actual processes and methods for getting from ‘wannabe writer’ to ‘someone who can polish and finish their work’.
His latest book comes out today and provides a powerful, user-friendly guide to getting work done, while LOVING what you do.
It takes you through the process of writing a book in three drafts and includes extras like PDFs and stop-motion animated videos that illustrate the lessons in the book. It’s really delightful and powerful stuff.
I had a chance to interview Stuart Horwitz about his books, his editing work and his own writing this week, and he had some great advice for us, as we work on short stories and perhaps move on to our longer, book-length projects.
JD: Why did you want to write this particular book? What problem are you trying to help writers solve?
SH: We only have a limited number of books in us — mostly because our time here is limited — and so it becomes a matter of figuring out what are the best books for us to work on, and how we can bring the most excitement to that work and then, how we can get through it, while we still have that energy and affection for it. (Like I say in the subtitle “while you still love it”.) And then move on to the next thing.
And I know this very well because, little-known fact: I trained as a mortician. I walked out of there knowing for a fact that I was going to die. We all are.
Before that time comes, how about we accomplish some shit, you know? That’s all I’m saying.
JD: So how do we do that?
SH: Having a ritual while you write is crucial. There are times when it’s not possible [to fit in everything from your ritual]. We have to recognize that its value doesn’t lie within the ritual itself, it lies in its ability to bring you to a joyful state. It helps us penetrate beyond appearances and figure out why we’re doing this…what we’re doing.
And every writer has to have a process. It doesn’t have to be my process. You can get some from me, four from this other person, and make up 2 of your own and there’s your process. But if you stick to it, it will help you on the less-excited days.
JD: You take a very moderate approach to the whole ‘Write by the seat of your pants’ vs ‘Outline everything’ debate. You sound terribly reasonable.
SH: We like to call it The Middle Way in Buddhism.
There’s always a reason to bend the rule and there’s always a reason to practice discipline.
JD: The thing that helped me immensely, every time I read your books, is the concept of “Knowing What Draft You’re In”. Can you explain that a bit?
SH: The first draft is just getting it down – The Messy Draft. The second draft is the Method Draft which is about making it make sense. The Third Draft is the Polish Draft which is about making it good.
So, when you sit down to start, it’s all First Draft.
And when you do action steps to figure out what you’re actually working with and then take the best parts up a level, it becomes the Second Draft.
And then you go through your beta-reading process, bring in outside input, and use that to get to your third draft, which is your polish draft.
And I’m talking about a real draft. I’m not talking about tweaking. Like: these five scenes are all going in trash. And: I need scenes that aren’t here yet. Adding three commas? That’s not a draft. That’s just ornamentation. That’s chasing perfection.
The secret to the three drafts is that when, during the second draft, you uncover holes and start writing that scene, remember that new scene is in its first draft. If you stare at that new piece and say, “Why aren’t you as good as everything else already?” it’s going to be madness.
Keep in mind, every time you encounter new material it’s first draft.
JD: How do you know what to work on next, in revisions?
SH: There are action steps [in his books – JD] that you can take between drafts which will reveal to you what you are working on, more clearly.
Mapping the journey we’re on at the same time that we’re on it, gets kind of dizzying/confusing.
We need a separation between the viewer and the subject matter.
I’m a big fan of grids [Here, I refer you to Stuart’s books and his website because this is a big, meaty and really useful subject – JD]
JD: How can a short story writer avoid overwhelm at the thought of writing a novel?
SH: I like to break it down in to writing sessions. The question is “how many writing sessions does it take”? From my own experience: I have a short story that is probably one session away from nailed and that is Number 5.
So it’s the same concept. My second book, Book Architecture Method, took 60 writing sessions.
You show up to one of those 60 sessions, you necessarily have to reduce the scope of your expectations. What am I doing today? I’m not writing a novel today. I’m writing a part of a chapter in a draft today.
I’m going to take the rest of that junk out of my mind and I’m going to sit down and write, and I’m gonna write what I was thought I was writing, and I’m going to discover new stuff, and I’m going t write stuff that isn’t good, and I’m going write stuff that is good, and I’m going to keep going, and I’m going to get to the end of this session.
When I get to the end of the session, if I’ve made progress, that’s a win.
JD: It’s easy as writers to judge ourselves as having failed. You idea of grids and process and ritual take the emotion out of the revision process.
SH: Self judgement is a very complex phenomenon and has many many faces. There may be a reason why that never really goes away: a tension exists where our need to constantly slay that dragon helps us bring forth our best work, or brings us to our edge. But the nagging, griping voices in our heads are, for the most part, not contributing to the forward motion.
You have to believe in yourself first. That is probably the hardest thing about writing. It’s probably one of the harder things about living, so practice in one helps with the other.
JD: I stress finishing stories during StoryADay. Your books are all about helping writers finish books. Why do you think so many writers never finish their projects?
SH: There are a lot of reasons why people don’t finish. [Sometimes] there’s some pretty deep psychological stuff going on. Somewhere there was a message that was encoded that ‘you are not good enough’.
Then the people who didn’t get that message, and who actually suck a lot worse with you, are filling up the airwaves with what they did. And now we’re having to read ten books by them before we get one book by you.
The fact is if you have 10 people who are reading what you have to say you can write something great. you can even write something great if one person is listening to you.
This book is a fabulous introduction to Stuart Horwitz’s method for writing and revising works of any length, and I can’t recommend it enough. Pick up a copy today.
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