Day 17 – Big News! Short Story Feedback Call

Something unexpected is coming today!

I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to make you an offer it’s going to be hard to refuse:

Send me your story and I will offer feedback on a handful of the stories I receive, live on a call next Monday, May 23.

We write for our own pleasure, but every writer secretly (or not-so-secretly) wants to be read. This is your chance!

If your story is chosen, I’ll highlight part of it on the call and share what’s working and what you might do to make it more effective. 

Not everyone’s stories will be chosen, but even if yours isn’t, you will learn a TON by being on the call and seeing what’s working in other people’s stories, and the most common fixes. 

(People who have been in my Critique Weeks ALWAYS say they get as much from the discussion of other people’s work, as they do from having their story critiqued!)

Have I got your heart racing? 

Your task for today is to finish up your story and give it a once-over to see if you’re happy(ish) with the voice, the structure, the character development and the way it ends.

Make some notes on your story today – you can cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s tomorrow, before you submit your story.

Remember: you’re not reading for spelling and grammar errors today, but the big-picture stuff.

Tomorrow I’ll share details of how you can enter your story.

How do you feel about the idea of sharing your story? Leave a comment!

review bingo card
Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Day 16 – The End

Today we resolve things and tie them up (not necessarily with a bow)

Today is your day to wrap everything up.

The Climax & Resolution

You probably have a real sense, by this point, of what your character wants, needs, and is capable of. Today is the day to write the final action they take that resolve the story.

The resolution of your story is where they take (or suffer the consequences of) the actions that brought them to this point

  • If you want a happy ending, then the character gets what they want or need.
  • If you want a bittersweet ending, they get one but not the other.
  • If you want a sad ending, they don’t get either
  • Saddest of all, they CHOSE not to change in the way that is necessary for them to get what they want (sob!)

Remember that the plot is the actions your character have been taking, that keep things moving along.

There’s an argument to be made that the real story is the inner journey of the character.

Don’t forget to resolve both.

The Ending

I would argue that the ending is different from the resolution, in that the closing lines are less about the character and more about the relationship between you and the reader.

When you tie up the action and the inner story of the character, the reader trusts that you’re a good storyteller.

When you take time to craft a really great closing, it’s as if you’re turning to the reader and saying “hey, do you see? Did you feel that? What are you going to do with what you just experienced, out there in your own life?”

It shouldn’t (in my not-so-humble opinion) often be as obvious as that. We’re not Aesop, telling fables. But we should pay attention to how we wan the reader to feel on the way out of the door (of our story).

Here are some of my favorite ways to give a story an emotional closing:

Leave a comment letting us know what kind of ending you chose, and if you feel you have in place, all the parts a story needs.

ending bingo
Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Fun-Size Challenge Folks: a favor?

Tell me what you think!

We’re not quite finished with this challenge yet but, I wondered if I could ask you a favor.

If you’ve made breakthroughs or had some fun during this fun-sized challenge, it would mean the world to me if you would provide a little testimonial.

It’s the first time I’ve run the challenge this way and I’d love to be able to show other writers what they’re signing up for, next time I run it. There’s nothing quite as powerful as hearing other writers talk about what they got out of it.

I’m using a service called Bonjoro to collect responses to three questions. You can respond by pointing your camera at your face and answering the three questions, or by writing out your answers. It’s super-simple! Here’s a sample I recorded, holding my phone, facing a bright window:

You can skip questions, or save your progress and though it asks for a profile pic, that’s optional too!

If you have felt excited or empowered, if you have surprised yourself, or simply got a sense of satisfaction from this challenge, I’d love to share that with other writers who might need a nudge to take a chance on themselves.

By responding you’re granting me permission to share these videos or written answers here at StoryADay. I really appreciate you!

Day 14.5 – A Fun-Sized Feast

A summary of all the writing-related tasks from the StoryADay Fun-Sized Challenge so far

Maybe you started this challenge determined not to miss a day (“It’s all going to be different this time!”) and maybe life got in the way—or your mother came to visit, or your boss threw a big project at you—and the challenge has got away from you.

Or maybe you just discovered this challenge and are sad you missed the start.

Good news!

With the fun-size version of the challenge you can jump in right now, catch up on the essentials in about 2 hours (total), and still be on track to finish a new short story this month.

In this post, I have prepared a banquet of all the fun-size tasks you’ll need to get your story written.

(If you want to get the most out of the challenge, I suggest you go here and click on all the tasks, to help you build a sustainable writing practice, but in the interests of catching up, this page has the essentials.

BEWARE: these materials will not be available after the challenge ends, so don’t think you can come back to it later.

Writers love deadlines, right?

Fun-Size Feast of Tasks

  1. A Solid Foundation
  2. Starting Your Story
  3. Their First Action
  4. Write Your Opening
  5. Brainstorming the Middle pt 1
  6. Brainstorming the Middle pt 2
  7. Something Changes
  8. Beginning to write the middle
  9. The end of the middle
  10. The beginning of the end

Each piece should take you 15 minutes.

You can dedicate 2 hours to powering through them all, or sprinkle them throughout your weekend.

Read through the comments section of the tasks if you need some motivation: see how happy those people are? You can have that too!

Leave a comment and let me know when you will be working on your story, this weekend

Day 6 – Other People’s Openings

Today’s task is to read at least the opening of a few of these stories and see if you could fill in the first part of the Short Story Framework for those stories.

When You Get Back From Nashville by Patricia Q. Bidar

Character: Empty-nesting mom, Desire: to maintain a meaningful connection with her grown child

My Dear You by Rachel Khong

Character: a newly-deceased bride, Desire: to adjust to her new circumstances

Abernathy Resume by KB Carle

Character: Underappreciated teacher, Desire: to get a better job (be appreciated and better paid)

The Day The Birds Came – Kyra Kondis

Character: A school child (complicated by the ‘we’, but essentially…), Desire: to be cool/important

Shit Cassandra Saw  That She Didn’t Tell The Trojans Because At That Point Fuck Them Anyway – Gwen Kirby

Character: a disillusioned seer, Desire: wants to be believed

(the answer to ‘how soon do you know the character’ is ‘immediately, because it’s all in the title!!”)

Who is the character?

What is their adjective?

What is their desire?

You can read other short stories, if you want, but pay attention to how soon in each story you are able to identify these things. How many lines/words (or what percentage) into the story are you, when you know who the character is and what they want?

(Hint: it’s usually not very far.)

Note: their desire/need may not be the same thing, and may change over the course of the story. Today, we’re just focused on the opening.

Bingo!

make sure you set your printer to print this at original size, not full-page!

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Join The Discussion: How would YOU fill in the Short Story Framework for one of these stories? Post it below!

(If you want to see my answers, highlight the lines under each story link,  above. You’ll see my answers appear)

Day 3 – Target Practice

How can you know you’re successful, if you haven’t defined ‘success’?

Stephen King didn’t become “Stephen King” overnight. He did it step by step, and at each step he refused to quit, for some reason.

Often we are tempted to quit because we aren’t seeing the results we thought we would, fast enough (“I thought I’d have an agent by now”, “I thought I’d be published by now”, “I thought I’d be able to leave my day-job, by now.”)

Some of the end goals you have for your writing, today, might be true and reasonable and motivating for you.

But consider that some of them are rooted in other people’s expectations. And usually in the expectations of people who are not writers and have a very sketchy picture of how the words ‘writer’ and ‘success’ can fit together.

There are so many different ways to ‘be a writer’ – and to be successful as a writer – that it’s vital for each of us to define what ‘being a writer’ looks like for us, for now, and to be willing to revise that at each stage.

Before you can build a writing practice, or even successfully write a story, it’s helpful to figure out what ‘success’ looks like for you, for now….so that you know if you’re hitting the target.

Today’s task is to define success for yourself.

Grab your notebook and let’s go through this exercise together.

Set a timer for 3 minutes and move to the next question after each. Keep going even when you think you can’t answer the next question.

Write down your current biggest, most outlandish wish for your writing life and what does your life look like when you achieve it?

(feel free to think about money, fame, impact on others, and what your daily life would look like in that Best of All Possible Worlds). Go nuts with this.

E.g. create a fictional world that has a series of best-selling novels, a movie franchise and a line of tie-in action figures. I go to movie premieres in borrowed diamonds. My family compound is nestled by the woods at the bottom of a mountain, on a river that leads to the sea, but is also conveniently located for big city cultural events. I write in the mornings and spend afternoons walking the hills with my favorite humans, then do some more writing in the evenings before sleeping soundly and breakfasting on eggs from my free-range chickens (that someone else looks after). Fans write to me and tell me I changed their lives for the better.

What is a smaller success than this, that might lead to your Best of All possible Worlds goal? And what does your life look like?

e.g. Write the first book in my story world, putting all my current craft skills into play, and learning a few more along the way. Have trusted first-readers who give me excellent feedback, and are clamoring to be on my ‘street team’ and help promote it when the book comes out.  My life is pretty hectic, doing everything I had to do before, and deal with publishing and promoting a book, but I’m learning a ton and I have a team of great people around me. It’s exhilarating, and a little exhausting.

What is a smaller success than this? And what does your life look like?

E.g. write some and complete some short stories set in my fictional world, to help me build the craft skills I need to build compelling characters and hold the reader enthralled all the way through. I’m spending a significant amount of my free time on my writing, mostly writing, but also taking classes from writers/teachers I admire and leveling up my skills. I don’t spend as much time on Twitter, doomscrolling or watching dumb TV anymore. My other creative hobbies are being neglected, but I had to pick a lane. I chose writing and I can feel myself making progress. It’s quietly satisfying.

What is a smaller goal than that? And what does your life look like?

E.g. write a single story and complete it. It is hard for me to give myself permission to take time for myself, consistently, but I’ve noticed that when I stopped asking for permission and simply gave it to myself, it wasn’t that big a deal to anyone else. When I have done my writing, I am tired but  somehow refreshed and relaxed. I am definitely more fun to be with after I’ve played with my imaginary friends. The people I live with are starting to notice, and even occasionally say,  ‘do you want some writing time?’ I have decided not to be insulted by that!

What does a smaller success than that look like? And how is your day?

E.g. I brainstormed an idea for at least part of a new story, and I put it somewhere I will be sure to find it again. It’s a step in the right direction and something I can work on tomorrow, or next time I need a story idea. I didn’t write 2000 words of deathless prose, but I showed up for my writing and played in a serious way. The rest of my day goes great. Somehow decisions seem easier, my day job is less annoying, and I’m able to give some energy to other people when they need me…without resenting it!

What does a smaller success than that look like? And how is your day?

E.g. I captured three story sparks. It didn’t seem like ‘writing’, but it unleashed my creativity and made the mundane stuff I had to do today a little more fun. Running errands and folding laundry is a lot more fun when I keep imagining backstories for everything from the supermarket cashier to the towels! Someone told me I made them smile because I looked like I was having a good day. 

Phew!

(You can stop your timer now!)

My final question

Do you need to reach that Best of All Possible World goals before you can feel successful? Can you build a writing practice that improves your life and the lives of people around you, with a few tiny, starter goals?

Tomorrow I’m going to give you one more, really fun exercise to do, to get you jazzed for writing, before we start work on the One Story you’re going to write this month, on Day 6.

Bingo!

Right-click to save me. Make sure you set your printer to print this at original size, not full-page!

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

You don’t have to do all the tasks on the day they’re assigned, so paste your tokens on the gameboard on whatever day you get to it!

Leave a comment: what was the tiniest step you came up with? How would it feel if you could have a little of the feeling that evoked, every day? Would it lead to bigger and better things?

Day 2 – A Solid Support

I’m continuing to ease you in to this challenge with tiny tasks, and today’s is to download The Short Story Framework and file it away in your dedicated StoryADay workspace. 

(You did set one up, didn’t you?)

Why Use The Framework?

Of course there is no single way to write a short story, and no single ‘correct’ form of what a short story should look like.

(They’re subversive little things, and that’s why I love them)

There is, however, a simple framework that will support a particular type of short story: a traditional, narrative short story with one protagonist and a couple of supporting characters.

It’s a solid scaffolding that allows you to focus on the aesthetics of the thing: the characters, the description, the theme…

We’re going to be working with this framework later this week so today’s task is:

Download The Short Story Framework

…and put it in your dedicated StoryADay workspace.

Then bring it out again, because I want you to read through the framework.

Don’t write anything yet (I mean, you can. I can’t stop you…) but instead think about stories you already know and how they fit into this framework.

(Good models are the Star Wars movies, and episodic TV that tells a single story each week)

The framework isn’t something I invented. It’s what I reverse-engineered from millennia of western storytelling (and other people’s attempts to deconstruct it).

It will serve you well, to get from “Idea” to “The end” this month, without taking too long to get into the real story; without wandering off into a messy middle that never wants to let you leave it; and without wondering if you’ve really reached ‘the end’.

Bingo!

make sure you set your printer to print this at original size, not full-page!

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

You don’t have to do all the tasks in order, so paste your tokens on the gameboard on whatever day you get to it!

Leave a comment:

  • Were you able to recognize the structure as you thought through stories you knew? Did it feel familiar and comfortable?
  • I mentioned a few common pitfalls that derail people’s short story efforts. (Taking too long to get to the real story; wandering around lost in the middle; not knowing how to end.) What’s your biggest enemy, when trying to write (and finish) a short story?
  • Bonus question: Do you tend to resist structure or love it? (Don’t worry if you don’t like outlining. That’s not what we’re going to be doing with this).

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.

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 “