It’s Almost Here! The 5th Annual StoryADay May starts tomorrow, with a writing prompt from award-winning novelist Neil Gaiman.
In the the last few hours before the challenge lots of people hear about it, lots of people sign up, and lots of people start giggling nervously and thinking “what have I done?”. Here are some reassuring words before we get started:
You can do this.
Nobody dies if you don’t write 31 fabulous stories next month.
(But really, you can do this.)
Now for some practical words on Writing During The Challenge and Planning Ahead (yes, even after May starts, you’ll still have planning to do).
Writing During The Challenge
Here’s some news and some answers to the most frequently asked questions by new recruits (welcome!):
- Writing Prompts – I provide optional writing prompts every day. You can use them or ignore them, whatever suits your style. If you want to get emails every morning with that day’s writing prompt, make sure you are on this list.
- Guest Prompts – On days when a celebrity guest provides a writing prompt, you’ll still see a prompt from me, too. You can write to either prompt (or none).
- Who are the Guest Prompters? Guest writing prompt providers this year include: Neil Gaiman; Heidi Durrow; Therese Walsh; Mary Robinette Kowal; Debbie Ridpath Ohi; Angela Ackerman; Elizabeth S. Craig; Becca Puglisi (and possibly more as I check my inbox. These professional writer types, it turns out, are generous and supportive! We like them! Sadly, there’s no guarantee that any of them will have time to come and hang out and read our stories. They have their own writing to work on!)
- Where do my stories go? If you want to post them on your own blog or Tumblr or whatever, you can share a link in the community (maybe in The Victory Dance) BEWARE: if you post a story online some people consider that ‘first publication’ and that piece may not be eligible for submission to certain markets or publications, even if you revise it substantially. If you think you’re going to want to use your StoryADay pieces for contests or other publications, you probably shouldn’t post them online. You can, however, post excerpts and invite fellow StoryADay folks to come and comment on them.
Planning For The Month
Here are some tips from a veteran (me!) on how to get through this month of extreme creativity:
- Pledge to collect Story Sparks every day, wherever you are (Story Sparks are not outlines, but rather things that pique your interest as you go through your day; things that make you go “Oo, I might be able to use that in a story!”)
Even if you’re using my prompts, most of them are intentionally vague, allowing you to customize them to your own interests. Why not sit down today and write some lists: people who annoy you, things that scare you, places you wish you’d been, things you wish you were brave enough to try; memories that stick with you… Mine these for ideas.
- Plan ahead — Use the Creative Challenge Workbook to work through where how and what you’re going to write this month. If you’re having trouble making time to write, consider picking up the Time To Write workshop.
I strongly recommend that you spend some time thinking about what kinds of characters, settings or themes you might look at for the first few days. Having a list of ‘possible things to write about’ makes it much easier to get to work each day, than simply sitting down and waiting for inspiration to strike. Make an appointment with yourself (put it on your calendar!) to sit down each week of the challenge and brainstorm 7-10 Story Sparks that you might use.
- Watch The New ‘How To’ Videos on how to navigate (and get the most out of) the StoryADay online community. There are some very lovely volunteers hanging out in the community who will help make you feel at home. I’ll be introducing them soon!
- Spread The Word – The more people who take part, and the more people you tell about StoryADay, the more effective the peer pressure! Take some time today to post this image on your social media network of choice, and tell people you’re taking part in StoryADay. If you know anyone who’s always saying they wished they wrote more, challenge them to join you. Spread the word. Use #StoryADay. (And no, I don’t get rich if you do, it’s just that this is one of those times when the adage “the more the merrier” really does apply!)
- Set Your Own Rules – you may know right now that you’re only going to be able write six days out of every seven…and that’s fine. Set your own rules now — just make sure they seem on the challenging side of ‘manageable’.
- Eat well and get as much sleep and exercise as you can. It’s amazing what sleep, exercise and eating-your-veggies can do for the creative brain. (Your grandmother was right!)
- Do a little warm-up writing today. Check out today’s writing prompt: Fear!
I’m SO glad you’re coming along on this crazy adventure. You’re going to be amazed at how much you write next month and how creatively free you become. Sure there will be bad days, but you’ll be immensely proud of yourself if you just keep turning up. And you will definitely write some stories that we can all be proud of!