The WRITER Code Masterclass

storyaday graphic divider

Get Started with the WRITER Code

Getting Started with the WRITER Code

Lesson 2

“Aargh!” to “Ahhh!” – Make Success Inevitable

Lesson 3

Persistent Progress – The Easy Way

writer code 3

Lesson 4​

Mind The GAP

If you came here from a link and haven’t registered yet for the whole masterclass, make sure you’re on the list 

Welcome to the StoryADay WRITER Code Masterclass.

Whether you’re just coming back to your writing after a long time away or whether you’re already writing and want to build a life where your writing is a priority, you’re in the right place, you can stop worrying about writing or feeling guilty or wondering if you’re really cut out for thiswriting thing.

Stick with me over the next few days and I’ll introduce you to the WRITER Code, a process for becoming more productive, more creative, and enjoying the whole process of writing. Not just for a quick burst here and there, but for life.

 Why Listen To Me?

I’m Julie Duffy, the founder and director of StoryADay and I’ve been helping writers for over 10 years through the StoryADay challenges, my weekly writing prompts, my articles with Writer’s Digest, who love StoryADay so much that it’s been on their 101 Best Websites for Writers list of for years, I’ve been helping people through my partner projects with NaNoWriMo, my columns with WriterUnboxed.com and other online sites.

I’ve been working directly with authors since 1998, most recently in the StoryADay Superstars coaching group, founded in 2018. 

In that time ‘my’ writers have built rewarding writing practices, had their first (and 500th) stories published, signed publishing deals with traditional publishers and released their own books as independent authors.

I want that life of creative freedom and reward for you.

Writing is how we make sense of life

Life keeps coming at us, keeps changing, keeps challenging us. Writing is how we make sense of it, how we endure.

You should be writing.

You deserve to be writing.

It’s easy for me to say that. It’s harder for me to make you believe that and to feel your right to write.

But that’s exactly what I’m going to try write do over the next few days.

When you really believe that writing is an essential part of your story, it makes everything easier from making time to write, to doing the writing, to­—believe it or not—everything else that goes on in your life, outside the writing.

Your day job seems easier when you’re writing is going well…,

But the reverse is not necessarily true.

So let’s get you believing that you’re a writer and acting on that knowledge.

And you don’t have to figure out how to make that happen alone.

So are you ready for an introduction to the WRITER Code, the system I use to build lives that not only include writing, but have creative expression at their heart?

Grab a pen. You’re going to want to take notes.

Writing Is…Challenging

If you’re anything like me, there have been times when your writing life looked like this:

  • Think about writing
  • Worry that you’re not inspired
  • Decide to write something, anything
  • Plan out a story or a scene
  • Worry about whether it was right
  • Procrastinate
  • Sit down, write a few creaky sentences, take forever to get into the flow.
  • Get emotional about your desire to write, either beating yourself up, or getting really excited about the possibilities,
  • Overthink it
  • Do nothing
  • Or overdo it then come crashing to a halt because you’re exhausted,
  • Or finish a story and give yourself the day off, wake up three months or three years later and realize you haven’t written anything for a while,
  • Begin the whole process again and wonder why it’s so hard and why you haven’t made much progress in all the years you’ve been at this.

How do I know so much about you?

Because this is how it goes for everyone, who wants to write. There are times when everything flows and there are times when it crushes to a halt.

The trick is to put systems in place to shorten the gap between the periods of productivity and the periods of sloth.

Sloths are Underrated

We do need time away from our work.

We do need to live our lives and gather material.

There are parts of the writing process that don’t involve adding to our word count.

 All of this is important.

I struggled for years to balance these pieces. But for the past few years, myself, and a bunch of the StoryADay community, —I call them my Superstars and I’ll be telling you more about how you can join us soon— we’ve discovered that

  • we’re writing more,
  • we’re more consistent,
  • we’re writing better than ever,
  • we’re happier—which trickles out into the rest of our lives, from our jobs to our relationships.

And I didn’t want to keep it a secret how we’re doing it.

So I sat down and codified what we do.

That’s what I’m bringing you this week.

The WRITER Code explained

The WRITER Code is an acronym.

It contains the process that I’ve used to write five novels, hundreds of short stories over the past decade+,  all while raising a family, running a business, and a happy marriage.

All of those good things in life take time, effort, and attention.

Building a writing practice that will bring you both pleasure in the moment and happiness for the longterm will also take some time and effort.

And a plan.

The WRITER Code breaks down the steps of becoming a writer into these parts.


W – Write

It seems like there most obvious and simple thing, but there’s one powerful step I’m going to lead you through today that will make becoming a writer so much easier.

R – Refine

Once you’re writing regularly , you need to refine your process, your practice, the actualwriting, your goals… so much work to do here. And I’ll be talking about this step all through the StoryADay challenge coming up next month, all through the year.

I — Improve

of course, it’s not enough just to simply write, at some point, you’re going to have to start improving your writing.

You’re going to feel dissatisfied with what you’ve written and it’s massively important at this point, not to give up.

You’re going to be tempted, but your dissatisfaction with your own writing is an important signpost. It tells you what you need to focus on next: improving

(This is something that we focus on in the Superstars Group, with critique weeks and workshops.)

When you know that this is simply part of the process, you’ll start to feel more free in your first drafts. It helps with breaking writer’s blocks to know that you’ve got time later on to improve your first drafts.

And then the next two steps in the WRITER Code will help you persist in all your efforts to write and not give into the temptation to quit when it gets hard.

T —Triumph

Celebrating every win strengthens your whole writing practice, whether it’s patting yourself on the back for sitting down at a time that you put on your calendar for writing or buying champagne for everyone when you sign your first contract, it’s imperative to celebrate every tiny win in your writing career.

Our brains remember. Whether you’re experiencing good or bad emotions, your brain tries to protect you from pain or prod you into repeating whatever was pleasurable.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather feel good.

So every time I do something good for my writing, I take the time to celebrate.

I’ve built lots of this positive feedback into the StoryADay ecosystem before I even discovered that it’s actually a scientifically approved method for building good habits.

But because our emotions are treacherous, relying only on yourself makes consistency and progress difficult.

And that is why the E of the WRITER Code stands for Engage.

E —Engage

Writing can be a solitary activity, but being a writer can’t.

It’s too hard.

It’s too different from what normal people do.

We need other people who get it,  to lift us up on days when it’s tough and to celebrate with us on days when it’s going well.

And to remind us that it’s okay to be weird because our kind of weird saves the world.

R — Repeat

It’s all very well to write one story, but to make progress, to build real satisfaction into your writing process, you have to repeat every step in the WRITER Code.

Think of it as a spiral path. Every time you go through these steps, you widen the path, your abilities grow. You face new versions of old challenges, but this framework will help you tackle every one of them.

What To Do Now

So I’ve given you the skeleton of the WRITER Code and I’m sure all kinds of neurons are firing in your brain now, and you’re feeling high, emotional and, and going, “Yeah! I’m going to sign up for StoryADay and I’m going to learn more about the WRITER Code and I’m going to write all month and my life is going to be better and I’m going to be happier and I’m never, ever going to look back and ‘woohoo!’)

Those emotions are great.

I want you to hang on to them, but “writing”– that step 1– is hard, right?

So in Lesson 2 of this masterclass, I’ll lead you through one way you can always write and finish a story whenever you want.

And after that, I’m going to talk to you about how you can keep that momentum going, how you keep your motivation high and how you come out of all of this with a writing practice that you love.

Task 1

But for today, I have two challenges for you, things that will put “writer” at the center of your identity and make it easier for you to jump into your first story or your five-hundredth.

James Clear writes in his book, Atomic Habits, that the best way to begin being successful at something is to claim the identity of a person who does that thing.

So if you declare to the world that you’re a writer, your subconscious will begin to support you in doing the things a writer does, like

  • making time on your calendar for writing
  • making notes about characters
  • reading more
  • actually starting to write stories….

 If you’re one of those people who recently answered my survey about your biggest writing challenge with some variation of ‘mindset’, ‘motivation’, ‘getting the work done’ or ‘procrastination’, this part is especially important for you.

Task 1: As soon as you’re finished with this lesson, I want you to open up your email settings (this could also be your personal social media profile or some other place where you talk about yourself semi-publicly)

Add an email signature to all of your outgoing, personal emails.

Here’s what it should say: [your name, writer].

That’s it.

It’s going to feel weird and scary and maybe you’re going to giggle or feel like a fraud, but you’re not.

You’re a writer.

By claiming the identity you will signal to your brain that is time to start living up to that by taking the steps a writer might take.

Task 2

Right after you finish with this lesson and changing your email signature, download the StoryADay Story Sparks Tracker.

Pick the style that works best for you. Fold it up, put it in your pocket, stick it on the fridge door, whatever you need to do, and then spend the next few days collecting five Story Sparks a day.

These aren’t story ideas or plots or fully fledged character arcs. They’re just little details that you notice about the world around you that might be able to use the story.

Even if you’re stuck in a studio apartment 24 hours a day, you can find Story Sparks .What is the fabric of your couch feeling like under your fingers? How does the dishwasher smell when you open it? How does your cat move? What can you hear in a supposedly silent building? Even when you turn off all the electronics? How does a fresh Apple taste or a movie piece of bread? What is that really idiosyncratic phrase that your Auntie Marian always used to use? Where is the first place you’ll go for dinner the next time you get a chance and why?

Don’t worry about what you’re going to do with them yet.

Just collect the kinds of details that flesh out stories capture them.

Five Story Sparks a day for a week will give you 35 writerly details you can use in stories during StoryADay May or anytime you want to write.

And more than that, you’ll be walking through the world as a writer, which will reinforce your own identity as a writer.

So will you do it?

Will you add writer to your email signature and start collecting Story Sparks? I’d love it. If you would put a comment down there and let me know that yes, you’re going to do it.

Come back next time for…

Of course. It’s not the whole story.

Just calling yourself a writer doesn’t mean that you’re writing in a thing.

And that part is where you’ll encounter your next set of challenges.

So in Lesson 2 of this masterclass, I’m going to take you through a powerful tool that will help you begin to practice and repeat the W part of the WRITER code: my favorite quick method for starting a story and getting to the end any time, every time.

It’s a method that I’ve been using to help people for years. I get delighted emails from writers who’ve used this method to surprise themselves by writing their first complete story in years, or to write a story that flowed easily.

Sometimes I hear from people who’ve used it to write the first draft of the story that’s now about to be published.

It’s not magic.

And it does take a bit of effort.

But I’m going to lead you through it step by step in the next part of this masterclass, so that you can be a writer who writes today, not ‘some day’; so that you can be a writer who enjoys the process of writing instead of second-guessing themselves until they get blocked.

It’s Time to Take Action

So until then, do me a favor, take on the two challenges I set to change your email signature and start collecting stories sparks, then leave a comment and tell me how it felt

Oh, one more thing.

You know that friend who’s always saying that they want to start writing? Why not send them over here to this page and invite them to join you on this journey to becoming a writer who writes?

Remember you don’t have to do it alone.

Then watch your inbox for Lesson 2 of the, WRITER Code masterclass and keep writing.

Let me know how you’re feeling about my challenges and if you’ll take me up on them….leave a comment below:

3 arrows down

82 thoughts on “!LP writer code 1”

  1. Hi Julie!
    This first masterclass made me feel hopeful for the first time in a long time… I quit my day job to write, and I’ve been struggling so much I was contemplating giving up. I’m going to change my email signature, but I’m not sure how I go about downloading the Story Sparks?
    Thank you!

    1. I am so happy it’s making you feel hopeful.
      Writing full-time is soo much more difficult in some ways, than writing around the edges.
      Realistically, I need dates with other writers, and external accountability AND most writers I know have discovered there’s only a certain amount of creative energy in any given day. (It can be refreshed by taking breaks, but nobody I know writes happily for 8 hours a day).

      Stick with us, and we’ll keep that hope rolling!

      The Story Sparks Catcher is linked from the orange button under the video.


  3. I added my first signature: Godwin Okojie- Published Author and Script/Screenwriter in Training. Can’t wait for next month!

  4. As soon as I updated my signature I feared questions and comments from others regarding declaration, so I added this quote: “Writing is its own reward.” –Henry Miller

    I guess it’s automatic for me to consider the reader when I write and that often stifles my creativity and alters my decisions when writing.

  5. Would it be possible to add captions to the videos, or to post a transcript? I’m hard of hearing and struggling to catch everything that’s being said.

    1. Yes! I’ve added them to lesson 4 but have been meaning to work back through them and add captions to the rest. Thank you for the nudge to get that done!

  6. Did I take this class before? My past is a total blur. I do remember adding “Writer” to my name when Jullie asked me to do that. How strange it looked! It’s still there in my signature, along with an appropriate quote from Benjamin Franklin. My signature no longer looks strange. Thank you, Julie.

  7. Thank you, Julie, for the push I needed to take myself seriously. My email is used for all kinds of things, so I decided to start a whole new account – kspinkwrites@! Added a signature, printed your story sparks worksheet, and this is me off to the races (so to speak)! My journey to this point has seen me half-finish the draft of a children’s picture book, and all my other ideas are bottle-necked in my brain screaming to get out. Turns out my internal gatekeeper lacks faith and is doing their best to keep me from getting my words out into the world. Hopeful that today’s kickstart is a step in the right direction. Thanks again!

    1. That’s a great idea: starting a separate email account!

      The middle of a project is always hard. What would it take to get you to finish that picture book?

      Also, you might start a small project (a short story) that you can finish so you can prove to your brain that you can do it! (If that appeals)

  8. Hi, Julie — Just watched the first class–feeling motivated and charged up to take on my best writer persona — have been writing for years, the NANOWRIMO challenges and near-daily blogging on Medium, but have not consistently and professionally taken on my dream writer role as novelist. Have added “Writer” to my email signature and also filled in a Story Sparks form — have decided to try on different forms each day and figure out which one works best — have already discovered that once I open up the genie bottle for ideas, so many surge forward! Now, for a fresh cup of tea and diving into the novel work for today. Thank you for this class! Louise

    1. That is SO true about opening up the bottle and letting the genie out. The more we create, the more creative we become!
      And I wonder how many of life’s extraordinary things have been powered by a fresh, hot cup of tea?

  9. Hello Julie!
    I found you when I was vacationing with the kids and grands. Due to arthritis, I stayed back and listened to you. Subsequently, I’ve written a short story that has been curated and published on Medium.com! Also have four more stories to be reviewed by my local writers’ group and Detroit Working Writers of which I’m a member. Good to pass drafts along to others. So helpful, as are you! Thank you so much!
    Nancy Yuktonis Solak

  10. I’m off to change my email signature right now! Just downloaded the Sparks catcher file. I’m looking forward to September.

  11. Thank you for this masterclass right before your challenge next month. Creating my signature was the easy-while-inspired part. The story sparks might require more affirmation about being the writer identity. But a few deep breaths, and some lo-fi music should allow me to release the tension and just spark-le!

    I enjoy your nurturing presence in the video and look forward to the next class!

    1. The sparks are for you and should help you CREATE that writer identity, I hope. There really are ideas everywhere! (But I’m with you on the deep-breathing and lo-fi music!)

  12. Both parts are DONE. Actually, I have been capturing Story Sparks for a few weeks now and I enjoy the process. It is a good feeling to call myself a writer and to know that I have a supply of “ideas” I can use to start a story or include in a story.

  13. I’ve completed both tasks from session one. The emailed I changed is the one with my pen name, so it’s different from the one I’m using for this class. Looking forward to session two. Thank you. Su

  14. I’ve written 30 short romances. Published some. All under a female pen name. Even my email address is a pseudonym!

    I’m a bloke and folklore says men don’t read romances. Statistics admit that 9% do. They certainly don’t write them. Unless you’re Nicholas Sparks. If they do, they hide behind female pen names. Which is why I followed their example.

    All of which makes me ask myself what name I add “Writer” to?

    1. FASCINATING. Sounds like you’re pretty secure in your identity. I might let you fly under the radar on this one 😉

    2. Hi Julie

      Actually I’m not. That’s why I commented as I did. In my real world I’m a public accountant. Being a writer of romances wouldn’t fly so well with a lot of my straight-laced business clients.
      Hence my use of pen names.

      I do want to leave a recognisable legacy of written and published books behind me. For my family. Under my real name.

      Which may be difficult if I only write romances. Which I love to read. And write.

      My issue thus, is what other genre to write in? My other love is police procedurals. Whether I can write them is an entirely different horse.

      1. Ahhhh, I see.

        Well, I wonder if cosy mysteries would be the way to go — you know the kind that usually are part of a series, with an amateur sleuth who encounters an improbably number of murders in their quaint home town 😉 Those often have a lot of the same sensibilities as Romance including a certain amount of formula and emotion (and can involve romance), and you can simply tell your skeptical work colleagues that you write ‘mysteries’, which covers a multitude of sins.

        I bet your business people would get much less snooty about Romance if you showed them some of the industry figures though: it’s the biggest-selling genre in fiction, raking in the most money. Would that speak to their straight-laced business hearts? 😉

        1. Hi Julie

          I’ve considered cozies. Enjoyed some of them. It’s when the cat solves the mystery or there’s a cake-making circle that I’m gone. That’s so not me.

          I do enjoy police procedurals like Sally Spencer’s “Charlie Woodend”. Shorter than most. My favourite is M.L. Buchman who writes military action romances. Lots of non-gory knock-em-down and carry-em-out with a strong romance element. Matt writes a lot of novelette and novella length. Which would suit me.

          1. Very cool. That makes me think of Bernard Cornwall, whose Napoleonic War army novels were secretly very romantic.

            If you love that genre, go for it!

  15. Thanks so much for your great, inspiring session. I identify so much with your description of what writing has been for me — the different ways that I’ve tried and failed. I feel very psyched and happy but also nervous because I feel that I’ve been here before and not continued. How can I want something so much yet not do it? I’m hoping I’ll stick to it but am doubtful. I didn’t know I had an email signature and would feel pretentious, presumptuous adding “writer”. I have printed out the story sparks cards. Here’s hoping!

    1. Ok, the email signature can be a “stretch goal” for you 😉

      Making lasting change is hard, and unfortunately it involves spending some time in this uncomfortable feelings of “I’ve been here before” and feeling how icky it feels. The good news is that you can use that to fuel your progress, long-term if you put the right practices and support in place!

      Let’s make this the last time you have to come back to your writing!

  16. Thanks for the masterclass, Julie. Off I go to change my email signature and stock up on chits of paper around the house for catching story sparks!

  17. Confession here: Took this challenge last year and did not complete it. Wrote most of the month of May but not every day & have since written only sporadically. However, know in my bones that I am a writer. Your Master class helped me get nearer that goal & want to master the habits & tools this year. So, I’m back & determined this time. Also organizing a writers group locally for more accountability & to help all of us stay on track. Will be sharing your program with them. Thank you for your generosity in sharing what has worked for you & so many others!

    1. Thanks for posting this…you’re not the only one and your words will give the others courage to keep going.

      It took me about 8 years to realize that I needed to back up the challenge with more support. Thrilled you’re back and making it a whole-life program!!

  18. Julie,
    I am stepping up to the challenge and I’m encouraged by you. I’ve been writing stories for years and now I am ready to be a writer and published author. I started writing a beautiful story a couple of months ago and the feedback I’ve received says I have a lot to learn; this would be an easy time to quit but I am not giving up. I am a writer and I’m looking forward becoming a great one. I really appreciate you!

    1. This is an awesome and courageous response to that feedback (after all, having a lot to learn is simply that, not a sign that you can’t learn!)

      Looking forward to watching your journey!

  19. Julie!

    Thank you for the marvelous class (or part there of)

    I changed my email signature and made a list of sparks. How easy was that, eh?

    For the past couple of weeks, I’ve ‘wanted’ to write but… yeah, it happens. I let it happen.

    This is a whole new life for writing.

    Thanks again.

  20. Sometimes getting back to basics is what it takes to calm down and stave off the overwhelming-everything-else. This will help get me back on track for May. Thank you!

    1. Love that attitude, Judi. I’m currently in a class that’s doing just that: going back to basics on something I’ve been through before and it’s amazing what I’m discovering this time through!

  21. An email signature isn’t all that applicable to my life, but I did go change my bio on Facebook and Twitter to include “writer.”
    And I downloaded a new app on my phone (Simplenote) for story sparks and even full story ideas. You can tag each note you put in, so I have a “StorySpark” tag I’m using a few times per day now.

    Thanks for the inspiration and community!

  22. Julie, thank you for putting this Masterclass together. I floundered through NaNoWriMo and between burnout and a brutal tax season, it’s been a few months since I’ve even tried writing. This was exactly what I needed to ease back into the process before May.

    1. Oh I’m so glad, (and I can only imagine how tax season must have been for folks who had to make sense of it this year!)

  23. I’ve been using the story sparks worksheet for a few days, and I cant wait to use all these details soon. Thanks, Julie! Looking forward to video two.

  24. Hi Julie,
    Thank you for the excellent video. Your voice is just great to listen to and everything you said made so much sense. The writer code is now pinned on the wall above my desk. I added the ‘Writer’ to my email signature too but have yet to send one out for anyone to make comment. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone notices it, or more so, has the nerve to say anything 🙂 as I have had the same signature there for so long now. All the same, it does feel quite audacious for me.
    In regard to the sparks, I just did the 5 for today thinking retrospectively as it is now quite late in the evening when checking this lesson. But all of the sparks were only sentences about what I did and how I felt really. Such as, what dream had woken me up early, where I went for a coffee for the first time since lockdown and how that felt, the people I saw and met there and how that went and felt, etc etc. It seemed a bit too much about me maybe? Now I know to do them, I think for the rest of the week I can be more present and look around me and see the sparks differently. I often ask myself really weird questions about the most mundane things I see each day, so this exercise should be fun and I reckon there might be more than 5 some days!

    1. Thanks for the compliments!

      It’s funny, isn’t it how the email signature is quite subtle but also quite audacious. Maybe it’s like trying out a daring shade of nail polish…on your toes, first 😉

      I think it’s fine (and natural) for the Story Sparks to be all about you at first. It’s when you run out of those that you’ll need to reach. And when you start to reach, THAT’s when things get weird and interesting…

  25. I’m really having fun reading short stories again, thanks to you, Julie. I couldn’t figure one of them out and for some reason it all came together for me in the middle of the night. Writing a story a day is going to be challenging, and I’m wondering how long you are expecting them to be. I saw on one of your resources – 1000 words. Yikes!!!

    1. Oh, that’s a sign of a good story: it got in to you subconscious!

      In terms of length, they can be any length. I recommend keeping them short if you can. Sometimes I aim for 100 word stories on most days of the month, but you’ll probably find you write to a natural length (might be 500 words, might be 1500). Anything longer than that is a challenge to keep going for more than a day or two.

      The prompts will encourage you to switch things up from time to time (but remember, they’re only suggestions).

  26. Thank you, Julie. I am looking forward to learning more! With those two challenges completed, I realized a need for not simply taking my writing seriously, but treating my writing tools with more respect. I set aside a place for notes on your tutorials and for story sparks.

    1. I LOVE that. It’s going to send the subconscious message to your brain that this is important to you. Looking forward to seeing where this leads you!

  27. A teacher always loves being taught by an inspirational, experienced teacher!
    I am looking forward to going on this very special journey.
    The road is long, and there are many stories along the way!
    Thank you for charting it out for us!

  28. You have inspired me to keep at it and never give up! I know that one of the biggest things missing in my writing life has been community! Thank you! I’m totally in!

    1. Woohoo!

      I have a very wise friend who says ‘the most important story is the one we tell ourselves’. Sounds like you have a healthy story going on, there. I believe you when you say you will never give up!

  29. I did it. My email now has a signature that declares that I am a writer. It was only scary for a bit. Thank you.

  30. Hi Julie,
    I need to get motivated to write again. I’m hoping following along and working your assignments will help me.
    Thank you.

  31. Julie, your voice is so comforting. Have completed both tasks. Do you know, the email signature turned into a technical challenge. So persevere and do it. Now I am a writer!

  32. I totally very like it and got a lot of thing out of the lesson 1 video lot of talking it was got lot out of it

  33. You are inside the writer’s head – ok, inside of MY head. Love how simple you make the prompts, Julie. Thank you. I’m doing it. I have the stories and it all feels so (too?) big – I’ll start with your sparks to get started.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.