The Challenge Update

Some of you saw the title and said, “What Challenge?”

And you would be right for the last two months. It has been a wild two months for many reasons, but now the decks have cleared again, deadlines are done, the horizon looks calm, and I’m off and running again. But before this challenge starts back up, I want to make sure everyone understands what I am trying to do.

The Challenge:

—To write 100 original short stories in one year.  All from titles. (Different sources of the titles, but all start with just a title.)

—After finishing each story, I will post the story electronically on Smashwords, Kindle, Pubit and the rest, and on this site.

—The story will stay up here to read for free until the next one goes up.

I will keep track of the stories written in order in the second column and under the “Challenge” tab at the top of the page. The “Challenge” tab has links to each article that describes my writing process for each story.  I take down the old story, but leave up the blog about writing the story.

Now, after five months, I’ve written 15 short stories. Ughh, am I behind. (grin)  Only 85 stories to go by December 31st, 2011.

I have written a bunch of other stuff as well in these first five months, including two other short stories that will be in collections later this year or next year. But for the challenge, let’s just say it was my normal start.  So I am not worried. I have seven months to write 85 short stories. About 210 plus days to write 85 short stories. One new story every two or three days for the rest of the year.

Okay, put that way, now I have a real challenge. I have some workshops to teach and traveling to do.  Well, this could get interesting. (grin)

And also, for the other challenge I talked about when I started this back in January, I am still on track to run a marathon in September.  More on that as it gets closer and I stay injury free. My weight is down 14 lbs and going down quicker as the miles increase. So better shape there than on the short story challenge. (grin)

So, now a few rules I have set up about this challenge.

#1… Please, I know I will make typos and such.  I don’t care and please don’t tell me. Thanks. If you have trouble reading something with a few typos, please don’t read these stories. There is no such thing as a perfect story and I ain’t trying to write one. Or 100 for that matter.

#2… I will write some stories that fail. Duh!  And no one reading these stories that will be pouring across this site will like them all. My attitude is that the story has to be done, not right. If it works, great. If it doesn’t work, in your opinion, please keep that opinion to yourself. Thanks.

#3… Some of these stories will be very short, others long. I have no intention of limiting myself in either direction. If the story is too short, I’ll put it up for free on all the sites instead of 99 cents.

#4…I have every intention of continuing to also write in the Publisher and Sacred Cows series, as well as recommend other blogs like I do and fly off the handle at something that makes me mad as I have been known to do. So just because you don’t see a story at the top of the page, scan down to the list to see if you missed one or two that went past.

There will be a lot of free fiction on this site over the next seven months. I hope you enjoy some of it.

And writers, I hope the writing articles can shed some light on how a professional writer works.

So game on. The craziness has only started. Dare to be bad.

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24 Responses to The Challenge Update

  1. Diane says:

    Good luck with both the short story challenge and the running! :-)

  2. Mary Jo Rabe says:

    Thank you! I can’t wait for the next installments, whether fiction or nonfiction!

  3. You are always pushing the envelop of publishing and I find that to be very interesting.

  4. Just Passing Through says:

    I was wondering about free! Some of my stories are shorter than one of Santa’s elves and I was wondering if, for example on Kindle, I could put it up for something less than 99 cents, or free even. It looks like you are saying that it is indeed possible. Cool.

    • dwsmith says:

      Just Passing Through… You have to put it up on Kindle for 99 cents, then put it up on Smashwords for free. Then tell Kindle it’s up for free there and eventually Kindle will change the price for you.

  5. Brandon Wood says:

    I like that your challenge was 100 stories in a year rather than one a week. I tried to write one short story a week and it was stressful rather than fun: some stories just need more time than others, and each week is different. Some weeks I can write a ton, other weeks I struggle to finish a single story. Anyway, I think the Challenge is a great idea, thanks for the inspiration, and good luck! :-)

  6. Good deal, Dean. I for one have enjoyed most of them.

    I was curious about one thing though. You made assumptions about short story sales (5/month if I recall). Have you seen these challenge shorts living up to that?

    Good luck on the rest of the year. And on the marathon. :) Marathons rock. They suck, but they rock. It’s been a few years since I last ran one, but I remember when the mileage started getting up there, and it was time to pull back for a week. “Yeah, it’s a short day today, only twelve miles.” When I first said that to someone, I had to do a double-take. Did I REALLY just say that? It was so weird. But cool, too. Anyway, kudos for doing that. No marathon for me this year; instead, I’m riding a Century around Lake Tahoe this weekend. THAT should be fun.


    • dwsmith says:

      Actually, the only stories I have real information on are the seven I wrote in January, and not all of those have total information, since a couple I wrote near the end of January. I honestly won’t have real information on total sales in February for those first seven for another month or more. The rest only have Kindle and Pubit information. For the ones in January, with the information I have, as I thought, the five minimum is just far, far, far too low when you are looking at stories selling around the world. In fact, every story written in January has sold well over 5 in just the first full month (February) and some of them a lot more, and all seem to be holding pace on Kindle and Pubit over the other months. So to answer your question, the five number is low. But remember, I already had up around twenty other stories before I started into this challenge. So these were not first stories up.

      And I have a number of those stories now in different collections. In fact all seven are in the “Challenge” collections, but the Poker Boy stories are now also in those collections, and one is in yet another collection. No math on those. But the stories are doing double duty as planned. No ten story collections yet. Soon.

  7. Been following since January –thanks for the update. You’re doing great! Swell stories and getting into shape –the latter has to help with the former, right? The ol’ mind-body connection. Yikes. I could lose a few pounds myself. Keep it up! You’re an inspiration.

  8. Dare to be Bad.

    Beard the F**k On (Chuck Wendig).

    This is getting fun.

  9. Jamie D. says:

    I’m enjoying the challenge posts just as much as the others (though I don’t normally comment), so keep ‘em coming! I love watching other writer’s processes and progress. Very inspiring, especially on those days I’m dragging my own feet. You’ve pulled me along for just a few more words here and there. ;-)

    Good luck – with the stories and the marathon. Onward!

  10. Mark says:

    There is no hard and fast way to get a book listed for free on Amazon. Amazon does price-match so if their bots see your book listed for free on a site Smashwords pushes to, such as Apple or B&N, Amazon MAY price match. Then again, they may not.

    It can be, literally, difficult to give away a book.

  11. Jarvis says:

    100 stories? What’s the incentive?

    • dwsmith says:

      Jarvis, what’s the incentive??? Really???
      So many as to not really be able to count, but let me give you the major ones.
      — I will be a better writer by the time I practice that much.
      — I will be a richer writer by the time I put that many stories up.
      — I will be a writer meaning I will be writing all year.
      — I will be better at doing covers after one hundred of them for just short stories. Again, practice.
      — I will be writing something other than novels under contract.
      — I will help more people find my work. Before, my work was scattered and under pen names. Now it will be out in normal channels. New work.

      And it beats hell out of sitting in front of the television watching other people’s work.

  12. Ken says:

    I’m curious where you would draw the word count limit for free stories. For example your Clockwork Key story was only 2300 words, but I still bought it because to me the story was worth buying.

    Also I assume a five-story pack of five short-short stories that might all be free individually you would still charge for as the five-pack?

    One other quick note: I’ve found your technique of randomly slamming together half-titles a wonderful spur to generate some really creative story ideas. I took my own personal list of two-hundred odd story idea titles and did a random title generator spreadsheet based on this, and I love some of the bizarre stories that have come out of that. Stuff I never would have thought to write otherwise. But yeah, DARE TO BE BAD is important here because Sucks Beyond Belief seems to be a story title that keeps coming up :-)

    Sometimes I feel bad for the poor editors I send these things too… But only sometimes and I mail them no matter what :-)

    No sales yet, but we’ll see.

    • dwsmith says:

      Ken, I tend to think that anything under a thousand words I would put up for free. I’ve got a very short story called “In Search of the Perfect Orgasm” that isn’t much over a thousand words and I still charge for that one. One of my most sold and reprinted stories I have ever written (for some reason..(grin). But in this challenge, I’ll put it up for free under a thousand words or so. And I would never put together a full collection of free stories and charge for it. But a free story might be one of five in a free collection.

      I have no free stories up right now at all. But I am sure some will happen.

      My very first professional sale was for a story 250 words long. And as the first editor on the story said, (Damon Knight), the most perfect 250 words he had ever seen. I will put that one up for free at some point.

  13. Ty Johnston says:

    Dean, any worries about burnout?

    Yeah, I know, I know. You’re mister write-til-you-drop … ;-)

    But still, that’s a lot of short stories in a fairly small amount of time. Whenever I’ve gone on a blitz of short-story writing, by my sixth or seventh one I’m feeling a little woozy, and I really have to sit back and rethink what I’m doing because my plots all start looking similar.

    Not that I’ve written any shorts this year, so far. But I’m feeling the urge.

    • dwsmith says:

      Ty, for a job in the real world, would you give your boss an excuse that said, “I can’t come to work today, I’m a little burnt out?” Yeah, that would get you fired right off.

      The idea that the creative mind gets burnt out is just another myth. One not worth fighting because no real facts on it. Just like writer’s block is a myth. No such thing. There is project block, which is why when I get stopped I just switch projects and keep typing.

      This is what I love to do. Why would I ever get tired of doing it?

  14. Linda Jordan says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I haven’t written anything short for at least fifteen years. I think I’ll give it a try since I’m between novels.

  15. There is project block, which is why when I get stopped I just switch projects and keep typing.

    Which is why I have the better part of a dozen unfinished projects I’m still working on. I have to start taking Heinlein’s Rule #2 more seriously… ;-)

  16. Paul Sadler says:

    Hidey ho,

    I find the challenge really interesting, and was going to ask a sort of similar question to the “incentive” one above, but from a different perspective. As an “aspiring” or more of a “learning” writer, metrics of success in the old legacy world are hard to come by. I could do something similar to you — wordcount, number of stories, etc. — but the traditional metric of “success” is either “were you published” or “did you make money”.

    But learning writers are stuck between those two extremes — I can churn out a lot of prose, but is it any good? Is it WORTH churning out? You said you’re not interested in knowing if there are typos or if the story worked or didn’t work, but for me, where I am in the learning curve, feedback like that would be critical (no pun intended).

    I like the “better writer” incentive, but hard to measure.

    Richer is an easy metric, but not something I’m totally comfortable with yet — you wouldn’t put up crap just to make money in the short-term, I don’t think, but your first drafts are better than what I finish with after fiddling, so not a useful metric for me yet.

    “Writers write”, and you’ll be writing all year, so wordcount and completion rates may be a better indicator than I gave it credit…

    Promotion benefits and covers produced are interesting.

    If you have thoughts on other metrics that an aspiring writer can use, something a bit more qualitative, would love to hear them…

    And let’s not rule out that watching other’s work on TV can’t be a learning experience :)


    • dwsmith says:

      Paul, I do understand the fear that writer’s have about putting up dreck. And, of course new writers, functioning with less tools and far less practice, will sometimes miss on stories. But what is a miss? Honestly, got me. If I don’t like it, is that a miss? Or if some critic doesn’t like it, is that a miss? And writers are the worst judges of their own work, so we can’t tell when we miss or not. (By the way, my first drafts are better than the drafts you fiddle with because you fiddle with them. Honest. You’re still clearly lost in the rewriting myth.)

      But all that said, I do understand the fear. And I’m afraid it never goes away. The difference between a long-term working professional and a beginner who gets nowhere is that long-term working professionals have learned to just ignore or go around the fear. So maybe doing one hundred stories, or fifty stories in a year can help you get past that at least.

      Would I put up crap to make money in the short term? Well, first off, I have no idea what “crap” is. You talk like there is some universal measuring stick and there just isn’t. (That’s another thing beginning writers must get past, that idea of the universal measuring stick. Hmmm, a good Sacred Cows topic there. Thanks…) Would I sell and put out something I think is crap? OH HELL YES!! I think all my writing is crap to be honest. I think every story I write, every novel, is crap. I trust my first reader to tell me what level of crap. Have I sold books that to this day I thought were total crap? Oh, hell yes.

      And trust me, the “better writer” aspect is not hard to measure. You and all your friends will see it if you write say 50 stories and keep working and practicing and learning as you go along. Your stories at the end will just feel better, more in control, than the ones at the beginning.

      So I stand by my reasons. Plus, honestly, if I can manage to finish 100 stories this year, it will add in around ten thousand per year to my income for years and years and years. And that’s at minimum sales levels counting all the collections and such. And that’s not chump change.

  17. Faysie says:

    Hehehe, I can’t believe I’m delurking just to put up a link to another DWS post, but I would highly recommend that Paul & Jarvis (and everyone, really) check out Dean’s old “Motivation” posts. They are the first things I ever read on this site, and they pretty much answer the question “what’s the incentive?” And they’re awesome posts, definitely worth a read or re-read.

    Motivation #1 is

    My summary: one of the most important thing an artist can do is to figure out what he/she can control, and DO IT. This will make you a better artist and keep you from going utterly crazy. And best of all, it applies to all arts. I’m a classical singer, and can I control who hires me? No, like a writer, I can’t control whether or not I get the contract. But I can control how many auditions I apply for. So, this year the goal is at least 50 applications during the ~4 months of application season. That’s something I can do.

    How ’bout that, Dean, your writer posts inspired a musician, pretty crazy, eh?

    And I do want to write again too. My biggest excuse is “I’d rather be singing” which is one I’ll accept, for now. My second excuse is NOT acceptable, and you nailed it with the stupid “book as event” myth. It just kills me. I keep guarding my precious little baby Great Ideas so much that at this rate I won’t write anything. That myth needs to die.

  18. asrai says:

    My first and second novels that I have up on Kindle, SW etc, aren’t the best thing ever written. But I have people who say the story is great.
    Since writing those about 4 years ago now, I’ve learned a hell of a lot.
    But, people have gotten enjoyment out of my stories despite them being “dreck”. Will they ruin my reputation as a writer? Considering that romance authors got away with writing abusive, raping heroes- it really is a to each their own world out there.
    The more writing you have out there the more chance somone will find something they like in you and the better you do get at writing.

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