The Short Story Challenge: An Update

Time I surfaced and wrote about the challenge for a moment.

For those new here, my challenge for this year was to write 100 short stories this year (along with my other writing) and put each story up here and for sale in e-book form.

You can hit the tab at the top of the page marked “Challenge” to see all the covers and get links to the short articles about writing each one. Also, down the middle column is a running list and total. Just scroll down.

Each story stays up here for free until I replace it with a new story.

Now, with other deadlines and such this spring, I managed to get to August with just twenty-eight stories written. (Actually, thirty-one, but three were sold to traditional publishers, so I could only count twenty-eight in the challenge.) As I said before, I planned on time off in August for a trip and World Science Fiction Convention. And I spent a few weeks ahead of that working only on the publishing side.

But I was not worried in the slightest. My plan was to write about a short story a day for September, get back on track, and go from there. My plan was to be about 50 into the challenge right now.

Then one of my best friends, Bill Trojan, died at the World Science Fiction Convention, a friend that had a will and had appointed me executor of his estate. So instead of coming home and writing like crazy, as was the plan, I spent the last of August and most of September dealing with the estate, his house, and other items. In the last of August and most of September, I spent more time in a hotel room in Eugene, Oregon, where he lived, than I did here on the coast. Not counting in lawyer’s offices and on the phone with banks and other things that needed to be done.

So suddenly I find myself behind. We’re talking really behind, even for me, on this challenge. I have managed to write two short stories since Bill died, which now leaves the total at thirty, with seventy short stories left to write before January 1st.

That’s right. 70 stories still to write before January 1st.

In 97 days.

Not impossible, especially if I had nothing else to do. But alas, that is not the case either. I will be flying to Whitehorse, Canada, in the Yukon for a wonderful writer’s conference the first weekend in October. Then coming back and teaching a full week of workshops here. And somewhere in there I have to go down to Reno and pick up Bill’s van and other possessions from the coroner.

Also, Kris and I rented a huge office complex for WMG Publishing and the workshops. (I’ll write more about all that at some point later.) To make that work two major storage units have to be moved up there, plus Bill had an apartment full of books and stuff that will be stored in the new office complex as well until the estate is settled next year. Both of those need to be moved this next month. Even with professional movers, that’s a week out of my life at least.

But I still think I can do this, or give it a good run, even with all the traveling and moving adventures.

Almost three weeks, about 20 days gone for travel and moving, leaves 77. Figure a number of other days off as well and I am down to about one short story per day on the days I am free to write.

I figure 70 stories is about 350,000 words at around 5,000 words per story. (Trust me, I will write shorter if the story allows.) That means for each day I am writing, I will need to do about 5,000 words. About twenty manuscript pages, plus the article and the cover and the time to launch it on Kindle, Pubit, and Smashwords.

So not tossing in the towel just yet. I can do that.

Well, without health issues or more death issues I can do that.

Just don’t be surprised when you log in here and there’s a new short story. (If you don’t stop by regularly, you will miss the free read. Each story will be pulled when the next one goes up and you will have to buy it for 99 cents instead if you want to read it. (grin))

I will try to keep up most of the other blogs as well, including a new column I’m working on now for the “New World of Publishing” series I am calling “But why…?” Questions like… “But why would someone spend a thousand dollars to indie publish a book?” or… “But why would anyone give an agent 15% of everything simply to put something on Kindle?”  You get the idea. (grin)

So this is sort of a new challenge, even crazier than the original one.

Challenge is now to write 70 short stories between now and the end of the year and put them up here, write an article about writing the story, and also do a cover and put the story up on Kindle, Pubit, and Smashwords before putting it up here.

Just slightly over three months.

Yup, that is officially nuts.

Stay tuned, it ought to be a laugh or two.

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28 Responses to The Short Story Challenge: An Update

  1. Eric says:

    Same thing here minus the office complex. :-)
    Will be motivating to see you do that as well. I was falling behind on my word count.

    Currently at 19 stories for September.

  2. Thomas E says:

    Wow, and I thought my plan to finish a novel, and write another 20 stories before January 1st was ambitious… hats off to you, sir.

  3. Blarkon says:

    Necessity is the mother of invention. The father is a deadline.

  4. DeAnna says:

    Whew. If anybody can pull this off, it’s you.

  5. Wow… I envy you. Or rather, your willpower :)

  6. John Walters says:

    You have my admiration. I would have not thrown in the towel but revised my story goal a long time ago. This will be interesting to follow.

  7. As the man said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

    Do what you must, Dean; but frankly, if anyone has an excuse for lapsing on a New Year’s resolution this year, you do.

  8. TK Kenyon says:

    I admire your spirit, Dean.

    Up front: I’m not trying to discourage you from attaining your 100 stories a year, even when these rather large obstacles have presented themselves.

    However, if the nearly 1 story per day for the rest of the year does prove to be too rapid a pace, you might want to consider the final tally to be your bar for next year.

    Just an idea. I’d hate for you to get writer’s butt spread over this, especially when you’ve worked so hard on that challenge, too.

    I’ll be rooting for you, either way.

    TK Kenyon

  9. James Monaghan says:

    Dean, you are my god! :)

    Seriously, good luck with this, I’ll be rooting for you. Great to follow this from afar, plus it means we get more stories more often which is a win-win!

    My own challenge? Write 70k a month for the next three months and keep on getting every story (short or long) up and available as quickly as possible. Just starting out on this but already have 2 novellas and 4 short stories up! So much fun!

  10. The numbers always works on paper, then you ad in your life and then it is nuts.

    Let me give you another kind of nuts. I’m thinking of taking you on in this challenge. I know I do a couple of things slower than you but I also think there might be just slightly less going on in my life.

    I’m not sure if it will still be a couple of laughs, so, still just thinking about it. Not sure if I am nuts enough myself.

  11. Okay, I am a bit nuts. I’ve decided to give you a go at it. I’d like to see if I can also pull of 70 stories by the end of the year.

    You may not care that I’m chugging along beside you but nonetheless, here I am. At the very least I hope to learn a couple of new tricks from you.

    • dwsmith says:

      Thanks everyone for the cheering.

      I’m going to be writing about a few topics along the way (not in fiction, on the essay side of things). One topic that I am sure will come up because of the challenge is “Story as Event” or “Novel as Event.” If I’m going to even come close on this challenge run to the end, I have to stay completely out of “story as event” thinking. I have to stay completely in just being a writer and writing new stuff. The moment I cycle at all into making one of these stories an “event” meaning special in some way or another, that is the moment I am dead.

      I’ve done this on a couple of the stories so far in this challenge. A Jukebox origin story that became “important” for various reasons, a first story in a series that became important.

      Two major things happen when a story becomes “important” in your mind. One, it takes longer and you stew over it more instead of just trusting your writing skills. On those stories I would find myself saying “I’m not ready to write that yet, haven’t figured out…” and thus just not write at all. Fantastic excuse to not write and all from “Important.”

      So expect an essay on that along the way. (grin)

      Also an essay on “chunks of writing time.” That problem comes from “I need two hours to finish that story, and I don’t have two full hours right now, so can’t write.” To finish this challenge, I have to get to the point I am writing in every five minute chunk I can find and dig out. No waiting for long periods of free writing time.

      Also, the “too tired” thinking isn’t going to fly either. Starting today I am back carefully watching what I eat, back on the losing weight (got pushed aside with the death) and staying up to a certain hour, even if I am tired. Schedule is going to be important.

      So on and so on… Great fun. Good to get some structure back.

      One thing I didn’t mention that will still continue during all this is the WMG Publishing. The company has some deadlines that I am part of, so got to keep that going as well. In fact, just helped get the fifth book in Kris’s Retrieval Artist series up for sale electronically. Paloma: A Retrieval Artist novel. Helping on the third book of the Fey right now. Great fun.

  12. Best of luck, Dean. Perhaps I’m crazy (and I think you may be), but I think you’ll pull it off.

  13. Sam Lee says:

    I think you’ve got a good shot at pulling this off, Dean. We’ll be rooting for you all the way, and be inspired, too.

    Looking forward to your essays, too, as those very topics have stopped me at one point or another this whole year.

    Great new cover for the series! Manual typewriters were beasts to type on, never mind the old prolifics who did it with pen and paper. (g)

  14. I and a couple of writing buddies took on a challenge in the beginning of the year, inspired by yours, but with two major twists.

    First, we agreed that we’d set quarterly goals rather than goals for the year. This was in part because real life was rather unpredictable for a couple of us. However, to compensate, we agreed to a penalty if we missed the goal we’d declared.

    That penalty is a large cash donation to an organization we find personally undesirable. For example, I have friends who went to Columbine High School, and so if I miss my goal, my penalty is to donate $1000 to the NRA (and please, let’s not debate politics here–one of our group has to donate to Greenpeace if he misses his goals). There is no f****ing way I am going to miss my target with that incentive.

    A lot of myths have gotten busted along the way. A lot of “I don’t know…”s got rather rapidly resolved. I’ve nailed every quarterly goal with at least three weeks to spare so far, and each quarter’s goals were ratcheted up from the last one. The net result is I’ve completed more words and submitted more stories in 2011 so far than all of 2009 and 2010 combined.

    • dwsmith says:

      Wow, Big Ed, that’s a great way to deal with missing on a challenge. A great way. And congrats on all the great output. Well done.

      Kevin, I feel the same way. I’ve finished far more writing than what is ahead this year in previous deadline situations. Not in short fiction, but in novels. So there is that base knowledge that I know I can do the words. Now to fight a number of world events to see how things go. And then fight some personal ways of doing things as well. As a full time writer, I’ve been spoiled with long periods of time to write. Now I don’t have those times, with all the real world basically hitting me with a day job of work. So now I need to do the writing as I get ten minutes here and ten minutes there. Back to old ways of doing things at least until January. (grin)

  15. I love this site.

    I look at all the replies, and all the positivity here. I mentioned this post to my wife, and she stared at me like I had six heads for a minute. “Why doesn’t he just revise his goals now?”

    I bet most people with even moderate experience at writing (my wife is a former teacher and three time NaNoWriMo vet) would say about the same thing.

    But the folks here? The replies here? Not even a peep about…”Maybe you should go to 50, Dean.” Or “Maybe you should reduce expectations,” or even “Maybe it’s time to give it up now.”

    Nope. Not here.

    I have the feeling I’m rubbing elbows with some of the folks who will be known pros in a decade. Because I have a gut feeling the attitude shown here is part of success.

    Thanks for demonstrating, Dean. And showing folks how to believe in yourself.

  16. Best of luck, not that you need it! :)

  17. “… major things happen when a story becomes “important” in your mind…”

    When you have never managed to sell as story that “important” thing gets to be spelled with all caps. I have so many IMPORTANT stories languishing about in unfinished states because I am just not a good enough human being to even attempt to get them right.

    This is the one lesson I want to teach myself but I see that even with a whole lot of experience it will still be a constant struggle. We all want what we do to be worthwhile, to count, to mean something.

    And then we don’t write. I say take of and write frivolously!

  18. Gerhi Feuren says:

    Damn, I keep forgetting that I am now writing under the pen name Gerhi Feuren and not under Gerhi Janse van Vuuren anymore.

    Dolt! Not much of a secret name anymore.

  19. Rebecca says:

    I echo Kevin’s comment. I love the positivity of this blog, both in your posts, Dean, that challenge us to take responsibility and be the best writers we can and in the comments from everyone sharing their experiences. Every time I need a lift, I know I can come here and read a few posts, read some comments and I get the support or kick in the butt I need.

    I just finished my 6th week of writing 10,000 words per week and my goal is to keep going until the end of the year. That’s another 14 weeks and every time I think about it, my head explodes or it feels like it does! But I know I can do it by continuing to plug away it because of the things I learned in this blog, like it only takes 15-20 minutes for me to write 250 words. Or I can take a title or idea and just go with it and it doesn’t matter if it’s fabulous or not.

    I have no doubt you’ll make it to your goal, Dean, and we’ll all be cheering you along the way. Thank you so much for the inspiration and ass kicking as needed. You and Kris are my heroes!

  20. Jeff Ambrose says:

    I had two major goals for 2011.

    First, to write 400,000 words.

    Second, to get 52 indie titles up.

    I’ll hit the 400,000-word goal, no problem. I’m at 31 titles. I plan to finish a novel this week, which will be up by the end of Oct. Which means I’ll neet to get 18 more titles up over the next three months. The people I’ve told about it have all said that I should probably revise my goal. Maybe shoot for 40 titles. But 40 is 12 short of 52, and 52 was my goal. And, besides, 18 titles is just 15 new short stories, which can then be put into three 5-story collections. 15 short stories is a little more than one short story a week.

    But, over the next three months, besides my one-evening teaching gig, I have a 10-hr class to prepare to teach, we’re moving, and its the holidays. So it will be hectic.

    But I’m NOT going to revise my goal. I just have to write more each day. Like you said Dean, 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there, is good writing time.

    Like Kevin said — I love this blog.

  21. Kenneth says:

    Hi Dean,

    I hope you manage it – hard goal that it is. I recently rolled out my 80th or so short story in 3 months and I’m on track for my own 200 pieces of shelf space by December this year. I’m sure you can do it if you keep at it. All mountains seem high when you’re standing at the bottom!

    Good luck,


  22. Linda Jordan says:

    I love it when I read your blog and it so applies to my life! Got a lot of writing done last summer – long stretches of time, but since school started for my daughter, life has been chaotic. I’m being forced to write in tiny little chunks of time with many distractions.

    Thanks so much for your inspiration! Always a great read and I look forward to seeing how you deal with the upcoming challenges. I’m sure you’ll do it, it’s how you’ll do it that makes the story so interesting.

  23. Jeff Ambrose says:

    @ Rebecca — My “goal” is 10,000 words a week the rest of the year. It’s a “goal” in quotes b/c it’s more of a trial run. It’s really there so I can finish all the writing I want to finish this year. But it’s also there because I’m already thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2012, and for my word count, I’d like to up it from 400,000 words to 500,000 words — which is 10,000 words a week with two weeks off. I’ve hit 10K a week before before on a semi-regular basis, but now it’s more serious. Best of luck!

  24. Rebecca says:

    @ Jeff Ambrose, keep on with the ebook uploads! I’ve currently got 52 ebooks up with my goal being 60 by the end of this year. I’ve got the schedule all ready, I only have one more novel and one more short story to write for it.

    And my writing goal for next year is also 500,000 words, same as you, 10,000 words per week with 2 weeks off, but shhh, don’t tell anyone! It’s a secret! ;)

  25. Zelah Meyer says:

    Good luck with the challenge!

    I love the idea of crazy writing goals that push your limits. Your challenge is inspiring, as are the ones some of the other people commenting here are attempting.

    I can empathise with life getting in the way. My current writing goals are pathetic by comparison but I have a small (largely noctournal) child who requires (and deserves) large amounts of attention and who also deprives me of sleep on a semi-regular basis.

    Although he is my first priority and provides me with a valid excuse for not writing, I also recognise that I don’t achieve as much as I could. There’s still a fair bit of wasted time in my days that could be spent working towards my writing goals.

    Reading about what you’re attempting to do is a kick up the backside for me to try harder to reach my targets.

    So yes – may the muses smile upon you and everyone else attempting mad goals!

  26. Annie Reed says:

    Go, Dean! Writing challenges really work, don’t they? :) I’ll be cheering you on, story by story.

    The thing about writing so much, at least for me, is that it does get me out of “story as event” thinking. I wouldn’t be at 48 stories now over the last 48 weeks if I got to thinking that any one story was an event. The down side is that I’ve avoided working on stories that I know aren’t really short stories but novellas. I have several of those lined up to work on after my story a week for a year challenge is up.

    Which it will be after 4 more stories/weeks.

    No, I’m not counting down. Neither is my family. Much. *g*

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