Thursday, April 7, 2016

52 Short Stories in a year

Ray Bradbury once said  “Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” His words have become a challenge for writers everywhere. I had never heard of it until I attended the Rainforest Writer's Retreat last month. Author James Van Pelt gave a presentation on how he undertook the challenge last year. He talked about what he learned and the process of writing that much.

I was amazed that anyone could accomplish so much. Not only that he managed to sell quite a few of those stories. At the writer's retreat I undertook another Middle Grade novel that I hope to submit to agents. So I kept thinking, "I don't have time to write that many short stories. I don't have that many ideas for short stories." And so on. But I couldn't shake the idea of the challenge. I kept thinking of different ways to integrate the challenge with my other writing. I thought maybe I'll just write a story a month. Or take two weeks to finish them.

Finally I arrived at an idea I thought would work for me. I decided I WOULD write one short story a week for a year. BUT I wouldn't try to submit them anywhere. I would just write them down and move on and not worry about the short story finding a publishing home. Other people wouldn't even see them. I could use them to explore ideas, or just write a single scene and call it a story. 

And it's been working! I am writing short story #5 this week. I'm exploring a book idea by writing a little sort of prologue that probably will never appear in the book. I've found a freedom to write whatever, and the freedom to fail. Story #2 was the worst thing I've written since college! So while Ray Bradbury may be right, that it's impossible to write 52 bad stories, I can tell you, it's possible to write at least one terrible story!

I hope to keep up the challenge and I'll post on my progress periodically. Even though I've just started on this challenge I would recommend to anyone! And 

10 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've often wanted to take that challenge, but given the constraints of my job I know ahead of time I'd never actually succeed.

Che Gilson said...

It's certainly challenging! Though taking 'requirements' off of it has helped. Like even if my short story is just an exploratory scene for something it still counts. It's doesn't need to be an entire arc, and it certainly doesn't need to be publishable.

Sunny Frazier said...

Uh, no. My brain would explode.

Che Gilson said...

My brain hasn't exploded yet!

Linda Thorne said...

A short story a week. Oh, goodness, that's hard. Short stories are really tough to me. Good luck with your challenge. I'd be so excited if you can make this work (and envious).

Che Gilson said...

It's easier when you take the pressure off! The story I finished early this week is a prologue/origin story for a Children's book so it's very short and not what you'd call a story.

Marla Cooper said...

What a great idea! I'd never heard that quote before, but I love it. My background is in advertising (I'm secretly a copywriter by day!) and we are taught to come up with a LOT of ideas to have one great one. So it makes perfect sense to me that if you write a lot of short stories, you have a lot better chance of success. Great post!

Jewel Amethyst said...

I think I might try that challenge some time in the future. I'll include a chapter of a book as a short story. It might just give me the Adrenalin I need.

KeVin K. said...

I tried something like this once - I should probably try again. I was inspired by more talented and successful writers of my acquaintance who do something very like this. (Keith DeCandido, Kevin J. Anderson, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, to be specific.)

I was actually more productive when I had a day job. I was a case manager for a mental health services provider and writing was the perfect antidote to stressful and frustrating days.
I set a personal goal of four stories a month about ten years ago and kept at it until my first novel contract derailed my short fiction writing. Never finished more than three and most often ended each month with two-point-something stories completed. But I sent every one of them to paying markets and managed to average one sale a month (not always to the first market I tried). I also discovered many - not all - of my unsold stories had elements I could strip out and reuse more intelligently in a new project.

The sale-a-month did wonders for my confidence as a writer, and the constant productivity did wonders for my craftsmanship. (Not because I was rushing, but because I was living through what would have been years of practical writing experience into months.)

Yeah. I should do this again.

Liane Spicer said...

Appealing idea. I doubt I'd manage 52, but since I've been focusing on shorter fiction of late this might be just the challenge I need.