Well, it's fun, for one thing. I tend to write slowly and painfully, editing as I go, second- and third- and fourth- and ... let's say second-guessing myself at every turn. If I set my alarm for 6am and give myself until 8:30 or 9am to finish, I have to just whack the story out, making snap decisions and trusting my subconscious to do its job. I may not come up with the best possible story, given the materials I start with, but I come up with a finished one. As the boys say in ISHTAR, that ain't poverty.
It's also useful this year: For my prompts, I'm cleaning out my office. I have various stacks of papers cluttering the place up, so I'm grabbing a handful and sorting them out, making a list every morning of what catches my fancy, and using the list to jump-start my brain. Another thing I'm doing this year is tying the stories to previous projects; I'm exploring characters' backstories, writing about people and places only mentioned or hinted at in my books, and adding short stories about short story characters people seem to like so I can put out collections of them.
So how do you actually turn the prompts into stories?
- Get a prompt (one or more, just a word or a phrase or a concept). I'm using my messy office this year. Last year, I used spam comments from my blog. Julie Duffy, of Story A Day May, provides a prompt every day and has books of daily prompts.
- Work when you're least likely to be interrupted.
- Set a deadline to bulldoze your inner editor into letting you work with all the stops out.
- Give yourself permission to be a wackadoo. Have numbers always had personalities for you? That sounds like a story to me! Did you ever wonder what a cat is thinking when it jumps up and stares at nothing you can see? I already used that, but your story would be different from mine, so feel free.
- Enjoy yourself. If it isn't fun and it isn't improving your ability or refreshing your creativity, don't do it. Any of these writing challenges are for your benefit and for nothing else. If they don't benefit you, they're just pants that look better on the hanger than they look on your particular body type. To paraphrase Yoda, "Do or do not. There is no fail."
If you'd like to see what I've been doing, follow this link to Marian Allen, Author Lady, Story A Day May to see this and all previous years' stories. Hope you have as much fun as I am!
Marian Allen, Author Lady
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