August is my short story challenge month, where I attempt to write a short story (+1,500-words) every day. Below are some screenshots from my writing days!
I wanted to share how I’m able to write a new story every day—usually within an hour! I think the main thing that has prepared me for this is the fact that I’ve done it for so long. This is my fourth year doing this challenge and working as a full-time writer, and each year it gets easier. It also helps that I’ve steadily upped the word count and challenge each year. The very first year, all I had to do was write a story of 500 words. Then I moved it up to 1,000 words. And now I do 2,000 words. Eventually, I want to be able to do a novelette a day and all the way up to novellas, but I don’t think that’ll happen till I’m in my 40s.
This year has been my best year for the August challenge! In the past, it would take me the whole day to write one story. At best, a few hours. Now, I’m able to write my new story in an hour, two at the most. For that, I want to give credit to my years of writing work. In the past couple of years, I’ve worked as a sellsword for a few companies and publications, churning out articles and stories with short turnarounds.
All that work ended up paying off, and I can see it in my writing stats for this short story challenge. I think another part of what’s helping me this go-around is the character voice cards I created. For the past few months, I’ve been studying voice. It’s mostly been me doing exercises and reading books, but I wanted to do some more deliberate practice. So I wrote out 31 voice cards detailing character attributes that help craft a character’s voice, like their age, location, inner desires, and social status. The voice cards give me a great jumping-off point to start my story.
Tools of My Craft
For the writers who love themselves some tools, the ones I’ve been using for this year’s challenge are:
- Screenshots are from the app where I keep track of word counts, goals, and writing sprints. It’s been really helpful with all my writing projects since I downloaded it a few months back.
- MelGeek Mojo 68 Neon
- As a gift to myself for everything I’ve accomplished this year with my writing career, I got myself a mechanical keyboard specifically for my creative writing (drafting novels, short stories, poems, etc.) Having the keyboard be a signifier of creative work gives me this feeling of excitement when I put away my regular keyboard to start writing my story for the day
- I use Word’s focus feature and just have one big document up on my screen while I’m writing. It helps me stay focused and undistracted by
- AlphaSmart 3000
- When I’m not writing at my computer, I use my Alpha Neo. It’s very much like my new keyboard and gives me a great charge of energy and creativity.
Tips on Doing a Short Story Challenge
If you want to do a month-long short story challenge, I say go for it! Starting this practice has been beneficial to my craft and career. A majority of the stories I’ve sold this year have all come from different years’ challenges. Here are some tips to get you started and keep you going.
You, of course, don’t have to follow any of these tips, though! You can design your own challenge and do what works best for you and your life. These are just the tips I found helpful along the way.
If you aren’t used to writing 1,000s of words a day, don’t just up and start with no planning or idea of how to get to the finish line. 500 was a great starting point for me as a young writer, but 250-words may be more your speed. While starting small, still try and challenge yourself.
This is for You
This challenge isn’t for anyone but you. You’re not trying to prove anything to anyone but yourself. These stories are just for you. Keeping that thought in my mind has kept me writing bad stories even though they are bad. And it’s helped me make the necessary choices to turn those bad stories into remarkable stories. I may not publish them, but the exercise has taught me how to reach the end of a story.
Don’t Hold Back
Truly let yourself go wild on the page. Don’t worry about rules or what someone will say. Just write. Set your page on fire and do things you wouldn’t normally do. Be okay with failing and not editing. Be okay with simply writing and crafting your short story.
Set multiple goals so you have multiple wins or at least have one win. My base goal is to write 15 stories. My win-it-all goal is 20 stories, and my ultimate goal is 31 stories. By setting these tiers, I give myself more room to fail, which is a huge lesson you learn from doing a challenge like this.
So far, I am sitting at 12 new stories, with another on the way for today! Yes, I’ve missed some days and will most likely miss more in the future. And I’m okay with that. These 12 new stories I’ve written have taken me to places I’ve never been and allowed me to try techniques I don’t have a lot of experience with. My guess is I’ll end this month with at least 20 new stories.
How about you? Working on any new stories this month or challenging yourself and craft?
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