17 May 2011

Story a Day: A Midway Progress Report, or Two Camels in a Tiny Car

First of all, allow me to apologize for falling off the internet. I have (ahem!) been writing.

Story a Day continues. As I'm headed into the second half of this challenge, I am ecstatic to report that I've written somewhere in the vicinity of 33 000 words since the beginning of May, and I've completed 12 stories, seven of which I consider to be viable. Of those stories, two took me more than a day to complete. Two others were "do-overs" - in other words, I had an idea, wrote it in a day, and decided it was not what I wanted it to be, so I tried again the next day.

Here's what I've learned about the art of writing short story first drafts, or at least about my art of writing short story first drafts:

It's possible to compress the process. 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to go from vague idea / prompt to concrete idea to plot to completed first draft.

Compressing the process is fun. How satisfying is it to think about a story and work through a basic plot, only to be done with drafting it by the time you go to bed (even if bedtime gets pushed back just a wee bit)? Very satisfying.

I tend to procrastinate in the name of "working on a plot" or "ironing out potential problems" with a story. In truth, I am just putting off actively thinking about it or doing the writing, while hoping that some magical muse will drop the answer on my head. I am forming a much better idea of the intensity I need in order to make a story happen. It's much more intensity and active troubleshooting / what-iffing / cause and effect logic-grinding than I'd previously thought.

I have been lazy, or maybe helpless, or maybe clueless. I am less so now.

I can do much, much more than I thought possible.

If I don't like the way a first draft worked out, I can always rewrite it. The best time to do that is the very next day, when the potential problems and solutions are fresh in my mind.

Writing is performance. Like all performances, it can go horribly wrong, or descend into slapstick. On the other hand, some days are better than others. Any draft can be much more brilliant than I thought. Any idea can suddenly blossom into something very cool. Any plot can become magic - but it has to play out on the page.

I'm looking forward to the second half of this challenge.

Meanwhile, if you came here for the camels, here they are. Headphones up!


Luanne G. Smith said...

WOOHOO! Sounds like you're cranking it out.

KM Nalle said...

Sounds like you are really cookin! Keep going. :)

Claudie A. said...

Wow, it sure seem you're doing well with this story a day challenge! Some of what you learn remind me of NaNo lessons ( ex: "I have been lazy." )

Keep going like that!

Trisha said...

Wow, that is amazing progress!! Congrats on all your stories & that amazing word count!

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

You go girl! Sounds like you're steaming with your stories... Keep up the great work.

Laura M. Campbell said...

Your determination and writing process is envious. I'm currently working on two short stories at the moment. The timeline is a bit more stretched out than yours. I think I just need to sit down and get my fingers moving like you. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I think the craziest thing in that video, is the guy who gets in the driver's seat at the end.

Fabulous StAD progress!

Margo Lerwill said...

"It's possible to compress the process. 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to go from vague idea / prompt to concrete idea to plot to completed first draft."

Hmm hmm hmm. I need to think hard on this. It may well be time for me to unplug more and dig in harder on the writing.

How long are your stories, on average?

JL Dodge said...

I had a ton of fun with the nano writes for April, sounds like the story a day is a great experience !
Best to you !

Elizabeth Twist said...

L.G.: Thank you for the cheerleading!

Kari Marie: I shall continue cooking!

Claudie: Definite parallels with NaNo here. I'm finding that it's actually easier for me to crank out mondo word count on short stories, however. Maybe because each day *must* be spent cranking out plot? I always find during NaNo that there are a few days where I end up drifting through a dream sequence or flashback or something. I'll dribble out a few hundred words and go take a nap without having to grind through a plot point. Not possible during this challenge.

Trisha: Thank you!

Pat: Thanks!

Laura: Good luck with the stories.

Eileen: Holy heck. I never noticed that guy before. It adds a whole new layer to that video. I guess you have to get your angry camels from place to place somehow, right?

Margo: Most are in the 2000-2500 word vicinity. Two are longer (6-8k), and were each written over the course of two days. Only a couple are true flash pieces.

Methinks I might need to compose another blog post on the topic of "digging in." You've got me thinking.

JL & B: Challenges definitely help boost my word count. And it is fun to push yourself.

Sarah said...

It's great that you're writing a story a day. Is this part of an official competition? Is there a website I can take a look at?

Thanks for sharing the camels ;)

Elizabeth Twist said...

Sarah: It's over here. The official challenge is for May, but I recommend it as a month-long challenge any time.

Deborah Walker said...

That's great stuff, Elizabeth. I'm about where you are with the challenge, but I'm feeling a little weary now. Doubts about quality are creeping in and I'm trying to keep them at bay.

I'm so pleased you're getting a lot out of it.

Elizabeth Twist said...

I won't front, Deborah: I am tired. But I'm trying to get my energy back up so I can burn through the second half of this challenge.