Friday, May 7, 2010

A Writing Challenge; or, Keeping a Long Story Short

This week, I signed up for a summer writing challenge with some friends. It's a challenge where you get to set your own goal for how many words you will write between June 1 and August 31 (15,000 minimum). One of my friends chose 30,000 words as her goal, so I signed up for that, to keep her company.

Okay, so I can hear at least some of you thinking, "Yes, but haven't you done NaNoWriMo, which is 50,000 words in one month? Isn't 30,000 in three months a little, well, lame, at least for you?" And it is true that my last project, The Daughters of August Winterbourne, came in at 180,000 words in about three and a half months.

So in order to make it more of a challenge to myself, I decided that I will reach my word count by writing shorter works of fiction. I don't know that they will necessarily be "short" stories, but I've decided that in addition to the minimum word count, I will deliver at least two complete stories of less than 30,000 words total -- and preferably more than two.

Writing short has always been a challenge for me. I did take creative writing classes in college where we were required to write short stories, and some day perhaps I'll even post the stories I wrote then, just for giggles. And I've entered a couple of contests since then -- even earned an "honorable mention" in one -- but short stories have never been my forte. It's one of the reasons I was so surprised that when we had our little exercise writing to a prompt here a couple of weeks ago, I actually produced a complete story in 7,500 words.

So this summer, you'll undoubtedly get to hear more about my trials and tribulations as I struggle to write two or more works of short fiction. I'm already starting to think about story ideas, because even though I've got a whole file of story ideas squirreled away on my hard drive, those are almost all novel-length ideas. Short stories require a different kind of idea, and I've almost none of those stored up. Perhaps my best idea would be to solicit a number of writing prompts and see where that takes me.

Hey, that's an idea: If anyone has a writing prompt they'd like to throw me, would you be so kind as to post it as a comment to this entry? I won't promise that I'll use all of the prompts I receive, but at least it'd be somewhere for me to start. Thanks!

So since summer is coming, is anyone else setting some kind of summer writing goal?


Kate Barnes said...

I have no idea if it will be of any help, but, sometimes, when I am stuck, I go here: It's a random story generator. I have used a good number of the ideas for stories, and ones that really intrigue me go in my file until they gain enough to do a story.

And, I admit, there is part of me that looks at a 7,500 story and blanches. That's almost 3 weeks of Words of the Day! (Granted some do top out at a whooping 1500, but, gosh, those 5-digit word counts? Phew.)

And, while I'm digressing, I have a few projects in the works that will be in the 30-50K neighborhood, but, in that context, it doesn't sound daunting. Is that weird?

Enjoy your day off...

Sheila said...

Frankly, I'm in awe of your ability to come up with so many different ideas for Word of the Day. And thank you for the link! I can see where that could be very useful indeed.

I've already started stockpiling little writing prompts for myself, so I'll be able to hit the ground running. The trick will be to keep them from turning into novels, or even novellas.

I think the shortest complete story I've ever written is about 1500 words.