Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, February 12, 2016

How I write a short story every week

One writer’s way of getting the writing done cannot be a good system for every other writer out there. It is a series of trial and error. Lots of writers have lots of routines and methods for getting their writing done. Recently, I came across a blog post by one writer who shared a method for writing a short story every week. I thought it was a nice method, but I have come up with my own. After 6 weeks and 6 stories, it’s definitely a method that works best for me.

Fortunately, it didn’t take much trial and error for me to figure out how I was going to write a short story every week. I started using this method from the very beginning and, so far, that method is still working for me. And upon the completion of my 6th story this week, I have decided to share how I have managed to write a short story every week.

Before I even got started writing, though, I did some planning.

First, I gathered together as many ideas for short stories as I could. Believe me, there were a lot of them. In the past, there were many times I had an idea for a short story, but I rarely wrote the story. Of course I wrote some short stories – sold one and got a bunch of others published – and I did start writing them but never finished them. But there were many others I never actually got around to writing. I just wrote down as much of my idea as I could and went on to other things. Before I knew it, I had a nice collection of short story ideas, but no stories!

Until now. When I started this “short story in a week” challenge, I pulled out that list of ideas and started writing those stories. But I didn’t just jump into action on the first day of 2016. I like starting things on a Monday, so I waited until Monday, January 4th, to start writing the first short story. And I have not stopped since.

Another part of my planning was deciding just how long a week would be. Since my time to write on the weekends is VERY iffy since my kids are not at school and I do prefer “family time” on the weekends, I decided I would work on these short stories from Monday through Friday. I gave myself five days to write the story.

And, finally, I also decided that I was NOT going to stop writing to edit or revise the stories. I would not get any feedback on the stories while I was writing them, either. I would just WRITE them. When I am in the creative process, I cannot switch back and forth between writing and editing. I can’t stop to fix typos or research some thing or another. I just write. I create. I bring the story to life on paper.

I use my weekends to go over stories and fix where needed.

So, with that plan in place, I started writing the first story on that Monday. And so far, the process has gone well. I have also noticed that it is best not to limit myself to so much time to write in a short story. Just write as much of it as I can in the time I have available (which is usually in the mornings, after I have gotten my kids to school and had breakfast). So I just write as much of the story that I can then move on to other things in my day. (I am currently following a “schedule” of sorts because I am also writing books and squeezing in time for other things, and I’ll blog about that tomorrow.)

After I finish working on a short story for the day, if it’s not done yet, I’ll spend some time thinking about the story. They say a writer never stops writing, and this is very true of me. Even when I am not physically writing, I am still writing in my head. I am thinking about what I am writing. I think about what scene should happen next, the other things that need to happen in this story, and possibly the ending if I have that figured out yet. I pretty much go over the rest of the story until I am able to work on it again. That way, when I return to the desk and open the file, I know exactly what to write next.

I mentioned earlier that I usually go over the week’s story to change or edit where needed on the following weekend. I also do something else on those weekends: I plan for the next story. Here is where having my trusty list of ideas comes into play. (And since I get more short story ideas at any given time, I add to that list when possible.) Since I took on this challenge, I have discovered that the original ideas for stories did not seem all that interesting anymore. And some of them were based off of current events. So some of them just didn’t make the cut for me this time around. I either discard the idea or think about how I could change it to make it a story I think I would like to write. This has worked out well. I even managed to get a new idea based off an old idea, so it was a “surprise story” that was added to that list.

As I write each story, I keep track of them by putting “Week 1” and “Week 2” etc. over the story title. This way, I can keep track of how far I have come with this challenge.

Also, sometimes I finish writing a story before Friday. I really don’t try to push myself for a certain number of words for each story. Some stories will be long and some will be short. I just write the story that is in my head and that I feel is “enough” of a story. And when I do finish a story before Friday, I have found that I can’t really consider it to be “the end” after I have typed “the end.” I go back and add or change things. Or I’ll tweak the story here and there until I am satisfied with it.

Sometimes, I’ll end up hating the story I’m writing. A story may start off well, but sometimes I’ll think it’s getting predictable or it’s been done to death or something like that. Or maybe the ending is lousy. But even if I don’t like the story anymore, even if I think it’s stupid, I’ll keep writing it anyway. I’ll write it until I have finished it. My goal is to write a short story, not the best damn short story evah. So I keep writing the story even if I think it’s FUBAR! I’m in it for the long haul! Later on, if I still think the story sucks, and if my betas think it sucks, THEN I will fix it. But right now, all that matters is getting the story WRITTEN.

This writing challenge has definitely been interesting for me. I have enjoyed writing a variety of short fiction each week (as not all of the stories are the same genre) and it’s a great feeling to have accomplished this so far, 6 weeks into the challenge. I don’t know if I’ll be putting a selection of these stories into a book but I do know I’d like to submit some of them for publication. In fact, I have already started compiling a list of short story markets to submit to (along with a suggested story to send). I am thrilled I am able to write a short story every week because now I have proven to myself that it can be done. I CAN write a short story in a week! It’s just a matter of sitting down to write it. An idea is only an idea until somebody does something with it. And I’m very pleased that what had once been an idea for a short story is now, finally, an actual short story. It was just a matter of sitting down and writing it.

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