Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

A Wrap-Up Post on the Challenge

Back On The Oregon Coast…

30 stories done in April. That was the challenge, that is what happened.

And that was with all the moving. Kris and I are in the process of moving from a huge house on the Oregon coast to a smaller place here on the coast and a condo in Las Vegas. Plus a bunch of stuff from the house has to go to the stores and warehouse. So a three-direction move.

And I had a ton of work to do at WMG over the month.

So why not write thirty stories square in the middle of all that? (Insanity check might have been called for.)

All the turmoil sure caused this challenge to be far from a straight-line affair. But honestly, I had a blast and got a new series character out of it. And a couple of novel starts, one for a Thunder Mountain novel I really want to write. No idea what it will be about, but the opening I wrote in a sort-of-short-story form has me remembering it. A good sign for me.

The numbers for the month in pure math form.

— 30 short stories.
— Shortest was 1,000 words, longest was 4,900 words, average length was about 2,500 words per story.
— Hours writing about 70 hours for the month. Hours working and workshop stuff for the month about 185 hours. Hours working on the move about 90 hours. I got many short night’s sleep and I ate poorly except when in Vegas. I also spent two days traveling to Vegas and then back to the Coast.
— Created one new series with twelve stand-alone stories with the same new character. Sky Tate: Detective. She has snark in spades and it is set in Vegas. It crosses over in my Poker Boy universe with Marble Grant and her partner Sims. Three of the stories had Marble Grant in them.
— I did eight Bryant Street stories, two Thunder Mountain stories, one Seeders story (more a novel start), two Poker Boy stories, and a number of others, all in my normal series.

So What Did I Learn?

First, I never have a reason to not write. If I can do over seventy thousand words of writing short fiction in this last month, I can write any time and place I want. Period. No more excuses or lame reasons why I can’t sit and play with a story for a time.

You would think this lesson would have been pounded home long before now. And maybe it was, but this is a fantastic reminder.

Second, I learned my average hourly rate has come up slightly over this last year or so. I think I am a better typist if nothing else. I’m getting eight fingers involved now. So my average speed is up around 1,100 words for consecutive short stories. That’s damn fast for short fiction. I am faster than that on novels, but for new short stories every day or every few hours on some days, that is stunning speed.

How did I do that? I just dropped into depth and humor. Both are easy for me to write. So I went to my strengths in this challenge.

(I really need to teach that workshop on humor.)

Third, my skills are getting better. I still think all the stories suck, but Kris liked them all, some more than others, sure, but she liked them all and wouldn’t read some of mine because she had to work on other people’s work and said my work would ruin her for them. (A very nice thing to say, but I feel the same way about her stories. I would never read a Kristine Kathryn Rusch story and then try to be fair to other writers.)

Fourth, I can write anywhere. Now I am sticking with my writing computer for most things, but my little iPad worked just fine. I wrote in flight once (granted I was in first class and it was easy) and I wrote one story in a cafe and another sitting by a pool.

Kris caught me while writing with the picture below. Notice the blurring speed of my fingers? (grin)




This is at our dining room table in the condo. (I have no writing office set up in the condo yet. Las Vegas is out the window below and the white wall behind me will eventually be covered in books.

Fifth, short stories are wonderful exploration. I knew this one, but it was really pounded home once again. A great new character for a series and at least two novel starts I would have never had without this challenge to do short stories.

Sixth, the old Pulp Writers Were Gods. The best ones, anyway. They often wrote a novel a week and kept that pace up for years, some for decades. But I do think it would be possible to write a short story a day now for one entire year or more. The key would to not get too far behind at any point. I wrote ten short stories in four days to hit this. Most writers don’t write ten short stories in an entire year.

So on my quest to really understand old Pulp writers, I might have a few more challenges coming up for myself after things get settled some. Stay turned.

And the thirty stories below will, with luck, be in a book called How to Write Thirty Stories in Thirty Days While Moving. (I also worked an average of over 40 hours per week for the month at WMG, but who is counting those hours? (grin))

The book will have all the stories in it and all the relevant parts of these blogs each day. So it will be over 100,000 words long. Shorter than the Stories From July book.

And wow, did this challenge live up to the tag line below on the cover. …”When Life Disrupts Your Routines.”

Yeah, that pretty much describes the last month. Fiction amid disruption. Great fun.


Day One… Scared Money… 2,700 words…. Total April words… 2,700 words.
Day Two… Rainbow Peak… 4,900 words…. Total April words… 7,600 words.
Day Three… A Beautiful History… 2,300 words…. Total April words… 9,900 words.
Day Four… A Song For The Old Memory… 2,050 words…. Total April words… 11,950 words.
Day Five… A Brush with Intent… 1,000 words…. Total April words… 12,950 words.
Day Six… Ghost Diet… 2,700 words…. Total April words… 15,650 words.
Day Seven… Rescue Two… 3,300 words…. Total April words… 18,950 words.
Day Eight… The Woman Who Knew The Time… 3,200 words…. Total April words… 22,150 words.
Day Nine… Long Hair Henry… 4,400 words…. Total April words… 26,550 words.
Day Ten… I’ll See You… 1,500 words…. Total April words… 28,050 words.
Day Eleven… Girl on the Bed… 2,000 words…. Total April words… 30,050 words.
Day Twelve… Everything Got Colder… 2,050 words…. Total April words… 32,100 words.
Day Thirteen… (did not write)… 00 words…. Total April words… 32,100 words.
Day Fourteen… (did not write)… 00 words…. Total April words… 32,100 words.
Day Fifteen… Old Memories… 2,700 words…. Total April words… 34,800 words.
Day Sixteen… Models’ Four.. 1,900 words…. Total April words… 36,700 words.
Day Seventeen… (did not write).. 00 words…. Total April words… 36,700 words.
Day Eighteen… Green Canyon.. 2,500 words…. Total April words… 39,200 words.
Day Nineteen… (did not write).. 00 words…. Total April words… 39,200 words.
Day Twenty… Something In My Darling.. 1,600 words…. Total April words… 40,800 words.
Day Twenty-one… (did not write).. 00 words…. Total April words… 40,800 words.
Day Twenty-two… Reluctant With Intent.. 2,000 words…. Total April words… 42,800 words.
Day Twenty-three… (did not write).. 00 words…. Total April words… 42,800 words.
Day Twenty-four… Two-Handeed Stand.. 2,150words…. Total April words… 44,950 words.
Day Twenty-five… Dead Woman Walking.. 2,100 words…. Total April words… 47,050 words.
Day Twenty-six… Cherry Jones.. 2,700 words…. Total April words… 49,750 words.
Day Twenty-seven… The Story of Jean.. 2,550 words.. Total April words… 52,300 words.
………………Debbie Does the Desert… 3,400 words…. Total April words… 55,700 words.
……..A Time and A Place for April…. 1,600 words…. Total April words… 57,300 words.

Day Twenty-eight…. Come Around Cindy.. 2,600 words…. Total April words… 59,900 words.
…………………… Patty Bluff… 2,450 words…. Total April words… 62,350 words.

Day Twenty-nine…. Penny Dead…. 3,700 words…. Total April words… 66,050 words.
…………………… Lost Louise…. 1,750 words…. Total April words… 67,800 words.
…………………… Pleasing Pearl…… 1,900 words…. Total April words… 69,700 words.

Day Thirty….. Center Drive…. 2,300 words…. Total April words… 72,000 words.
…………………… Viewing Susan… 1,650words…. Total April words… 73,650 words.

THIRTY STORIES IN THIRTY DAYS… Average about 2,500 words per story.


In Person Workshops.

Early Bird Discounts to Get into the Vegas Master Business Class or Anthology are ending!!!  A day or so leeway on this before the price jumps to $750. Write me with questions if interested.



— Insider’s Guide to Writing Serial Fiction (2,000 word parts of a novel) (Starts May 6th)
— Insider’s Guide to Writing Detective Fiction. (Starts May 6th)

$300 each, limited to ten writers plus lifetime subscribers. One time workshops. They will not be regular. Sorry. But Lifetime Subscribers have access to them of course going forward.




Sign up directly through Teachable or if you have a credit, write me directly to sign up. These workshops have just started today.

Class #49… May 1st … Depth #3: Research
Class #50… May 1st … Author Voice
Class #51… May 1st … Dialog
Class #52… May 1st … Writing into the Dark
Class #53… May 1st … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #54… May 1st … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #55… May 2nd … Depth in Writing
Class #56… May 2nd … Business
Class #57… May 2nd … (open)
Class #58… May 2nd … (open)
Class #59… May 2nd … Novel Structure
Class #60… May 2nd … Writing Fantasy


  • paladin3001

    This whole challenge is good inspiration for all of us like you said. If one person can do it, so can another. Just need to learn how to drive and motivate ones self in order to do it. Now that I am mostly awake and less bleary eyed it’s time to get to it myself. These books and stories won’t get written by themselves…

  • Julie

    Interesting what you say about writing slower in short stories than in novels. I find I’m fastest at the beginning of a story and then slow down (perhaps because I’m trying harder to make sure that what I’m saying isn’t inconsistent with, or repeating what I’ve already said, and is supplying all the info that I need to – I really hope I speed up with practice!).

    I wondered what you thought of the pros and cons and possibilities of writing at 5,000 words per hour(ish), which some writers are doing, including Joanna Penn. I calculate my true rate at ‘final/clean words per hour’ (I’ve done your Speed course!) and I suspect their ‘clean’ rate (i.e. after tidying up and ready to go) would be more like 2,500 or 3,000 wph, but even so, those are very high rates.

    Some of them seem to be typing, while some are getting a boost by using dictation software (which I haven’t found speeds me up any, yet).

    I wondered what your thoughts were on these speeds?

    • dwsmith

      No professional long-term writer I know writes at those speeds. Not even sure where they are coming from, to be honest. I do the speed workshop and most writers end up from 1,000 to maybe in exceptions 2,000 FINISHED WORDS per page. I suppose anyone can type 3,000 to 5,000 sloppy, unfinished words per page. That’s just sloppy typing. I do about 1,100 to 1,300 FINISHED, FINAL DRAFT words per hour. I do not outline or rewrite. So when I write, it is done.

      I know nothing about the total time in dictation software. I suppose it would create a lot of sloppy, need to be fixed words per hour. What people writing at that pace don’t count is all the fix and rewriting time. So take that out of your mind that you are doing something wrong if you don’t write 3,000 plus words per hour. Just doesn’t work that way over any long term with finished copy. The hour rate comes down when you count all the rewriting time. And outlining time. And so on.

      • Julie

        Thanks, Dean, very interesting. I’ve had a go with dictation software but think I need to tweak it a bit before it gets to the point where it’s faster while still being equally accurate with typing. The software has certainly improved since ten years ago when I last tried it, and it’s certainly a help if typing a lot (helps prevent RSI). But I’d like to see if get even better.

  • J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Both are easy for me to write. So I went to my strengths in this challenge.

    I’d love to hear more about that concept—dropping into one’s strengths as a writer. I hope you’ll consider blogging about it or maybe doing a lecture.

    • dwsmith

      J.M., Good idea. Kris and I have always done that, right from the start. When we were coming up and needed to collaborate on Star Trek books, we went to our strengths. At that time in our careers, I felt comfortable with plotting and she was comfortable with thickness and character, so we went to our strengths in the writing the book, setting up a way that I wrote the bones, she colored in the character and setting. We also learned from each other by doing that and now she is a stunning plotter and I am very, very good at thickness and depth.

      So good idea on a topic to talk about. And how to use your strengths to get past weak areas. Blog at least coming up, maybe a lecture.

      • Anon

        Speaking of tie-in books, I don’t know if you’re doing those anymore, but do you know if that’s even a thing that most writers could get into if they wanted to these days? Seems like most tie-ins are totally in-house things where you have to personally know someone at the publisher to even be considered. I’m guessing they don’t take pitches from randoms. Although, did they ever? (I know there used to be a time, way back in the day, when the actual Star Trek shows would accept script submissions, and I understand a few of these even became episodes. I was so bummed that they stopped doing that by the time I was old enough to even consider submitting anything.)

        • dwsmith

          Anon, nope all invite only. Best way to become a tie-in writer is to write a lot of original books, then at a conference or something meet the editor working on a project you love and tell them you would be interested. And that is how we all got in the door. But by that point you most likely won’t want to do the project. (grin)

      • J.M. Ney-Grimm

        So good idea on a topic to talk about. And how to use your strengths to get past weak areas. Blog at least coming up, maybe a lecture.

        Wonderful! I’m looking forward to it. 😀

  • JM

    “First, I never have a reason to not write.”

    I would argue this one, just a little. Or maybe refine it. You said it yourself, you were often on short sleep and with bad eating. You got away with it for a month because it was a short-term goal. I would say if the choice was a full night’s sleep or writing, choose the sleep, for health reasons. HOWEVER, you also showed again that you can write any time, not just late at night, and that you don’t have to write the story all at once. (I remember your early blog entries where you mentioned the early days, writing stories 15 minutes at a time, when you could, in between other things.)

    So, I would say the ONLY reason not to write is to do the things you need to do to stay healthy, such as to get a full night’s sleep and a decent meal, maybe go for a walk or to the gym. (Oh, and to spend time with family, which should be more important than writing and I almost forgot it because I live alone and that’s not even on my radar most of the time.) Other than that, writing is possible and we’re all just making excuses.

    Thanks for letting us peek into your mind.

    • dwsmith

      Always keep in mind the critical voice’s only mission is to stop you from writing, either before you write or during the writing. That is its job.

      So while I agree with you, JM, I won’t agree because I don’t want that critical voice having any reason to come in. And trust me, with doors like you just tossed open, it will. (grin)

    • Kris Rusch

      Dean wasn’t sleeping or eating well because I wasn’t there to nag him. Note that he said he ate better and slept more in Vegas, and he wrote more too.

      Whenever I’m away, Dean reverted to old habits, which includes eating potato chips for dinner because he forgets to get groceries. Which is why I make him promise to eat three meals and get a good nights sleep when I’m not around. It means he’ll eat at least two meals, and get enough sleep.

      The writing and the meals in other words are not related. Sleep on the other hand was a symptom of the fact he had too much work to do, and he decided to add in the writing so that he could focus on something fun and important.

      • USAF

        youre right Kris and so good to see you and Dean watching over one another. I can see you are the Potato Chip Police.

        We know that potato chips, popcorn and pizza are the three food groups out here in our family amongst the ‘forgetful.’ However, we force everyone to eat dessert first: that is real protein, green things, red things and yellow things. With just a tidge of sugar as finisher. A tidge used to be like a cup full. Now its more like a teaspoon. Live and learn lol

        Best to you both mis estimados; we always think of you.

  • Teri Babcock

    Dean, sounds like you’re saying, the more you write, the easier it is to write more 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Oh, yeah, so much easier writing than thinking about writing. By factors of a thousand.

  • Gael

    YAY on the stories, I’m already eager to read them, and congrats once again. (OMG I’m such a slacker. Said everyone who followed this, lol.) And that picture feels iconic to me. It’s awesome!

    Glad you guys are enjoying your new home!

    Gael 🙂

    • Céline Malgen

      The picture is indeed awesome. And it’s eerily similar to the one at the very top of your website, with even the lamp on the table, and the water tap reflected in the window, as if to mirror the bottle of wine (in a healthier way though).

      But then the background is much more amazing in your picture!

  • Mike

    Dean – this was great to follow along with. Thank you for once again walking the walk and showing us how it’s done!

    Question for you – are those comments in Word to the right hand side of the iPad? I’m curious how you use those, if that’s what I’m seeing (hard to tell given the angle).

    • dwsmith

      Mike, no, that’s a menu I often have off. I was using Pages and then exporting it by email to Word and sending it to another email account as back-up. So right at that picture I must have dropped the menu to do an export.

  • Stefon Mears

    Dean, a humor class would be great. Please do teach one (or if you won’t, are there any you’d recommend?). I know that I can write humor, because I’ve had readers and editors comment on it, but man, if I try to write humor I freeze. I’ve been trying like hell to figure out how to get out of my way there, but it seems like a free entry pass for my critical voice.