Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Catching Up… To Do or Not To Do?

A Great Question…

I got that question from a writer just today and I had a pretty simple answer for him. But there is more to my answer than what I was able to give him at the spur of the moment.

I said this:

Try to catch up if doing so is possible and will be challenging. If impossible to catch up, then simply reset the challenge and start fresh.

Sounds simple until you start figuring out if something is impossible or not. Sometimes you just know you have screwed the pooch. No catching up is possible. Reset and restart!!!

But other times the added challenge makes it even more fun on a goal or challenge.

If that is the case, figure out what caused you to get behind, set a plan to do the challenge while catching up, and then stick to it. Otherwise you are just kidding yourself and things will get worse and you would be better off resetting in the long run.

I am in this very spot. I bored Kris, once again at lunch today, talking about my short story per day challenge. I can do it, no issue. Knew that from the start. Did just fine through January and February and a ways into March before life stuff started to just derail stories. April I am back writing and no problem of me catching up the extra stories I have missed. And I will get caught up on the stuff outside of the writing like Patreon.

But that is not what I bored Kris with. She was trying to help me solve the problem that is echoing in my head again, and has been echoing since I started thinking about this in November and again I am having trouble clearing it.

What in the hell am I going to do with 365 short stories?

Granted, already used 16 of them in issues of Smith’s Monthly. Say 50 stories per year. 7 years, but I don’t plan on stopping writing short stories next year either. And the idea of a collection per month just fell apart about week three. So writing 365 stories and putting them in a file drawer for some future time?? Not how my brain works, sadly.

And the filing I had for this just went into meltdown around story sixty, as I was afraid it would, and I have finally now got that fixed so it can hold 365 stories.

So it will be easy at this point for me to get caught up once I get going at full focus again. Will take me to August, but I can do it.

But my critical voice is just pounding me with “What the hell are you going to do with 365 short stories?” And until I come up with a decent answer for that, I got a hunch I will be staying even with a story a day or falling slightly more behind as each week passes.

So to catch up or to reset on your challenge? Figure out what derailed you, see if you are too far behind. If so, reset. If not, and catching up would be fun, catch up.

And I’ll let you know if I come up with a solution to my problem. Ahh, the problems of being prolific.



  • Vincent Zandri

    Deahn, my two cents here so take it for what it’s worth, but a while back I mentioned I had a stack of unpublished novels, novellas, and stories going all the way back to 2018 or so. You mentioned, unless you’re practicing, get them out there. I took your advice and have been putting them up on Kindle Vella.

    I always make it clear to the reader that what they are about to read if “Uncut, Unedited, and Raw for the People” even though I write pretty clean copy anyway. I also tell them to look for the edited version which will be coming out in book form very soon.

    I have maybe 6 novels, 6 novellas, and scattering of stories on Vella so far and it’s brining in five figures every month and my audience is growing. Just a thought if you’re looking for something to do with all those short stories. You can either put them up one by one, or put them in collections and serialize them that way.

    When you’re ready to bring the stories out in all forms on all platforms you simply unpublish them on Vella. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy. 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Vincent. Just wish it was that simple. The problem is bulk and the time it takes. I have carved out the time to write all the stories. I have employees that don’t even have the time to deal with the bulk I am creating on the publishing side, plus what I normally create, plus what Kris creates and all the other projects we do. 365 different items, plus collections added in. I am coming to the conclusion that if I do focus and catch up, a large number of these stories won’t see life for years and years. Which means that my organization and tracking is going to be even more critical.

  • Kate+Pavelle

    Hi Dean,

    I feel your pain on the inventory end of things. My question relates to story organization and inventory management. Once you write a story, how do you organize it? I am compiling a collection in a series world, and I’ve been hunting down stories I forgot I wrote spanning 3 years and several challenges. Changing the name mid-stream and forgetting to change the file name doesn’t help.
    So how do you know where they fit and what they are?

    I have been doing some of this, but not consistently. This is what I plan to do from now on:
    – put the world, series, or genre next to the title in the file name
    – save the story in a sub-folder reflecting where it might fit (world, series, holiday, genre) (This gets complicated, because a story can fit more than one. Would you save a romance caper into both a romance sub-folder and a caper sub-folder?)
    – Keep a running list of “theoretical collections.” I do have an outdated one, and I have to update it. But it would be helpful to group those stories together as a concept for later. Some get submitted outside, and those are tracked separately.
    – To keep track of submissions, previously published, etc, color coding the titles might help some. But it doesn’t exactly duplicate the whole “have a data sheet for every story” concept.

    I realize you have addressed some of this in several online lecture series, but I still haven’t developed an adequate inventory management system which would allow for regular reuse. Thoughts?

    • dwsmith


      That system sounds fine and complicated on the surface and will break down when too many stories hit it, some challenge in the future or whatever. My opinion.

      Spread sheet for me has story title, story series (if any), and five columns for collections or mostly which issue Smith’s Monthly it is in. I can look any story up by series, by title, or by where it was published. That was fine while it worked but now I have a lot of unpublished stories on that list with this new challenge, and that is only getting worse. I have published in Smith’s Monthly about 270 different stories. This challenge will double that number and do damage to my spread sheet if I don’t find a solution fairly soon.

  • Cheryl

    That damn critical voice. Who knows what’s around the corner — maybe something where you’ll need to come up with 100 stories at the drop of a hat.

    Thanks so INCREDIBLY much for the “reset” guidance. That’s me, and the date is 1 May. May Day. Clean start, no recriminations. Family health issue has kind of knocked it out of me this month, and it won’t stop with the new month, but maybe I’ve got some sea legs now that can navigate through it while it lasts.

    You and Kris and what you share are appreciated. Valuable. Burden-lightening. Challenging. Exciting.

  • Stefon Mears

    I don’t know, Dean. If you top 300 sotires, you could run one hell of a Make 100 Kickstarter all on your own. Three different one hundred story options, plus a two hundred story level and a three hundred story level.

    (Plus, you know, the Patreon you’re doing with it.)

    • dwsmith

      Well, hell… That might just work!!! Thanks, Stefon, for giving me a crazy project to think about. Back here when I get all the math and possibilities worked out.

  • E. R. Paskey

    Thanks for this. I’m looking forward to my May 1st reset date, but I haven’t yet determined if I’ll be able to catch up to where I wanted to be for the first third of the year.

    For some reason, despite all the myths and critical voice issues I’ve had to fight my way through over the years, the Time of Great Forgetting has never been a problem for me. That said, the past few years April has taken a brutal toll on my writing because of two annual work projects that always occur this month (and occasionally one spills over in May). Plus, our eldest daughter tends to need more help with math toward the end of the school year, so that takes time as well.

    Every year I think I’ll have a better handle on things in April, and every year it conspires with life to steamroll me again. LOL. This is where it is so vital to have daily, weekly, and monthly word count resets like Dean talks about.
    Every day is a fresh new start. Every week is a new chance to hit that goal. Every month is a chance to stretch and push my word count a little further. (Or, in the case of this month, wince at the fact that it’s the worst month of the year so far, but, hey, at least I hit my rock-bottom, bare-minimum word count goal.)