Challenge,  On Writing

Day One…

Book One…

The challenge is to write four novels in one month.

Today is July 1st, so started up today, even though I am totally exhausted from just moving four days ago and I have a ton of stuff to do still. In fact, today, I brought in some more stuff for my office from my old office and will do even more tomorrow. So writing while still putting things in here from moving.

And having mouse issues with my computer. Very annoying.

But I knew was that as tired as I am, if I didn’t get started, I wouldn’t start for a long time. Besides, writing is great fun and actually gives me energy once I get rolling.

How It Went…

Today I headed out with Kris after doing some moving and while she was at the gym (I will be there with her next week) I ran some errands, like taking a large donation to the cat shelter we found Angel at, and doing grocery shopping.

While doing that I was sort of mulling over the book. I really wanted to write a Pakhet Jones novel, and what kept swirling in my mind was a short story I wrote about a big orange tom cat running the area of Las Vegas. The short story didn’t finish even introducing this special cat.

I kind of wanted to tell his full story. Couldn’t get it out of my mind. No plan or plotting, just a nagging desire.

The short story had been published in volume #11 of the Year of the Cat, but no where else yet. So I went back and looked at it.

The story worked great as a 3,400 word short story, but it wasn’t structured quite right for a novel opening, so I started playing around and adding more and more depth from the beginning and changing the structure some and pretty soon it was 5,000 words and a great novel opening. And I was hooked on the orange tabby tom cat, even though I have no idea where the book is going.

I kept going for another 500 words as things continued with Pakhet and the cat and her cat Thomas as well.  Then decided I was tired enough to go watch some television and get to bed early for a full night’s sleep.

So I worked 4.5 hours total (slower than my normal writing pace because this was an opening and needed to be changed to fit an opening).

Book #1… 4.5 hours. 5,460 words.

Some Observations…

Over the years I have started my share of novels by jumping from a short story. In fact, both Kris and I do this a great deal and I have talked in workshops about how it is a great way to explore world building and characters and other things. Kris has done it and still does it in her Diving Universe. In fact, she wrote a novella called “Diving into the Wreck” that won all kinds of awards, including Asimov’s Reader’s Choice Award before she ever decided to move it into the opening of a novel.

I think that about 25% of my novels start or jump from an already-written short story. I have already done a lot of world building and character building in those.

In this story, I had to do a lot of changing of the short story because of the structure, but the start of the story really gave me a great base in introducing the main few characters and the big orange tom cat.

In my Seeder’s Universe, I was given the opportunity to write a short story based off a lyrics of a song by Janis Ian. I had her permission and she did the introduction to the collection of stories we all did from her songs. Great fun.

I kind of liked the story idea, so after the book was published, I got her permission to continue on and use the lyrics in the opening and she agreed, so I wrote a novel from the short story called “Dust in the City.”

Then a year or so later, I jumped from that into writing my novels for my Seeder’s Universe and there are a bunch of those novels now. All from a short story originally.

So as I have said numbers of times, one of the best ways to world build is just write short stories. And a great way to jump into novels as well.

So I am up and running with this first book, with some world-building I had done earlier. Total win.

So if you love writing short fiction and have fun doing them, just let them fly. You just never know when one of the stories might lead you into a brand new series.



  • Philip

    You’ve mentioned this before and it’s fascinating. Meanwhile, all my novels turn into short stories. I tend to throw my hero into a huge problem right away and the next thing I know, the story feels complete and satisfying. Hence, I’ve never written a novel. I guess there are worse things than writing a bunch of short stories.

    • dwsmith

      Sounds like you the writer are writing them instead of just letting characters go and not planning ahead.

  • Harvey+Stanbrough

    Happened to me. Several years ago I wrote a western short story titled “Adobe Walls.” A few month later, the main character of that story started tugging on my sleeve. “Hey, Harv, you gonna tell the story that led up to this event, or what?”

    So I wrote a trilogy of novels that included the main event from that story. Then I wrote other novels and stories.

    But the character wasn’t through telling his story. “What about the beginning?” he said. So I wrote three prequels to the trilogy. Of course that got me interested in what happened after the trilogy. The series (saga) finally wrapped at over 750,000 words over 12 novels.

    All from that one little short story. Incredible.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, amazing how that works. Kris’s entire Diving Series all sprang from that one story. Short stories and novellas are just a great way to get things going.

  • Daniel Fellows

    I am so glas you’re doing this challenge. I have read some of your challenges in the past but after the fact, so I am glad I have caught this one at the start. I love the motivation this gives for my own writing. My challenge for the month of July is to finish my novel and then have it published in August. Good luck, Dean.

  • Victoria+Goddard

    Out of curiosity, Dean, do you make a note anywhere about the relationship between the short story and the novel? For instance, at the end of the short story–“The events of this short story continue to unfold in X novel”? (That seems a boring way to phrase it, but even so.) Or explain that the novel began as a short story? I’m thinking about people who may have read the story in the past and now are feeling the novel begins with a strange sense of deja vu …

  • Wenda Morrone

    Here’s a variant on converting a short story. Some years ago I had ovarian cancer of the “There’s always hope” stage. It was a rigorous year: surgery, chemo, surgery, with no hope waiting at the end. I was in the middle of ghost-writing a book and had to cancel. Couldn’t sit up for many minutes at a time, let alone writing.

    It turns out there IS always hope, and several years later I came across about 50 pages of notes from that year–I could tell by the paper and type face–that I had no memory of. Notes of a space colony planet–sci fi, which I never read, never mind wrote.

    I put them aside but they were like a letter from me to me, I couldn’t throw them away. Still more years , and finally I said, I’m going to write a chapter of this, and hate it, and then I can throw it all away. Finally. But when I finished the chapter, I read it over and said, Curses, I’m never going to write anything better than this. So I was trapped.

  • DS Butler

    Playing with variations on an idea for fiction of different lengths is something Agatha Christie used to do very effectively.

    Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran is an interesting read and touches on her way of switching an idea from short story to a novel or play.