Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

I Opened My Mouth… So Here Is How It Could Work


A few nights ago I mentioned that if anyone wanted to take up a story-a-day for thirty days, I could be their first reader for a price. Yup, said that.

Now I understand how really difficult on so many levels this challenge is. This is the second time I have done it and over the years hope to do one in every month of the year. Over different years, of course. Like the first one was in July and got the book Stories from July. This one will be a book called Stories from April.

The stories will also be in Smith’s Monthly, in collections, and published stand-alone.

So after I opened my mouth a few days ago, I got three brave people asking seriously what I would charge. I flat had no idea. I had never given it a thought before I typed those words and clearly didn’t give it a thought then either. (grin)

So over the last few days I’ve tried to puzzle how this might work in a way that would be fun for me, a benefit to whoever was nuts enough to try it, and so on. So tonight, when I woke up from a nap, I had it.

Here it is…


Write either a story a day for 30 days or a story every two days for 60 days. Either way you get 30 short stories finished if you get it done.

I will charge $600 to be your first reader. If you finish 30 stories in 60 days, you get an online workshop of your choice.

If you can actually finish 30 stories in 30 days, you get two online workshops of your choice. ($600 value and you get my reading for free.)

If you don’t finish 30 stories in 60 days at the outside, but signed up, paid the money, and gave it a try, you get a lecture of your choice.

— My duties as first reader will be this: I will read your story every day as a reader, comment as a reader and as an editor some. I will tell you what I liked, what didn’t work for me, and general stuff like that. I WILL NOT COPYEDIT or REWRITE your story or help you plot your story. However, I will tell you if it would work as a novel. (grin)

— A warning… I have a thick skin and Kris can say if she liked a story or not or if it worked or not and I just shrug and write the next story. To finish a challenge like this, you would need to keep my comments out of your head. I might even suggest you don’t look at my comments until the challenge is over. But up to you.

— Time limited. I do not want to be doing this into the summer.  So this will be open only until a May 2nd start. That will give you thirty days in May and thirty days in June.

— Cost is $600 and I will take anyone who is interested, even the wonderful woman I initially turned down if she wants to give it a try. (This new format makes it better.)

So in summary, pay $600 to get me as a first reader for thirty stories. Start on May 2nd. If you get them done in 30 days, you get two $300 online workshops. If it takes you 60 days to get thirty stories done, you get one online workshop. If you give it a good try and still don’t make thirty stories, you get a lecture. Something like the productivity lecture, maybe. (grin)

This sounds like great fun to me. Totally silly.

It’s April 19th. You got just a little over a week to decide, get ready, and get the money into me.

Of course, you could always just do it on your own and play along, test to see if you can do it without me reading your stories.

Any questions, feel free to write me or ask in the comments section.

Yes, I am this crazy. But you all knew that.


  • Sheila

    It may be crazy, considering all the other stuff you have on your plate, but I love the idea. If I could afford it, I’d be so tempted to take you on. So, so tempted. But, I have a novel to finish, and I swore I would focus on that before any short stories, unless it was something for a paying anthology.

    Good luck to anyone who takes Dean up on his offer. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

  • Thomas E

    Yeah, I’ll bite.

    Could you email the details, I.e. how to pay and where to send the stories.


    • dwsmith


      Just put an update blog with the details on signing up and the two start dates. Write me directly with any questions. Once you are in, I’ll send information on how to send the stories, but basically that is word.doc or docx files attached, same as in the workshop assignments. Payment goes to the WMG Publishing Paypal account which is attached to my e-mail address.

  • ChaChanna Simpson

    This sounds like a fun challenge. Are you capping it at certain number of people? I am going to play along on the sidelines, as I have decided next month I am going to start submitting what I write. Interested in following along and hearing how everyone does.

    • dwsmith

      Not worrying about a cap. I doubt if more than one or two will jump in. I just got distracted in how to try to make something like this work and be reasonable about it and worth people’s time. But this challenge is tough at best, impossible for most, so I doubt more than a few will jump in.

  • Felicia Fredlund

    Mostly for the sake of curiosity, I have to ask: what if you get a bunch of fantasy stories with bards and queens or regencies? Since I know your normal answer to such stories in other contexts, I was wondering what you’d do during this.

    • dwsmith

      I would read them, see if they functioned as a story, explain not my kind of story, but I could tell you if they worked or not as a story. I am discovering I read and like a lot more of that sort of fiction than I used to. So wouldn’t worry me.

  • Teri Babcock

    That is a hell of a deal, Dean. For anyone who makes the 30 Day Challenge, they’ve bought two courses, and your reading time is free. Will the feedback be similar to the Short Story Workshop?

    • dwsmith

      Pretty much. Just how I liked the story, how it worked, general reader comments like “felt slow at this point” or your ending was wrong or things like that. Or more likely, “This worked, get it to readers.”

  • Barb

    So we get to pick the topic? Just write what comes to mind? Is there a word limit? (And yes, it woul be a complete story, of course)
    Can you see my brain churning? 😉

    • dwsmith

      Would need to be a story and anything you wanted. I don’t care, I love pretty much all genres to read. Look at my word count on my challenge going on and you will see what length these things run. Vary all over the map. And remember, in those 18 days I have six novel starts. Two were actual stories I managed to contain into a story, but four others I started, realized they would be novels, stopped, and wrote something else that day.

  • Maree

    You keep putting out these really enticing ideas!

    But I can’t reasonably see myself writing that much in May. Maybe in October (if you do it again, hint hint)

    Meanwhile I will go back to trying to get together the cash to take at least a couple of the strengths workshops.

    • dwsmith

      UPDATE: I have made one change in this craziness. There are two start dates now. May 2nd or June 1st. Both are 60 day windows. Maree, no promises I would ever do this again. (grin)

  • Sheila

    They don’t have to be good, do they? Can we do this for practice, right? Wait…..we won’t know if they are good until you read them, will we?

    • dwsmith

      Good? Not even sure what that is. Just finished story I think is the key. Good is up to the readers. I’ll tell you what I think from my reader perspective, just as any first reader should.


    I’m tempted to do the challenge in May. The problem is timing. First, I have to get back to Florida and move/sell/giveaway a significant number of my possessions. (I’ve just accumulated too many things over the years and I’ve downsized into a one-bedroom apartment.) Then there are family obligations in June that I have to prepare for. I’ll have a better idea once I’m back in Florida. We’ll see. I did a similar challenge last May and produced a ton of content, and I’m itching to do it again.

  • B

    Oh man, that would be invaluable but I think I’ll probably just attempt this from the sidelines as I have other things I’m saving up to pay for from you. 🙂

    I’ll be interested to see how the people taking you up on this fare though.

  • Nicole

    So very tempting. I can’t swing the entry fee just now, and I have an insane day-job deadline in mid May, but I might play along from the sidelines in June. With luck, I’ll have my current novel off to a beta-reader by then, and will be ready to clear my mind with some short work.

    My big problem is that most of my short stories end up looking like first chapters of novels, and my to-write pile is already enormous. Perhaps I could write 30 related short stories I could put out as a collection.

    • dwsmith


      You could join me on the sidelines writing two novels a month for May, June, July, and August. My novels are between 40,000 and 50,000 words, so possible.

      And anyone who is working from the sidelines, feel free to report in here on comments your progress as you go. Just make sure you report not only the ups, but the downs. (grin)

      • Nicole

        Oh, wow.

        I’m thinking the current novel (I’m about 30k in) will top out at around 80k; I could maybe (maybe) write one of those in a month, but I do have a day job (Engineer. The design kind, not the sort who drives trains, though I did work on a railroad in my misspent youth) and a chronic illness that sometimes demands more rest than I’d like. Still, I don’t have young children and I do have a reliable computer, so I should be able to write around 1500 words a day, wouldn’t you think?

        I can do this. Of course I can do this.

        Tell you what. I’ll play along and finish Oversized Gumshoe (Sasquatch detective. Kidnapped dragon. Forest fire. Long story.) in May, then try a story a day for June. I’ll hop in here to note my word count (or lack thereof) every day (though I may skip if I’m not able to use a computer due to illness), and we’ll see what happens. I really do want to know how Will-the-Sasquatch rescues the dragon in distress.

        • Sheila

          Sasquatch detective? Kidnapped dragon? Forest fire?

          Yeah, I’d read that. Hell, I’d read it for the Sasquatch detective alone.

  • Laura W-A

    Is this still open? With sixty days and starting in June, I think I could do that. 🙂