Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Story Twenty-One


Tonight I almost got caught by a beginner’s mistake. Real close, actually. I went to look up a fact and found myself an hour later still playing with research. And it was for nothing I really needed for the story. I just thought it would be cool to look up.

Yikes! The worst waste of writing time is research. Not don’t take me wrong, writers often need to research. I am no exception to that and I have fifty or so major research books here in my office, not counting access to our major nonfiction library, not counting the good old Google.

But I NEVER research on writing time.

If I need a fact, I look it up and go right back to writing. If a story is going to need research, I do that in non-writing time and write another story that won’t take research or that the research is already done for.

Tonight I got lost in the fun of looking crap up and lost an hour of my writing time. Rookie mistake.

But still got my story done and had fun with it, actually.

It started off with me and my half-title pages again. Up came the word “Immortality” and I started to search more half-titles looking for something to jam into it. I love immortality stories. My characters in my Thunder Mountain are, for all intents and purposes, immortal. And my characters in my Seeders Universe are basically immortal. And Poker Boy is immortal and the ghosts in Ghost of a Chance series are immortal.

Yeah, I like immortality. Fun topic to play with. So as I was looking for another half-title to jam into it, I came across “…of sorts.”

So I typed in that title “An Immortality of Sorts” and a first line sort of appeared in my head with Fred, the talking oak tree telling Buckey the Space Pirate that he was sorry that Buckey had lost his mother.

Off I went. At 3 a.m. I took a break at 950 words.

Then back and finished the story by 4:30 a.m. at 2,300 words.

Then I glanced up at my board over my writing computer that has a list of my series and realized Buckey the Space Pirate wasn’t even listed as one of my series. Wow, that was sad to realize, since my third published short story was a Buckey story.

So now the series name is up on the board. At some point I need to do a Buckey novel.


STORY CHALLENGE… Get Me to Read 30 Short Stories

The story challenge that I talked about where I will be a first reader has a few brave souls signed up on it. It’s going to be fun for me to read the stories. It will be a wonderful break every evening from writing on the novels I will be doing.

Information on it is a few posts back. And keep in mind, if you can hit 30 stories in thirty days, WMG will give you credit for two online workshops and if you hit 30 stories in 60 days, you get credit for one online workshop. A fun challenge that will keep your feet to the fire. (grin)

And you will have days like I had today, when life is crazy and you don’t feel like writing. Those are the days you sit down and write anyway. This is not a challenge for the muse, this is a challenge for a writer. A writer is a person who writes, in case you have forgotten. (grin)

ONE ADDED NOTE: If you pay for the challenge and start the challenge, but can’t get me 5 stories in ten days, you can bail at that point and the money will go for two online workshops.

The reason for this escape ramp is how difficult this challenge is. (I’ve done it twice now, I know.) I’m not doing this challenge to take your money and you fail and get nothing. I want everyone who signs up to win in one way or another. So if you sign up and pay for this challenge and say start on May 2nd and ten days later you don’t have five stories to me, we call it (If you want to, your choice) and give you two online workshop credits.

You have five stories turned in to me, you are past the no-return spot. (grin)


Point of Interest

I just went past over 100,000 words written in total, not counting responses on posts. Just fiction, nonfiction, blogs, and e-mail.


Here are the Covers and Stories for the April challenge. 

Story #1… April 1… Not Easy to Kill the Light Next Door… 1,700 words 
Story #2… April 2… A Reason to Play a Hunch… 3,200 words 
Story #3… April 3… A Deal at the End of Time… 3,000 words
Story #4… April 4… A Nice Place for Murder… 3,400 words
Story #5… April 5… The Five Roads Tavern and Eatery …3,200 words
Story #6… April 6… The Last Short Putt of a Fearful Man …2,200 words
Story #7… April 7… The Wait …1,200 words
Story #8… April 8… Through the For Sale Sign …2,500 words
Story #9… April 9… Blind Date …4,100 words
Story #10… April 10… Keep Hoping for a New Tomorrow …1,700 words
Story #11… April 11… That Old Tingling …3,200 words
Story #12… April 12… The Last Man …2,500 words
Story #13… April 13… Smile …2,700 words
Story #14… April 14… Always a Way …4,000 words
Story #15… April 15… A No-Win Hand …1,800 words
Story #16… April 16… Habit …2,000 words
Story #17… April 17… A Thief of Regrets …4,600 words
Story #18… April 18… In the Dream of Many Bodies …1,400 words
Story #19… April 19… Wings Out …2,200 words
Story #20… April 20… Delightfully Dizzy …1,700 words
Story #21… April 21… An Immortality of Sorts …2,300 words

(Plus six novel starts so far…)


May ONLINE Workshops 

All May online workshops are available and have openings.

ALSO, the workshop schedule through August is now posted. You can sign up ahead for any workshop you want through August.

So for information on how to sign up, go to…

Any questions at all, feel free to write me. And if you are confused as to which workshop to take first, we have a full curriculum posted on its own page.

Class #41… May 2nd … Author Voice
Class #42…  May 2nd … Business
Class #43…  May 2nd … Endings
Class #44…  May 2nd … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #45…  May 2nd … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #46…  May 3rd … Depth in Writing
Class #47… May 3rd … Advanced Character and Dialog
Class #48… May 3rd … Cliffhangers
Class #49… May 3rd … How To Edit Your Own Work (new)
Class #50… May 3rd … Plotting with Depth



Tracking Running… April 21st, 2017
4 miles. No running.
Weight 194. (Goal 170)
Month to date distance: 73 miles

Tracking Word Counts… April 21st, 2017
Totals For Year 4, Month 9, Day 21 (Year started August)
Writing in Public blog streak… Day 1,310

— Daily Fiction: 2,300 original words. Fiction month-to-date: 49,700 words  
— Nonfiction: 00 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 1,000 words 
— Blog Posts: 800 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 16,300 words
— E-mail: 21 e-mails. Approx. 1,100 original words.  E-mails month-to date: 573 e-mails. Approx. 36,000 words
— Short Fiction Goal: 120 stories (July 1st to June 30th). Stories to date: 29 stories.
— Novel Goal: 12 Novels. Novels finished to date: 5 novels.


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  • James Mendur

    On several writing days this month, you mentioned picking up a partial story you had previously started and then finishing it. Where did those almost-abandoned stories come from? Were they ideas that ran out of steam for the moment and you decided to do something else? Were they stopped because something more immediate came up that had to be addressed? Something else?

    • dwsmith

      James, honestly, I don’t remember. The ones I fixed were from the 1980s. I’m lucky to remember yesterday at this age. (grin)

      But I have always had a file of story starts. When I get sidetracked (normally the case) I just toss the story over into the story starts file figuring at some point in the future I would get to it. I usually never even look at the file to be honest. But I toss story starts into it all the time. Has to be maybe a hundred in there in various forms of starts, from title and a first line to a thousand words. Honestly sort of felt good to dig up a couple and finish them.

  • Thomas E

    Dean, you’re making it awfully easy to welch on the challenge you know:)

    Are we allowed to write more than one story a day so we can get the challenge over quicker (grin)?

    Not sure I’m serious about that last question…

    • dwsmith

      You bet, Thomas. I did two one day in July and almost did two the other night. I call it “banking” a story in case of a problem. In July I ended up with 32 in the 31 days, so I didn’t use my bank, but not a bad idea if things are going well with a story and it gets done early. If I wasn’t already writing a nonfiction book at the same time and doing all the workshop stuff and stuff at WMG, I might have a few days with two. So I took your question seriously. (grin)

      I just figured that if someone wanted to push themselves, got started, saw how difficult it was going to be, they wouldn’t lose their money, but instead transfer it to learning. But five stories in over ten days and that option closes. (grin) I figured by five stories each person would get a sense of how it was going.

      Got three brave souls signed up so far. More than I expected, to be honest. But I have done this twice and even Bradbury dropped back to a story per week. I know how difficult it is because of the normal ups and downs of a month. But it is a great challenge and even if someone gets 20 stories out of it, that’s more short stories than most writers will write in years. And will help discoverability of the writer’s work.

      Also, anyone thinking of doing this, be prepared to come up with novel ideas along the way. I have done 21 stories so far and got six novel starts out of it. Which is going to help me a lot when I ramp up to two novels a month through the summer. I am sure as I first read stories in this challenge, my response will be something like “Works as a short story, but now write the novel.” Writers who have come to anthology workshop here can vouch for that. (grin)

      • Thomas E

        I’m excited by the challenge, Dean. I’ve done a similar challenge three times before… Reached the goal twice and “failed” once. But I wasn’t too unhappy with the “failure” because I still wrote a lot of stories.

        Honestly, I think I’ve gained from it already. It’s been a long while since I wrote a short story so since I signed up I’ve been writing a short story a day to get into practice 🙂 It’s great fun.

        That’s five stories I wouldn’t have had except for this challenge.

        Er… You’re right about the novel start thing too… It’s definitely something that happens (grin).

  • Leah Cutter

    Oh, I hear you on the research pit. Deep, dark hole that is.

    One of the ways I’ve been able to handle it while writing is to bring my phone with me into my writing office. I can look up something quickly on my phone, but it annoys me so much that I won’t get trapped by doing research. That way I can look up a fact and then slide easily back into writing.

    If it’s a serious gap and I can’t get by it without a lot of research, I try to come up with creative ways to write around it. Which turns out to be rather fun, most of the time.

    Otherwise, I do as much of my research ahead of time as I can. Mind you, “research” for me involves reading lots of non-fiction, history books. Which I love to do. So that’s another dark hole of research, but it doesn’t take up writing time. It’s just another way of reading for fun.

    • dwsmith

      Exactly, Leah. Research can’t be done during writing time. I love to read books on history and poker and other things like that, but I only do it away from my writing time.

      And I have what I call the “jump chairs” trick for my detail stuff. I jump up from my writing chair, do a quick Google search for the detail in my internet chair across my office, then shut it down and go back to my writing chair with a yellow note of the details. If a chair jump takes two minutes, it’s too long.

  • Patrick R

    Hi Dean

    Six questions!

    1 – Does this challenge look or feel different with a word count approach? Something like 2000-3000 words on average per day, perhaps up to three hours writing (or only two) for some people?

    I found the word count approach interesting when you have discussed it before, breaking down the seeming greater challenge of projects to a steady daily output rate. Is it the same here, or are short stories complete entities and so a different dimension is added to the challenge (or opportunity!) of output?

    2 – What about the novel starts that come up? Should they be counted or simply put in the ‘novel bank’ as they wouldn’t be short stories, necessarily, and the short stories are still be needed!?

    Of course, could be that a short story works and also inspires possibilities for a novel, or series! Nice potential batch of pies for the magic bakery!

    3 – The workshop assignments produced some story starts, though not intended as short stories. I imagine that a) they couldn’t then work; and, b) aren’t to be used anyway for this challenge?

    4 – Building off that last bit of the question (3b) – all these short stories have to be brand new stories and writing, and done into the dark?

    5 – And, do you think it’d be more of a struggle for people who haven’t done/don’t generally do short stories, perhaps not in length but to know what forms and doesn’t form a short story, to best ease the way and enjoyment in gong into the dark with starting fresh words…and knowing where they end for a story?

    Or, who cares – have a blast a see how it all goes?

    6 – Could this be an opportunity for writers to blast out a flurry of short stories that would be in worlds they have already created, or to accompany novels (even if only one done), or pre- or side histories of characters?

    Or shouldn’t get so fussed or trying to do these. Just go utterly and plainly into the dark, every time.



    • dwsmith

      Patrick, question by question.
      1… Totally different. This you get to finish a story every day, not just some word number. A completely different feeling.
      2… Novel starts, unless they are a stand-alone short story, just go over into the novel starts file and don’t count.
      3… I don’t care if someone uses a story start from anywhere. Makes no difference to me. Heck, this month I’ve used two story starts from the 1980s.
      4… You can write them any way you want. I have set no rules. Just got to get me a story every day or every other day. Do that any way that works.
      5… If you don’t normally write or read short stories, this challenge will be impossible. No matter how you try to write them. You will be producing more short stories in one month than other writers do in five years. Trust me, that takes a love of short fiction and an understanding of the short story form at a deep level.
      6… Well, I’m writing in worlds I have created. Almost every story is in one or another of my 15 series. Again, I don’t care what anyone writes, or even what genre. Or how they do it. They can outline every story to death as far as I car. Just finished short story every day for thirty days for me to read.
      Really is that simple. And that stunningly difficult.


      • Harvey

        This reminds me of when I was teaching a grunt English class at a junior college. When it came time to assign essays, the students wanted to know how many pages.

        I said, “Write until you’ve covered the topic thoroughly, then stop. That might be two pages, and it might be ten or fifteen. Up to you.”

        “But Instructor Name always assigns ten pages.”

        “This is not Instructor Name’s class.”

        “Okay, so how many pages does this have to be again?”

        And on and on. (grin)

        Finally I said, “If you need to have a certain number of pages assigned, write ten. Ten pages of Times New Roman double spaced 12 point font. If you are able to think on your own, however, please just write until you’ve covered the topic, then stop.”

      • patrick R

        Thanks for looking over those questions, just musings really, and give your answers, Dean. Much as I’d anticipated, and all appreciated.

        I always found it interesting how you find time and give different perspective on what writers may feel are hurdles for them, such as changing perspective on writing a long story by appreciating that in daily terms it’s, ah, not so much. Push on, have fun. Shorts are different, for sure. Had simply wondered how other perspectives sometimes are useful to people, too, such as in this challenge of 30 in 30. Maybe can seem similar in word counts terms, but they are quite, quite different, tales to be enjoyed unto themselves…against the clock. Great fun. All writers are different. No one prescriptions needed, just reflecting and learning. Sharing.

        Excellent how you have fun letting folk play around with the ideas that come up, no problem. Great teacher. Again, I appreciate the chance for sharing, and learning from you and others.