Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Want To Be Challenged? I Am Doing It Again

I Am That Crazy…

I am going to do it again. I am offering to be a first reader for some of you.

I am still just finishing up the reading for the short story challenge that ended yesterday and the writers are still working on novels until January 15th, but that means I will have time to read again starting January 1st.

What a great way to be motivated starting the new year.

The first two times I did this, the challenges turned out to be fun for me. And the writers who participated said it challenged them to get writing done they might not have gotten done without the challenge.

And they all got the workshops.

That was the idea. Push the writing and get me reading your work and also get workshops out of it. (Everyone who tries is a winner in my mind, so you get the workshops no matter what.)

There are two challenges starting January 1st. A short story challenge and a novel challenge. The short story writers do 30 stories in 60 days, turn them in to me. The novel writers do three novels in three months and turn them in to me as they finish each one.

I read all the way along because I don’t want to get behind, but I tend to wait toward the end before mailing out my responses because the last thing anyone needs is my voice in their heads while they are trying to do their own work.

After you are done, you get your their of two regular online workshops ($600 value) to take when they wanted.

As a first reader, I comment as a reader and as an editor some. I say what I like, what doesn’t work for me, and general stuff like that. I D0 NOT COPYEDIT or REWRITE your story or help plot a story. However, I did tell the short story people if a short story would work as a novel. (grin)

And more importantly, if I thought a story worked, I said so. Simply and clearly.

Also a fun side detail on this. I have bought five stories for Pulphouse so far from the two challenges. I tell the people to send them off to other markets first, but if they don’t sell, send them back. Five have come back that fit my new magazine. A wonderful bonus for me I had not expected.

So I am going to do this again if anyone is interested to write starting January 1st and have me be your first reader. Both short story and novel challenges.

The 30 story short story challenge will start January 1st and end the last day of February. The three-novel challenge also will start on January 1st and end March thirty-first.

So here are the rules of the challenges and the details and costs.

I WILL ONLY TAKE FIVE FOR EACH CHALLENGE.  So jump in real quick if you want to start your year out in a fun challenge.

SHORT STORY Challenge:

Write thirty short stories in 60 days. You can take the full time or you can write them in a month. Up to you.

— I will charge $600 to be your first reader. You get two online workshops of your choice, a $600 value when you are finished, just for giving it a try. (I essence I read for free.)

— If you feel the challenge is not working for you, you can take an off ramp and get the two online workshops at any point. So you can try this risk free.

NOVEL Challenge:

Write three novels in January, February, and March. You can take the full time or you can write them quicker. Up to you.

— I will charge $600 to be your first reader. You get two online workshops of your choice, a $600 value when you finish or the time runs out. (In essence, I will read for free if you do the challenge.)

— Novels can be any length over 30,000 words and at least half of the first one must be written during the time of the challenge.

— If you feel the challenge is not working for you, you can take an off ramp and get the two online workshops at any point.

My duties as first reader will be this:

I will read your story or novel 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.

— 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 that do I do send until the challenge is over. I more than likely will be reading, but not sending back comments so you won’t be tempted until done with the challenge.

— Cost is $600. No restrictions. First five signed up and paid for each challenge are in.

So in summary, pay $600 to get me as a first reader for thirty stories or three novels. Start on January 1st.  Short story challenge goes until the end of February, the novel challenge until March 31st. You get two $300 online workshops when over and my reading for free.

This was great fun for me this last two times. I am actually surprised at that.

So looking forward to being a first reader for some of your work. And if you have done the challenge before and want to do it again, fine by 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 to do this a third time. But you all knew that.


  • Chong Go

    I just opened Pulphouse: Issue Zero, and wanted to say how impressed I was with the opening. Just a nice bit of writing. And the first story still has me laughing at random five minutes after finishing it!

    • dwsmith

      Kent Patterson wrote some classic stories that’s for sure. There are more coming of his. And having his stories in there is a massive plus showing the advantage of this new world. He died twenty plus years ago and his work is still entertaining. Something we all should think about with estate planning.

      • Chong Go

        Yeah, I was thinking that, as an editor, it must be a bit unusual to be able to the get the rights to reprint a story from someone who has passed away. Just finding out whoever now has the rights to a writer’s works could be a real challenge.

        • dwsmith

          It does get tough, but luckily the writer Jerry Oltion had taken good care of Kent’s literary estate for Kent’s sister.

  • Sean Monaghan

    Let me reccomend the challenge to any and all. Dean’s comments on my novels were blunt and encouraging and have transformed my writing with a face-palming “I should have known that all along”. Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants to drive the obvious into me.

    And: thanks Dean.

  • John D. Payne

    So, so tempting. Last time I passed on this, I vowed to increase my productivity so that the next time around I would be ready to do this. And I have increased my productivity. Just not nearly enough yet. So I will keep ramping up. And perhaps I will be lucky, and Dean will do this again and by then I will have increased my productivity enough that I can jump out of this airplane and do this crazy thing.

    • dwsmith

      I make no promises. And actually, I’m surprised I’m doing this again to be honest. So never know with me on any of this. (grin)

      • John D. Payne

        Yeah I know. Which is why this tempts me. But at this time I just am not producing the kinds of numbers that I would need to pull this off. Last month was my most productive in two years, and I wrote 10,000 words of new fiction. That’s just not a high enough output to do 30 stories in 60 days. (Maybe if I knew how to write flash, but I’ve only ever written one story that was less than 2,000 words.)

        So for now, I’m just working on finding more hours and getting more words out per hour. Maybe I won’t be able to do this officially, with you riding shotgun, but some day I will get there and I will do this.

        • dwsmith

          Makes sense, John. One of the reasons I make this a no-lose situation is that some people get into a challenge and realize their writing doesn’t function under that kind of pressure. So they take an off ramp to the two workshops. Most people take it to get some structure and focus on the writing, which tends to work because if you know I am out here, you tend to make the writing a little more of a priority. And more consistent. (grin)

          So lots of reasons to do the challenge and a ton of reasons to not do it. All valid.

        • Gnondpom

          Have you taken the Short Story workshop already, John? If not, I would advise you to. During the workshop, you have to write 4 short stories, one every week, and Dean reads them all.

          Obviously it’s not quite the same as reading 30 of your stories, but that would fit your current productivity better (I know that for me it is already a challenge to write one short story per week). And of course there’s the 6 weeks of lectures, that are most valuable.

  • Mary Jo Rabe

    I can’t begin to say how highly I recommend this challenge. I ended up with 20 new stories that I might never have written otherwise. Dean Wesley Smith, renown writer, editor, and publisher, as a first reader and two online workshops – win-win all the way!

  • Neil

    Hi Dean, to make sure I understand: The challenge is to write 30 stories or 3 novels in 2-3 months. We’ll get your reader comments on everything we submit up to that number, and at the end, can take 2 workshops. And there’s no real penalty if we miss the challenge, is that right? In other words, if I only finished 1 novel or 15 stories.

    • dwsmith

      That’s correct. The point is to give yourself a structure and a person to send them to and report into with the novel side as you go along. Only two of the five people actually wrote 30 stories in 60 days, but I think it was a success for everyone and they all got two workshops. And the novel challenge is going on still and that is keeping people focused. That’s the point. And at any point along the way if the challenge isn’t helping or hurting, you can take an off ramp and still get two workshops. It’s a win/win situation and you get my feedback for free, such as it is, on things you do turn in.

  • Kevin Johnson

    I know I’m late to the party here, but as someone who took the novel challenge, I too really recommend it. Yes, it forces you to take better advantage of all available time, but even as a quick writer that still considers himself an amateur, having that feedback was pretty affirming. If you’re open to learning and listening, this is an AWESOME experience. It really helped to orient myself as a writer and storyteller and realize what I was doing right and what I needed a little bit of work on.

    I’ll be honest, I almost forgot I had the two credits at the end.

  • Lynne

    I just came across this post. Is the short story challenge full? And if so, will you ever do this again? Thank you.

  • Mark Kuhn

    Negotiations with my wife are officially underway about spending the money. She raises the question of time I have in a day, I raised the commitment factor. Dean, can you help me with some talking points? (Grin) Succeed or fail, I would still get two workshops, correct? Just want to be sure about that before I put it on the table.

    • dwsmith


      Yes, either way you get two workshops to take when you want. The key with the challenge, and what I think of as success, is giving it a try. Sometimes the learning is that you can write the novels or stories. Sometimes the win is that you get ten stories or one novel when you would have gotten none. Either way a win and the only way outside of the anthology workshop to get me to read your short stories. And I never read full novels any other way.

      How is that for talking points? (grin)

  • Lynne

    One last question, I’m interested in the short story challenge. *IF* I manage to write the 30 stories in the time frame, will you comment on all 30 stories or just some here and there? Thank you for your time.

    • dwsmith

      I read every story and comment on each one. I do not copyedit or things like that. I basically give you my opinion, good or bad, from my years of editing. If a story works, I say it works and not much else. If I had trouble with a story, I tell you why. The point of this isn’t to get my feedback, but to challenge yourself. And you get two workshops at the end because no matter how you do, I consider taking the challenge the victory. A few writers discover they need to take an off ramp earlier because the challenge is actually slowing them down. No issue, they still get the workshops and I still read what they sent in. However, I will tell you I don’t tend to get to reading until a month or so later since I do not want my voice in your head while you are writing. So again, don’t do it for my comments, do it for the challenge to produce more.