Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Want to Be Challenged Into the New Year?

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 at the end of November 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 happens.)

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.

(This last challenge I am almost done reading, but I wanted until after the holidays to send back stories, so many writers will be getting them back this week and into early next week.)

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

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. (I have two each at this point.)

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. (In 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.


  • Mary Jo Rabe

    I absolutely recommend this challenge. I ended up with 20 stories that I probably never would have written otherwise.

  • Chris Clark

    For the short story challenge, is it allowed to use two of the story slots on different versions of the same story? I ask because I think sometimes I do more harm than good trying to fix problems that I’ve identified in a story, and I think the comparing comments on the two versions of a story might give me a better handle on it.

    • dwsmith

      You can do anything you want like that, Clark. Totally up to you. I’m just the challenge part to help you get writing to a goal and also to give some feedback. But realize, my feedback won’t be until after the challenge is done for the most part. I hate having my voice in writer’s heads when they are trying to write. I want writers to be their own voice.

  • Kate Pavelle

    I totally recommend the 30-story challenge. I ended up with 22 stories and took an off-ramp, but still, I learned so much. I learned to write short(er), and to wrap it up already. I sold two of those to magazines, and I got 2 workshops. Most importantly, I learned that yes, I can produce a story a day. Which is what I’m going to do now 🙂

  • Victoria Goddard

    Having never finished a novel in under a year, I decided to do the novel challenge in the current period (that is, the one finishing in January). I have to admit I’ve been working on ones I already had partially done, but I finished one and am very close to finishing a second, and I will still have two weeks to do a blitz and see if I can take all I’ve learned and write one start-to-finish. And even if I can’t, I have very much failed to success–and am looking forward to doing the two workshops in the New Year.