I think this challenge might have more appeal to short story writers than to novelists. I can see your point, where for a novelist it would take away time from a WIP, yes, that's true. But to a short story writer, often we need to come up with a new 2,000 word story each week or so, and that kind of schedule can be hard to keep up with, if you don't have ideas coming in from multiple sources. I put out about 2 short stories each month (I'm trying to up that to 1 a week), and I'm pretty slow compared to some of the "big-income" short story writers who often put out 2 to 4 new short stories EACH WEEK! (I don't know how they do it, where do they find the time?)
Well, that's why there exist all sorts of "writing prompt" web sites, which do exactly the same thing this challenge here does: give you a few objects and tell you to write a story. "The Writer's Book of Matches" is a top selling book, for that very reason, because it is a book filled with such writing prompts, 1,001 of them to be exact. And an even biggest seller is "Take Ten" a book which is 100 pages of prompts, on each page you are given a list of 10 items, the goal being to pick one item at random via the roll of a d10 dice, and than write a story about it, using the list of 10 situations on the next page (again rolling the dice to determine which situation to pick. This book (which is Vol. 1 of at least 3 volumes and there will likely be more in the future) contained tens of thousands of possible combinations, resulting in endless prompts. I own about 20 books like these two, and I use them all the time in my writing.
Because I am a full time short story writer, I have to write beginning to end, edit, and publish, a full and complete story every week, that's 52 stories a year, most of them are between 2,000 to 5,000 words long, so you see, when I sit down to write and I start out by seeking a prompt to inspire me to write a brand new story without any pre-planing. I actually never pre-plan what I'm going to write. I don't even know when I turn the computer on, what it is I'm going to write. I literally sit down at the computer, grab random objects and start writing about them. Random objects could be anything from, I open a dictionary and use the first word I see, to pulling out my Pathfinder card decks (Chase Cards, Plot Twist Cards, Flashback Cards, or Critical Hit Deck) and pulling out a card at random and using that card as inspiration, to heading to 7th Sanctum or Chaotic Shiny and letting one of the random generations tell me what to write about.
Here's and example of what happens if I use the cards:
I take each deck and pull one card at random from each. Just now I pulled:
[quote]Chase Cards: Fruit Cart "Oh yeah!" Strength Check DC20 or "Move that cart!" Intimidate DC15[/quote]
[quote]Plot Twist Cards: Moment of Indecision - Target is staggered for 1 round; Indecisiveness leads to inaction; Not moving leads to unexpected perils.[/quote]
[quote]Flashback Cards: Lost! Target gains +10 bonus on Survival check; A wrong turn leads to a discovery; Why haven't I seen this before?[/quote]
[quote]Critical Hit Deck: Disembowel - Double Slashing damage and 1d4 Con damage and 1d6 bleed[/quote]
(Note, those cards assume you know how to play Dungeons and Dragons, thus the mentions of 1d4, etc)
So what this means is, I need to write a story containing a fruit cart, a moment of indecision, something lost being found, and a disembowelment caused by slashing damage. So now I have my prompt for the day, and next thing I do is sit down and start typing it and see what I come up with.
Or I can go to seventh sanctum and use one or two or three of their 200+ generators to get:
[quote]This laid-back vampire has slitted eyes the color of fine jade. His black hair is really a set of quills that he can use as a weapon. He is tall and has an over-muscled build. He has an upturned nose. He can absorb flesh and blood from others to heal his body. He doesn't suffer from standard vampiric disabilities. His diet requires blood of any kind. His outfits are orange.[/quote]
[quote]The swirling amber potion with ivory flakes. It smells like wine, but tastes like nuts and licorice.[/quote]
[quote]In this story, a sloppy monk falls in love with an alchemist on the run from the law.[/quote]
Well, now I have to come up with a story using that vampire and that potion, and figure out how they effect a slopy monk falling in love with an alchemist on the run from the law.
So now I have two stories prompts to work on tonight. It's absolutely completely random, so every day is an adventure for me because I never know until I start writing, what I'll write. That includes genre as well. When i start writing, I have no idea what genre it'll be, and usually I don't know until I'm half way through the story. So I could end up writing horror today, romance tomorrow, sci-fi the next day, redneck humor another day, local flavor slice of life vignettes another day. Some times I use characters I've used hundreds of times and some times I create all new characters on a whim. The last few days I've been on a "ancient trees coming to life and devouring people" kick...no idea why, but every story I've written this month so far has had a monster tree eat somebody.
I think, it is BECAUSE I have this completely scatterbrained style of writing, that is the reason I'm not well suited to novel writing. On the other hand, it is BECAUSE of this scatterbrained style of writing that I am able to write so many short stories across so many genres/themes/topics and pop out a new short story every day at the drop of a pin.
I've sort of trained myself to see ideas in everything and can come up with a story for anything you toss at me. However, taking that idea and stringing it out into a lengthy work of fiction, that's another matter entirely. It's rare for anything I write to span past 17,000 words, and most stuff ends out shorter than 10,000 words, and lots of stories end at fewer than 5,000 words. I can come up with lots of quick story ideas, but stick with them long enough to make them into a novel? No way! That's not a talent I have. I'm very hyper when it comes to my inability to stay on a single topic very long, which is the issue I have with novel writing. :P I simply can not stay interested in a story long enough to spend more than a day or two writing it. It's also why I rarely read novels, too. If I can't read a story in one sitting, I never finish it and the same goes for writing, if I can't write the entire story in one sitting, I never finish it.
Well, all of this translates into the fact that I simply do not follow market trends at all. I write whatever the mood tells me to write whenever the mood strikes me to write it. I never write anything that I am not passionately driven to write, so I never drop a project because I may not sell. The way I figure is, if I'm driven to write it, than somewhere out there, there is somebody driven to read it. So I don't worry if it'll sell 1 copy, 10 copies, 100 copies, or tens of thousands of copies.
I've never written anything that was a trend or considered highly marketable. I can understand worrying about money/income, but being a short story writer, sales are low anyways, just because short stories are not big sellers to begin with, and that does seem to affect my outlook. In short story writing the only way to succeed financially is to just keep writing more and more and more and more. In novel writing, however you are putting out less volume so require more thought into each story. Because so much time is put into a novel, you have to consider is writing a better seller more important than writing the one you are more passionate about.
I feel that short story writers have more freedom in this respect, because we/they can write whatever they want, whenever they want, and as each short story takes a week or less to write, there's no huge amount of time lost if the story flops. Whereas a novel writer spend weeks, months, or years on a story and can't be as flippant about what they decide to write, as short story writers can be.
So you see, I don't sit down and think: "I'll write 1,000 words" or "I'll write for 2 hours." No, I sit down with a random prompt and i write until I reach the end of the story.
At the end of DAY ONE I have the narrative of the story written. The beginning, middle, and end of the story is laid out in the space of about 500 to 1,000 words.
On DAY TWO I take that narrative and I write the dialogue. By the end of DAY TWO, I have a story about 2,000 to 5,000 words long.
On DAY THREE I take the narrative and the dialogue and combine them together to create a single story.
On DAY FOUR and DAY FIVE I edit the story. I use about 7 different editing software programs, (Grammarly, Edit Minion, Ginger, TheasurusChecker, etc)
My favorite ones are:
http://www.spellchecker.net/spellcheck/ (which also has a thesaurus and replaces over used words are well as fixing spelling and grammar.)
I run the draft through each of these programs, and than I print it up and do a manual edit in red ink pen on paper. Than I type up my edits to the draft, and run it through each of those editing programs again. Than I have my beta readers read it and let me know and thoughts, errors, ect. I do the final edit, run it through the editing software one last time, and than I convert the draft to a .doc to upload to Kindle.
On DAY SIX I head to mourgefiles find a story matching photo(s) or I use my database of Dover Clip Art dics (which I have several of) or I use one of my own photographs (I have taken more than 15,000 photos while on book tours, car show tours, ect, so I have lots of photos I can use, which means I often am using images that are 100% unique to my covers because I took the photo with my own camera). I use Corel Paint Shop Pro X6 Ultimate to edit the image(s). Than I use Chasys Draw IES Artist to take the edited image and create a book cover. (My computer has 3,500 fancy display fonts on it, and Chasys Draw IES Artist has the best font editing ability of any image editing software I've tried, so that's why I use it for the final cover image.) It typically takes me 30mins to 2 hours start to finish, to create my covers.
At around midnight at the end of DAY SIX, I take the finished cover and the finished .doc file and upload both of them to Kindle.
Long story, not so short...
For me, personally, this challenge has quite a bit of incentive, as does the 8 Hour Challenge which is also going on this month. For me, the incentive is not the prizes. It doesn't matter to me if I win a prize or not, because, in the end this challenge will have resulted in me writing and publishing a completely new story, one that I might not have thought to write had it not been for the 3-item prompt.
For example, last month's challenge resulted in my writing a story about a guy with a box, a great big fancy hand carved wooden "treasure chest" like box, sitting at the end of his bed....and, another character looking for the box, but not knowing the box was the item they were looking for (they were actually looking for the contents of the box, unaware that what they wanted was in the box)... and a haunted clock which refused to do anything but point at a very specific time....Those were the prompts: the wooden box, someone who wanted the box, and a broken watch. ... Turns out the guy with the box was a kidnapper, the thing in the box was a dead girl, the guy looking for her was her father, and the haunted clock was stopped at her time of death. And bonus, this story used characters from my long running series, so I got a new story for my series to boot! (I did not enter this, because I have not yet finished it, but I am still working on it, and when it is finished, I'll be publishing it. So, even though I ran out of time to enter it in the challenge, I still win, because I'll have yet another story to publish, as a result of this challenge.
Now I've got to take:
1. A bag of cement
2. A sudden and unexpected hail storm
3. A magnifying glass
and figure out how these are going to come together in a story. This one is more challenging for me, because most of my stories have historical settings, many set in the 1600s, and here I have a bag of cement, an item that did not exist in the time period I typically write in, so this month's challenge is a bigger challenge for me, than last months was, because I also have to come up with a story in a time period to match the objects in question...
And rubber pants and body glitter? I'm going to do that one too, because as soon as I read that an 80's glam rock character poped into my head and I thought, "Boy do I gotta come up with a story about him!" LOL!
Plus, I don't mind writing something which may get put in an anthology, which is what the original challenge in January had mentioned, because even if the anthology compiler is making all the money off of it, it still gets my name out there to more readers as well, and thus I look at it as a form or marketing/advertising for me. Again, that's not a bad thing, as long as the person compiling the anthology has prior permission to publish the story. (I'd get upset if someone just grabbed one of my stories at random and used it without asking! But with this challenge I know up front the story might some day be in a collection, and, I'm okay with that, because the compiler told us writers ahead of time.)
So, for me, even if I don't enter the challenge and try to win a prize, I still have a big incentive to do this, because the 3 items in the prompt force me to think about ways they can be used together and result in me thinking of stories to write which I might not have written otherwise, and that's a good thing. So, sure, maybe these sorts of challenges are not for everybody, and that's okay, but some folks, like myself, do get a lot out of it.
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