June Read/Write Challenge

Hi writers! Ready for a new monthly challenge? In June I’ve decided to take a break from trying to create a finished product each day (because–whew!–it’s exhausting) and focus instead on maintaining a daily writing habit, generating new material, and seeking out inspiration.

So our June challenge has two parts:

Part 1: Weekday Writing 

For the writing portion of the challenge, let’s try this. Each morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you can squeak time to write into your busy schedule), grab a random book from your bookshelf, open to any page, point without looking to any paragraph, and choose a sentence from that paragraph as your first line. Then free-write for 20 minutes, no more, no less. No pressure to turn this into anything, no editing, no judgment. This is about habit-formation. This is about diving into your writing without overthinking things.

Part 2: Weekend Reading 

There are nine weekend days in the month of June and I made a list of nine short stories by women authors that I want to read and learn from. Women authors because, let’s face it, a lot of the classic short stories we read in school are by men. I also want to expand my horizons a little. I have my favorites (Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty) but I want to read more diverse points of view.

In a recent TED talk on the power of stories, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had this to say about the power of stories:

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” We have so much to learn from stories, stories told my many voices, not just on the craft of writing, but on the nature of being a human being in this world.”

I’ll post each of the stories on my weekend reading list for this month. Whether you read along with me or create your own list, I encourage you to jot down one thing that you noticed about the author’s technique and one idea that the story gave you for your own writing.

StoryADay May Recap

So writers, how did you do with StoryADay May? I have to say that my first StoryADay experience went much like my first NaNoWriMo experience. I was so enthusiastic at first, churning out stories in those first couple of weeks, but then life began to creep up on me. I went out of town twice, was busy at work, went to my kid’s T-ball games instead of writing. I was so disappointed with myself for “failing” the challenge.

But let’s think about that. At the end of my first failed NaNo experience I still had 15,000 words, a solid start to a novel. I had learned some strategies for fitting writing into my daily routine. And I was eager to try again.

At the end of StoryADay, my scoreboard looks something like this:

  • completed stories: 10
  • stories I made a solid start on: 11
  • story ideas I jotted down for later: 5

StoryADay, like NaNoWriMo, is a great challenge because, even if you fail abysmally, you are still generating new work. You’re still setting a PR for the challenge to try to beat next year. So, whether you wrote one story or 31 stories this month doesn’t really matter. You were a writer!

Now, on to the next challenge!

StoryADay May – Day 31 – Your Story

Ah, the bittersweet end of a month of storytelling! Whether you finished one story or 31 this month (more later on what “success” means when it comes to these monthly challenges), I hope StoryADay challenged you to write more than you otherwise would have. Our last prompt is, fittingly, all about wrapping up an big project.

Day 31 Prompt: “Write a story about a creative person who has just completed, or is in the throes of completing a massive creative effort. (And yes, this can be autobiographical). You could take us through the manic process of trying to finish up the work. You can show us their post-event hysteria/collapse. You can have them reflecting on the effort. Pay attention to the physicality of it. Go anywhere you want with this. It doesn’t have to be serious. It can be self-indulgent (you’ve earned it!)”

StoryADay May – Day 30 – A Different Point of View

Hi writers! The second-to-last day of StoryADay May is here! For today’s prompt, we’re going to take something old and make it new again, by switching up the point of view. Have your narrator stand in someone else’s shoes.

Day 30 Prompt: “Take a story that you wrote earlier this month, and tell it from a different point of view.”

StoryADay May – Day 29 – That Story

Well writers, today’s prompt is a pretty simple one. We’ve all got a story idea we’ve been kicking around for a while. Maybe you’re waiting for time to do the story justice. Maybe you feel like you need to do some research. Maybe you tried to write a version of the story and it just didn’t come out right. Maybe you have an idea for a whole novel that you plan to write “some day.” That’s fine. Give us an outline. Paint the broad strokes. Figure out the plot. Give your story a breath of life. Get it on the page!

Day 29 Prompt: “Write the story that you’ve been hungering to write.”

StoryADay May – Day 28 – Word Stew

Sometimes a prompt is so specific, so challenging, that it starts working right away. You read it and immediately begin to make connections, scanning the archives of your memory and the dark corners of your imagination to weave a story. Your brain–alchemist, master chef, concoctionist extraordinaire–takes a pinch from here, a snip from there, a tiny drop of this, a sliver of that, and cobbles together a story, nurturing it, letting it steep. Cooking it down to its essence.  Today, writers, we stir up a batch of our own word stew.

Day 28 Prompt: “Your story must include these words; ink, previously, work, breeze, seven, run, delicious, example, spontaneous, barb.”

StoryADay May – Day 27 – Looking Back

Hi writers, today we’re going to cut right to the chase. Beyond that even, to the aftermath of the chase.  Let’s test our storytelling skills by using them to tell a story in reverse.

Day 27 Prompt: “Start a story that begins with the ending, then immediately jumps back in time, e.g. ‘It all started 12 hours ago.’ … Don’t worry too much about getting this perfect. Feel free to be cheesy. Just have fun. Leave a comment to let us know how you got on!”

StoryADay May – Day 26 – The Big Sell

Time to peddle your wares, writers! Today’s prompt has your character trying his best to win someone over to his point of view, to close a big deal. They say a sucker’s born every minute, but maybe your character’s target isn’t having it. Give us the back-and-forth.

Day 26 Prompt: “One character is trying to sell something to another character. This could be metaphorical: they are trying to sell them an idea. It could be literal: they’re trying to sell them a car.”