Story of the Week Project: What I Think I Learned

So that was that. For an entire year, from July 2008 to July 2009, I wrote a short story every week. Well, I posted a short story every week. A few of them were stories I’d written years ago and revised in order to post here as part of my little experiment in self torture. The vast majority of the stories, though, were original, written specifically for this project. And even though one story — “Mixed Signals” — turned out to be an almost word-for-word rewrite of another story I’d written a few years ago, a phenomenon I’m chalking up to cryptomnesia, I still consider it an original.

So what was the point? What was I trying to accomplish? Well, at first, I was hoping to produce some quality stories. I think I did write a few stories that are pretty good, but I also know that “atrocious” is a pretty charitable term for some of these stories. I was also hoping to hone my craft as a writer; however, when you write a story in less than a week, you don’t really have time for revision, which means that craft sort of falls by the wayside. I definitely learned that it takes longer than a week to craft a quality short story.

One other thing I learned was that when writing — especially under a deadline — you have to trust your own ideas and your own creative process, especially if your time is also occupied by your full time job and your other major writing projects. This was an important lesson for me, since I frequently have trouble with believing that my skills are up to the project I’m working on. Every story, someone said, is the wreck of a beautiful idea; but you still have to make that wreck happen. You just have to sort of plow through and get the story written. I suspect this is good practice for me future projects, but I think it also shows I’m just not cut out to be a journalist (despite my flirtation with journalism in high school and college).

I also discovered that sometimes the stories I’ve written that I think are really awful can be other people’s favorites; and the ones I think are really cool can earn nothing but derision from my readers. Thankfully such derision was never reflected in the comments, while I received positive comments, both on my main blog and on my LiveJournal, where my stories were cross-posted.

All in all, it was a good experience, something I’m glad I did, but something I’m also glad is over. Writing to my self imposed deadline was often frustrating and annoying. I’m amazed that I churned out fifty-two stories (fifty-three, if you include 51.5, “Pushing Dogs, Part Three”). I have a hope — probably an unfounded one, but there nonetheless — that I’ve also inspired other people to engage in similar projects. And I also hope that some of these stories, with some work, will be suitable for paid publication.

On a final note, if you had a favorite story or one (or more) that you particularly enjoyed, I’d really appreciate hearing about it. You can find all of them on my writing page.

Some minor notes

First, I’ve finally fixed the problem that my website was having with comments. The problem lay with the Captcha service I was using; they were sending back bad information, which caused the landing page from the comments page to show up as blank. A cool side effect was that I wasn’t getting notified of any comments that were being made on my blog.

Second, I’ve received my Google Voice invitation, and I’ve got it all set up. You can call me securely through the web using this nifty widget:

I’m not comfortable giving out my Google Voice number yet, but when you enter your phone number in the box, it will connect us.

Third… Well, there is no third thing.

Moving On

I’ve reached a point where I think the problems I’m encountering with The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster are unsolvable. It’s kind of sad, since I’ve been working on this one since November 2005, but there are times when you need to recognize the inevitable and move on.

Fortunately I’ve got a new project in the works that I’m really excited about, tentatively called Memoirs of the Monster. I’m hoping to have the first draft completed by November, and ready for beta readers by February. There’s nothing that makes you feel better about euthanizing one project than having another exciting one in the works. I’ve already begun research and preliminary outlining. It’s going to be good. I had originally planned to write this one for this year’s National Novel Writing Month, but the energy is there, so I’ve decided to get moving, and work on something new for November.

I’m excited.