Story-A-Day May finally came to an end today. It was the first time I’d taken up this. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed all of it, but it was fun. Over the last month I wrote a story every single day. It was welcome break from writing journal entries as an excuse for keeping my streak burning. I’d written non-fiction almost every day in April, so it was quite a challenge to get back into fiction writing, and that too for an entire month. I needed to do it. My creative juices had frozen and my mind needed some exercise to get going again. I’d bored it to death during the school year by writing absolute rubbish hidden under the garb of “journaling”.
31 stories later, I can’t say I’ve become a better writer. Some days I was late, sleepy, tired, unmotivated, so I resorted to one-sentence stories. Other days, I wrote hundred-word stories and a potential blog post. Sometimes 750 words were not enough to finish the story. And some days, inspired or not, I wrote words down, not even sure if what I was writing counted as a story. I’m just glad I persisted and made it to the end of the month.
Most of the stories I’ve written over the month are rubbish. Some are perhaps not even stories at all. I immensely enjoyed writing some of them and will be sharing a few on the following Sundays. These will be called ‘Hiatus Stories’ as they’ll be published automatically when I’ll be away from the blog, travelling and visiting relatives before leaving for university in August.
Did I learn any lessons? Of course! I’m an expert at learning lessons and then not following them.
Just kidding (not really). Firstly, I am not at all well-read. I should read more. I don’t have any reason not to, considering the fact that I have access to the internet 24×7 and there are hundreds of magazines that publish their fiction online. I have the resources at hand so I should take advantage of them. The reason I had no idea if my stories were stories at all was I hadn’t read enough stories to understand what they’re made of.
Secondly, I need to learn how to analyze a story. What I usually do is read a story, bookmark it as favorite on Pocket if I like it and then never think about it again. I need to come back to the story and ask myself:
- Why did I like it
- What worked and what perhaps didn’t?
- What kind of description did the writer use (was it mostly visual or did it involve the other senses)?
- How much of it was dialogue?
- What is the main point of the story?
- Do the characters change, and if so, how? Or is it the reader who changes?
- What tense is the story written in and why?
- What POV did the writer use? Could another POV work better?
- Where did the writer show and where did s/he tell?
- Can I summarize the story in one paragraph? Five sentences? One sentence?
- How does the title reveal/arouse curiosity about the story? Could a different title work better?
- Are there any words I don’t know? What do they mean?
To be honest I made this list up as I went but now that I look at it I think it’s a pretty good list and I should save it for future reference. The last one seems out of place, but I have this habit of underlining unfamiliar words while reading so that I can look up their meanings afterwards (but rarely do). Whenever I sit down to write I often find myself looking for the right word to describe what I want to say but never find it since English is my third language so I have to do some thinking. It only makes sense that I work on my vocabulary (it’s one of the things I’m doing to upgrade myself).
Thirdly, I need to remember the fact that a story is as long or as short as it needs to be. It’s something Neil Gaiman said in response to a question asked to him on tumblr.
I have this bad habit of trying to stuff stories into my daily word count goal of 750 words because I’m often writing at the end of the day, trying to finish it as fast as possible. I skip descriptions, dialogues, tell things instead of showing them and so many of the stories I’ve written over the last two years are not as good as they could have been if I’d given them all the words that they need – and in case of shorter stories, not unnecessarily burdened them with extra words for word count’s sake.
Which brings me to my last lesson, that is that I should *finally* start writing in the morning so that I don’t have to hurry and force any kind of limits on my writing.
Overall, it was a good month in terms of writing. Next month I’m looking forward to living fully so that I can draw inspiration from the world around me and write more engaging, lively stories drawn from real life.
Did you participate in Story-A-Day May? How did it go?
“A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”
― Stephen King