July 31, 2017

Followup #1: Short Story Marathon

The Short Version (TL;DR)

  • I was a different person during the challenge. Focused. Driven (well, more driven). Exhausted, but happy.
  • I prefer writing stories quickly, just letting the story take you over until it is done.
  • I’m itching to do something like this again, but I have other priorities right now.
  • It will be quite some time before I’ll know how these stories did.

The Longer Version

The Experience

Wow. This was so intense. I’ve been using the term “fierce focus” to describe it. It was both exhausting and exhilarating. I loved being possessed by story after story (and yes, possessed, is kind of what it feels like, but in a good way), constantly moving to the next.

I was aware that I was different on the challenge. Most spare moments where spent writing. Many other activities (particularly running and showering) would feed the creative processes more than normal. I got about an hour less sleep a night and was up early every day writing with no days off. Lots of small things got pushed aside to make room for the challenge. A whole lot less entertainment was consumed.

I also did some “bad habit” kind of things during the challenge:

  • Ate breakfast and lunch at my desk most of the time.
  • Very few breaks
  • Didn’t get enough sleep.
  • Worked way too many hours between my day job and the writing.
  • I didn’t read.

The pace was not sustainable, not with averaging over 4 hours a day and working my job and keeping my life going. There were some tough days with the fatigue. But, all that said, I was happier during the challenge and I miss it. I miss being deep in story all the time.

Transitioning Back to “Normal”

This challenge wrapped on July, 4th, and after that I worked for two more days while helping my friend  get ready to leave Flagstaff forever. We then drove a rental van towing a car from Flagstaff, Arizona to Oceanside, Oregon. On the way we had two tires blow out on the car carrying trailer and over eight hours on the side of the road waiting for repair.

Which is to say, it was an intense trip and had a level of immediacy that pulled me right out of challenge mode.

I kept writing, a little every day. I spent a few days in Oregon (even got to go see Dean down in Lincoln City one day!), and then back home and had a lot of catching up to do.

I’ve written two stories and a half stories since the challenge ended. About 18,000 words. That, totally, feels like a snail’s pace at this point.

Writing “Fast”

I prefer it. No doubt about it now. And writing “fast” has nothing to do with typing speed (that’s why it’s in quotes). It’s just about hours spent. The process is difficult (I was quite sure each of the stories was awful at some point) but very immersive and rewarding.

The feeling of a story snapping into focus and changing from a bunch of words into a real story is… well, it’s amazing. Having that happen nearly every day is… wow.

The Stories

Dean’s doing his own challenge this month (writing 4 novels in a month) and has slowed down on the reading, which is all good by me. He’s been through 17 of the 30 so far.

The ones he says “get to market,” I am doing that as fast as I can. I have 3 out now with more back from my proofreader waiting final changes.

That said, it’s going to be months before I know how the stories do in the market.

Some of the series stories (like Woody and June) I’m going to hold onto for a bit since the world building is still going on and some of the earlier stories will need tweaks.

Next Steps

  • My current focus right now is to get 3 novels out that I have in the pipeline. I am writing every morning, but my spare time goes here right now.
  • Get the stories out to market and keep them there for a reasonable time.
  • I’m trying to improve my production workflow so that I can release more frequently. I’ve got two nearly finished novellas in addition to the novels that need to get out. I also want to release some of my longer stories independently. Production will get a lot of attention for the rest of the year.
  • Cook up the next challenge.

I’ll be back when it makes sense with an update on this (and news very soon on my next novel, Of Things Not Seen).

Story Summary

# Story Total Words Done? To Market
1 Woody and June vs. the Fungus-Head Zombies 5101 Yes
2 Daisy’s Heart 5800 Yes Yes
3 The Disappearing Neighborhood 2773 Yes Yes
4 Woody and June vs. the Grand Canyon 6070 Yes
5 Home in Time 4483 Yes
6 Wink, Plum, and the Bones that March 5972 Yes
7 The Stars in Hoshi’s Eyes 2532 Yes
8 Android Eve and Adam 3512 Yes
9 A Long, Hard Fall 8475 Yes
10 Fitz’s Second Chance 2800 Yes
11 Fake Jake 1565 Yes
12 With Light Years Between Us 4670 Yes
13 Life and a Starling 2278 Yes Yes
14 Dancing Kite 1524 Yes
15 Jump in Time 8768 Yes
16 Death by Vodka 2100 Yes
17 Death by Cookie 4094 Yes
18 Ela and the Naiad 3655 Yes
19 Is Anyone Receiving This? 1717 Yes
20 Breathing in the Stars 2400 Yes
21 Woody and June vs. the Ex 10232 Yes
22 Article Seventeen 2918 Yes
23 One Last Trick 4312 Yes
24 Death by Apathy 3373 Yes
25 A Changeable Face 5241 Yes
26 Last Days with Mary 2818 Yes
27 Let Go the Stars 861 Yes
28 Goodbye Mrs. Hopkins 1329 Yes
29 Death by a Kiss 3912 Yes
30 Through Other Eyes 3372 Yes

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Robert J. McCarter

Robert J. McCarter is the author of more than ten novels and over a hundred short stories...... learn more

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  1. Wonderful!
    Glad to see that while waiting to hear back from those sent off, you keep writing, because when the few get picked up and published, their readers will want to see what else you have for sale and go buy them.

  2. Hey Robert, I just wanted to say congratulations on completing the challenge. it must be wonderful to have Dean as your first reader. Very cool. And now that writing into the dark has bit you, may it never let you go.

    1. Thanks, Harvey! It was amazing. I haven’t had the opportunity to write like that since then, but writing in the dark is not a bit scary now.

      There’s good news on some of these stories, I just need to get the time to do another update.

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