I’ve had several people (mostly authors) ask me how I wrote a short story each day in June and questioned if I should have been writing my next book instead. I’ll be honest, there were several times during the month when I was killing myself to make it work, that I asked myself if I was using my time wisely by writing so much free content. I think only time will tell if this was the best use of my writing time since I literally could have written another whole book in the time I wrote the 43,826 words for these shorts.
In the end, here are some of the reasons I’m happy I took the challenge.
A) I have always written long. Two of my six published books came in over 100K and I know I need to practice at writing shorter story ARC’s. I thought this challenge would help me learn to write short, and to some degree it did, although the stories kept getting longer as the month progressed with many topping 2K and two over 3K.
B) I am a plotter. For non-authors, that means that I outline my stories scene by scene before starting. This month I was challenged to sit down and pantster my way through these stories each night. I would start with words and a broad idea and then fly by the seat of my pants. Some stories ended up goofy as a result, in my opinion, but some turned out decent enough that I was pleased getting some practice at this.
C) As a relatively new author with only six books out, I have been trying to drive more traffic to my beautiful website. I am happy to announce that I averaged triple my normal daily unique visitors with some days topping five times normal. Best yet, people stayed on my site to poke around with over 4000 hits to my pages in June, certainly a new record for my website.
D) As a new author, I’m always looking for new ways to grow my newsletter. I added 26 new addresses to my newsletter in June. I admit I had hoped this number would be higher, but I also added 12 people following my blog posts so together that is 38 new followers I hope will be fans who buy my books in the future.
E) A scary byproduct of this challenge I hadn’t considered before I started was that this turned out being a pretty close glimpse into my brain and what makes me tick sexually. When I write a novel, I have time to go back through and edit and really consider each word and how it fits into the story. Due to the speed I wrote these stories, I had no time to really do that. These stories are as close as anyone will ever get to seeing a stream of thought from me as I had close to no time to tweak/edit my original versions before posting. This was Livia raw.
So how did I do it? Here is the method to my madness:
Let me take you through the approach that I followed for each story. Even though I did a lot more flying by the seat of my pants than normal, I still did a lot of organizational things to set myself up for success before June even started.
1) Step one was to go through Cara Bristol’s Naughty Words for Nice Writers and my handy Webster’s dictionary to write down just the top words for each letter that jumped out at me. I had a list for all letters of the alphabet that looked something like this:
P= prick, petals, pussy, pearl, peaks, pebbles, puckered hole, punish, paddle, peck, plunder, press, pang, passion, pleasure, promiscuity, pure, pony, play, plateau, palm, pat, pet, pinch, pluck, press, propel, pull, punish, penetrate, plunge, piston, poke, pound, press, probe, prod, push, pump, pulse, perspire, pounce, pelt, pour, pinken, pale, peach, pert, pink, pillow, proud, pound, pout, promise, papa, protective, pride, peg, Ping-Pong paddle, photos, public, privileges, pee, prostitute
2) Once I had a short list of words per letter, I then made a list of all of the sub-genres and tropes I could think of that I wanted to try out. Here are just a few ideas from that list:
Historical, contemporary, age play, pirate abduction, femdom, medical, sci-fi, and judicial
3) I also researched some of the most popular romance tropes on the RWA website. That list gave me things like:
Friends turn to lovers, soul mates/fate, second time love, first love, reunited lovers etc…
4) I then went through my alphabet from #1 above and plotted out what type of story sub-genre and trope I thought would fit each letter best. This helped me plan out that I would not end up with 26 contemporaries (my go-to genre) at the end of the month. I changed several of my original plans as I got deeper into the month, but I stuck to the vast majority of them pretty closely.
5) This is where my planning ended and my pantster’ing (is that a word?) began. Before each story, I sat back down with my big dictionary and literally wrote down all of the words that I might want to use for that letter. Example: That P list above in #1 turned into this list when I was ready to start writing The Pirate’s Prized Possession. I printed out each list so I could have a hard copy next to me as I wrote and referred to it constantly as I searched for the right words.
prick, petals, pussy, pearl, peaks, pebbles, puckered hole, punish, paddle, peck, plunder, press, pang, passion, pleasure, promiscuity, pure, pony, play, plateau, palm, pat, pet, pinch, pluck, press, propel, pull, punish, penetrate, plunge, piston, poke, pound, press, probe, prod, push, pump, pulse, perspire, pounce, pelt, pour, pinken, pale, peach, pert, pink, pillow, proud, pound, pout, promise, papa, protective, pride, peg, Ping-Pong paddle, photos, public, privileges, pee, prostitute, pace, pacify, pack, package, packet, pact, pad, paddle, padlock, page, paid, pail, pain, pair, pal, palace palate, pale, pall, pallor, palm, palpable, pamper, pan, pander, panic, panorama, panaromic, pant, panties, pantry, paper, par, parade, paradise, paradox, parallel, pardon, parch, parent, parish, park, parlay, parrot, partial, partake, partisan, partition, party, pass, passage, passion, passive, password, past, pasta, paste, pastel, pat, patch, patent, path, paternity, paternal, patriarch, patriot, patrol, patron, patty, paunch, pauper, pause, paw, pavilion, pawn, pay, pea, peace, peach, peak, peanut, pear, peck, pedal, peculiar, pedestal, peek peel, peep, peer, peeve, peg, pellet, pelt, pelvis, pen, pendent, penetrate, penny, pension, pensive, people, pie, pep, pepper, perceive, percent, perch, percussion, perform, perforate, period, perish, perjury, perk, permanent, permit, persecute, person, personality, perspective, pertain, perverse, pest, pet, petal, petition, pew, petrify, phantom, phase, philosophy, phobia, phony, photo, phrase, physical, piano, pick, pickle, picnic, picture, piece, pig, pigtail, pike, pile, pilgrim, pillar, pilot, pinafore, pincer, pincushion, pine, pink, pint, pipe, piracy, pistol, piston, pitch, pity, place, placid, plague, plaid, plain, plait, plan, plank, plantation, planter, plate, plateau, platform, play, plea, plead, pleasant, please, pleasure, pledge, plenty, pliant, plog, plight, plot, ploy, pluck, plug, plum, plummet, plump, plunge, plural, plus, plush, ply, pocket, point, poise, poison, poker, pole, police, policy, polite, poll, pond, ponder, pontificate, pony, pool, poor, pop, popular, porch, pore, pork, porous, porter, portrait, pose, position, positive, possess, possessive, possible, post, poster, postpone, pottery, pouch, pound, pour, pout, powder, power, practical, practice, prance, pray, prayer, preach, precaution, precarious, precede, precious, precipitation, precise, predatory, predecessor, predicate, predominate, predispose, preeminent, preface, prefix, prelude, premature, premise, premium, premonition, preoccupy, prerequisite, presence, present, preserve, president, press, pressure, presumptuous, pretend, pretty, prevail, prevalent, prevent, previous, prick, pride, primary, primate, prime, primitive, prince, princesses, prince, print, prior, prison, pristine, privilege, prize, probable, problem, process, proceeds, process, procure, prod, prodigal, produce, profane, profession, professional, professor, prognosis, program, prohibit, prolong, promenade, prominence, promise, promote, prompt, pronounce, proof, propel. Propagate, proper, prostrate, protein, protest, proud, prove, provide, provoke, proxy, pry, psych, psychology, public, publicity, publish, puke, pull, pulpit, pump, punch, pupil, pup, purge, purify, purity, purse, pursuant, pursue, pursuit, push, put, puzzle, pyramid
6) Next, as I started each story, I did research on items I needed for that letter. I sure googled some crazy things this month. Every story I did a “popular names starting with P”, but I also did ‘colors that start with P”, “cars that start with P” etc… I’d go to Amazon and look at products and brand names that started with that letter. I collected up potential names and items to join my story.
7) Only once I had all of that did I start writing. I would start with a grain of a story idea and turned my muse loose with my list of words as my guide. I would decide early which character’s POV would tell the story best and in some cases, I decided to add two scenes with a POV for each.
8) Once I wrote the story through to the end, I’d go back through once, tweaking and fixing things now that I’d gotten through it once and then I’d send it off to my editor for the day. Once again, I thank Christine Hart, Jennifer Bene, Bruce Stern, Sophie Kisker and Myra Danvers for their editorial help! While I had some of the pre-work done, by the end of the month, I often did steps 5-7 on the same night (after getting home from the day job) I needed to post the 2K story by midnight.
9) Once I got back the edits (gratefully there were not many most days) I updated my original and then had to go into wordpress and load it to hit at 00:01. Needless to say, I am looking forward to getting more sleep in July!
10) Then I’d start all over at #5 for the next letter. I carried around the hard copy of the next day’s words with me in my purse at all times and would study them on the train or while I walked to the office in the morning. I wrote snippets of dialogue on my lunch hour so by the time I got home from work, I was ready to hit the ground running on the next story.
So there you have it. Behind the scenes of writing 24 different stories in one month with 43,826 words. At this moment, I’m happy I did it. My one regret, I wish I’d seen my book sales bounce up more. If you enjoyed the free stories and haven’t given any of my published books a read yet, I’d love it if you’d give Wanting it All a try. It is on sale for only $.99 for a limited time.