Story-a-Week: What I’ve Learned So Far (Pt. 1)

I’m three months into my efforts to write a short story a week, and I’ve begun to notice trends I thought might be worth sharing. I’m going to make this a mini-series here on my blog as a way to process what I’ve learned so far and to keep these ideas in bite-size chunks that might be meaningful for someone attempting something similar and for myself as a method of reflection.

Lesson 1: A story a week is…a lot.

At first, the story-a-week challenge felt great. I was producing lots of new work and getting a feel for the essential elements needed to craft a moderately successful story. However, the rapid-fire timeline didn’t offer much of a chance to reflect on what I’d written, and it certainly didn’t allow much time for editing.

This isn’t a critique of the idea, but I noticed I wasn’t developing in ways I expected. I’d hoped writing a fresh story each week would help me improve, but I was making the same mistakes time and again.

Sure, writing a fresh story a week increases your odds of getting published because you’re submitting more work. The flip-side is that you don’t have time to really dig into what is working and, more importantly, what’s failing in your stories. The process encourages you to move on and make things better in your next story.

As a compromise, I slowed down to a story-every-couple-of-weeks to allow time to trade with a reading partner and edit what I’d written. This quickly helped me identify mistakes I was frequently making.

At first I felt frustrated because I wasn’t producing as much new work. A little self-forgiveness later, and I realized that I hadn’t failed. I’d re-adjusted my methods to better reach my goals.

What I learned was this: writing a story a week will make you improve. If you do something more frequently, it gets easier. Simple as that. It will also help you recognize traps you fall into as a writer.

Unfortunately, it won’t afford you the chance to get your hands dirty learning how to repair the errors you consistently make. It’s imperative you work through the challenge of fixing the mistakes you’ve already made. In doing so, you develop a pattern of skills that help you mend mistakes precisely and efficiently.

First drafts suck. It’s rare to produce something great during your first go at it, so learning how to correct mistakes is hugely important.

In next week’s post, I’ll jump into one of the mistakes I keep encountering and how I’m working to overcome it.

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