In 2012, I'm taking on a challenge that I'm calling my Year of Stories. I'll be releasing a new short story every Monday for the entire year, right here on my blog.
If the writing I've done so far is any indication, most of the stories will be soft sci-fi or slipstream (alternate versions of present day), but there will definitely be other genres mixed in, including fantasy, humour, and even a bit of drama.
You'll be able to read each story for free as it's released, or, if you'd like, stories will be available to download a week in advance for $1 each. I'll also be making monthly digital anthologies available for $2.99 on both my blog and the Kindle Store. Depending on how things go, I'll consider print anthologies down the road.
It takes me between 8 and 12 hours to conceive of, write, and edit a 3,000- to 5,000-word short story. A few stories will be shorter than that, of course, and a few will be longer, but either way, releasing a short story every week is going to be like taking on a part-time job, so I hope you'll appreciate that this is pretty srs bsns for me. I have high expectations and higher hopes!
The inspiration for putting out a weekly short story came from a few different places. An obvious parallel is Jonathan Coulton's Thing a Week, during which he put out a new song every week for a year. Another similar undertaking is the Write 1 Sub 1 writing group, created by Milo James Fowler, which encourages its members to write and submit a short story every week for a year. Year of Stories is a kind of self-publishing mash-up of those two things.
As I write and edit furiously for the next several weeks, trying to establish an early backlog, and as I get my new Store and the necessary blog infrastructure set up, I'll be using your comments here, on Twitter, and on Facebook as fuel. I'm counting on all of you to help make Year of Stories a big success!
Jeremy Quinn asked me the following question:
Why did you originally start doing 50-word stories?
I feel like I've probably related the history of my relationship with 50-word stories before, but maybe not on my blog, so here goes.
I wrote my first 50-word stories in high school. I think it was in Grade 12, but it may have been earlier. I honestly can't remember how I first became aware of the concept. It may have been an assignment or class exercise.
All I remember for sure is that I posted a few to my blog, back when I was using a completely different URL, built every page from scratch in Microsoft Frontpage, and had zero audience whatsoever.
Most of the content on that old website didn't get translated over through the next few iterations of my blog, but in mid-2008 a handful of 50-word stories remained, buried in the archives.
Around the beginning of 2009, a bunch of people on the Loading Ready Run forums decided that they were going to take part in a year-long photography challenge, where they had to take and post a new photo every day of the year. Not being a photographer myself, I realized 50-word stories would be an interesting writing equivalent of that project, so I bought the FiftyWordStories.com domain name, set up a WordPress install, and seeded it with those old 50s I still had kicking around.
On February 22, 2009, I started off on that journey, and now I'm four-and-a-half months through the third year of running the site. (Of course, I only write four stories per week myself, now, instead of seven, but the overall quality has definitely kept improving!)
FiftyWordStories.com has been a really fun project over the last few years. It's especially cool to hear from people who have been inspired to try out microfiction for themselves, including a couple of creative writing classes and high school English classes. Plus I've been able to release two books so far, which has been a ton of fun, as well.
If you haven't checked the site out before, go explore! There are almost 800 stories on the site (over 550 of which I've written myself), so there's a pretty massive backlog to go through. Enjoy!
Have a question of your own that you'd like to see me answer? Leave a comment or get in touch with me on Twitter.
The more time I put towards expanding myself creatively, the more cool stuff seems to happen. Here's an update on what's been happening on the creative front recently, and a look ahead at a few things you can expect in the future.
The Diaper Fund Evolves
Your generosity has far outstripped my expectations, or even my hopes. I created the Diaper Fund hoping to raise $300 by the beginning of April 2012. Instead, you guys polished off that $300 target in three weeks. Thank you all so much for your Flare Fiction preorders and your donations!
Of course, I'm not going to stop selling my writing just because we reached that goal, so I've converted the Diaper Fund into the Baby Fund. New stories and anthologies will be coming out between now and April to help fundraise for a car seat, a baby monitor, and possibly a rocking chair, with anything extra that I sell going towards clothes, toys, and other small necessities.
Thank you again for being so generous and pushing me to keep writing!
I have all kinds of ideas about what to do with myself creatively these days. Some of the ideas are only half-formed, so I don't want to jump the gun by announcing or releasing anything prematurely. There are a couple of things, though, that will definitely be happening between now and, let's say, February or March.
I have a variety of short stories that I'll be releasing over the next couple of months, probably at a rate of one every couple of weeks or so. I'm still ironing out the exact details, but one way or another you'll have the chance to do some interesting reading in the near future, I promise!
The majority of my writing is only available digitally, but I know that a lot of people, myself included, like to read on paper, too. At some point in the new year, I'm going to be putting together a print anthology of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry, combining the contents of my existing short fiction collections with other unreleased stories and some stuff that won't be available anywhere else.
New chapters keep flowing over at Special People, so if you haven't been reading so far, I suggest you go catch up! SP has been a ton of fun so far, but this is only the beginning. If all goes according to plan, I should have some new multimedia offerings from the Special People universe over the coming months. Sorry, no more specific details than that yet!
Buy now to contribute to the Baby Fund!
Flare Fiction is sold on a pay-what-you-want basis, and emailed to your PayPal address once payment is received.
On January 2, 2012, it will become free to download, though donations will still be appreciated.
I'm going to try out a Q&A feature on my blog. For now, I'll mostly be soliciting questions via social media (see the top of the sidebar for links), but you can also email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if there's something you'd really like to know about my writing, my family, my opinions, or any other aspect of my life.
Sean Riley asked me:
Wow. What a great, big question. Why do I write? I'm not entirely sure I know. But I'll try to give some semblance of an answer.
Sitting back and thinking about it, I think there are three main reasons why I write. Here they are:
1) I write because I have a need to create.
Ideas pop into my head whether I'm looking for them or not, a lot of the time. I can either let them bounce around for a while until they find their way out my ear and get carried off by the wind, or I can try to put them down on paper or a screen somewhere. I have a drive to create, an urge of some sort, that pushes me to do something with my ideas.
But writing my ideas down wouldn't mean a whole lot if no one read them, which is why I have reason 2:
2) I write because it's rewarding.
Any time someone reads a story I've written, whether they give me feedback or not, whether they even like it or not, I find it really rewarding. It's hard to pin down why. Maybe it's some sense of the reader investing their time in me or showing appreciation for the effort I put into creating that story. Maybe it's a validation of my creative urge.
Having my stories read makes me feel valued. It even allows me to feel like I'm making a difference in someone's life, whether that difference is significant or not. It's wonderfully empowering to know that your words are winding their way through someone else's brain, especially when I think of all the great experiences I've had reading things that other people have written. And that brings me to my third, and maybe most important, reason for writing, which is:
3) I write because I read.
Fiction has been one of the most influential mediums in my life. I've read fiction pretty much constantly since I was a kid. Many of my fondest memories are tied to books, or experiences related to books. I remember a kids' book about a mouse and a ripe, red strawberry, I remember the Berenstain Bears, I remember the Land of Barely There. I remember going to see a play in a local theatre based on The Hobbit, and then finding The Fellowship of the Ring in the class library in Grade 4, devouring it, and hunting forever to find the rest of the series to read. I remember getting Ender's Game for free at a book exchange during a camping trip and reading it in three-and-a-half hours with literally one single break to go to the bathroom.
I remember The Grapes of Wrath teaching me about tragedy.
I remember Gulliver's Travels teaching me about satire.
I remember The Life of Pi teaching me about metaphor.
I remember Les Miserables completely reformulating my concept of literature.
The more I read, the more I learn, and the more my life feels enriched. I only first read some of these incredibly influential books in the past couple of years, and I hope to have my life changed in many more ways by the fiction I continue to discover.
I write because I want to be a part of this process. I don't anticipate that my fiction will ever do for someone what Les Mis or Grapes of Wrath did for me, but maybe by writing I can somehow help those classics to live on, in some small way.
I hope this goes part of the way to answering your question, Sean.
And if anyone wants to get started on enriching their lives through reading, look no further than my 50 Best Books list!