So you’ve taken on a 7 day creative writing challenge, or a story a day challenge, and now you have to deliver. But how do you create a complete draft of a story in just one day (and do it again and again until the end of the challenge?) Here I give you the method I use to generate short stories to a tight deadline. This will give you simple steps to draft a story in one day.
Before breakfast: Decide on your topic. This is your big theme such as Unrequited Love or True Friendship or The Little Guy Wins. Usually it’s something you’ve been diddling around the edges of for a while. Now’s your chance to write something complete which explores this topic.
Can’t think of a theme? Maybe you have spotted something in the daily news which merits your attention. Man Bites Dog, Woman Mails Herself Home. There’s always something. Find it and use it for a story.
During or after breakfast: Decide the ending. What dramatic scene will wrap up your story? Is it a lover dwindling away to nothing as her train departs forever? Is it the crumpled face of the evil CEO when she realises her scheme has been foiled? Perhaps the woman posting herself home gets stuck in the automatic sorting machine. How will you end your story to make maximum impact on the reader (and express your theme)?
Daytime: Write some stuff. Sketch out a scene, imagine the setting, decide what two or at most three characters you really need. In 1000 words you do not have any wiggle room. Backstory and aside characters must be dealt with in one line or not at all. If a character name strikes you then use it, if not call them Tom or Barbara and move on.
I often do dialogue only, movie script style writing for my initial sketches. It’s faster and you can work through what you want to happen without actually getting into who’s standing where or what the place looks like. If you’re less dialogue, more narrative, then do that, knowing you can add some spoken words in later.
Afternoon: Fill in the blanks. Move your character from A to B, colour in the background, add in dialogue tags where required. Check your word count. If you’re going to draft a story in one day, there must be typing involved. But a brief story does not need much meat on its bones.
Evening: Make sure something happens in your story. Your character must be in a situation, and then she must act to resolve the situation, and then there’s an outcome (fully explained or only hinted at. We’re limited to 1000 words, remember). That’s the minimum. If your character thinks about stuff but doesn’t do anything, give her a task. If she does stuff but you don’t let the reader know how it turns out, then add that in.
One minute to midnight*: Read your story and feel proud that you have a workable first draft of something which, with polishing, could be great. (* You needn’t leave this until midnight. It depends how organised you are.) Well done. You have now completed the challenge to draft a story in one day.
There you have it – step by step how to create a complete draft for a thousand-word story, in a day. I usually compress a few of these steps into a single writing session, depending on what else I have going on that day. I tell myself I ought to draft a story in one day, every day, forever, but this challenge is hard, especially if you work full time or have other Real Life commitments which prevent you writing. My method gives you a way to move your project forward in minimum time.
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