Why New Writers Should Take the Bradbury Challenge

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February 24, 2015 by Ray Yanek

Hey, I speak, you listen...

Hey, I speak, you listen…

Because Ray Bradbury says to, duh.

But seriously, Ray Bradbury suggested in numerous interviews that a writer should attempt to write one short story a week for 52 weeks, mainly because he believed it was damn near impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.

Liking his thinking, I gave the project a shot back in October and lasted about two months before I got sidetracked–which was fairly typical of me and which upset me greatly (see Living the Crash Diet Life).  But I learned so much during that time about myself as a writer, about my process, and about the craft that I wanted to do it again.  I’m learning through The Consistency Project how to remain well, more consistent.  Because of that,  I thought now would be the time to give the project another spin–but with some realistic tweaking which is one of the main tenants of The Consistency Project.

Here are just a couple of things I learned, which is not only why I want to try it again, but why I think YOU should give it a shot also.  Plus I want someone to work with… 🙂

  1. Practice is the key.

For long time, all my focus went into writing novels, which I still love 488px-Ray_Bradbury_(1975)_-cropped- told ya dipshitand still want to write, and which was an immense learning experience itself.  Writing a short story a week however, causes you to start over and finish at a much more rapid pace.  You are creating more characters, plots, settings, themes, etc.  You are learning what works and you see the importance of each element much sooner.  When you keep doing those things over and over, they become second nature and things like creating round characters don’t feel so daunting.  When you get stuck in a certain spot it becomes easier to write yourself out of those holes because you can think back to why other stories worked.  I always found, for example, that my stories stalled because character development issues.  It’s something that I’m spending a lot more time on now, and I’m running into fewer of those holes.

2.) You have to stretch.

A story a week means you need to have an idea a week.  You don’t have time for writer’s block.  You don’t have time to wait for inspiration.  You are forced to actively seek ideas, which is always a good skill to cultivate.  You train your subconscious to keep it’s eyes open and you start see story ideas when writing is the furthest thing from your mind.

3.) You write out the ‘crap’ or it helps you align your “taste” with your “talent”.

Dennis Lehane--but you should already know that...

Dennis Lehane–but you should already know that…

I remember hearing Dennis Lehane talk about his early years as a writer.  He explained one time how he would sit at the table and write story after story and then chuck them in a box without a second look because he knew he was just writing out the ‘crap’.  He then went on to publish a string of bestsellers, many of which then went on to become Hollywood movies.  Click here for a clip where Ira Glass talks about something similar.  He discussed how we need to create large volumes of work so that we can align our taste without talent. (Trust me…watch that clip!)

4.)  And most importantly for me…

I learned I can produce quite a bit of work through writing just a few pages a day. Yeah, I heard that all the time–just write a page a day and in a year you’ll 365 pages.  That was never enough for me.  I needed something more to make up for lost time.  I needed 6 pages a day, 9 pages.  See again Living the Crash Diet Life.

But through this experience, I learned that if I wrote 4 pages a day (a manageable amount for me) I could draft a 24 page story in 6 days.  Sometimes, I would go shorter, sometimes write a flash piece or two, but I was producing at a consistent rate.  More importantly, I was writing consistently and that lead to the above.  I found myself setting realistic goals that I could achieve and thus saved myself a lot of disappointment end self-brow beating.  Realizing how small steps do in fact help someone stay consistent was a major step for me–and not just with writing, but also with thing like exercise and eating healthy.

So that’s the writing goal of The Consistency Project:

I intend to stare at you like this until I'm certain you've watched that YouTube clip. Source: http://goo.gl/0g6HKA

I intend to stare at you like this until I’m certain you’ve watched my YouTube clip.
Source: http://goo.gl/0g6HKA

Write 4 pages a day during the week and 2 pages on Saturday or Sunday and take the other day off.

I am going to aim for a complete draft of a story a week, but the be all end of for me is to simply writer those pages consistently. For right now, they don’t have to be good, they just have to be written–and partially coherent.

I just need to write those pages consistently and if (more like when) life starts to get hectic like the last time I tried the challenge, I’ll adjust the goals and keep plugging forward.

Now I’m extending the challenge to you… come on, you can do it…  🙂

For more on The Consistency Project see:

The Consistency of Virtue

The Consistency Project–Keeping Crazy in the Bag

40 Days in the Desert–with Spinach

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11 thoughts on “Why New Writers Should Take the Bradbury Challenge

  1. Pamela Liegl says:

    Ray,

    Good luck! You are a writer and a writer must write (even crap has its place). So write man write! (Probably should have a comma or two in that line.)

    Although I don’t plan to take your challenge, I may consider applying it to my course and try and write (or steal, borrow, tweak someone else’s) worksheets, activities, etc for my geometry classes for next year in the chrome book…,,,,,,, hummm…

    PL

    • Ray Yanek says:

      Really Pam, that’s a great idea concerning transferring your curriculum to the Chromebooks. Looking at it as a whole makes it seem like to much work, but if you focused on transferring even 2 or 3 worksheets a day you would be suprised how fast it went. Small steps.

  2. ardurdan says:

    Good luck with the challenge Mr. Yanek. Two to four pages sounds manageable enough if I actually sit my butt down and write without worrying about the writing being perfect. I think I will give this challenge a shot and see how it goes. I don’t know what stories may or may not come out of it but maybe having some creative writing to work on on a regular basis can help me get out of the writing slump that I have been in.

  3. Jsell says:

    I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m a writer, but I suppose I can try and hammer something out.

  4. Ray Yanek says:

    You really should give it a go Amanda. You too, Jesse. Again, don’t worry about the quality. Just write for now and don’t expect every story to be great. Some will work; some won’t; but it’s about getting the pages down and making writing a consistent habit.

  5. […] reading this post by my former English teacher Mr. Yanek on Tuesday, I decided that I should take a shot at trying to […]

  6. […] thing the Ray Bradbury 52-Week Challenge (read here to find out why I also think YOU should take this challenge) has reminded me of is that my most fulfilling stories start not with plot but with […]

  7. RenataB says:

    Finding this post today was a poke from the Universe, so I want to thank you both. I’ve been thinking of writing a page a day or even maybe a short story per day for the A-to-Z blog coming up but I’m afraid short story per day might be a bit too ambitious, hence the page a day. After reading your post though, I’m going to commit and let that one per day be the minimum and opening up to whatever the maximum cares to be for the day. Thank you for the committed inspiration!

    • Ray Yanek says:

      So glad this gave you a boost. It’s weird, but when this came in, I was writing a comment to another blog about how I needed to hear something she had on her blog. The universe seems to be doing a lot of poking today…

      Setting that 1 page minimum is a good goal. It’s not overwhelming or intimidating and it’s just enough to squeeze in when life gets in the way. Also though, it’s just enough to get you into that rhythm where more pages will follow easily.

      So good luck with this! I’m excited to see what you create for the challenge!

  8. […] been hitting the pages pretty intensely for awhile now and I’ve been keeping up with the Bradbury challenge fairly well–but this week I’ve struggled.  Ideas just didn’t want to come.  I would take time to […]

  9. […] I’ve been writing a lot of short stories and flash fiction pieces ala the Ray Bradbury Challenge.  To help with that challenge, I’ve been reading tons of short stories as well.  Also, […]

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