What is the Ray Bradbury Challenge?
A writer friend of mine, Lisa Kessler, shared her experience when she met Ray Bradbury. Working at a writers event, she and several of her colleagues had the chance to speak with Mr. Bradbury about their own works in progress (WIPs). When she asked him if he could give her any insight on how to improve her writing, he answered:
“Write a new short story every week for a year. You’ll have ideas to last a lifetime and you’ll be a different writer by the end.”
For the purposes of this post and my blog, I’m defining these guidelines (but if you want to do the challenge, you can do whatever you’d like):
- Word count: 300-1000 words
- Minimum 300 because for SEO purposes, it is recommended you have a blog post of at least 300 words to increase your rankings.
- Maximum of 1000 because it fits into the definition of Flash Fiction (see below)
- Posting Day: Thursday evening – when I have some alone time.
What is Flash Fiction?
As I’ve come to understand, the term “short fiction” or “short stories” is passe. “Flash Fiction” is the trendy term and it’s generally 1000 words or less. Anyone can write approximately 2.5 pages of prose. I quote Lisa from her Writing Short & Powerful class, “The challenge is to write a complete story with a beginning, a strong middle, and a satisfying ending in spite of using so few words.” She taught us that a short story should contain…
- Hook - You gotta grab your audience from the title or the first sentence. She said statistics show that people will give novels about 20 pages before they’ll put one down. Short stories…about 20 words! (I hope I got that right Lisa!)
- Character Arc – Choice words to describe the key elements of your character as it pertains to the story. In the short story I’ll post (The Claw), I really only share that Henry has lanky legs…indications he’s thin and non-threatening. That’s also part of my hook…and my…
- Twist Ending – That unexpected conclusion that has your readers say, “Doh! That came outta nowhere!” Go for the surprise or the exact opposite of the direction your story might go.
What You Gain
Lisa shared that she didn’t take up the challenge immediately. She confessed she thought it was about the money – pumping out product. After a couple of months, though, she caved in and decided to take up the gauntlet. She had so much fun and learned so much through the experience, she did it for 75 weeks! Some of the lessons she garnered:
- Quality of Words – She learned to choose her words carefully since short means short. So when on a word budget, pick words that have more impact (e.g., swaggered vs. walked). The more you do it, the better you get at it. (Okay…the erotic author in me just went somewhere else with that…mwuahahahaha!.)
- Write Faster - When she first started the challenge, it would take her a few days to generate an idea, write it, edit it and get it posted by her Sunday deadline. By the end of the challenge, she would start the short story on Sunday afternoon and have it polished and posted by Sunday evening.
- Working Under a Deadline - As Lisa wrote more, she started gaining a following and she didn’t want to let her readers down, so she really learned how to stay focused and committed to meet her weekly deadline. What writer wouldn’t benefit from that?
Who’s Taking Up the Gauntlet??
So that’s the Ray Bradbury Challenge! And I’m doing it!! And I’m starting today! I’m using the short story I wrote while I was in Lisa’s short story class called The Claw. So who’s with me? Are you going to take up the gauntlet?? If you’re still wondering how this would benefit you as a writer, consider this…
The side-effect of Lisa posting her weekly short stories was she gained an audience. By the end of the challenge, she’d had over 65,000 collective views on her site and over 500 followers…doing what she LOVES to do…WRITE. She had quality readers already interested in her writing, waiting to buy her books when she published her first novel. Imagine that!
Share Your Challenge!
If you’re going to take up the challenge, I would LOVE to know about it!! Please go to my Facebook Page and post the permalink to your blog post of your weekly challenge. Please list the following:
- RAY BRADBURY CHALLENGE (Week #??) - Please put this at the beginning of your post so we know what the link is for and include the week of your challenge.
- Genre: This can either be the genre of the story you wrote (preferred) or the genre you write as an author (which might be the same…or not)
- Title: Give the title of your short story.
- Permalink: Provide the direct link to your short story, not your blog. We don’t want people hunting for your story if they want to catch up on your posts.
Here’s an example for my own short story:
RAY BRADBURY CHALLENGE (Week #1)
Title: The Claw
Woo hoo! Can’t wait to see your stories!
That’s my two pence,