[Planted: 31 August 2023 | Last tended: 22 October 2023]
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- Updated with my experience of doing Stories on Fire in September.
Stories on Fire is a writing challenge where participants aim to write one short story every day of the given month. Created by a group of Twitch streamers back in January 2021, it works off the same driving force why people join NaNoWriMo or NaPoWriMo (rebranded KPoWriMo here) – just a daily exercise to squeeze between 1,000-1,667 words out on the page.
I came across it on Twitch, specifically from TelinArtho. He comes online around dinner my time, and I’d usually hang out on his livestream with a couple of other regulars. Initially, I said no. I have not written short stories since the very early 2000s, with my one and only fiction publication credit in Dark City 2 (2007, ed. Xeus). Madness, I said, especially when I knew September was going to be a very busy month for me.
And then I signed up in a fit of “WTF are you doing, Gette?”
So when some ideas get into my head, especially the “impossibru” ones, I want to prove myself wrong. I had the skills. I don’t need to buy anything to get started. I only needed to set aside some time daily and formulate a plan.
I filled a Google document of prompts. A handful of them got used. Someone on r/Writers Discord also decided to run a month of short story prompts at the same time, and I ended up using some prompts from there. Stories on Fire itself also had prompts, but I didn’t use them unless I found one particularly interesting.
I went into this project with a couple of specific challenges, aside from the main one:
- Put down any ideas or inspo into a list of prompts
- Write smut where possible
The first is self-explanatory and something I really should keep doing going forward. I used to do this as a very young writer – have notebooks of ideas to pull prompts from.
But it’s the second one that you probably want to know more about.
I’ve been working on a collaborative story (codename: DOL) with a Storium friend, and one of our original aims was to make it spicy. I rarely write erotica but wanted to expand my skills. When we started, I felt that most of what I wrote was cringy. I wanted this to be an opportunity to practice, since whatever I write would be crap anyway.
My list included a bunch of scenarios, some had been brewing in the back of my mind for years. I used up a surprising number of them.
The list also included expanding the universe of the DOL, as well as a couple of other Storium games I created. I also wanted to write stories featuring my dog, so that went on the list. A couple of other interesting “what-ifs” happened over the month which also ended up on the list.
After a few days, my schedule was nailed down. I made the commitment to go online on Twitch at 9pm every night and write until I’m finished or out of time.
In the beginning, I was really concerned that I won’t be able to keep up the momentum, so I spent most of the day pecking away at it at every spare moment I could find. But realistically, I have other things to do during my work day (like actual work), so night was the only time I had completely to myself.
Sometimes, people dropped by my Twitch livestream and hung out. Most of the time, it was just me. But somehow, a solid month of showing up nearly every night gained me 20 new followers, mostly from a couple of raids by fellow Twitch writers.
The process was mainly to show up and write without any self-editing or overthinking. Plot doesn’t make sense? That’s a problem for future me. Story concept just went nowhere? Make something up and finish it. That’s also a problem for future me. Can’t think of a town name? Insert [placeholder] and call it a night. Just stop letting little details derail me.
I wrote 26 out of 30 possible short stories. This was astounding to me. When I started, I was very much still in “let’s see how long I can keep this up”. The first day was surprisingly easy, but days 2 and 3 were not.
Day 4 saw me getting into what would become the template plot for many of the subsequent stories – boy meets girl, conflict or history arises, it may end up resolved (in bed). There were 16 stories in the romance genre, with half of that going there. I was pleased with some of the writing, and glossed over the rest. Let’s see what I end up doing with those.
A few noteworthy series came out of the project:
- Who We Are – Named after a Hozier song, it follows a developing relationship between an artist and a musician. Two stories.
- The Dreamlands – From the world of DOL comes a new pair of characters. Intrigued by the intensity of one Dreamer’s recurring nightmare, a Dreamwalker plays an overblown romantic role as her saviour. Two stories, named after beverages.
- Inspector Girlie Dog Inspects – Written from the dog’s perspective, this follows the adventures of my dog Girlie. Based on true events! Two stories.
Some standalone worth mentioning:
- Going Home (Day 1) – The idea of parallel worlds and people who can move freely between them sound like a fun element to play with.
- Darcie’s Adventure (Day 25) – Based on the news story of a toddler who went missing with the two family dogs. Written from the POV of the dogs.
- Melon the Cat Catches a Killer (Day 27) – This was a bit complicated but I liked the concept so I will do some thinking to see if I can improve it.
A surprising number of the non-smut stories were written from the perspective of an animal, something that I enjoy from working on Home. Where? on Storium, a game with dog characters that acted on base dog intelligence. I needed players who understood how dogs think, and work from there. No elaborate inner monologue; just what is happening in front of them. That was fun to write, especially in the Inspector Girlie Dog series, and in Darcie’s Adventure.
I’ll polish up a couple of stories and look for a place to submit them. I’ve not done this before because I don’t typically have anything to submit. Some of the smut will go to … certain sites to see if it gets any traction. I’m also contemplating releasing some stories (not just the smut) on a more subscriber-based capacity, but this idea is not fully thought out yet. I have doubts that people will subscribe or be a patron of sorts to read my stories. I also have doubts that I could consistently produce something worth a monthly subscription to. Maybe a chapbook?
I’m also thinking of joining Nanowimo to expand one of the stories conceived during Sept.
Would I join Stories on Fire again? Probably not. We filled in a form to join, but nobody ever responded with more information. I had to search for everything myself. We joined the Discord, where we were barely acknowledged and there was not much going on.
I wasn’t sure who else was participating other than maybe two other Twitch streamers online during my hours, and I didn’t really vibe with either. If it wasn’t for Telin’s daily consistency and encouragement, I probably would have though I hallucinated the whole thing.
The other two things that kept me going were my friends on my personal Discord, and a similar challenge running concurrently on the r/Writers Discord. Some of my friends got to read the draft of some of those stories, and the response was positive.
The challenge did indeed get me started on writing short stories again, and I would do it again in the future, but probably with r/Writers or on my own.
I also won’t be satisfied until I get a full 30/30 (or 31/31, depending on the month), so there’s going to be at least another go at it.
Below is the list of stories that I compiled throughout September, when this page served as my daily tracker. I will update if anything new develops from this challenge.
- Story #1 | 2,948 words | Going Home
- A magical realism story about two urban explorers friends who accidentally entered a pocket dimension at an abandoned mansion, forcing one of them to reveal the truth about who they are.
- Story #2 | 845 words | Isle of Spirits
- The new warden of the Isle of Spirits learn the ropes of the loneliest job in the world.
- Story #3 | 877 words | Starseed
- “It all started when it fell from the sky.”
- Story #4 | 1,551 words | Safe Haven
- Two old friends realise that they were meant to be together this whole time.
- Story #5 | 2,740 words | Room Service
- The intruders found what they came for, but wanted more.
- Story #6 | 578 words | Flight
- A baby sea turtle finds an unexpected new home.
- Story #7| 1,117 words | Inspector Girlie Dog Inspects a Drain
- There’s something in the drain…
- Story #8 | 1,076 words | The History of Us
- Two estranged ex-friends confront the truth of what happened between them while the world crumbles.
- Story #9 | 1,182 words | Natural 20
- She knew his secret identity all along…
- Story #10 | 1,394 words | Glass
- Two sinners in a deserted church.
- Story #11 | 1,594 words | Special Delivery
- Some purchases have to be picked up personally.
- Story #12 | 1,061 words | Let Them Eat Cake
- A private chef brings a personal assistant a slice of cake.
- Story #13 | 1,271 words | Use Your Words
- Co-authors meet to crunch through a writer’s block.
- Story #14 | 1,109 words | Proper Courtship
- You finally crack that tough nut that is Hassian the hunter. Palia fanfic.
- Story #15 | 863 words | Strawberry Lemonade
- The dream started the same way but this time someone intervened.
- Story #16 | 534 words | The New Fish
- Bubbles has a crush on the half human half fish.
- Story #17 | 1,616 words | The Chosen
- Two best friends were forced into participating in a top secret project.
- Story #18 | 671 words | Writing on the Wall
- What if the writing on the wall talked back?
- Story #19 | [missed]
- Story #20 | [missed]
- Story #21 | [missed]
- Story #22 | [missed]
- Story #23 | 3,014 words | Who We Are
- A rising musician renegotiates his relationship with his cuddle therapist.
- Story #24 | 1,034 words | Straight to Dessert
- Reth comes over for a dinner date. Palia fanfic.
- Story #25 | 934 words | Darcie’s Adventure
- Two family dogs follow their small human sibling out into the woods.
- Story #26 | 545 words | Inspector Girlie Dog Inspects a Car
- There is something under the hood of that car…
- Story #27 | 749 words | Melon the Cat Catches a Killer
- A cat is the only eyewitness to a series of deaths
- Story #28 | 889 words | Who We Are Tonight
- Jasper and Aria from Story #23 continue learning about each other as their story moves forward.
- Story #29 | 683 words | Lavender Tea
- August saves Lydia from her nightmare again. Sequel of Story #15.
- Story #30 | 803 words | Evolution
- A strange disease triggers the evolution of mankind.