“Hey Joe, what is this numbers thing?”
This is a question I’ve been asked more than once recently. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been posting stories with only numbers as titles for the past few months. I thought now would be a good time to share with you some of my creative activities this year so far.
What you should know up front is that each of these numbered stories is unique. They’re not chapters of one continuous story, so if you’re looking for a through-line, you won’t find it.
I’d been creatively flourishing towards the end of 2015 due to various collaborations and inspirations: Co-writing a pair of feature scripts, venturing into the development world with a new project as a producer, and even producing a feature film with my good friend and inspirational guru Paul Osborne (check out info about it HERE).
On top of that, I felt more motivated than ever to just create, to get things down, to practice, as it were, the art of writing. In the past few years, motivation had been waning a bit overall, but, luckily, various collaborations (see COMICS) kept things rolling.
The new year was coming, and I had to find a way to push myself. So, I thought, why not write every day?
But what to write about? How to keep myself on track?
That’s when I picked numbers, and days, and put them together. Each day, I would write ONE story, using only the amount of words to correspond with whatever day of the year it is. In other words, on January 1st, I’d write a one word story. On January 30, I’d write a thirty word story, and so on. At the very least, I’d have quite a few short stories by the end of the year, and I’d also get to practice writing with brevity.
Then, on day one, I thought, be bold, let’s just bring this challenge further and write, alongside these “counted word” stories, a second version of the exercise, which would be a short story utilizing the same corresponding number of sentences as days in the year.
At first, this was manageable. Day one, I’d have two stories — a one-word story, and a one-sentence story.
But by the end of the second week, I’d fallen behind. Yikes.
At this point in the year, I’ve just reached story Seventy, and Seventy, 2.0 (the sentence version). So, I’m very much behind. But, I’ve realized it’s not about the quantity, necessarily, it’s about the practice. Even if I only end up doing two a week, that’s still fine, because it’s about the practice, and coming away appreciating something new each time.
For instance, last week I sat down to write Sixty-Six, 2.0, and when I reached the end I had 87 sentences. I trimmed, cut back, then added, and still ended with 87 sentences. So that’s what number it is. Because in that instance, that’s what I needed in order to tell that story properly. I’m strict, but not so strict to realize when a story works.
In another story, somewhere in the early Fifties, I ended up right on the dot with the number of sentences I needed to fulfill that number. Sometimes, I’m one or two lines over, and must find a way to trim back. This FORCES me to revise, and revising, as any writer can tell you, is where most of the writing happens.
So, this exercise, for me, is about: Flexing my revision muscles; Accomplishing goals; Creating new ideas; Learning brevity in storytelling — I tend to run long in my scripts, but lately I’ve been much better about joining a scene as late as possible, and leaving just in time.
I’ve written numerous short screenplays this year, and revised some older projects, and already feel my storytelling skills growing stronger. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m getting there, and the practice is what it’s all about.
If you notice a lot of glaring plot holes in these stories, or just an overall incompleteness, know that I generally post them after only the briefest of re-reads and revisions. I encourage you to go back and read some, if you have the time. There’s no inter-connectivity in them, and they’re in no particular order. Some are “more adult” than others. I’ve covered humor, relationships, science fiction, and crime, and I’m finding more and more that Science fiction and crime are the genres I turn to most.
I’ve tried tagging them all with appropriate tags and categories, but will attempt to go back and tag them more thoroughly, in case there’s a particular genre you’d prefer.
I’d like to try and do themes later on in the year — maybe June can be comedy, or September could be coming-of-age. If you have any suggestions or ideas, feel free to reach out. Perhaps I’ll do a collection at year’s end, of some of my favorites, and send that book out into the digital world.
If you read one you really enjoy, let me know, and I’ll set it aside for a closer look later!
As of this morning, I’ve reached Seventy, 2.0, which means 140 short stories so far this year, each unique, some complete, and all worth the practice.
Hope you enjoy reading!