My July Writing Challenge

In June I didn’t write much. Not a word on my novel, a couple of prompt-inspired shorts, and a few scenes inspired by a dream that are not compatible with any sort of actual publishable story. In July I need to ramp things up again a bit, but I’m not feeling good about the novel right now. I worry it’s too wordy, and by the end of May I’d reached a part which I’m rather stuck on in terms of not having much to drive the story forward. I think it might be time to set that aside for a while and focus on becoming a better writer.

In July I’m going to have a go at writing a few short stories from prompts. At the same time I’m also going to pick up some books about writing and pick out a few things from what I read to comment on and investigate in more depth. Here’s the general plan:


1 – 7 July: Invisible Duke

This is a prompt that came up months ago for a /r/writingprompts contest involving a title generator. This is the title that the generator produced for me, and I had an idea for it but never got to writing it. I’m going to have a fresh go, possibly dropping the old idea, or most of it, and see where it takes me. Seven days should be enough for a short story – if I can get it planned out in the first two days, I should manage to write some 4,000 words in the remaining five days.

8 – 10 July: Four words

I’ll flip through a dictionary, pick out four words at random (with vetos for words that are too common or too rare – I’m not having “the” as a prompt word) and see what I can make from that. I’ve put three days for this since I want it to be fairly intuitive a challenge – not too much thinking before I have to write. I’ll start with half an hour’s brainstorming, then jump right in. This story should end up around 2,000 words.

11 – 15 July: Music prompt

I’m open to suggestions for this, or I’ll click through “related videos” on Youtube until I find something that works. Whatever it is, it won’t be something I’m familiar with, so no Lord of the Rings soundtrack, no Lindsey Stirling, no Einaudi, no Holst, etc. The idea here is that I’ll listen to the track and make notes while listening, and then see where I can build a story from it. I’m putting five days for this, but that might change depending on how well it goes.

If you would like to suggest a music prompt for this please email me by 10 July at with the subject line “Music Prompt”. I won’t open the links until the day I start this prompt. Music with or without lyrics will be welcome. I know most of the better known classical, a lot of movie soundtracks, but game music could work nicely, or even just something from a Youtube musician I am not familiar with.

16 – 22 July: History prompt

History is a rich and diverse source of inspiration for writers of all genres, especially fantasy (and historical fiction, of course). Last time I was at the British Museum I bought a book about the treasures on display there, Masterpieces of the British Museum, so I’ll look through that, find something from a culture I know little or nothing about, and research it, then see what I can do about turning that research – and that object – into a story. Usually I rely on either ancient Greece or pre-Roman Britain for my historical inspiration, so this will allow me to push beyond my usual boundaries as far as that is concerned, educate myself on something I don’t know about yet, and take a story from a fresh source of inspiration. So the one rule I’ll use when finding a suitable object is “not European”.

23 – 31 July: The revival

Some time ago on this blog I critiqued the opening to a piece I wrote when I was 19, Discord’s Secret. There’s definitely a story I want to tell in there, but I think it got buried. So to close out my challenge month, I’m going to reread everything I wrote for that story and work out how I might redo it. For this challenge, I won’t actually write the story, but rather rework what I want from it and then plan this new version out in detail, including character sheets for all key characters, a chapter-by-chapter plot synopsis, a map and location info sheets.

Reading about Writing

There are a few books I’ve got about writing, some of which I’ve read and some of which I haven’t. I’ll tackle four of these in July, and for each one pick out at least one point and comment about it here on the blog, including what the advice or opinion is, whether I agree with it, how I might apply it to my own writing, and anything else that comes to mind, depending on what the advice or opinion is.

The books I’ll be looking at are:

  • Stephen King, On Writing
  • Chris Sykes, How to Craft a Great Story (Teach Yourself)
  • Antonio del Drago, The Mythic Guide to Characters
  • Della Galton, How to Write and Sell Short Stories

If this experiment goes well I may continue this part of my July challenge into August with the various other books on writing that I own.

So that’s the plan for July: write based on some prompts, and read and comment on some advice. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have some half-decent fiction and a slightly better understanding of what it is I’m doing.

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