Monday 26 June 2023: Challenges

Image by Pintera Studio from Pixabay

I have a new challenge. I’ve challenged myself, but I know I can do it. However, in order to do this challenge, there are other challenges I also have to do along the way.

A couple of years ago I challenged myself to produce my own magazine, a magazine filled with my own fiction. I wanted a novella in each magazine, at least four short stories, a short story from the vaults, and a series/serial. In order for the series/serial to work, it needed to be a monthly magazine.

But… As soon as I started this magazine I noticed a fatal flaw: Beyond one novel and loads of short stories all over the place, I didn’t have enough suitable content. And if I wanted suitable content, I had to write it.

I did have a novel, Night Crawler. I did choose a story from the vaults, The Spirit of the Wind. I did have one short story already written that could go in as an original, The Ace of Wands. And I did have a novella I’d completed for NaNoWriMo, Mardi Gras. The novel was too long at around 72,000 words, but I could serialise it. But apart from that, that was it.

The ‘magazine’ was due to come out in October 2021, so I did write two brand-new short stories with an October theme: The Most Scariest Night of the Year because Halloween is in October, and The Girl on the Bench, inspired by a picture I liked and wanted to use.

The magazine did come out in October 2021 too, but if I wanted another one, I had to write at least four new short stories and a new novella. There was no way I was going to do that in less than a month. Not with the client workload I also had at the time. I also needed people to want to buy it, but without a track record, I didn’t think they would.

I left it up there, though. I didn’t take it down. And it’s still available. If you click on the image below, you can still see it and buy it.

But I stepped back from the whole magazine thing while I started a new challenge to publish something of my own every week for a year, just so I had an inventory of works. Most of those books were short stories, and most of those short stories were already written. I did, however, write one or two brand-new ones when I could.

I completed that publishing challenge in October 2022 and I even added a couple more books to make it a rounder number. But publishing a new book every week, even when you can schedule books to publish ahead of time, is hard work. And I needed a rest when it was done.

Now I think I’m ready for another challenge. I’m going to produce that magazine, and it’s going to be filled with original material, apart from the rest of Night Crawler serialised and one short story from the vaults per issue.

But it’s going to be a quarterly magazine. That gives me three months to write and prepare each issue. I know I can write 10,000 words every week towards a single project. I also know I can probably write a short story every week too. I can’t just write it and forget it, though. I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. Everything I write needs a cooling period and everything I write needs at least another pass when I’m certain it’s finished.

So I need to plan ahead. I also need to finish the projects I’m also working on. And all of that will need a plan of work.

Not only am I challenging myself to produce a magazine every quarter, I’m also challenging myself to write at least 10,000 words every week towards each magazine. And that means at the end of each quarter, I should have between 120,000 and 150,000 words of material, which will in turn put me ahead and onto the following magazine, or magazines, eventually.

Writing a novella, a longer story and four short stories per issue isn’t the only challenge. I also need to learn how to properly produce a magazine so that it looks like a magazine. I need to learn how to place ads for more of my own books. And I need to brush up on my design skills.

To do all of that, I need to learn how to use something like InDesign or Affinity. I already know how to use QuarkXpress, that’s what I did my original training on, but that’s still raving expensive. I think InDesign is raving expensive too. I used to use Affinity a long time ago to edit my photographs. Then the poet got PhotoShop and LightRoom and all of his learning videos were on those. And we stopped using Affinity. I think I’m going to have a look to see if I can use it for this challenge.

And there’s another challenge in itself.

Here, then, are my initial challenges to myself in order to work towards this overall challenge:

  1. plan a series of 4 novellas
  2. write a 40,000-word novella in 4 – 6 weeks (I know I can do it in four, and if I do it in four, that’s a bonus)
  3. brainstorm 4 short stories
  4. write one 3,000- to 5,000-word short story a week for 4 – 6 weeks, and set it to cool
  5. investigate if I can design a magazine in Affinity
  6. learn how to design a magazine in Affinity (or InDesign, or QuarkXpress, or wherever)
  7. learn how to place ads
  8. design all of the covers (short stories as well)
  9. publish a proper magazine (in paper and ebook formats)

Note the specific numbers. It can’t be too vague if I want to both achieve and measure progress.

Remember, these are alongside the work I’m already doing. I’ll probably use the original magazine as a test, and I’ll probably reissue the first issue again, rebranded, in October. Then the next one will be due out in January… Measurable again.

You can see Words Worth Reading (Oct 2021) by clicking the image

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