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Short Story Challenge Episode 1 Cora and the Clockwork Men

Welcome to the Mat-Cave!

The Challenge has begun!  Am I man enough to hold up to writing 22 stories over the next 22 weeks? Only time will tell, but my money is on, “he’ll probably wuss out.” That being said, tho, it is August 2nd, 2011 and I completed the first entrant into my self-imposed challenge last night about 11pm. The story is called “Cora and the Clockwork Men” and stars a character you’ll be seeing a lot of from me, the Walker.

What I’m going to do with each story I write is to document the process a bit anally…going over what I was thinking, how long it took and just far into insanity the challenge is driving me.  It should be fun.

Before I get started, I do want to take a second to thank Dean Wesley Smith for the idea behind the challenge. And, when I say “the idea” what I really mean is that I stole the entire thing from him. Watching him go through a similar, but much more intense, challenge each week was really inspiring. Check out his blog and see how this whole writing thing should really be done!

Now, on with the show!

Thursday, July 28, 2011: 11:30am

I had announced here on MatNastos.net that I was going to be starting my “Short Story Challenge” on Monday, August 1, 2011, but, I got a bit excited and figured I’d go ahead and jump in to the process right away. If nothing else, it would give me a head start and maybe allow me to keep ahead of the deadlines of the challenge.  Although, really, how hard can this prose writing thing be, anyway? Hell, I’d written multiple produced and distributed film screenplays in under two weeks each, so cranking out a short story should be cake.

At first, this whole writing thing seemed easy and carefree...but that soon changed!

Sitting down in front of my computer, I opened up a new Microsoft Word document and typed in the incredibly awesome title I came up with while posting about the challenge itself. The first line flowed out of me like butter.

Out of the gate my opinion was already changing: writers are whiners and this shit is EASY!

Thirty-five minutes later, I wrote line number two. I had, however, already checked Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus and my email multiple times. 

Hmmm…mayhap this writing thing isn’t quite as easy as I had hoped it would be and I should just stick to drawing or writing bad SyFy Channel movies starring Richard Grieco?

Opened up new file…typed in Title and first line. Easy!

I decided to close up shop at 1:30pm to get some lunch.  I’d reached a little over 1100 words and I wasn’t as thrilled with my “incredibly awesome” title.

Saturday, July 30, 2011: 3:00pm

It’s mid-afternoon and I’ve gotten rid of the wife and kids for the day. It’s time to get to work and try to make up for my horrible failure of the day before.  The house starts off quiet, but then the neighbors start blasting music from their yard. It’s some sort of electronica-douche dance music that makes me want to rip my own eardrum’s out. I’m really not sure a pounding beat or rather vapid sounding woman shrieking “Never gonna see me again” is going to do much to help my productivity.

45 minutes in, I’ve only got another 200 written…oh, and a splitting headache from the music, which has now been joined by a yapping dog of some indeterminate species.

I can see why Dean Wesley Smith only writes in the middle of the night. The wonderfully quiet night.

Took a break at 5:30pm to watch the Spice Girls Movie. Please don’t judge me. By now I’m at 4 hours of writing and 2400.

The Spice Girls movie cost me 2 hours of writing and more braincells than a case of New Castle.

Finally stopped at 8:30pm with a last 30 minute push that took me up to 3200 words! Yes! Now I’m starting to feel like a real writer! Well, mostly.  Let’s hope tomorrow goes at least as well!

Sunday, July 31, 2011: 7:45pm

After a very long day watching the kids, I’ve decided that my “incredible awesome” title is, in fact, an “amazingly awful” one. Back to the drawing board with it. My mind is not in the writing mindset at all, but the self-imposed deadline I set doesn’t really care what my mindset is. I guess that’s part of this whole process…buckling down and getting it done no matter what. Right now I am very much hating myself for doing this.

Stopped at 10:30pm with a bit over 4300 words. 1100 for the day, not too shabby for about 2 hours of actual writing. I do have to admit that my dreams of finishing this first story by tomorrow are looking rather slim.

Monday, August 1, 2011: 8am

It’s about 8am and D-Day. I’ve decided that, if I don’t finish this story today, I probably won’t be able to stick it out for the 22 weeks. Yeah, I’m a mental wuss. If I can finish, I’ll have my first approximately 7000 word short story done in about 4 days. If I can’t finish, then I’m a total loser. I really don’t want to be a loser, so I should get to work.  

My biggest problem is the way I write — I usually start with the beginning, then write the end to toss myself some curve-balls in the middle. I enjoy the “jazz” aspect of this sort of writing that keeps me from having everything planned out. It’s how I write all of my screenplays. Unfortunately, the curve-balls I’ve thrown myself this time have me completely stuck on how to connect the beginning to the end. How the hell is my hero going to defeat the bad guys?! Doh!!

Where is a real writer when you need one?

An hour late, I’ve figured my way out of the dead end and wrapped up writing on the newly titled, “Cora and the Clockwork Men” just before 11pm. Yay!

The Cover to Cora and the Clockwork Men by Mat Nastos.

I spend the next hour building a cover for the story and another getting things set up on PubIt/BN.com and Smashwords. I’ll figure out how to get it onto Amazon once I’ve had more sleep.

Final, pre-edit total: 7298 words and around 10 hours of work.

You can find the short available at:
Amazon for the Kindle
BN.Com for the Nook

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Mat Nastos
TV, Film, comic book, fantasy & steampunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. You can find his work on Smashwords or at his Amazon Author Page.

2 Responses

  1. Joe P. says:

    Awesome way to motivate yourself! I’m interested in your tactic of writing the beginning, then the end, then the middle. is that how you write your screenplays? Do you bother with an outline? Process is interesting to me as I try to evolve my own writing.

  2. Mat Nastos says:


    I do generally have an outline or treatment done before I start — laying out the basics of what I want to do. It’s generally pretty rough. From there I’ll write the opening of the story and then I start to jump around, tossing in sequences, bits of dialogue, notes, etc. I almost always write the end pretty at that point, throwing in pieces, facts or consequences that I have no clue how I’ll get to.

    It’s how I’ve written 8 produced screenplays so far, one novel and a bunch of comics — everything except the Disney stuff, which is a bit more structured because of what I do there.

    With this short, I went a bit crazier and didn’t even have a written outline. I had an idea for what I wanted to do and just started writing…which made the jumping around a bit more chaotic than usual. It was fun, tho. I compared it to jazz in my post, which I think is the best explanation.

    Although, I have to admit, the toughest part of this challenge was Dean Wesley Smith’s call to “write bad.” Basically, to just write your draft, do a quick clean-up (if that) and post it without a full edit or proofread. The point there being to get rid of that fear a lot of writers (including me) have about showing the work off. In this challenge, I’m publishing as soon as the last words hit the page. (I did go back and upload an edited/proofread version of the story tonight, tho…I’m not completely insane)

    Hope that helps!

    -Mat N.

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