Thursday, April 14, 2011

week fifty-three: story a week; the end

Story a Week, as a project, is over. It was during about the second month that I resolved to finish at least a year and I've done that. Last week, the fifty-second week was finished and that makes a year. With that said, this is the final post I'm going to make as far as the project itself is concerned. I am going to do my best to answer anyone's questions about Story a Week; past, present, and future. I am going to be as honest as possible.

Let's start with the future. Story a Week will always be here and I will continue to pay for the name Story a Week. I am going to keep this up as long as possible. It's something that I will mark as a point of personal pride. I am proud of what I did on Story a Week. It wasn't always top-notch quality or my best writing, but there is something of value in there. Enough about that though.

Will there be more posts? Yes, there will. If the mood ever strikes me to write up a short story, I will do so and the first place it will appear is Story a Week. It will not be a marked as “week __” because it won't be a part of the main continuity, but it will still be there.

I am going to do other projects. For instance, I want to devote more time to the many novel ideas I've had over the years. The one I've told you about is the one I'd like to focus on, Shatterer of Worlds. Besides that, I'm also going to be writing up a sequel to Zombie a Week, which ends next week. The first chapter of that will appear in June. It's going to have a few unique surprises. In fact, I'm going to talk about a few of the developments at the end of this post as a special treat.

I am also considering using Story a Week as a platform for writing advice for other writers. I've read a ton of writing columns and books; hated most of them. Stephen King once said that most of these books are “full of bullshit.” I agree with him. I want to help other aspiring writers be good writers, but I want to help them be free of the B.S. I don't see myself as a great writer, but I do believe I may have a thing or two to teach. Hopefully, someone will be willing to listen.

Now, let's move on to the past and then work our way to the present. Story a Week started in a very hard place in my life. I was deep in depression and it felt like life had simply said, “screw you, Wes” and left me in the dumps. I had nothing at all. Everything I was doing was failing. I felt socially inept, my girlfriend had left me (you've read about that, I assume), and my grades had taken a terrible beating. I had, on various occasions, considered suicide. The situation was nothing less than life or death. I had to find something to love, to care about, to do. Otherwise... what's the point?

All of my life, I had writing. I was always inventing something or another creatively. Whether the medium was with action figures, with film, on stage, or on paper, I was writing in some form or another. It took me too long to realize that. When I did, I took a chance with it. I went straight to my academic adviser, declared an English major, and started writing. But it wasn't enough to just go on with my novels. No, I needed something else.

In the back of mind, I had this idea for a blog where I would write a short story every week, much like ee cumming's devoted himself to writing a new poem every day. It's one of those ideas I had for a few years, but never got around to it. I remember thinking about doing it as far back as 10th grade, maybe even sooner; I can't say for sure. Soon, it hit me that this was the answer I was looking for. It was not long that I wrote up my first first, very poorly-written post. Soon after, on Friday, April 16, 2010, a year ago tomorrow, that “Time and Regret” was published.

The rest is history.

Now, I want to take a bit of time to talk about a few of the individual pieces. Not all of them, mind you, but some of them. We'll discuss my favorites and maybe a few of my least favorites.

“Time and Regret” is first. It's not the very first short story I ever wrote, but it's by far the first good short story I wrote. It's one of the ones I'm most proud of. The inspiration came from a video game called Braid, where the protagonist can rewind the time, much the same way that Nick can. It's something I wrote entirely at once one night in eleventh grade. The end brought me to tears when I finished it. I'll never forget that experience. “Time and Regret” was naturally the first story for Story a Week. Without “Time,” there would be no SaW.

The next important story is “The Monarch.” This was one of those stories that came together as I wrote it. The idea of the protagonist seeing herself (in the story, it's gender-neutral, but I saw her as female in my mind) as the butterfly sort of just came out. Now, I'm going to do something pretentious and call “The Monarch” genius. I'm willing to do this because I don't see it as my own genius, I see it as something beyond my control. Genius of the literary sort, I believe, is never planned. It just happens. Sure, you can be a master of the language and of the technical side of writing, but those things are unimportant if there is no inspiration. No great novel ever came without it. “The Monarch” is genius; I am not. I merely was given something and wrote it down. Perhaps I have a genius subconscious. I just wish he could come help me with my schoolwork.

The next one worth mentioning is “Comatose.” It's the worst damn thing I've ever written. I absolutely detest it. I wish it had never happened.

Then came “The Ghost of Passchendaele.” I see “Ghost” as one of my best. It's deep, existential, and I think it well-written. Its significance for me rests outside of Story a Week. After posting it, my father gave me a call and told me that he disapproved of the language and recommended I take it down. I told him no. It was the first time I had ever told my parents no. I remember that moment as a mark of independence; something that brought me a bit closer to adulthood. It was when I realized that, in this, I was on my own. I'm uncomfortable talking about this, to be honest. But I think you can understand.

“Angels Dancing on the Sea” is another of my favorites. I love the imagery and the message behind it. I am a Christian believer and every once in a while, I like to express that. My stories are almost always an expression of my dark side. I don't know why that is, but that's the way it is. “Angels” is a sad story, but ultimately with a good message. It was written in a dark time in my life; one where I struggled with my own faith. It's interesting to note that a lot of these stories reflect times in my life both good and bad.

“Grandmothers and Ghosts” is a special one. There isn't much to say about it that isn't said in the story itself, but I wanted to mention it. It was a story I had wanted to tell for a while, but it was far too boring to tell without the addition of something. So, I came up with Mrs. Dubois.

“What You Don't Know” isn't one of my favorites. I don't like my own poetry, but this one is important. Read that and I think you'll understand where I was at before Story a Week was written. It's about a painful break-up, which I know is petty, but... I don't like talking about this. Let's move on.

“Coward in the Rye” is another one of my favorites. For some reason, nobody every commented or much read it. It contains a lot of parallels to one of my favorite novels, Catcher in the Rye, and has a very invigorating story. I worked very hard on it, probably harder than any other story I've written. It's one of the few published that isn't a first draft. But since no one cared....

“Durchfall,” “Dolores,” and “Christmas with Mr. Cody” are all getting bunched into one. These are some of my favorites because of the characters. They are all part of the same continuity, called “The Adventures of Humphrey Holdsworth and Richard Aldwinkle.” I've had those two around since tenth grade and find myself thinking about them all the time. Now, what's interesting is that, as I've matured, I've found myself more interested in Dolores. She's a very interesting character to me. If there's anything guaranteed to last, it's “The Adventures of Humphrey Holdsworth and Richard Aldwinkle.” They will be back.

Lastly, there's “Omega.” I'm working on a special post to talk about all of the intricacies in that story, but I do want to say here that I believe it to be the best I've written. It's been long enough that I can say that. I kind of wish that “Omega” had been my very last story in the project, but such is not the case.

Now, here we are. Let's discuss right now. How I do feel about Story a Week now that it's over?

For one, I am proud. I did it. I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. Some great stories came out and so did some pretty terrible ones. I also learned a lot about writing. They say that it takes 10,000 hours, or ten years, to fully master something. Well, there's a year down. I learned a ton and, if you really look, you can see vast improvement from week one to week fifty one (I don't say fifty-two because that was written way back in October of last year.)

I am, however, disappointed. I'm not going to lie to you. I honestly expected there to be a bigger reaction to Story a Week. I, in my glorious egotism, expected more people to read and comment. Instead, I barely made a ripple. In the end, I don't feel like I accomplished much of anything. I mean, what's the point of having written fifty-two stories if hardly anyone reads them? The point of story telling is, well, telling. I wrote a while back that I wrote for myself, but I was wrong. Writing shouldn't be so selfish. I was selfish. Have I changed? Well, yes. Yes, I have.

By the end of it, many of my consistent readers had simply stopped reading. New readers came and went. By the end of all things, my consistent readership had fallen. To be honest, it kind of feels empty. I don't feel like I failed, but I did expect a bit more. Look, don't feel bad if you one of the people who jumped ship at some point. I understand. I'm not trying to play some kind of guilt trip; I'm only trying to be completely transparent. Anything less than that is robbery.

Enough about me and my moping. Let's talk about you. Thank you. All of you reading this. You're the ones who made this worth it. There are fewer of you than I would like, but I am very proud of those who stuck with me. It means so much than you think. Writing, I've discovered, is a very lonely ordeal. But if there is someone out there who believes, even just one person, then that makes all the difference in the world*.

I wish I had something to give my you; some token of appreciation, but there isn't. I've said this before, but I hold you in the highest regards. You took time for me and that means a great deal, more than you know and more than I can say in words. Thank you.

This is it. This is the end. To the future we go....


  1. I wish that you had more comments and feedback, Wes. You deserve it. This was a great idea and I know it took a lot of hard work and dedication to stick with (that I, for one, would never have had). Also I appreciate your honesty, openness, and willingness to share your heartache. Through pain we can learn so much and it seems like that was the case for you. It's really great to see someone put their talents to use, and to share them with others. It reminds me of the parable of the talents - you are using what God has given you to make something beautiful, and I'm sure you know that you can use them to bless Him and His kingdom as well.
    All that said, I really enjoyed story a week. I absolutely love short stories, and yours were amazing. They made me think deeply, and I appreciate that. I'm sorry I didn't comment more or give more feedback, because, like I said, you deserve it!
    Thanks for sticking with it, and I hope that your career as a writer continues to develop and continues to be a love and a passion even more than it was when you started story a week.
    God bless =)

  2. deserved more comments and feedback. But comments and feedback weren't the goal. You set out what you accomplished. You did what no one else has ever done. You stuck to it. You wrote. You led your readers on a journey. You never gave up. I'm proud of you. Very proud. I think this will say a lot with your future, with your resume. 52 weeks of stories. And each one improved weekly. Thanks for being open and honest. Thanks for sharing this part of your life.

  3. I still think Grandmas and Ghosts is your best work. By far, in fact. There is something magical about that one, it honestly put a tear in my eye. Congrats on finishing, I'm going to read the ones I've missed tonight.