Friday, May 27, 2011

1000 Nights

When Ray Bradbury offers advice to aspiring authors, what comes out is less advice and more instruction manual. I'm not surprised that such a prolific author takes such a regimented approach to his craft; rather, I'm surprised by just how simple it is.

Write a story every week, or thereabout. 

Quantity over quality? Not quite; Bradbury simply believes that if you write enough, eventually you're going to come up with something worth publishing. " the end of the year, you have fifty-two short stories, and I defy you to write fifty-two bad ones." Nor can it be reduced to a matter of monkeys pounding away at typewriters; practice makes perfect, and Bradbury's theory is just a clever spin on the advice all writers worth a salt give: Keep on writin'! 

This rather specific method is the basis for the Write1Sub1 challenge I'm currently participating in, and if you follow my blog, you're familiar with it (and there's every chance you're a participant). And it got me to thinking: Is there a yin to his literary yang? Bradbury believes that every good story is a metaphor, thus every good writer is a metaphor machine; and given that he believes good writing is a skill learned and honed rather than god-given (so to speak, said the atheist), it stands to reason that he'd have a method for us newbies to become said machinery, does it not? 

As it turns out, it does.

In the video An Evening With Ray Bradbury, the then-80-year-old Bradbury challenges the young writers in attendance to "read one short story, one poem, and one essay" each night before bed, for the next 1000 nights. Why a thousand? I have no idea, but who am I to question the master? 

If you have time to watch the video, it's worth the 54-minute investment. If you don't have the time, then I'll shorthand it for you: Writers have to work at their craft, and they have to work hard. There are other ways to go about it, sure, but when a titan of genre fiction lays out his plan, why not give it a try? 

(Note: There is much more to the video than Mr. Bradbury telling you how to go about becoming a better writer, but the opening "Writer Hygiene" portion is very cool) 

So that's what I'm going to do. I will omit, for a lack of time (and, dare I say, interest), the essays, but I'm actually going to try reading at least one short story and one poem per night. And to make up for skipping the essay part, starting next week, I am going to join the Big Boys & Girls and do the Write1Sub1 challenge properly: One story per week, for 52 weeks. 

Each week, along with my W1S1 check-ins, I'll also list the week's reading material, just to stay honest. If you think you have the time and energy (and resources; my reading list by necessity includes quite a bit from the free Project Gutenberg), feel free to join me!


  1. Firstly, it's truly great to hear you're coming on board for the full-on W1S1. It can feel like a treadmill at times, to be honest, but I honestly think that's a good thing. I figure that's what being a professional writer is like sometimes.

    I love the 1000 nights thing. It's a great idea for a W1S1-style blog/community! I'm up to my eyeballs in novels just now, but I'm going to try to do the same, I think. No formal commitment but it's something I really, really should do.

  2. Thanks, Simon! I'm excited to get started.

  3. Great post, Joe -- I wish you well! This would make a great Write1Sub1 Wednesday post... Would you be interested in contributing? If so, send me a message via Twitter, and I'll give you the details.

  4. I love this idea. I always, always, read before bed, and it's usually a short story, so I've got that covered.

    But a poem and an essay. You know I don't think I have a collection of essays. To the libareee.