Alex Keegan runs Boot Camp, a no-nonsense place where writers write, crit, analyze and learn. Anyone who knows me and has discussed much writing with me knows that Alex wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time, Ballistics, which is now available in his collection of the same title. I won’t do a whole bio here–he’s a novelist who’s written scads of short fiction and won many awards doing so. You’d also be hard-pressed to find someone more enthusiastic about fiction.
Boot Camp is a paid program, but Alex is running a September Flash Blast that doesn’t cost anything–no strings, nothing like that–for those who want to commit to writing short fiction throughout the month of September. Here’s how it works:
- You commit to writing a minimum of 20 short pieces of serious, general fiction during the month (it’s not the place for pure genre), though preferably you should aim for at least 1 per day, so 30+. These are usually flashes less than 1,000 words or so, just based on time constraints.
- A couple times a day, Alex will post a list of prompts. These are often obscure words, bizarre phrases, unusual things designed to poke your subconscious.
- When you read the prompts, you have a maximum of 75 minutes to write and edit your story. Read anytime you like, but don’t read until you have the 75 minute window. If you read the prompts, think about them all day and write something that night, you’re missing the point and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
- Email your finished stories to Alex, who will then post them all anonymously in a protected part of the Boot Camp board.
- Comment on posted stories. No one expects an in-depth critique, but you are expected to read and comment. Comments will probably be blunt, so you have to be able to handle that reasonably well.
- Discuss. There’s a forum reserved for discussions and disagreements about craft that arise from the posted stories. Discussion is highly encouraged.
The concept is fast writing, “drunk writing” as Alex calls it, writing from the gut. I’ll let Alex explain it in his own words.
I think there are 8 or 9 people signed up for the challenge as of right now, but the more, the better. If you’re interested, you’ll need to sign up for a Yuku account (it’s free).
Boot Camp Keegan
Most of the board is locked because it’s full of forums where the paid Boot Campers work, but the Flash Blast forums are public, aside from the one where the stories will be posted.
Here are some stories produced during these types of blasts:
Paper Bird, Bomber, Words & Silence, several stories from the 2004 session
If you’re interested in the actual Boot Camp, you can let Alex know on the board. I know at various times he’s offered the first month free of charge, but I’m not sure if that’s ongoing. It can’t hurt to ask, if you’re interested. Boot Campers write a minimum of one short story every two weeks–again, general fiction, not pure genre. Those are posted anonymously and critiqued by every other Boot Camper according to Alex’s grid scoring system.
I will say that Boot Camp is a busy, steamy kitchen so if you wilt easily in heat, you’ll have to toughen up. I was a member for about 6 months in 2004, and saw more than a couple people throw tantrums and quit after their first critiques. Thick skin is necessary, but you’ll need that anyway if you intend to keep writing, right? I quit because a sort of double-tragedy struck at home and I couldn’t commit myself to it anymore, but even then I did not want to go. It was a great experience for me, so if serious fiction is your focus and you want an intense writing and learning experience, you should think seriously about trying it.
But even if not, consider the September Flash Blast! At the very least you’ll have some new material to work with come October 1st, but I’m sure you’ll get far more out of it than that.