Toughest Writing Challenge EVER

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

This is your chance to have a little fun and learn about some of the interesting people that read this blog.


You’ve seen me do interviews with authors. Some are new, some are established; I have a series of 51 “standard” questions for them to choose from and then I follow up with what I hope are interesting follow up questions.


If you’ve read them, a lot are nothing close to “standard” interview questions.


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Like this fun moment!

I try to get at the personality behind the book, and show you the non-polished, fun side of the writer. The stuff that makes them unique and interesting.


Often, those fun glimpses come in a question the author didn’t choose from the list. (Cue evil laughter.)


THAT got me to thinking.


Here’s your challenge:


  1. Go to this random number generator HERE and click to select a random number between 1 and 51 (see the little pink box? Type 1 for the lower limit and 51 for the upper limit, then hit ENTER. It will give you your number),
    Random number generator site
    The part we’re interested in


  2. Go to my list of interview questions HERE (you have to scroll down a little) and answer the corresponding question.
You can do it

No cheating!


One click, you answer the question that comes up!

Be brave!


I’m not going to change the questions to make them embarrassing or anything; they’re still the ones they were last week. (And some of those were already embarrassing.)


But that’s the point.


In our writing and our blogs we have to open up. Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

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I don’t need tears today, necessarily, just some honesty and some fun.


If you answer the question well – as in, answer it in an interesting and enlightening way, or are unique or insightful, you may get chosen to have a full-fledged interview here with me.


For those of you who have already done a full set of interview questions, please be patient; they are scheduled on a first come first served basis and can I only run about 1 a week. There were a lot of replies to that open call, and we’re getting to them! Honest! But there’ll be maybe 2 a week during the holidays.


That’s it!


Select a random number, answer a question, post it below as a reply and copy it to your blog!


Oh, and have fun with it!


Try to have your answers be at least 100 words so we learn a little about you. Yes and no isn’t super interesting. If you go more than 300 words, that’s fine. At 3000, think about trimming.


Post immediately! Don’t think about it! Extra points if it’s funny or embarrassing! Or mentions laundry.







Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

43 thoughts on “Toughest Writing Challenge EVER

  1. #41 -How many story ideas are in your “good ideas” file? What are some of them? I have a ‘big box-full’ of potential good ideas. When the top is removed it is easy to see that it’s not an orderly file by most people’s standards, but it somehow works for me. It’s filled with many little pieces of paper, napkins, sticky notes, backs of coasters and lots of whatnots covered in words. My ideas appear whenever and wherever and my ‘file’ clearly reflects that. Some of my best ideas and ‘aha’ moments come when sleeping, walking, talking, driving, or just in the midst of something i see, or a person I cross paths with. Examples are: The story of how I crossed paths with Bozo the clown, twice, just like Meat Loaf. Also, The story of one of my Best Surprise Sports Encounter Night ever. Both stories deal with serendipity, and I am drawn to these happenstances in life. I never fail to find the wonder in them.

    1. I think most writers have a drawer full of story ideas, or a computer file full, or a notebook full… if they were honest, probably a dozen are half-started!

      It’s great to see inspiration everywhere and have your eyes open to the world so you CAN see Meatloaf twice, or Bozo, or anything else. Sounds totally you, Beth! Thanks for sharing!

  2. #24 What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?

    For me the most fun part is formulating the story in my mind then writing my flow chart. I like to know where the story goes and I visualise the start. I love making up my characters and writing a little back drop to each of them then I love to put the characters into the start of the story so by about 30k words we have them all and the story has begun but the reader does not yet really now where it is going.

    The least favourite is at the above point, where I have run out of steam. I know where I am going and I know what has to be done, I simply lose impotence for a while and have to slog through it until I once again become motivated as I see an end in sight.
    I also hate editing as I go but I cannot leave it alone!!

    1. Flow chart? Like, with the little boxes and arrows? That’s more plotter than me! Ho-lee cow. I think it’s safe to say if i had to do one of those for a story, the story would never get written. I admire that kind of tenacity and level of detail. No stone left unturned. Impressive.

      I definitely like the creation phase, where I have an idea and i’m just jotting down broad notes about where the story might go. I make a basic, simple outline, like a guy meets a pretty girl on a train, has an affair, lots of funny stuff happens, and he ends up back with his wife, where they all live happily ever after.

      From there I have to figure out WHY he’s on a train (family vacation in Italy before a few weeks of work abroad for him), WHY he has an affair (because otherwise he’s just a jerk) and WHY his wife would let him back (and that was the toughest part!)

      In between, I wanted just about every element of “put your characters up a tree and throw rocks at them” that I could think of. So I just started throwing ideas in a folder. He does this, he does that, his wife and him fight during their vacation, etc.

      Somewhere in between step 1 and 2, the buzz starts working on me and i can’t stop thinking about it. By the 3/4 mark, I have a LOT of ideas I’ll never use, and start deleting them. For example, in The Water Castle: the witch turns into a dragon (delete), they go hunt down the dragon (delete), big confrontation scene with the dragon (delete), maybe a certain character is a good guy but really is a bad guy – and a note to make him/her really really nice at first, and then show a little crazy.

      Some of the twists and turns can throw me. I have my Prince going to meet with the bad guys in The Water Castle, and they put a spear to his neck and are about to take him hostage. We now have to wonder if the companion he has trusted all along is actually a bad guy – and the companion could be bad, because he did some bad things! And I’m like, well, the Prince really needs to get back but which route makes the story more up a tree with more rocks being thrown? Maybe the companion has double crossed us!

      That’s where the chapter ends.

      And I don’t know! I mean, I do; the companion didn’t double cross him. That’s my original version. Heck, my original ORIGINAL didn’t even have a hostage situation. My new consideration is whether the companion is actually a bad guy. Wouldn’t take much for readers to go there. They kinda don’t like him. Would be a great surprise…

      So I’m up at 4am because I can’t sleep, wondering which way the story should go!

      1. Absolutely a Flow Charity, like with boxes and arrows…! I love all of that planning stuff. I like to be in control of the entire thing before I start because it still falls apart anyway and I think this possibly limits the damage!
        I hear you on your process though and I feel you on having to cut things that just don’t work but that is the art of a great writer I am told. One who can see the point in the book where something stops working and needs to be executed. Like your Dragon fixation. You obviously knew that it wouldn’t work properly (or maybe the wife did… 😉 ) but it was trimmed out and that has left you with a much more tellable story.
        I need to take on as much advice as I can, but I also need to get my head down and start treating this like a job once again with a schedule that I must meet.
        I think I have an answer, I just need to put it into practise!!!

        1. You are 100% right – and working through that tricky part is, well, tricky. But I also might have another option for you.

          There are LOTS of good writers out there who can’t think of things to write about. I see them all the time in my critique group.

          You, meanwhile, have a started story, character backgrounds, and an outline of what happens.

          Team up.

          I bet a lot of beginner writers would love the chance to take a 30,000 word start, with developed characters and a guide of what happens, and finish it. It’d be like a series of story prompts but with established characters. You could offer them a co-author credit, pay them half the royalties, whatever, but your darling words would become a ship that was built and launched, with somebody else now at the helm with your directions… it might be fun!

  3. What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?

    Hmmm…OK let me answer this in context of being a blogger (

    The most fun part of writing blog posts, well that’s easy. It’s probably reminiscing over the episodes/anecdotes that I plan on including in the post. Often this involves lots of laughter and ‘analysis’ with my partner in crime #zlotybaby. We often create pseudonyms for all of the guys we ‘date’. ‘Research’ can often be the least fun part especially when one is fact with the sad state of affairs that is dating today. However one must make a sacrifice for their art and I’m always willing to take one for the team. I’ve been on some truly painful dates – one where I actually couldn’t even finish my drink and hate to make my excuses in order to escape the guy we now refer to only as the ‘serial killer’. But even on the bad experiences make for good stories so we, as authors, need to take these things in our stride. And on the flipside, some dates have the potential to turn out wonderfully and it those ones that give you the best of both world’s (good blog matter and butterflies.)

    1. I always get a kick out of your posts over at Rinse Before Use, EnglishRosiee. The willingness to put it out there. Escaping the serial killer! You may need to link to that one. I bet it’s as hilarious as your other stories. A good partner in crime is always a big help. Keep chasing those “butterflies”!

      Thanks for the insights!

  4. OK, I gave in to temptation though I tried to resist. I hit 23. Plotter or Pantster.
    That’s always been an easy answer, I’m a confirmed pantster.Once I start a story I tend to let it go where it will and I just follow behind hopefully collecting any manure left behind. I tend to think that if the story holds a surprise for me it shouldn’t be too predictable for the reader.
    I have tried to plot but couldn’t get the characters to take the path I’d made so I gave up in disgust.
    I haven’t been able to write for quite some time but it the urge ever hits to complete what I started I know that I won’t be the one dictating how the plot goes.


      They’re everywhere. You struck me a a plotter. I am seriously outnumbered here. That, or my plotter allies are following their very structured schedule and replying to silly writing challenges is not on it!

  5. #14,
    I would say I chose the genre I write because I think we are in complete control of our own actions; however, the truth is it also chose me. I have always been interested in communicating with my dead grandparents as well as trying to figure out the meaning of life.
    When I was younger, I did not read. I started to really read when I wanted to explore more about spirituality and dream interpretation among many other topics.
    I became addicted to fantasy once I started reading about Harry Potter and Septimus Heap.
    As I write, I am inspired by my dreams and the many conversations playing out in my head. I don’t necessarily use cognitive thinking when writing, it just comes to me.
    I think it is a combination of me choosing to write and the words choosing me.

    1. Sorry, accidentally hit send.

      Well, I write a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, so pretty much everything I write I’ve never experienced … except my bar scenes. I been known to hit a bar or two and chum it up with a glass of Jack Daniels.

      But back to the question. I’ve had to create a lot of battle scenes between aliens and humans, demons and angels, devils and man. Since I’ve never done these things, I’ve had to depict gun fights realistically, as well as figure out what powers a character may have and how those powers should be properly wielded.

      But my favorite things to make up are alien cultures. There’s so much flexibility there. One of my WIPs spends a lot of time on an alien planet where I get to make up social structure, customs, traditions, prejudices. The list really goes on and on.

      I guess the true answer to the question is that I prefer to make up stuff. It gives me a creative outlet!

      1. One of the few projects I remember from Junior High was making our own country. We had to draw a map, and write a report about this country as we would if writing about Japan, Spain, England etc. I loved this project because I could not get the facts wrong. I agree with you, the main purpose for me to write is to have a creative outlet.

    2. THAT is a cliffhanger answer… you had to come back to find out the rest of the answer!

      Wow, you really hit on a great question for you!

      We need to know more about your writing sometime!

  6. 19. How do you decide on a title for your book?
    I drink. I go to bed. I close my eyes and let my mind wander. I let words click by until I find one I like. I set it aside and keep going until I have words I like. I rearrange them, ask them questions, what they want to say, then I leave them all alone. I wait. I get up. I do laundry. And when I least expect it, POWEEE! It all hits me at once in a persistent and repetitive way, like a buzzing bug that won’t leave you alone, and I realize, I have my title. I write it down, make it real. I celebrate. I drink. I eat chips and salsa. I put my laundry away.

  7. #22 What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

    Well, there were quite a few Indie writers – are we talking the films here or the novels? I’d say the biggest misconception about Indie authors is that they’re just riding George Lucas’ coat-tails – they’d never make it on their own. He created the whole thing, after all.

    What’s that you say? Indie authors. Authors who wrote Indie. Indiana Jones. What do you mean, I’ve misunderstood the question? Maybe you’ve misunderstood the answer.

    Oh, okay. I think many people view indie authors as “not really writers”, that they’re not good enough to get an agent, a publicist and so on. I think of indie authors as people who love writing, and want to keep complete creative control over their work. People who write because they love it 🙂

  8. Right, I’m raising my head from snowed under madness for all of five minutes to do this, just for you! I can’t remember if we covered this question in my interview, which is somewhere in your pile, hopefully!

    Q38. How do you develop characters?

    The short answer, to keep it simple, I don’t.

    You want more than that don’t you?

    I try to develop them, really, but they are in control. I create them and they take over, developing themselves. In most cases I manage to give them a name, yes I typically have some control of that, except for Dean. I didn’t name Dean. He’s got powers over me that nobody, real or imaginary, has ever had, wow, have you met him yet?

    When I started writing Lightning Attraction, I was trying to come up with names, and spending too long. I wanted to get on, but without some way of identifying my characters I couldn’t move forward, so I gave them initials, MC (main character), BFF (best friend), XBF (MC’s Psycho Ex), etc. I knew the love of MC’s life was going to be a tall, hot blonde, a real sexy boy, so he became SB (sexy boy).

    Even before I started to think of actual names, Dean (SB) named himself. Honestly! He was relaying a story from his days at university, a story that shaped his character and made him more lovable than I could have managed. I was just writing, and he said it, he revealed his university-nickname and there was nothing I could do about it. I finished the main plot outline of around 10K words, and Dean was the only character with a name.

    As I plough on with Lightning Attraction 2, my characters are becoming relaxed and revealing even more details about themselves, secrets, things I could never have thought of. Now, 45K words in, I’ve been having a lot of problems with Matt, Dean’s brother. His life is becoming complicated, but just when I get his character back on track to where I want him to be, he goes and creates problems for me.

    Let’s just get this straight, Matt is a really nice guy, he was nice in LA1, he is in LA2, but it turns out that nothing is ever how it seems, especially to me. I just want to protect him and keep him nice!!!

    So just to clarify, I don’t develop my characters, I guide them, they develop themselves!!

    1. Great insights!

      Giving them initials instead of names is really a WOW moment. I just use the kids’ names in my daughter’s kindergarten class, selected at random. Seriously. I need a boy. Okay, she mentioned Tommy. I need a girl, okay she mentioned Stacie. Then I hope to change the names when I get inspired later, but that doesn’t happen. When I needed an indian chief’s name, I sent a message to an author friend and she DIDN’T FREAKING ANSWER, saying she was headed into a parent teacher conference or something, so I said what about X and she said sure. X was a name of a tribe of warriors in her story, so the chief in my story has the name of the tribe in hers. That’s kinda cool, to me, like saying “Hi” to a friend in the story.

      I also have subtly interlocked my stories by re-using one character, and having the MC’s mom work at the law firm that another story’s MC’s father worked at. Why not? No reason to do it, no reason not to. She had to have a job and a boss, so why not us ones I’d already created?

      One point the critique partners have mentioned: a character is thought to be a bad guy, and the character is about to die. I was going to rehabilitate him but nobody trusts him, so I’m going to let the readers have their way and let him die as a bad guy, basically accidentally “admitting it” as he is about to die. Well, the admission causes his death. But still.

      I may have to try that initial thing.

  9. #21. How has your experience with editors been (you can name names if you liked you editor)? My experience with editors… well, I haven’t had any, so that was a bit disappointing. (oh, and you have a grammar error, I fixed it in my question… it should be ‘your’ not you’)
    So… let’s do it again….
    /spinning lights, “No Whammy, No Whammy!”
    #15. Can you wash light and dark clothes together? Have you even turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer? Abso-fikking-lutely. You can wash whatever colors and shades you want together. I think it’s a law now, to conserve water and detergent or some other green planet idealism that you must do this. Granted, I wear predominantly blue, black and grey, so… And no, I have never turned anything pink (because, as I said, blue, black, and grey).

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