Category Archives: Challenge

Book in a Week Challenge

Last week, my son went to visit his dad in Phoenix. For the WHOLE week. In order to distract myself (and keep from getting dehydrated with all the tears), I challenged myself to write a book in a week. 50,000 words in 7 days. I was fairly confident I could do it, providing I didn’t get bogged down in “where the heck does this go next?” It would be hard, especially physically, but I was determined to do my best.

I didn’t actually make it.

biawfinal

43,083 words. SO CLOSE. I’m really bummed I didn’t make it, but I also know exactly why it didn’t happen.

  1. I started on the wrong day. Ideally, I would have started shortly after they left on Sunday and gotten a full day of writing in. Instead, I let myself miss him and ended up playing Don’t Starve Together with my brother half the day. Good for my mental health, but it meant that my seventh writing day was the following Sunday…when he was home all day.
  2. I took a day off in the middle. My brain was verging on burnout, so I took a day to play Fallout 76, watch Cheers, and generally futz around. I should have taken a half day, not a whole day.
  3. My sixth day, Saturday, was also a half day. I didn’t realize they would be back as soon as they were, so I didn’t schedule my time accordingly.

For reference, here are my numbers:

Monday: 8,207
Tuesday: 8,544
Wednesday: 8,940
Thursday: 0
Friday: 10,093
Saturday: 3,189
Sunday: 4,110

Had those last two days been full days, or had I not taken Thursday off, I’d have made it.

And, honestly? Who am I kidding?

I wrote 43,000 words in 6 days!! 

Even though I didn’t actually hit 50k, I still kind of feel like I did. Here’s my takeaway:

  1. With the right setup, I can write for 6 hours without any pain. Friday was an 8-hour day, and made my shoulder ache something fierce.
  2. 6 hours is a perfect amount of work, providing #1 is true. I felt excited, refreshed, and downright jubilant when I was done. As opposed to Friday, when I ended with a stressed-out brain buzz and only wanted to sleep for two days to recuperate.
  3. Short books make it easier to maintain writing momentum. Longer books have longer arcs, meaning one has to hold a bigger picture in one’s head. This series is somewhat actiony and plot-driven, so it moves from one scene to the next without a lot of subtext. Godmother would not have been nearly so easy.
  4. Knowing the plot – at least major and minor guideposts along the way – is imperative. Part of the reason I took Thursday off was to figure out a way forward (I ended up using most of my notes in the first three days). Deep plotting isn’t necessarily required (but I know from writing Eternals that it helps even more).
  5. Mental breaks are necessity. During previous long slogs (usually around the climax of each book when everything gets really moving and I don’t want to stop), I needed days to recover. I can get away with less time if I know where I’m going when I get back, or have #6.
  6. Habit is insanely important to the creative process. At the end of Wednesday, I had no idea where I was going or what came next…like, at all. I told myself I was going to ponder the problem while playing games (ha ha – I know better, and I still tell myself this lie all the time). When Friday started, I still no had idea where I was going, but I used my breakfast to figure it out and I was at the keys on time and obviously full of verve.
  7. Deadlines that mean something actually matter. I suck at deadlines and due dates. They are my Achilles Heel. Not because I’m lazy or have poor time management skills, but because I have no emotional connection to getting it done. You can dangle all the rewards or punishments you want, but if I’m not emotionally invested in what I’m doing, it doesn’t happen. So I need to find ways to challenge myself consistently that matter to me in order to be my most productive. (Which I already knew, but finding out there are things that matter enough is huge.)
  8. Since I’m a broke work-at-home mom, I don’t get 6 hours of uninterrupted writing time 5 days a week. But if I did, and if I figured out how to maintain it, I could theoretically crank out even a Godmother book in a little over a month. And isn’t that just a lovely goal framework, right there?

So, I didn’t make my goal but I learned a lot of really important things about myself and my process. And I’m almost done with my Top Secret Project #2. In a week. Those are some huge wins!

The most important thing I’m walking away from this challenge with, though? The knowledge that if I ever manage to make money from my books, I really can make it work full-time.

And honestly? I don’t know that there’s anything more important to a writer than having faith in ourselves. Some have it in spades; others of us have to work at it. But if you’re like me, rest assured it’ll come. It’s a practice, not a finite resource. Keep moving forward, keep trying new things, and eventually we’ll get there!

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Challenge Update

Remember that Twitter challenge from my last post?  I forgot about the Twitter part.  Ha…
To be fair, I’ve been posting to Twitter almost every day I write.  That hasn’t been every day, but it’s been a lot more than I was worried it would be!

As of today, my new story contains about 23,000 words.  Woohoo!  Not as many as I hoped, but who cares??  It’s 23,000 new words!

(Personal aside: This is me, on a challenge.  Some people set rigid goals; I only look like I do.  I told myself I wanted a whole novel done, but will I say, “Gosh, what an awful writer I am – I only wrote half a novel in six weeks!” ?  Of course not.  My goals are simply motivational tools so I shoot high and land higher than I would have without them.  In fact, I purposely set goals I know are pretty much impossible.  Maybe it’s the “gifted slacker” mentality I grew up with.  Whatever it is, I’m not actually a goal-oriented person.  I don’t need to beat records or show up other people or their expectations.  It’s nice to engage in word sprints with other people and be named the winner, but…enh.  I’m in it more for the camaraderie.  I get my warm fuzzies from the journey, not the destination.  So just remember that: I will never “win” a challenge I set for myself, but I only “lose” if I forget about it or give up.  I find this is much more motivational for me than things like NaNoWriMo, which emphasize the finish line.  That’s just me and the way I work; YMMV.)

It occurred to me as I sat down for today’s session that 23k is almost a novella.  In fact, that’s about how much I have left to write on the next 13 Colonies story.  And how cool would it be if I released “The Shot Heard ‘Round the Planet” on the same day as the actual shot heard ’round the world was fired?  Pretty darn, at least for the history buff I am. 🙂

Granted, it’d be close.  I’d have to upload it April 17th or 18th to ensure it went on sale the right day.  I have exactly 6 weeks to finish the sandpaper draft, revise to rough, edit to beta, wait for beta response, edit to gamma, polish, format, and upload.  As well as contract art to be finished in 2-3 weeks.  That’s a pretty darn tight time frame.

But then, wasn’t that the whole point of the novella series to begin with, at least in part?  To be able to release something new within my zany home schedule that won’t take an eon to create?

I say, let’s do this thing!

Now I just need to find my notes, import into Scrivener, and get a better handle on the plot so I can figure out what was wrong with the last scene that made me stop writing it.  (I think it had something to do with the central character of the scene being a Person of Color and my getting bogged down in what message I wanted to convey with him.  But that’s just a guess.)

Wish me luck!

Twitter Challenge

My plan to spend this month writing has crashed and burned.  Miserably.  I am therefore handing myself a parachute and a flame retardant suit to salvage my month.  Parachute: a new story.  Anti-burn suit: a challenge.

Will these two things offer me greater motivation?  Will they pave the way to greater glory?  A better routine?  Stellar consistency?  No idea.  But we’re gonna find out!

Today, I’m issuing myself a challenge.

Every day, I will post once (minimum) to my Twitter account (@TheEarthGirly) to update my monthly tally.  The Twitterverse can then lament, cheer, or ridicule as they will.  This will hopefully provide me with accountability that comes with just enough pressure that I’ll be truthful and not pad my state-of-writing for the day.  (Yes, I let myself count stuff I shouldn’t when it’s a “write or not” option.  Never numbers, ’cause that would be cheating, but a general, “Sure, I wrote today,” when I’m referring to blogs or notes or just general stuff.  It’s the guilt of slackerdom, and I’m working to slay it.)

I’m only allowed to count new words.  On a STORY.  My original intention was to spend February on rewrites of Gryphon’s Overture so I could run the kickstarter next month.  But the more I thought about ways to improve it, ways it needs to be improved, the more I realized I should start from scratch.  And that’s a MUCH bigger project than I’m prepared to tackle right now.  Instead, I’ve come up with a whole new story idea just for fun.  Something to plink away at without pressure, without worrying about what it’s going to do for me (and therefore what it has to do for me).  Something to use to rebuild a daily (or close to) writing habit so that I can learn how to write when I have to instead of when the stars of our household cosmically align (so, like, never).  It’s a fun idea.  YA paranormal.  Part of me wants to serialize it, part of me wants to not worry about that kind of schedule.  For this month, though, I’m just going to write it and worry about the publishing side later (if ever).

To win this challenge, I have to tweet on 13 of the 15 days remaining in February and write new words on at least 10 of them.

When I win, I get two more weeks to play in this world before I have to go be a responsible adult and find a day job.

Come cheer me on @TheEarthGirly!

BEGGAR Add-On

Your week’s BEGGAR Challenge:
Pick up an object on your right.  Doesn’t matter what it is – could be your mouse, a book, a chocolate bar – just whatever is closest to hand.  Take a minute to look at it.  Really look at it.  Notice its seams, its texture.  Does it have a smell?  Once you’ve turned it over several times, gotten a solid, tactile idea of what it is, put it someplace you can’t see it.  Now describe it.  Use a lot of adjectives.  Be florid.  Describe it like it’s the most important object in the room.  Incorporate as many senses as you can, within the bounds of logic (you don’t need to describe how your mouse tastes, for example, unless you really want to!).  Make it a whole paragraph!

Got the paragraph?  Now take all of it, every dripping descriptor, and truncate it to a sentence.  Capture as much of the original paragraph as you can.

Have your sentence?  Now, make this object truthfully the most important thing in the room.  Give it magic.  Make it the keystone of an insidious plot, or  the last of its kind.  Or maybe its value was in the person who gifted it.  Make it up!

And most of all, have fun with it. 🙂

I may not participate in this challenge, just because I have a crazy ton of stuff due to my boss (that’s the slave-driver in my conscience, and her whip is painful) this week.  It’s a fun exercise, though, and once you get good at it, you’ll never want for story ideas again!

BEGGAR Progress

I’ve been remiss in updating.  I wanted to post Monday and completely spaced it.  Why?  Because I’ve been working!

I haven’t added any new words to the work-in-progress.  This bums me out.  On the other hand, I have spent literally days on Kickstarter plans!  And despite my lack of updates, I have, in fact, made good on my BEGGAR challenge.  Most days, I’ve been planning and plotting and marketing and researching.  I’ve gotten in 30 minutes every day since we started.  So even though I was really wanting those 30 minutes to be actual writing, I’m perfectly happy with 30 minutes spent on my writing career. 🙂

That’s my progress; how’s yours?

And just in case you need the extra fun, here’s a challenge!

This week (near-week, as I’ll check in on Monday), compile a list of story ideas.  We’ll make it 8 ideas for the shorter week.  They don’t have to be complex ideas, just seeds from which you might grow a story later.  I often find that what I think are new story ideas are actually ideas that can be worked into my current story in a fun, unexpected way.  And if not, at least it gets the creativity flowing!

My example for today: A little girl discovers a fairy hiding in her Christmas tree.

‘Tis the season!
See you Monday!

The BEGGAR

Every December, agent Nephele Tempest challenges her blog readers to write every day for a month.  She adds mini challenges to make it more exciting, more creative, and to get the words flowing.  When I ran an online writing group, I also ran a challenge.  I called it the NILE – the Noveling In Limited Epic.  It was essentially NaNoWriMo a month or two later, except participants could usually choose their own end goal.  That writing group is now defunct (though I’m proud and elated to say that three of us have begun to craft careers out of writing – yay us!), so I can’t rightly run the NILE anymore.  But I still like to refocus my efforts in the cold, dark months of our Northern Hemisphere year.  All the cold and snow generally makes me more productive.  So I should just batten down the hatches, close up all the windows, and get to it, right?

: /

I’m a Virgo.  I like structure.  Just snuggling into my chair with a cold keyboard and a hot cup of cocoa isn’t enough.  I need boundaries, guidelines, goals.  These are my writer quirks, and I’ve learned that the best way to boost productivity (and my chances at success) are playing to them, not against them.

I don’t want to write 50,000 words this month (well, of course I want to, but I don’t want that to be my goal).  Rather than the NILE, I give you:

The Best Effort Given Grants Achievement Rewards (B.E.G.G.A.R.) Challenge

The BEGGAR’s purpose is to create a habit.  It can be any habit, really.  All you have to do is set aside 30 minutes each day this month (including and especially Christmas!) to focus on your chosen habit.  It doesn’t have to be in a single chunk.  You can break it down wherever it fits into your day.  Have five minutes sitting in the drive-thru at Starbucks every morning?  Use it to think about your writing.  Finish your lunch early?  Take ten minutes to stretch out your muscles.  Whatever your chosen goal area is, find or make 30 minutes across each day to work on it.

Before you begin, you also need to set a reward at the finish line.  I’m not really achievement-oriented, so I can’t say whether it’s better to pick something related to your new habit, or if it’s better to be something you really want.  I suspect it varies from person to person.  Whatever it is, set it down in writing.  Post it where you will see it.  Like this:

Today, I will spend 30 minutes on _____.
On January 6th, I win _____!

That’s it!  I will come back with a couple focus challenges throughout the month.  You can join me in them or not, that’s up to you.

30 minutes.  30 days.  1 new habit and a prize!

For me, I’m going to be working on my writing for 30 minutes each day.  Writing new words, editing old ones, brainstorming, plotting, and all the wonders and marvels of being a writer.  One day each week I will dedicate to the publishing side – marketing, research, blogs (both reading and updating), social media, etc.  When I complete the month, I will post an excerpt of my next novella, The Shot Heard ‘Round the Planet.  I get to share, you get to read, everybody wins!

If you choose to join in, please feel free to comment along the way.  Writing is a lonely business, and I like the company!

Good luck!