Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writer's Challenge IV

An embarrassment of riches

JAN: If you're my friend on Facebook, you probably got a little bored with my updates about the solid rain and wind gusts of the first three days of my vacation. But the upshot of the deal was this: I wrote like crazy.

Not only did I finish the first draft of my novel, I rewrote and edited as much as I possibly can before I go to step two in my process, which is a system of evaluation that requires manilla file folders and more importantly a print out. Since I didn't bring my printer, there's nothing else I can do on the novel until my husband, who is going off island tomorrow, returns with one Thursday.

So I shifted to my non-fiction project and finally solved a structural problem that has been thwarting me for the last six months. I came up with book proposal synopsis I loved and even finished the first chapter of the book. Or should I say my FOURTH attempt at a first chapter.

I attribute this productivity partly to the bad weather and partly to the inspirational working conditions -- all four of us, my husband, daughter, son and me, have been sitting around the dining room table with laptops so close, I had access to my son's music files. When other people are working near you, it's just a lot easier to work. But most of all, I attribute it to the challenge. The daily writing that keeps my "head in the game" all the time.


By today, Saturday, I had nothing left to do but revise the first chapter based on my son's edits, which meant I had to download it from my email. So I broke the rule of the challenge. I checked email first. The only other choice I had was to start a short story or an essay or something, which I considered. But it seemed a little crazy, seeing as I'm already writing two books at once and I am on vacation.

So this is a longwinded way of saying mea culpa. mea culpa. And of course, a not-so-subtle way of offering yet another backhanded compliment to the challenge itself.

If anyone else has broken the rules, please tell me.And everyone else feel free to yell at me and tell me you disapprove. I'm highly susceptible to disapproval. That'll launch me right back onto the wagon and help me stay there!!

In the meantime, sun is out and I'm off to the beach!!


  1. A girl of my own heart. I'm a beach bum. Whenever I head to the beach, I have the best intention of writing while I'm there. But before the sun even comes up, the beach beckons and I decide that a walk awaits before the heat and humidity settle. Then the rest of the household wakens, and there's too much social interaction to write. Then, I pack the cooler. Off we go to the beach until early evening. Dinner, bed and one day of vacation is gone. Before I know it, I'm home. Relax, take time off from writing and experience life. It will renew you and those experiences will add to your writing.

  2. You're amazing. I'm trying to visualize that scene in my house - Bruce and I working in the same room. I can almost hear "Honey, where's the..." now.
    I've had to add my own twists and turns to the challenge. Mine will be the Ro Challenge. I spent this weekend holed up in my apartment in New York polishing book five while my husband and dog were enjoying the pool, the garden, and the lovely weather in CT.
    I had to. There was no way I would have gotten my work done with all of those distractions calling me. I've also decided that if I work from midnight to 3am, as I did last night, that counts as the "morning before email." Not completely orthodox but then sometimes you have to bend the rules a little.

  3. I did pretty good this week, pumping out a page before connecting to the 'net.' Every day except Wednesday when I apparently forgot I was a writer at all until midway through the afternoon when I did a face palm, or maybe that's a forehead palm, and got my page written.

    I am liking this one page thing, because even though it's way short of my usual goal it gets me writing first thing. I figure I can do one page before everything else, whereas the usual goal is daunting and gets put off. And I typically write more than a page once I get started.

    This challenge was a great idea.

  4. I confess. I was dreading admitting I cheated. I cheated on the challenge on Friday. After weeks (it seems like months) of hot and humid weather, clouds or rain, we finally got a dry, breezy day in the 80s and Hubby said, "It’s a Sewaren day." I guess I should mention that Hubby quietly reads at the dock unless he it forgets him magazine or book, then he's a PITA because he thinks it cute to bother me.

    Knowing I was going to the dock with Hubby and Alphie (my AlphaSmart) where I would spend the afternoon writing, I cheated and did the e-mail thing first.

    Believe me, I did not do this lightly. I sat with my laptop for 15 minutes trying to convince myself it was okay to do this. I made a deal with myself. Since I had finished the short story I was working on, I told myself if I cheated, I had to write the whole next story in one afternoon. And I did it!! (I also noticed that after all this time Alphie spends at the waterfront, he needs a bath. Wow do his keys need a good brushing and dusting in between them.)

    My goal this week is to not only to write at least one new page a day but to go back and do a rewrite on the 9 short stories (in 37+ pages)I’ve written since I started this challenge on Aug 8th. I have never written this fast while writing short stories. This challenge has done wonders for my creatively and my writing. And my housework, but who cares about that.

    Oh and I started an article for the SinC-CJ newsletter on the mantra I accidently created. Gee, I forgot those pages, I'll add them to my chart now.

    Sometimes it’s okay to cheat. Looking forward to next week.

  5. Since others are confessing...I had to check email first one day. I returned work to someone late one night, and there was no way I could write the next morning before making sure it had arrived safely.

    Other days, did just fine.

    I have a complaint, however: Why are people at the beach, but I'm not at the beach?

  6. Ramona...I hear you! Where's our beach? Although I am looking at the sun on the East River and that's pretty nice, it aint walking on the beach.

  7. Ha, @Kate. Wednesday must have been Forget Day. I also just forgot to do my page. Weird, because I've been very keen on doing it every day. But I had written two pages the day before, so I forgave myself.

    As for the beach: Ahhhh. I adore the beach, and we have a lovely one in our town (Ipswich, Mass), where I have get an annual parking sticker from the town. Since my new WIP (thanks to the Challenge) starts in May in nice weather, my protag has already walked on the beach twice, and this morning I had her go for a late afternoon run on same beach. I expect she'll be finding the body on the rocks in the next page I write. So my nearly daily beach visits are just research...

    Jan, your family must have had some communal creative energy going!


  8. [Off topic: I remember a post and comments here a couple of years ago about getting a publicity photo taken. I have one scheduled for next Saturday and would like to reread the tips in that post, but I don't see any way to search the Jungle Red archives and the Google isn't being helpful. Can somebody please point me to the month and year? Thanks!]

  9. This week, I had two days of intensive work on a case, didn't write a single word either of those days.

    Otherwise, revised the draft-in-progress other days this week. Maybe 30 pages (?).

    Most days, I need to check business email first thing, but I figure that's business, so I'm adhering to the rules. Went "no email" on a yahoo group I've been on for over a decade, told my writer pals I'd be back after I finish this ms.

    My confession for this week: Spent an hour Thursday a.m. pre-writing playing with Twitter. It was like being on a diet and gorging on chocolate cake. Still not sure what I accomplished except I ingested a lot of trivia.

  10. I cheated yesterday. A friend was visiting from another state and the only way to get a hold of her to set up the time for our get together breakfast today was via Facebook. I knew I wasn't going to be able to write until late in the day and didn't want her left dangling. Good manners trumped good intentions. I felt guilty so I did an extra page to make up for it.


    Here it is, Edith!

    So long ago I'd forgotten I was the one who'd started the stem for this one.

  12. So nice to know others have cheated. If you can't cheat in the last week of August, when can you cheat?

    And yes, I had to cheat again today. I had to check my email THEN the Steamship authority website to confirm the car reservation so my husband and daughter could take it home.(i'm the only on with the password) And I didn't get up and write first, I lounged around the deck having coffee with first my husband and daughter, and then my son.

    But life is short and family time limited so I'm taking E.B.'s advice and not feeling guilty. Now my son and I are both working at the table and sending our edits of each others work back and forth. I'm in heaven actually.

    But don't worry E.B. Rosemary, Edith and Ramona. I'll get to the beach by about 3 pm. I love it as it the sun starts to weaken. The water is amazingly warm and surf perfect.

    Colleen, I completely agree with you on business email. And yes, Jesse, good manners trumps the challenge.

    CONFESSION: I've been eating sugar again, too. But will get back on all wagons shortly. (like when I'm not in MV where the apple fritters warm from the Back Door Bakery at 9:30 p.m. are out of this world!)

  13. OOPS, Sorry, forget to log out of Jungleredwriters.

    That last comment was from me!

  14. I forgot to thank Kate for her kind words about the challenge. And to Ro and Edith about the family dynamics here at the Edgartown table.

    And to applaud Kate, Pat , Colleen, Ro and all you guilt-ridden people who penance is so many productive pages!!

  15. Hey all!Lovely to hear from you!

    (RO, book five! IS DONE??? You're too much.)

    I'm overwhelmed with day-job work and speaking commitments and all kinds of stuff.

    At writing times, I've never checked e-mail first, but you know the rules of the Hank Challenge--my page a day--no email can't start til I get home from work.

    So, sometimes I did it, and sometimes I didn't. But that's okay. This has been a chaotic writing week for me. I decided to drop two points of view from my five-point-of-view novel.

    So I had to begin to revamp the whole synopsis.

    And in the manuscript, I just LOST 2500 words. Eesh. But I gained insight, right?

    And my agent is writing I LOVE IT and BRAVO in capital letters in her emails to me. So I think that's good, right? And makes up for the week of weirdness.

    This is all very difficult, though. And my husband is out by the pool, soaking up the sun, and I'm in here, writing.

  16. I got caught off by blogger.

    What I said, was Hank those changes all sound great. And as a very smart person said to me recently (Hank herself)


  17. Week 3: Day 21, page 33

    Sounds like everybody out there is having way more fun than I am! And what is it about Wednesdays? Most of my productivity this week came in the first three days because I had some surgery on Wednesday. The good news? It’s not serious. The bad news? It involves my right eye. Clear vision is gradually returning but right now the world is a tad blurry. My writing time is limited to short spells for the next while. Would that I had a beach to retreat to in between spells. But there is a lovely park in the centre of town. Perfect for wandering about and since this park happens to be the location of the murder for my WIP I call the time I spend there research.

  18. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do -- and this morning was my first time to check email -- actually only one email -- before writing at least a page of new material.

    By common agreement (after receiving too many -- what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-this-present gifts) we circulate a list of possible gift ideas before our birthdays. Then as items are purchased, everyone, other than the sender, gets a return email removing items from the list.

    My daughter procrastinates before getting her list out, so there is usually little time to act if you want to get those free shipping in 5-7 business day deals.

    Worse, my parents and sisters don't have the same prohibition I am running with in terms of looking at emails -- and my son and two sisters are now visiting me.

    So, when my son informed me his sister had sent her list, I decided to ignore the rules -- I'll pay my fine, officer -- and find out what she wanted, order it, and then write before any other work on the internet.

    Good thing to, because as soon as my sister awoke, she was into her her email!

    ~ Jim

  19. Ilonka,
    Sorry to hear about your eye surgery but glad you are on the mend. Enjoy the park!

    Especially when it comes to families, you're so right, You gotta do, what you've gotta do.

  20. Ilonka--we're thinking of you! Take care..and it's okay to rest..

    EB--I think that's a whole fascinating blog topic. I'm always afraid to relax.

  21. My 'cheat' this week was writing my inaugural blog post online first thing instead of working on my novel some more. I rationalized that I COULD have written the post in Word and then pasted it into the blog; it was simply easier to write it in situ.

    This past week I also learned that setting pen to real paper before I ever touch the computer is more likely to result in pages than sitting at the computer with all those inherent distractions staring back at me from the desktop. By the time I finish transferring the paper draft into the computer later in the day, momentum is often rolling and further pages result.

    I finished the week a page behind on the novel all the same. And that is even if I include the pages 'cheated' on Rosemary Harris' motif of counting pages produced after midnight. I usually write really well after midnight, but this week I was watching a 'Bones' marathon. Sigh.

  22. Ilonka, you're killing someone in Crescent Park? Great contrast: the serene canal, flowerbeds and fountains with a dead body!

    I'll be waiting with bated breath for that bit of the manuscript!

  23. Confession # Just to make a few of your feel better.

    No beach. My waterfront is a dock on the Arthur Kill across from Staten Island NY. There are oil tanks on three sides along with the PSE&G plant. Hubby and I pretend they don't exist and just watch the water and the boats some of which are huge oil tankers. This is 'my' waterfront.

    Of course on the fourth side are a dozen 'cottages' from the mid 1800s. Where we now sit used to be Boynton Beach until the Boynton's sold out the oil guys and left for Florida.

    So now you have a a bit of Sewaren NJ history. For some reason I still write better here.

    Good luck on the challenge this week.

  24. I did better writing this week than the previous ones. But I've run into a snag that's holding me back. Our chapter is having a 6 hour writing retreat on Sept 11 away from all those normal interuptions. Can't wait! Hopefully I can brainstorm with others and get past it.

  25. This week was a tough one. Everything and everybody appeared, leaving me struggling to get my one page out of the way.

    I resisted doing it just to get it out of the way--but there it was. Finally yesterday I came to peace with my writing...I'm ready for the next week.

  26. Pat,
    I'm picturing a movie set there. Jersey is hot now!

    Jayne, we will certainly forgive you your inaugural blog post. Congrats on the new blog.

    Donna - I envy you your writers retreat. And RJ, think there are just days and weeks like that. You write just to make the page and sometimes its awful. But then when you look at it, recognizing it as awful helps you come up with what's right.

    The chapter I thought was so awesome on Friday is all wrong today.But at some point I WILL get it right.

  27. Sorry, I'm late posting, sounds like there was a lively discussion going round, and I too want my beach.

    I cheat. I do. I give myself great reasons, but I cheat.

    Good news is I've almost reached my work count last week for the first time since nationals. This week I'm only working four days so I'll get some good counts this week too.

  28. Lynn,
    Nationals?? Are you talking about sailing?? Marblehead? It would be a really spooky coincidence if you were.


  29. I'm at the point where I'm looking at the challenge in reverse: any day I get new writing done is a success. Too much life is happening here. I have finished revising another chapter with substantial new material. So my challenge is just to keep going, even if it's just a few new pages a week.

  30. Jan... it took me a few minutes to stop laughing... me...sailing...

    No, I was mentioning RWA nationals. I've been trying to up my word count since I got back.

  31. Lynn,
    Ah... I had just edited my sister in law's account of winning the Nationals at Marblehead, so it just seemed like an unbelievable coincidence -- and indeed it was!!


  32. I have had many problems -- the first week I raved about my Alpha Smart. But then I forgot to bring it to work and transfer files to my flash drive because the Alpha Smart doesn't talk to my home computer but does talk to my work computer. So ugh -- today (Sept 1) is the first time I have written since August 22... mia culpa mia culpa, but hopefully I am back on the wagon!