Sunday, August 15, 2010


JAN: I have a confession to make. I'm also doing another challenge. It's called the three week Sugar Smackdown and I'm into the third week of no sugar (even the one gram in English muffins) no sugar substitutes, no alcohol, no white flour (that means no Baguettes or Italian bread) or processed grains of any kind (white rice.) Even white potatoes are frowned upon.

On the positive side, this challenge is doing as promised, and I've lost my four o'clock craving for chocolate and can look at desserts with sincere disinterest. But I still miss my morning cran-raspberry juice, I miss a glass of Pino Grigio with dinner when I'm at a restaurant, and I am beyond sick of no-sugar iced tea, water, and flax-oat-pita bread with hummus.

In contrast, I'm not suffering from any deprivation in the Writer's Challenge; there is nothing I miss. I surely don't miss checking my email first thing in the morning. I don't miss looking at the clock and realizing its 10:30 and I still haven't written a word because I've been caught up in blogs or responding to Facebook messages. And I'm not sick of producing a minimum of one to two pages of new writing a day!

As others have written in to say: I feel better about myself when I'm not sucked into the Internet. When I accomplish my own goal before I indulge in what Hank calls "passing notes in class" (email) or what I think of as chit-chat at the water cooler. So far, there is no down side.

A technical point. One day I wrote a full page of a scene, but the next day I decided I didn't need that scene at all and jumped to a different scene. Does that one page count, even though I scrapped it? I think so -- because sometimes you have to write a bad page to see that its exactly what you don' t need. The bad move offers clarity on a better move. What do you think?

In other news :Julie Hennrikus at the SISTERS IN CRIME National Blog heard about our challenge and the incredible response to it (almost a hundred participants) and will be writing about it later this week at Check it out. One of the things she wanted to know if there were any surprises.

Outside of how many people shared my Internet procrastinations, I've been surprised at how I've started to feel a connection to all of you sharing this six week journey, and how people have been willing to share some of their personal struggles and frustrations both in blog comments and on Twitter #JRWRITEFIRST.

So please, keeping sharing.. Writing is an emotional game, and our productivity often suffers from setbacks like bad writing days and rejections.

The good news is that we've all had those bad days and cried about those rejections. We all can really understand.

So keep it going: WRITEFIRST!!


  1. Well I feel as if I am cheating a little -- because I have something that is just a word processor and so has no internet connection. SO I make my coffee, read a daily meditation, hand write a journal and then grab my AlphaSmart -- after a few days I can download it to my computer and create a word document. I have found that it goes amazingly quickly.

    Years ago when I spoke to a career counselor when I was trying to figure out what "I wanted to be when I grew up" -- he told me to write for an hour a day. As a single mother with a toddler and an infant -- that was impossible, but one page is very much doable and often turns to more. Thanks!

  2. Gulp, am I the first person here?

    The weekdays were easy because I normally write three pages before I check anything. But Wednesday was a challenge. I knew there were pictures of my cutie-pie, three year-old nephew waiting in my Inbox. I'm not sure the three pages I wrote that morning make any sense at all. Of course that can be said about a lot of my pages.

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  4. Jan, It's life-changing! MY rules are a tiny bit different, because I have to go to the office in the morning ,and so I must check work email. But when I get home at night and its book-writing time, I am incredibly empowered by the knowledge that I cannot look at email or Facebook.

    Here's what's happening, though. When I do my page, and often more, then I think--okay, now I can check my email. ANd suddenly--I'm thinking: why? Nothing's going to be there. Maybe I'll just go on writing. Wow.

    So WRITE FIRST diminishes the desire to procraastinate and hang out on line. It makes it seem--likea bit of a waste of time, (Which, of course, often but not always, it is.)

    But I am so happy with this!

    Confesssion: I have missed some days of writing. ANd right now , I am in Dulles airport waiting for a plane, and couldn't possibly write in the airport. (AM I absolved?)

    But I certianly have a page done for each day of the challenge! And I am grateful. ANd so happy to see all of you here.

    I think I fixed my "nothing happens" problem. Hurray. And I had one or two what I hope are really good ideas. NOw I'm working on making sure my main character is not whiny.

    HOw are you doing?


  5. I managed to end the first week with 11 pages I would not have had otherwise, even though I didn't meet the challenge more than half the days this past week. Maybe next week I'll do better.

    What the challenge has done for me so far, though, is nudge me into thinking last thing at night what I will be writing about in the morning. It is surprising how lively my subconscious can get when it has 8 uninterrupted hours to play with a situation. There are several new elements to a manuscript I was having trouble finishing in part because it was so well laid out in my head that writing out the bits was rather dull. Now I have new maguffins to chew over and my interest in finishing has been rejuvenated.

    Also, a bonus of sorts: I was so engaged with the work getting done on this manuscript that the two rejection letters I received this week didn't bother me half as much as they would have if I had not been working on something that (and this may sound familiar to some) is my best, most brilliant, most fulfiling work EVER. :-) (we'll just ignore that I said the same at some point about the rejected novels too, right?)

  6. This challenge was perfect for me. I had been procrastinating starting a new futuristic novel while I was in the midst of two big rewrite/editing projects.

    Seven days, ten pages and 3,300 words more than I would have had without the challenge.

    I am enjoying the freedom the challenge is providing in not having to immediately check and respond to emails. I'm old enough to remember when it took a week or more for a letter to arrive, but I've allowed myself to be sucked into the perceived need for instantaneous communication.

    Like losing weight, the first few successes are certainly the easiest, but I'm looking forward to week two.

    ~ Jim

  7. I guss I'm the second Lynn... LOL

    Confession: I have trouble not opening my email /blogs first. Real trouble.

    But, I've been able to resist the urge a majority of the days this week (except today..) and I will do better next week.

    My writing time is so limited, why do I care if Kohls is having a sale? And if there is a short story sale in there, I can always respond when I get to work.

    This week I'll do better. Really.

  8. First, I love the Sugar Smackdown idea. Now that I've already had a sweet roll with my coffee, I'll consider starting that one another day.

    As for my writing, I've got thirteen pages to date. But I may be approaching this differently. I'm using The Weekend Novelist book to build my plot, characters, setting, etc. I started with about three pages of narrative and then began working the plan in the book.
    I had no idea I was going to write this story when I started.

  9. I am hanging in with the challenge, but I had one really hard day. I hand wrote something so quickly, and illegibly, I'm not sure it counts, but I'm counting it anyway.

    Jan, I'm voting your deleted scene counts, because I had to delete 21 pages of a tangent. Ouch. That was much more difficult than the actual writing. I am back on track, but my numbers are low.

    Also, thanks to everyone for the kind words about my dog last week. The vet's office sent a plaster cast they'd made of her paw, which I have on my desk as a touchstone. So I have my writing partner again.

  10. Yes! I'm surprised at how much easier the writing comes when my mind isn't cluttered with news of Kate & 8's latest, or how to tactfully respond to a friend's email (and attached photo) about her bad haircut. I HATE plot outlines, but I'm actually doing one (I hope plot outline counts as a page, because that's what I'm working on). Anyway, just checking in to say I'm still "the mistress of my domain."

  11. I love writing a page a day. Most days I write more than one. My average is about two or three. One day I wrote six. That was great. What I like best and what inspires me most is knowing that I only have to write one page a day. One page is sort of like doing one push-up.

    I have been using the page a day challenge to get myself working on drafts of short fiction I have been wanting to write for quite a while. In this first week, the draft of one short story is almost done. When that's done, I will start the draft of another short story.

    The best thing is by doing the one page or more a day work out I keep my writing muscles in shape. Now, if I could just work out my body muscles everyday, I be in great shape!

  12. I, unfortunately, am having email withdrawals. It's easier to do my one page on weekdays than on weekends, too. But, I persist. That's got to count for something.

  13. Wow.
    It's so great to hear everyone's story -- and honesty. It is harder on the weekend for me, too. Which I knew it would be. But I keep telling myself it's only one page.

    The hardest day is Sunday. WHY??? Because I want to go immediately to the blog and check all your comments!!

    I love that the challenge is helping Jayne withstand the rejections. We've all gotten them. Funny story -- I once had an agent reject a book that I hadn't sent her and THAT was already published. So let's just say, they don't always read the material that carefully.

    And I absolutely LOVE and PLan to steal JoAnn's line that she is mistress of her domaine!!

    And I'm happy everyone's honest about slips and successes!!

  14. Wow, what a week. I kept my commitment of at least one page a day. It was easy on Sunday and Monday. Tuesday I slept through my early wake up time so it took a strength of will not to peek at e-mails before producing one page—but I did it. Wednesday was a struggle. I knew if I could push through by just writing whatever came to mind without trying for perfect—I’d make my one page. By Friday I settled down to a routine and I was writing more than one page—okay a page and a half. But on Saturday I went back and edited my previous pages and wrote 3 more, so that by the time I came to today (Sunday), I’m pretty pleased with the product.

    P.S. Jan, I do think a page written and then tossed counts as a page written.

  15. Hi everybody, I hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday.

    I am doing okay. Despite joining the challenge late, I think I have gotten into a groove. It was very difficult in the beginning. I was so used to going to the Internet first thing before anything. I am a teacher, so summers off means I do whatever I want and don't have to stick to a clear schedule. That was the really tough part because I was lacking the motivation to write everyday. I was really in a slump. Then RWA Nationals came around, and the bug bit me again. Ideas started to flow, but I still lacked discipline. A friend and I started to challenge each other, setting goals and reporting in. Then I Roberta turned me on to this site. Now I have almost 10 pages written with 2639 into so far. Today I wrote 923 in the morning, but I hope to add to that as the day progresses. My goal for myself is 2000 words a day, and I have done it at least once. Now I know it's doable, and feel confident enough that I can make it. There were some rough days when I didn't write anything, but the tide has turned. the first thing I wanted to do when I woke up this morning was write. My character was shouting at me in my sleep, so I got up and wrote what he wanted to say. Thank you so much for this opportunity. Writing first each day was just what I needed. I feel guilty even thinking about going on the internet before I write. Now, I look at is a reward for getting may page (s) done. Thanks again Roberta for turning me on to the challenge. See you guys later.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  16. I'm still in, and two and a half chapters later, very thankful to you all. My biggest problem is one Jan mentioned. I, too, am bedtime reader and, presently, "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" makes for many late mornings.
    Moreover, I find myself more cheerful going about daily tasks because my mind is, once more, solving problems in fiction rather than ones in real life.
    Carry one! You've all done very well. ;0)

  17. James makes a good point. After the novelty wears off the first week, the later weeks can be harder. But really, we just have to iterate and make mantra of JoAnn's comment: We want to stay MISTRESS or MASTER OF OUR DOMAINS rather than let the Internet rule.

    And JM, I've become almost a compulsive workout person, and I started the same way I started this challenge (which helped give me the idea) by establishing a really small and doable goal -- walking one mile, three times a week. Now its hard to keep me inside my office.

  18. I like what Hank (I think it was Hank?) who said that this challenge helps diminish the desire to procrastinate and be online. I hadn't realized how much time I was wasting first thing in the mornings before I put writing first.

    This week I revised a chapter and drafted and polished a new chapter. Approximate totals: revised 16 pages and wrote & polished 12 new pages.

    I'm determined to finish this book during this challenge, and I have 80+ pages to go.

    This morning, first thing, I brainstormed a pivotal scene, then hashed it out with hubby. We're both PIs, so it's good to bounce ideas off him (yes, it's a PI story). Now, having consumed several cups of java, I'm ready to tackle this new scene.

    Thanks for the challenge, Jungle Red!

  19. The challenge hasn't affected my productivity (I do at least 2,000 words/day during the work week)but it sure has improved my focus. I read somewhere this week that it takes 23 minutes to get mentally back on track with a task if you've broken off to do something else (talk to a co-worker, check email, whatever). 23 minutes! I think I've been writing sharper and better since eschewing email.

  20. Did real well first three days, and then those darn babies kept me up all nigh. Patients in office and heavy surgery schedule on Thursday. Spent the weekend catching up on sleep. On bright side, off all next week. Time to catch up. Did my best not to smack the person who said, "Writing is such a nice hobby."

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  22. This first week has been curious and difficult. My usual M.O. is by word- rather than page- count (I'm an 1,000-words-a-day girl, which is usually ... 4? or so pages, unless I've got dialogue with someone WHO IS REALLY MONOSYLLABIC, and then it's even more pages! So yay yup-yup-nope men, I guess.)


    What has been strange is that this week, in the middle of writing and editing the moment when someone learns that someone she loves has died, I've had two deaths in the family, 8 days apart. These were dog deaths -- with all the attached heartbreak and bewilderment (what is happening to us?) when two creatures can only comfort each other so far. One died in my arms during a seizure; the other died of heart failure at the vet's office, just after we got there Friday morning.

    I have always thought that bad-news scenes are tough -- the stuff of poets, who often do it brilliantly (Dickinson: After great pain a formal feeling comes or Wordsworth: Surprised by Joy) or in prose, Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour. So I was writing forward warily.

    And then I said goodbye, twice, and lost a day both days and went back to a house full of holes where these beloved dogs were and found that all the things I was writing (what is that prayer? Dear Lord, today let me write one true line) were accurate enough in sensation, but creating that sensation for the reader was far more than accurately describing what the moment of loss is like.

    And so I cut. cut. cut. And the passage improved. I think. I hope. We'll see in a week, when maybe I'm a little farther from all this.

    On something Jan wrote, I believe if you write a page and cut it a day later, you bet, that's still progress. (Who knows where some of that cut stuff might turn up down the road.) Get it down. Move it around. Take it out. Save it for later. Or simply let it make the narrative wiser paragraphs forward. Consider it all joy.

    Pages and pages to all of you. And scritches to the four-footed members of your family.

    -=Susannah Charleson

  23. Laura,
    I don't where you read that 23-minute thing, or even care whether there's much research behind it. I'm going to start telling myself that every time I have the urge to succumb to any distraction.

    Tanya -- Go ahead. Smack them!
    Colleen -- I'd love to hear some of the conversations in your house! Two PIs.

    And Susannah - so sorry to hear about your dogs!!

  24. Ah, Susannah, we're thnking of you. Skritches.

    Of course it counts if you cut!

    LAura. 23 minutes! That's amazing. And truly believable. ANd quite quite instructive.

    Hurray for all of you! It's inspirational to hear your stories.

    (And I hardly ever eat sugar, by he way. I'm kind of a nut about it.) Life-changing. Cookies, cakes, candy, white bread. white potatoes, white pasta, I just don't care.

    And I'm up to 12,989 words. Not that I'm exactly counting.


  25. I did really well during the week and Saturday but today I forgot to put my IM on invisible and someone cut into my page writing time. I manage to get the page written but I will be very careful in the futre to set my IM before I start.

    I wrote anywhere from a page and a quarter to 2 1/2 pages per day. I finished 3 short story drafts.

    Wher other amazing thing is I had time to clean out the coat closet and do the housework I needed to get finished. It seems I have much more time in the day working this way.

    I hope I can keep it up next week.

    Thanks for doing this.

  26. I've done pretty well. At least until yesterday. The weekends throw me off. So from last Saturday until yesterday I was able to write a page or more before internet access. Once it was on paper, but that counts. Right?

    Yesterday my husband turned on the computer and got us online before I was out of bed, and then he asked me to look something up. It was noon before I remembered to write my page.

    Today I drove for six hours to attend about 4 hours of meetings. So I haven't written yet, but there is still time. I failed today and yesterday, but I'm starting again tomorrow.

    It's the best I can do.

  27. Kate,
    Don't worry, just get back on the horse!! Or maybe its the wagon?? Anyway, sometimes life gets in the way.

    Sometimes I have to do other stuff before I write, and that doesn't seem to be a problem. As long as I stay off the Internet.

    Pat, I'm glad its giving you more time. If I have something to do -- like pay bills - I make myself do that too before I check my email.

    SO if anyone emails me and it takes forever for me to respond -- that's why!

  28. I have been loving this challenge. One page is so easy to accomplish. And often I just keep on going. I have the day-job to maintain and this weekend was very busy, but 11 pages on the new book (while polishing the previous one, writing its synopsis, and so on) is nothing to sneeze at. Thanks for the push, Jan.


  29. I love this challenge! I so need to write first. Email and internet searches are too easy a distraction. This has been my most productive week.

  30. Pat--I agree! How does that happen? Maybe taking control at the computer allows us to take control of other aspects of our lives. Amazing.


  31. Pat--I agree! How does that happen? Maybe taking control at the computer allows us to take control of other aspects of our lives. Amazing.


  32. I must confess to cheating a little; one day I had to do some online banking, and another day, my son had a crisis that required a quick online book purchase. I missed writing (and the internet) two days preparing for an appraisal and putting in a new kitchen floor. But I still have written 10 pages over 8 days .... many more than I would have without this challenge. And the siren song of the internet has become more of an annoyance now that I KNOW I can live without it for more than 24 hours!

  33. I must confess to cheating a little; one day I had to do some online banking, and another day, my son had a crisis that required a quick online book purchase. I missed writing (and the internet) two days preparing for an appraisal and putting in a new kitchen floor. But I still have written 10 pages over 8 days .... many more than I would have without this challenge. And the siren song of the internet has become more of an annoyance now that I KNOW I can live without it for more than 24 hours!

  34. Aug 15, 2010:
    Week 1: Day 7, page 12

    Habit is a terrible thing! One morning this week I automatically opened my email program without even realizing I'd done it. I was horrified to see emails dribbling into my inbox when what I expected to see was the opening page of my novel. I shut it down immediately, but was a little irritated with myself because I’m taking this challenge very seriously. I wrote an extra hundred words that morning just to reinforce the commitment. I’ve since moved the email and browser icons to different locations on my desktop. Now my fingers actually have to consult my brain before opening either program.

  35. I am enjoying the challenge immensely and now have 11 pages on the new book that I probably wouldn't have gotten onto paper otherwise. Thanks for the push, Jan!


  36. This challenge has been a god send for me and now I'm well on the way to finishing the first draft of my book proposal. I started two days late (I seem to be late for everything here, even making my Sunday post) and easily made those up. Once I get started the word count just keeps going. Fun! And thank you!

  37. Ilonka,
    I am impressed with your commitment!! And your solution.

    Kate, Sometime life does get in the way. Especially when you have kids. They always seem to need something IMMEDIATELY. But its the forward momentum that counts most of all. For me, email is much more of a detriment than looking something up online or banking.
    Karen, Edith, Gina,
    I'm so happy to hear this challenge is working for you!

    By the way, NEXT SUNDAY, I'll be en route to Martha's Vineyard and will have to unpack and write my page there BEFORE I do anything on the Internet. So if I don'r respond to comments until evening - that's why!!

  38. Ilonka, I think what happened to you is proof this works! Good job!

    And Kate, that's exactly what I mean. Amazing, huh? YOu begin to look at the internet as an interruption, not the main event.


  39. Sugar and the Internet are the two addictions I struggle with. Unfortunately, I have to begin with the Internet today because when I sent this week's submission to my critique group, I forgot to attach the submission itself. All they got was the note saying, Here it is. But that was at 3:00 a.m., so what could I expect? It's also the reason I woke up at noon. On the other hand, if I hadn't begun with e-mail, I wouldn't have seen this post reminding me to stop starting with the Internet.

    As for the discarded page, it counts. I have zillions of those pages, and they all count. I agree with Nancy Peacock: If I didn't have the pages I hate, I wouldn't have the pages I love.

    Thanks for a valuable and timely post--a good way to begin my day.

  40. KAthy, this is GREAT: I agree with Nancy Peacock: If I didn't have the pages I hate, I wouldn't have the pages I love.

    I'm adopting that as a mantra..thank you!


  41. Hi Kathy,
    I'm totally impressed you are up writing at 3 a.m. in the morning to get things out to your critique group (even if you forgot to attach)

  42. This challenge is just the best! I liked it the way it was issued but I have tweaked it a little. I decided I wanted to complete a first draft of my wip by a date in November. I calculated how many words each day I will need to write to accomplish the goal. Each day I write at least that number before going online. So far I haven't missed a day and my pages are stacking up like crazy. There is so much to be said for being inside the story daily. It creates a momentum that just isn't possible for me otherwise. Thanks so much for thinking of this!

  43. Jessie--I do alomst exactly the same thing! But I have added one thing: I have counted my words and divided by the days. Then, each day when I start, my little ritual is to see how many words I wrote the day before, I add that to my chart.

    Then I do calculate that number plaus 250. That's my first goal. Then I calculate that number plus 540 and that's my second goal. SO I get TWO moments of sucess each day!

    Ah, it's the little things!

  44. Jessie,
    You are more driven and obviously don't have to trick yourself into productivity as much as I do.

    Excellent tweaking!

  45. I've found a new surprise with this challenge. Ideas! Lots of new ideas!. This for a short story writer has become a gold mine. I had spent my time editing a huge project (Crime Scene: New Jersey 3) before I started this challenge. I'd been in editing mode so long I wasn't writing anyting knew; hence, my reason for signing on. I was concerned with "Could I come up with enough ideas to continue writing for six weeks?" Well, not to worry, the ideas are appearing faster than I am writing. When I finish a short story, I start another right away. Now I that I have a few first drafts, I will edit one every other day or so and send it to my critique partners. Wow. I am so loving this challenge.

    Internet, I now control your, not the other way around.

  46. Yes, Pat, exactly! How wonderful! Can't wait to hear about what you come up with...

  47. Yes Pat, That should be our mantra. Maybe we should say it to ourselves every morning.

    I control the Internet, it does not control me. I control the Internet, it does not control me I control........

  48. I have to admit I haven't been writing a page a day but I did write up questions, got replies then put together an interview which will be in our chapter's (Long Island Romance Writers) newsletter. So that's writing but not a story.

    I've got 3 started stories none of which are exciting me. I figure if I'm not excited with what I wrote, how can a reader? So I'm back to square one of finding a beter idea and story line. Maybe a different genre altogether. Sigh.

    PS - I didn't see any positngs for the challenge on Sunday. Or am I just oblivious? Where do we go to post?

  49. DOona, the key is writing first! Whatever your congratulations on the interview!

    And writing ANYTHING will get your brain going.!

    As for posting --we do that every day. And we're #jrwritefirst on twitter.

    ANd hey--I'll be in Long Island for an appearance on Dec 4--let's make sure we connect!

  50. Hi Donna,
    Besides the Twitter postings, there are weekly postings on Sunday -- last Sunday it got buried a bit, but its there -- probably in the archives now, under Rhys Bowen's Seven Wonders of the World.

    You can access archives in the right hand column. But come join us this Sunday, and Hank is right any writing is good writing!

  51. Hi Hank and Jan,
    Thanks for the encouragement.
    Hank-Dec 4th you'll be appearing at the new Sisters in Crime chapter with Marilyn. Right? She's also a member of the Long Island Romance Writers which I'm president of.

    She said you were appearing. I marked in on my calendar. God will'in and the creek don't rise, I'll be there.

    You probably don't remember but I won two of your books at Barbara Vey's virtual party. They're great especially Air Time.

    Thanks again and I'll be posting my progress on Sunday!

  52. Donna, hang in there with those stories. I find this challenge is making me look at stories I started and left becasue they weren't working. On one storie I finished a first draft and yes it neeeds work but that is what rewriting is all about. As per Nora Roberts, "you can fix the writing but you can fix a blank page."
    Good luck.