Sunday, September 12, 2010

Writers Challenge VI

JAN: Well, I'm finally back home and oddly thrilled at the cooler weather and to be working at my own desk again.

I'm deeply immersed in my non-fiction book proposal, which has meant fewer new pages and many more rewritten pages, so I'm not sure how to keep count anymore. But what's important to me is my attitude. The new energy I've gotten from writing every day.

What I'm taking away from the Write First challenge is this: I'm going to keep writing every day, even the weekends. At least a page a day. I've also learned that Internet isn't really a problem for me, After next Sunday, I'm going to go back to allowing work interruptions for online research if I need to. (Is this a relief, Jim? )

But I'm going to stick with no email -- for me until 1 p.m. I'm really a hardcore addict. Once I start, I can't stop. And I'm going to be blogging about research into email addiction the week of October 4th on Jungle Red.

I will be announcing the official winners of the Write First Challenge next Sunday, September 19th - which I think might be a day earlier than I promised. I say "official winners" because I think a lot of us are winners, especially me. Aside from the new lease on my writing life, I've thoroughly enjoyed hearing from all of you - your struggles, your successes and your cheating.

I feel like I have all these new writing friends, and I hope to meet as many of you in person as I can. If not the New England Crime Bake this November, surely at another writers conference or at one of your book signings.

In the meantime, tell me: What parts of the challenge will you keep, if any?? What's the first thing you'd like to ditch?


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  2. NO ditching! I love it. It's an absolutely life-changing experience, nd it's made me ask myelf: What do I think is really going to be in that email?

    ALso--when I do finish my words and go to email, it's oddly--disappointing, you know? And I'm eager to get back to writing.

    Thanks to all of you for being here..I feel personallly very connected to all of you. We've been through something together. Something valuable.

    Wlll I see you at CrimeBake? Or who's going to Bouchercon?

    ANd I'm going to continue to WRITE FIRST! (Okay, usually.)


    PS no, I haven't done my pages today. But I will! I'm on the train home to Boston, so I'm taking the travel dispensation.. :-)

  3. Ah Hank ... if you can write a post on the train, you can write a manuscript page on the train.

    Jan, I'm with you on the research thing. This morning I wanted a character to use the law of sines to show her math geekness. I was 99.9% sure I remembered what it was, but it killed me to have to highlight the section in yellow.

    About three nanoseconds after I finished my page, I had to (I mean HAD to -- can guess who's the real math geek?) check and then go back to eliminate the yellow. I immediately went on to write another page.

    So I get a 100% for rule-following and a 0% for common sense. I've learned I can get the one fact I need from the Internet or a book on hand and get back to writing without being sucked into the information sink.

    Email, RSS feeds, blogs, etc. can and will wait in the future until I have done my writing for the day.

    I knew the value of this prioritization all along, but the Write First challenge has reinforced how good it feels to keep healthy habits.

    So thanks to you all for the challenge.

    ~ Jim

  4. I never doubted the benefits of writing a page a day, but what I didn't realize is the power and the energy I got from making it my first priority.

    After a couple of shaky days, it was easy to go to writing before e-mails.

    Now, after this experience, it's more than just a "to do". I look forward to writing and if anything the one page is a teaser to write more--it's the set up for the next time I sit down to write, even if it's later in the same day.

    Thank you for the challenge!

  5. I get a D- for sticking to the challenge this week. I was in the pattern of returning work late at night, so I HAD to check email first. Do I get a pass because I was thinking of others? Some sympathy? Anything?

    I did write a little every day, but it was rough. However, I'm turning over a new leaf and will get back on track. Today! Now! Yes, I will!

    I am attending Crime Bake for the first time this November. I'd love to meet people. I'll be at the bar. (Is there a bar? If there is one, that's where I'll be :-))

  6. Hi Ramona,
    There IS a bar. And I'll be there, too. There is no ruler across the knuckles for tough weeks - we all have them. (Although I wish there was somewhere with a ruler standing nearby my knuckles sometimes when I'm dying to check awkward family photos for a laugh.)

    Jim, you were the first one to raise the research issue for me and make me think about it. Right now I'm writing a scene where I actually HAVE to go into Google images to find out what my scene looks like. I think as we both don't use research as a means of NOT writing, we're okay.

    RJ - you are lucky. I STILL have shaky days when its hard for me not to write before checking email. I have to actually quote from a 12-step program to myself and say: YOU ARE POWERLESS OVER EMAIL. YOU ARE POWERLESS OVER EMAIL. YOU ARE POWERLESS OVER EMAIL. THen I pray to the writing gods to see me through!!

    Hank -- I feel the same way when I get to my email -- WHAT was I thinking was going to be in there the Publishers Clearinghouse Check for $1 million: But the problem is every now and then I get a really cool email that keeps me hooked.


  7. Hi Jan,

    What have I learned from the Write First Challenge?

    • I can schedule my writing time.
    • Sometimes I need to have a plan for the next day and sometimes I’ll write well without one.
    • This week I learned that I can check a fact without looking at e-mail and go right back to my pages. It’s a conscious thought now.
    • I have more and better ideas when I right every day.
    • I produced more work in this past five weeks (sorry, I started late) than I have in the last few months.
    • My writing has improved.
    • I will continue Writing First this because it works for me. I know there will be rough days, but I am capable of writing first every day, even weekends. I enjoy writing more.
    • I’ve always told me students to write every day, but I’ll admit I didn’t do it until now except for the thirty days of NaNoWriMo. Why? I was a binge writer and thought I could only write one way.

    So thanks for this challenge, Jan.

    For those of you going to Crime Bake have a really great time. I went last year and not only enjoyed it but I learned so much.

  8. This week was a killer. I had the launch of my first novel, Live Free or Die, yesterday and not being able to check email concerning the launch first thing in the morning was tough. Some days I felt like keeping to the rules forced me to structure my day in a way that was less efficient than I would have liked with all the items on my to do list.

    That, being said, I did produce pages and without the challenge, doubt very much I would have this past week.

    I think the challenge benefits have far outweighed the drawbacks. There is no substitute for being actively in the story every day. As a matter of fact, I'm more than 30,000 words into my new manuscript because of Jungle Red Writers!

    This challenge has helped me to acquire a real sense of what I can accomplish if I put my priorities in an order I am proud of at the end of the day.

    I will be attending the Crime Bake in November and look forward to thanking Jan in person as well as meeting other participants!

  9. Week 5: Day 35, page 60

    Hank - travel dispensation. I’m making a note of that one! Can’t wait to use it. Now I can travel guilt free.

    And this week I discovered the real value of this challenge. Monday, after my visitor left, the words tripped over each other in a race to get onto the screen but Tuesday I hit a sticky plot point that plagued me for days. Each morning I forced myself to sit at the computer and put words on the screen, even though they had to be dragged there, kicking and screaming. Then, once out, they fought with each other for placement, even for the right to survive to the end of the day’s session. Exhausting! I’m not sure I would have stuck with it, if not for The Challenge.

    The breakthrough came, finally, on Friday when I realized I was forcing the plot in one direction when the characters wanted to take it somewhere else. (When will I ever learn to listen to them? I’d save myself so much time and energy!) There’s no telling how long it would have taken me to figure this out if The Challenge hadn’t forced me to dig into the problem every day rather than run away from it – something I might have done a few weeks ago.

    Thank you so much for proposing this challenge. In addition to the pages I’ve written and the new discipline I’ve acquired, I feel like I’ve made new friends. I hope to meet some of you one day when I’m cashing in a travel dispensation.

    Writing First!

  10. WINNERS! of our Getting To Know You Day

    Winner of Royal Blood: Dale Mayer
    Winner of Hank's book of your choice: VR Barkowski
    Winner of Rosemary's Pushing Up Daisies: Juilie Miller

    Contact me via my website and send me your address!

  11. I'm keeping the no checking email until you've written a page or more rule. I've modified it slightly so that I can only check email after every 500 words. Works for me. I'll try to make it every 1000 words this week.

    See you at B-con, Hank! (And hopefully some of the rest of you.)

  12. Jessie,
    Congrats on Live Free or Die!! I can't believe you were able to write during launch week - that's amazing.

    Ilonka -You bring up an important point -- I am MOST tempted to check email or Internet whenever I come upon a sticky plot point. Rather than suffer through the problem solving, I want to go somewhere else. The issue is this -- I've never solved a plot problem while checking email. I have, however, while taking a walk. So the moral of this story is -- Exercise is dual functional -- while email checking isn't!!

    Pat - I was a binge writer before, too!

  13. I finished my ms. a few minutes ago. Wasn't going to check in today until I'd finished it--and TA DA, it's DONE, BABY, DONE.

    Well, except for rewriting/polishing the last chapter...then re-reading the entire book again...then...

    What will I keep from this challenge? Knowing how great it feels to write first thing in the morning and going for it when work doesn't beckon.

    What will I ditch? Hmmm. It's not ditching, but I still find it useful to tap into the Internet for research while writing (vs. highlighting).

    Thank you, Jungle Red, for hosting the Challenge! Won't be at Crime Bake, and probably not at Bouchercon, but hey, anybody going to Left Coast Crime in March? I'll be there.

  14. COLLEEN! Congratulations!!

    Where is LCC?

    (Oh, my captcha word is "Coping W)

  15. Oh God. I wrote six pages on Monday and then I don't know what happened. I found out that my other challenge is next week and it's like I forgot. I didn't write another word.

    Brain fart I guess.

    I would keep the writing first thing everyday, but I also need to up the word count. But that's okay. I don't get that many great emails, but as I have to do my own promotion I'll probably write a couple of pages, jump to promo, write a couple more pages.

    I'm still trying to figure out the self promotion thing. I'm back to writing tomorrow and I hope I don't get stuck in too many weeks like this one!

    I'll be at CrimeBake. I'm excited to be on a panel. Hope to see you all there.

  16. Hi Kate,
    We have a couple of different Kate's so I didn't realize that you were THAT Kate - I look forward to meeting you at CrimeBake.

    Colleen congrats!! And don't worry, theres always fine tuning, but its still HUGE to get to the end.

    Laura, you have more discipline that I do. Once I start, I can't stop. I also am not as good as counting words as you guys. That's an understatement. I don't think I've ever once counted words -- just pages - and when I'm rewriting I don't really know how to keep count.


  17. Ooh, was just about to turn off my computer and go to bed and realized I hadn't checked in on a Sunday.

    I sort of took the travel dispensation, but not really. On the plane to California Tuesday, I wrote 5 pages. And then nothing for 3 days while I got caught up with my mom and 2 sisters in a flurry of errands and meals and visits (and sleeping 3 [aged] 'girls' to a single motel room). And then I wrote 4 more pages on the plane on the way home yesterday.

    I'm not sure I can keep up the page a day on day-job work days, because it really robs my company of my time. But I'll try. When the plot is clear, it only takes about 15 minutes, so why not? The main benefit to me of daily writing, which I hadn't done before, is keeping the story fresh in my brain, which keeps it moving and developing.

    Thanks for the push, Jan! See y'all at Crime Bake, for sure.


  18. I was doing okay until I started a scene with the three main characters recapping what they know on a flow chart of sorts. Then I had to re-read the only thing to find out what exactly they did know and not what I thougt they knew ... then the kids came in the dog needed attention and someohow the day is done, I have checked my email and everything else on the Internet and I think I wrote about a half a page. Oh well -- tomorrow is another day and I will be at the computer still trying to figure out what Jasmine, Sherry and Tony know!

    All the Best!


  19. I spent most of the week juggling the logistics of getting Mystery Writers Ink's first meeting of the year off to a healthy start. The only things I wrote all week were window posters, announcement and schedule handouts, headers on sign-up sheets, and yes, emails... to other board members.

    I did a daily bit of thinking about my work-in-progress, but not a single page got written.

    The thing I will take away from the challenge is that business of thinking and note-making on an ongoing basis rather than letting the whole project lapse when Life is intruding.

  20. What did I take away?

    I was like Hank-- email just didn't seem as important as it did before the challenge.

    I finished and sold a Christmas story (short).

    And I didn't have days where I didn't write. I think I took myself seriously and didn't let the gremlins mess with my head.

    Thanks for the Challenge.

  21. This is kind of on-topic and kind of not, but I am in charge of the program for my writers' group for October and the topic is "Finding Time to Write". Could you ladies write a post about how you find the time to write, ways of maximizing your writing time, overcoming challenges, etc.? I am including the Writer's Challenge. Any tidbits would be helpful. Our group is made up of published and "yet to be published" authors.

  22. The biggest thing I'm taking away from the challenge is that nothing in my email is as important as I thought it was. No one will fall over dead if I don't get back to them within 15 minutes of them emailing me. Good to know.

    Jan, thanks for organizing this.

  23. Yes, Darlene, I completely agree. Exactly.

  24. I finally (only last winter) learned to prioritize everything that comes in on a 'how soon does this really need a reply?' basis and got fairly good at putting some things off even for a day or two (not that the time got used for writing instead).

    To some folks email is clearly more vital than it is to me. Got a note back on something completely non-essential yesterday afternoon and the guy followed up with a phone message first thing this morning in case I'd missed it. Since this only becomes remotely important after Christmas, I fail to see the urgency.