Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Writing Challenge by Amy Vastine


When I ventured into the world of writing, I did it purely for my own enjoyment. I would spend all night typing away and putting hundreds or thousands of words into the computer. My husband would ask me why I was wasting so much time writing stories that I wasn't going to let anyone else read. Back then, I had no idea there were people out there who would want to read them and I really didn't care. I had stories in my head that needed to be told.

Ah, things were so much simpler back then. I can't believe how much I used to get written in just a few days! I could easily get 10,000 words written over a weekend. Sometimes more. Now that I write "for real", the words don't always flow as easily. I figure that when something goes from being a hobby to a job, motivations shift. Last weekend, I managed 380.

Ouch.

So, it was time to come up with creative ways to motivate myself. I enlisted the help of my friend Carol Ross and proposed a little writing challenge. We agreed to each write a thousand words a day for the next week. This may not seem like a lot to some writers out there but considering I managed a whooping 380 over the holiday weekend, 1000 seems like a respectable target!

First day of the challenge, Carol kicked my butt. She wrote 1200 words to my 900. I was a little disappointed in not meeting my goal, but Carol reminded me that I wrote a lot more than I did over the weekend. It was a good start. (We all need friends who build you up like that, don't we? )

Today is Day Two and to repay for her encouragement, I plan to blow her out of the water.


Any little bit of motivation can't hurt. I'd love to hear how other writers stay motivated to hit those targets. Do you set a daily goal or just write and hope enough comes out of you by the end of the week? Reward yourself with anything special? What's the most you've written in a day? (Maybe that will motivate me - I'm a sucker for trying to beat someone's high score!)

I also hear that reading something else helps get the creative juices flowing again. So, if you need to take a reading break I do have a new book out ...



34 comments:

  1. I'm there with you. I write sooo slowly anymore I sometimes feel as though I'm going backwards! I have done a few sprints and gotten a lot down on "paper," but the truth is I hated doing it, so... Good luck to you and Carol!

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    1. I've had those days where I've edited out more than I've put in. Those feel like baaaaaad days!

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  2. Hi Amy. I usually have a goal of two thousand words a day. Some days I write more, some days less. I keep a day planner beside my computer to keep track. That seems to motive me. You have to go with the creative flow and that is different for everyone. At the rate you're going, soon you'll be doing thousands a day! And Carol too!

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    1. Good idea, Tara. I like the idea of being accountable to yourself but writing it down!

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  3. I set my daily goals by when the book is due. I count up the days between when I sign a contract and due date, divide that into the number of words in the book, build in a few play days and write those totals on a calendar. If the words flow and I can do more I don't slack off the next day, but keep the same goal. Should I finish early I have more time to let the book set before I read it through. When I worked a job, too, I had to get the words done between midnight and three a.m. Now I have more time and try to write from six a.m. to one or two. The most I've ever written in one day was 4300 words---not saying they were my best. LOL

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    1. You're so good, Roz. I tend to be more of a procrastinator and end up writing big numbers toward to end to make the deadline. If I would be smarter, I would get more sleep ;)

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  4. I work best with a deadline, Amy. Whether it's real or self-imposed, if the deadline isn't there, the words don't get written. I'm a highly structured person who gets cranky when I'm out of my routine. If it's on my calendar to write 500 words after my day job, I just have to do it. Of course, they may not be the best words, but at least it's something. The most I've ever written in a weekend was 4850 words. Good luck with the "friendly" competition. :)

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    1. 4850 in a weekend is awesome. I have the issue of a day job as well so I'm always trying to fit in a bunch of writing late at night. Sometimes my brain just wants to rest!

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  5. At a board meeting of my RWA group, we were discussing what we considered the worst weddings. Someone told of this one where the bride walked down the aisle, turned to the audience and said there would be no wedding because the groom had slept with the maid-of-honor. INSPIRATION! This struck me like a bolt of lightning. I went home and wrote 6000 words nonstop. It turned into my first confession sale. Haven’t had a kick start like that since. Having a partner challenge sounds like a very good idea.

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    1. Marion! That is just about the best kickstarter I've ever heard! I'm still laughing, though I can't imagine being the poor bride! I'd probably slug the guy first, then make the announcement!

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    2. Ouch!! So sad for the bride, but happy you found your inspiration from the situation.

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  6. It's my dream to someday be able to write like Roz! But for now I'm loving these challenges. I just can't stand the thought of Amy checking in with me and having written nothing. Thank you, Amy for lighting this fire. It's also so nice to know that someone else is facing the same "challenge" you are.

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    1. I also aspire to be like Roz. That could be our new motto!

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  7. You brought back so many memories, Amy! Once upon a time, I could crank out an entire 55,000 word novel in a 3-day weekend. These days? No way! I could cite the "misery loves company" adage, but spending more time with the characters and their story isn't the least bit miserable. (And hopefully, readers will continue to agree! ) As for motivation? I'm taking notes as others share their tips, 'cause the old "I already spent my advance" just ain't workin' like it once did! I can hardly wait to get my hands on The Hardest Fight! Meanwhile, hope your Wednesday is wonderful...and productive! :-)

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    1. Oh my word! I can't imagine 55k in a 3-day weekend. You all are an inspiration.

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    2. A whole book in one weekend? I can't even imagine! Thank you for making me feel less alone - that I already spent my advance trick has stop working for me as well!!

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  8. Hey, guys, I love this honesty. It is so hard somedays to get it together, isn't it? Plus for those of us working a job....sometimes two and writing at the same time, it's imperative to make hay while the sun shines. I self-impose deadlines all the time, because all my life, I've had LIFE getting in the way of my daily goals. It used to be we counted pages not word count. So, I've realized that due to all my other jobs (and gardening--which actually helps me THINK about my story) a good day for me is a complete chapter...usually around 3,000 words. Then I print out the chapter and read that chapter the same night, editing myself. The next writing day, I will then input my changes and dive into the next chapter. One thing that has always helped me is to start a new chapter before leaving my writing for the day. Even if it's only the opening sentence or a paragraph...it helps to grease my gears the next morning.

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    1. You are awesome, Catherine. I wish I could write that much in one day. I love the idea of finishing something, though!

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  9. I aim for a thousand a day, but also calculate due date, which means often I'm writing two thousand a day (with a full time job!).
    The most I've written in one day was 10,000 words. I remember, though, I put my butt in the chair at 6:30 a.m. and got up at 12:03 a.m.
    It was not pretty.

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    1. Wow! That's impressive, Pamela. :)

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    2. Hey, the J people come over here too. I just saw you on the LI blog. Glad to see you here, too.

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    3. That's incredible, Pam. 10,000 in one day. I don't think I'll even attempt to touch that record! I think 1000 words a day is a very decent challenge with kids and another job.

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  10. Awesome post just when I needed to read it! I'm so glad I'm not alone in struggling to get my word count in. My problem is that life keeps taking over and when it comes to kids, they have to come first. So then I tell myself I'll catch up at night, but often I'm so drained physically and mentally that I collapse and zonk out. I've even had cups of coffee in in the evening, determined to stay up and type, but have been so tired even that didn't work.

    Technically, I can get a good word count in if life doesn't interfere. I always start with the word count goal calculated by due date (usually anywhere from 1-3k/day), but again, some days don't work out. I've pulled 4-5k days to catch up and the most I've done was 11,797 but that took a full, straight 24 hours with no sleep and the result was words that sounded like the equivalent of slurred speech (well, I had lyme at the time, so my brain really was slurred, but still). Like Pam said, it wasn't pretty at all. More like a near death experience.

    So my biggest problem is in managing to write daily without losing a day to life/family and utter exhaustion. Yes, sometimes I manage to tweet or comment on a blog and one might wonder why I don't write instead, but when I squeeze that in, I'm usually at the kitchen computer or my phone, while cooking dinner or helping one of the kids with homework. That's different than focusing on my story and sitting to truly write.

    So, as a result, I take longer to churn a book out. I desperately want to write faster and more consistently. I stress out to no end when I know I'm behind on writing. I'll take any tips on how to do that at this stage of life and motherhood! Trust me...I even tried the 'don't bother me unless there's blood' threat recently. Guess what? Five minutes later, there was blood. The boys tried to take the dogs out on leash and a dog fight ensued that turned into a trip to the vet er that didn't end until after midnight and a blood splattered laundry room that had to be scrubbed down. I don't make this stuff up LOL!

    But I'll be reading all the comments here for inspiration! I know you've all been there (or are there)! :)

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    1. You and I are so very much alike, Rula! Finding balance is one of the hardest things for me. My kids complain when I'm on the computer and I hate that they feel it is taking something away from them. They won't be in my house forever (at least I hope not!) and I know that I need to make sure I get the most out of my time with them. I am sure I will never get 11,797 words done in one day, even if I wrote jibberish!!

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  11. My goodness, I thought I used to write like a demon. I plan my schedule a lot like Roz does. In the old days, I once had to produce a ms. in a month and I felt as though I'd worked around the clock. I can't imagine, Loree, 55,000 words in a weekend! But good for you and your nimble brain. I have a sort of one-cylinder brain. I try to do 10 pages a day on deadline and leave my weekends free. But by the time I'm close to deadline, I'm writing 7 days a week because life has interfered. Like Rula, though my responsibility at home is an ill husband rather than lively children, I don't want to ever be unavailable or to miss a moment of our life together. So I write very slowly now and instead of thinking up new ideas on a break, I usually just enjoy my free time. Now I'm like a sloth in front of the Hallmark Channel's Christmas in July.

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    1. LOL - turn off that television, Muriel! I guess Carol and I will hope to be the next Roz and Muriel. You two are definitely doing something right!!

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  12. I'm a reader but a wannabe writer so the insight I get from this blog is so helpful. I have a few ideas for books. I get on a roll and then life gets in the way and by the time I get back to my story, another better one gets in my head and I abandon the original one. Is that typical? Woe is me.....with that strategy I'll never produce a book. Also, I start out good but wonder how to carry it along until it's a respectable book length. Well.....I guess that's why I'm a reader and not a writer I suppose. I appreciate all of the hard work and dedication that all of you writers put into telling us your wonderful stories. And don't despair Amy, I know those creative juices will start flowing again. Look what happened to Marion Ekholm. You never know where that next book idea might originate from. ( :

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    1. Laurie - just a thought about getting a bigger and better idea that distracts you from the original one - I'm sure it's true of all of us that the thrill of working on something new, is so much more fun than slogging through all you have to do to make the original idea work. But, then, it's like a runner's second wind. When you find your way through the plot and the characters really begin to work - nothing feels as good as knowing you created a good story out of thin air.

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    2. I have lots and lots of ideas, Laurie but only a four books! It is totally normal :)

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  13. Great advice!! Thanks so much. I shall heed it.
    ( :

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  14. I love a writing challenge! I'm a lot more responsible when I have someone to report to. Thanks, Amy and Carol, for this post because you reminded me to get back to work instead of spending the whole day angsting because I think my plot just collapsed! ;-)

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