I dare you.
Do you remember when writing was fun and carefree? I do. As a kid, I would pull out a notepad and write stories just because that’s how I chose to pass the time. I mostly wrote fantasy stories, some science fiction without all that technical mumbo-jumbo. My dragons had their own rules of behavior and almost every character had an apostrophe in their name.
I created bizarre plot twists. I didn’t fuss with grammar or sentence structure. I didn’t care if the stories were proper writing; I just wrote a rough draft that I always thought was complete. I had fun.
Somewhere along the way, writing became structured and proper. Because of that formal format reality, I look at those drafts now and I think, “What silly little creations.” Why did I bother? Why did anyone or I care?
I expect that if you’re reading this blog, you remember that feeling, or you know someone who has. You, as a reader, can tell when the writer was having a good time and when it was an assignment. I invite you to rediscover that freedom and write with abandon. No doubt, you still have one of those stories down on paper or in your head. This month, I dare you to complete it and publish.
I talk a lot about self-publishing as if it’s gospel. The fact that I’ve done it twice–soon to be three times–does not make me an expert, but I feel confident in it. I know the powerful feeling of control, a feeling that comes from writing, editing and finishing a piece of work. Hitting the Publish button on Amazon is a daring and satisfying moment. I want you to experience that feeling.
Why should you?
Even if you don’t dream of publishing, I challenge you to do this. It’s a sense of accomplishment to write a draft, to edit that draft and by publishing it that means you finish something that you’ve started. Maybe you just have a story to tell, say it’s a letter to your parents, and wouldn’t it be cool to download it onto their Kindle for Christmas? Maybe you have a story about you and your friend. How cool would that be?
When you were in school and had an essay exam, the class eventually ended and you handed in your work as-is. At that moment, you were done. It was a relief, wasn’t it?
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up in November. The concept behind NaNoWriMo is to kickstart you into completing a full-length first draft, but writing 50,000 words in 30 days can be intimidating. Even though that breaks down to 1667 words a day, or 69 words an hour, that finite number may be too large to be comforting. I suggest something doable.
My idea is a spin off from JA Konrath’s blogpost back in August 22, 2013. The idea mingled fun with structure. Pretend writing is your business. Sit down at the beginning of your 8-hour business workday and write a story, edit it and publish it online. It can be that easy.
My two published short stories have been a result of that challenge. My approach was to start at 8am with a cup of coffee and an open Word document. I write one sentence so the screen is no longer blank. Then I just write, completing my first, rough draft by 12noon. I take a typical hour lunch break. From 1-5pm, I rewrite and edit my text. You can format and upload your text in that timespan as well, but consider taking a dinner break, and then work an hour or two of overtime creating an account, formatting the text, uploading it to the site, and adding cover art.
True, each time I began with a vague story idea and direction, but that was it. There was no outline, no structure, and no definitive plan. I could just as easily have pulled out one of my silly little fantasy stories and see what I can do with it now.
My first e-Book experience was my memoir about a trip my mom and I took. The book–Mom, Star Trek and Las Vegas: A Grand Adventure required research because Trekkies or Trekkers will know if a name is incorrect or a date is wrong. I thought I could sit down in one eight-hour stretch, but I did not. I wrote an hour here, two hours there, made 20 minutes for research here and so on. I was committed to finishing it, whatever the timeframe.
Writers who took the 8-hour challenge, published by August 30. That was eight days after the issued challenge. I’ve read some of the published work and some of them read as if written in 8 hours. But so what? The author wrote, edited, and completed the work. That was the fun of it.
On October 6, after 18 hours and 45 minutes, give or take, I was an officially published author. That was 45 days after the initial post. Final word count: 5657 words, about 22 pages.
My mom memoir e-Book won a national award: third place in the NFPW 2014 Communications Contest.
My second eBook–Lessons from Dad: A Letter to You–was a prelude to my upcoming novel memoir. I released it on June 14, 2014: Father’s Day. I counted it by the number of edits–four, including initial draft–rather than hours, which I estimate took 12 hours. That book is 5111 words, or 21 pages. For 99cents, both books are a bargain read.
What’s the number one reason people don’t do this? Without conducting scientific research, my personal experience is “I don’t have the time.” Wrong. You don’t make the time.
You say you’re too busy, that there are too many other tasks distracting you? You have dinner to cook. Your kids have after-school activities and you’re the driver. You volunteer at the library. You work a 9-to-5 job and commute an hour each way. You have a report to write. There are weekly soccer matches to attend, so you wake up at 6:45am every Saturday. You go to church. You have a monthly date night with your spouse. Your favorite TV show has begun a new season. Repeat week.
Excuses. All excuses. They are reasons, but they are also excuses.
I will attempt this by my next blog post. So, what does my life look like? I don’t have kids to factor in, but I picked up about five extra shifts at my part time job between now and then. I’m traveling out-of-state, teaching Zentangle classes, co-hosting a monthly art group, having a Halloween scrapbook crop at my house, celebrating my 11th wedding anniversary, and raising funds to dance in February’s THON.
I am madly editing my dad memoir novel for ePublication on November 20, my father’s birthday. I’m promoting that book on Twitter, Instagram and my Facebook Author page. Let’s not forget that I have my own blog to maintain, including my annual Halloween blog hop post. There are articles to write for Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine. I’m editing posts for this blog, critiquing submissions for this writers group, and writing the follow-up November post of this challenge. In utter madness, I also signed up for NaNoWriMo this year.
And there are the daily mundane To-Do items: doctor appointments, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, mailing birthday cards. Did I mention I was married and have a husband to not ignore?
If I can find time in that, then you can make time in your schedule.
This is not a setup. I don’t have a finished work sitting in the wings planned for this blog challenge. I have ignored my Jimmy the Burglar story for way too long. I mentioned it first back on this blog in March and haven’t touched it since. That’s seven months. I’ve written segments in my head but nothing on paper.
Do you feel that if you don’t write for X-minutes at a time then you’ll lose your flow, and focus and might as well not even start? If you choose to accept this challenge, make it work for you. Don’t have a whole day? I bet you can find an hour a day for 8 days. Maybe 30 minutes for 16 days. Does it take longer than 10 hours? So what? Don’t let the timeframe freeze you, but use it as a guideline, an incentive, a strong deadline.
Don’t be embarrassed by it. Don’t expect best-selling material, although you might surprise yourself. It’s most likely a short story, and there is nothing wrong with that. My books are the length of approximately three of this 1650-word blog post.
What’s in it for you is a sense of accomplishment and completion. As writers, we are always in the middle of something. Or, we write that first draft and never go back to it. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for three years, and I have yet to continue one of those 50K drafts. Unfinished work is a plague on would-be writers.
You raise kids and release them into the world after 18 years. You write that college essay in 50 minutes and then submit it for a grade. You plan a wedding and eventually the bride walks down the aisle. At some point, there’s that moment of letting go. Stop the mindless edits and let your writing be that free.
As an incentive, I promise to download your book and read it and review it, even if it takes me a few months to get through them. Add your link to the comments section in my November 18 post, or share your thoughts about the overall experience.
Discover what kind of book you can to write in 10 hours!
Wow! I’m breathless. You are very busy.
Diana, your article is inspiring. For decades…yes, decades, my husband told me, “Just get started.” I finally made time for writing, and it’s now a daily part of my life. When not physically typing or jotting down notes, I’m still engaged in the creative process. Somehow, I see the world in a new way and pay better attention to what’s going on around me. I hope someone out there takes you up on your challenge!
You are one busy writer with some interesting suggestions. Thanks for sharing.
Wow! What a month you have planned! Good luck and please share how successful you are!