I love a challenge.
Whether it’s a writing challenge, or a fitness challenge like my new quest to run a full marathon, or simply a family Scrabble challenge, there’s something about a distinct goal that makes me dig deeper, paw the ground, and want to shout out, “BATTLE!” like John Travolta in the movie Michael.
You like that, huh? Want some more? Okay, we can’t leave out this clip …
Oh, how I love that movie! Cookies. He smells like cookies! [Note to Self: See Michael again soon.]
But first, back to business.
Anyway, last January, I got an idea for a chapter book. A cute idea … nothing spectacular, nothing ground-breaking, just a fun, simple read about a rabbit who gets in a whole lot of trouble. So I decided to challenge myself to write in longhand the entire story … in only two hours. Why? Because. Here’s what usually happens whenever I get a story idea:
I stew about it.
I think about it. I obsess about it. I do a Google search, just to see if anyone else has stewed, thought, or obsessed about it in a past. Then I start plotting. And re-plotting. And doing character sketches, and more character sketches, and Snowflaking and Plot Whispering-ing, and then more plotting, character sketches, stewing, thinking, obsessing and Google searching.
Then I go to my friends.
I tell them my idea. They tell me, yeah, it’s great, write the dang story, already! So I decide that yeah, okay, I’m going to start writing the rough draft. But first … maybe I should do some more plotting, sketching, stewing, thinking, and obsessing, just to make sure I’m really, really ready.
Then something horrible happens.
Fear starts to sink in.
A negative voice starts to whisper in my ear. It says stuff like, “This is a terrible idea. A horrible idea. Do you seriously think you’ll be able to pull it off?”
I hate that voice.
It has killed more of my book ideas in the past than I care to admit. Which is why I decided to challenge myself to hand-write an entire chapter book manuscript in one session … so I could put it down on paper before the fear could sink in. Did I reach my goal by finishing it in two hours?
It took my two hours, nine minutes to write a 3,525 word manuscript. But guess what?
I’m okay with that.
And no, the story won’t win me a Newbery, and I’m not even sure if it’s strong enough to submit, but the exercise taught me an important lesson: That it IS possible for me to write a rough draft without all the stewing, thinking, and obsessing – especially when I use it as a procrastination tool. It proved how writing doesn’t always have to be such a big deal.
I can just write for the fun of it.
So with that, here’s this week’s …
Writing Challenge #11 / Conference Challenge #7:
I want you to handwrite a 500-word story in thirty minutes.
Yes, I know what you might be thinking. Are you serious, Laura? But that’s too hard! Well, I am serious. And sure, it is a hard challenge … if you allow yourself to stew, think, and obsess. Or if you let the fear sink in and start listening to that pestering, doubting voice in your head, because–seriously–you know darn well you’re capable of this.
You really are.
So come on. Pull an idea somewhere from the back of her head. Set your alarm for thirty minutes, get out a notebook and a pen, shout out your best Michael-inspired BATTLE! and just write until you reach an estimated 500 word count.
Need some story ideas? Okay, try one of these on for size.
– A boy who doesn’t believe it’s necessary to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day gets chased by a snake. (Oh, and happy Patty’s day, by the way!)
– A girl believes her new teacher is really a leprechaun. (Keeping the theme.)
– Two of the Seven Dwarves decides to ask out Cinderella’s evil step sisters on a double date.
– A dragon signs up for ballet lessons.
For our illustrator friends:
Here’s an exercise provided by our lovely Susan Detwiler: Depict a scene in which something is hidden from the character(s) but visible to the viewer.
Oh, and my apologies for posting the challenge later than usual this week. Susan and I have been slammed with tons of our own BATTLES! Next week, we’ll be offering our final challenge on Tuesday – one we promise will be very easy and necessary for everyone who’s going to the conference.
Until then, happy writing and drawing, everyone! 🙂