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The Role of the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge in Ramping Up Your Productivity

A common question writers have is how they can be more productive and get more done. Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn has some great tips on doing just that.

I’d like to share a method I’ve discovered that combines much of her advice into one single method: the Twitter monthly writing challenge. I didn’t create this method, but it’s been incredible for helping me meet my writing goals.

The Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge

There may be more than one of these dandy little writing challenges in existence, but the one I’m talking about is based at It’s premise is simple:

Commit to writing 500 words a day, every day. If you are in the editing phase of your current work in progress (WIP), commit to a one hour of editing each day.


My Experience So Far

My novel is something I picked up about a year ago after letting it fester for a LONG time (the earliest date in my files is 1999) when I recommitted to fiction writing and editing after many years of work on nonfiction writing and academic editing. I’ve been working on it on and off since then. My in-person critique group has been supremely helpful in giving me a once-a-month goal of at least ten new pages. However, it was still slow going, and I kept letting other things take priority over my writing.

Then, in mid-July, I got some great advice while listening to one of Brandon Sanderson’s Brigham Young University lectures on novel writing. In these lectures, Sanderson talks about more than just the craft of writing. He also covers the business of writing. In one lecture, he mentioned that for a serious writer to write about two novels a year, he or she should be writing a at least a couple thousand words a week.

I got to thinking about that. It’s a reasonable goal, even for someone working full time, as long as they are willing to make the writing a priority. I know it’s a long road from part-time to full-time writer (Sanderson and others know it can take 10 years or more), but you gotta start somewhere.

So, I set myself a goal of 500 words a day. I figured that even with misses here and there, it would definitely amp up my word count quickly and help me write at least 2000 words a week. It also reinforced what everyone, Internet memes included, have been telling me: that it’s better to have a complete, awful first draft than to have a few perfect chapters but ne’er a finished draft.

I needed to quit nitpicking over every little word and just get the first draft done, but how could I bring my editor self around to this point of view?

Enter Scrivener

Scrivener is now my go-to program for writing (I am writing in it now). It has this handy-dandy little Project Target window. You can set your goal for each session (in my case 500 words), and it keeps track for you, with a pretty little colored bar that moves from red to green as you get closer and closer to your goal. Yes, I’m using that now too. The Project Target window also keeps track of your overall word count. This is especially handy for novels.

Via Literature and Latte at
Via Literature and Latte

How did this help me with my editor self? Well, it turns out that Scrivener keeps track of your NET ADDED words for the session. This means that every time I cut something, I have to add at least that many words back plus the 500 to meet my goal. So, I learned that I could edit all I wanted as long as my overall word count was 500 words greater than it had been the day before. I could live with that, especially since I tend to start with skeleton scenes and go back to flesh them out and add detail later. I have the choice every day of writing fresh, new scenes or editing old scenes as long as I am still growing my story (or blog, like I am today).

The Writing Challenge

After I had used my 500-words-a-day goal for about a week, I discovered some of my Twitter friends tweeting about the #AugWritingChallenge. At first, I thought it was just a thing where people would tweet back and forth to help keep each other accountable, but I soon learned there was a website and even a shared spreadsheet to help writers keep track of how they are doing day to day. The monthly writing coaches get in there every day to give encouraging feedback and shout outs to everyone participating. It’s great to be a newbie member of this community.

(Almost) Every day, I get my words done, log them on my own personal spreadsheet, log them into the spreadsheet, and then Tweet my progress and thoughts with the hashtag #SeptWritingChallenge. I make sure to send as much encouragement as I can to other participating writers. Finally, I wait for that nice little shout out from the monthly challenge leader. I do this even on days that I don’t write because I want to give a like to those that made it.

The Results So Far

So, sure I’ve missed some days. In August, I got sidetracked pretty quickly because of a community play I was involved with (didn’t I mention something about priorities earlier?). However, I was committed to climbing back on the bandwagon in September, despite an 11-day travel schedule, and I did.

So, here are my statistics so far for this month:

Sept. 1-Sept 18

Days Participated: 15

Total Added Words: 696 to my journal and 10,616 to my novel

Average Daily Word Count (including skipped days): 628

They may not mean much to you, but if I continue this trend, that’s over 229,000 words a year. Definitely a couple of novels worth (or more)! This is concrete evidence for me that my novel can and will get done. I will get the first draft out and into the editing stage, and I will start on the next.

How the Writing Challenge Fits into Joanna Penn’s Productivity Methods

1. Schedule Your Time: In the writing challenge, you have to log in your words every day before bedtime. This works much better when you have a set time every day to get it done.

2. Reward Yourself: Or have someone else do it for you via the monthly challenge leaders!

3. Become Accountable: You do this by adding your word counts to the database and tweeting your progress every day. You can also help other writers out by liking and retweeting their writing challenge posts and letting them know you are rooting for them as well.

4. Set Deadlines: See #1.

5. Spend More Hours in the Chair: Again, to meet the challenge, you have to put in the time. Five hundred words a day is a perfectly reasonable goal (that you can speed up using dictation) that can result in some big long-term rewards.

Future Goals

I am so psyched about this progress that I am even contemplating participating in National Novel Writing Month (aka NanoWriMo) or the first time this year. In NanoWriMo, the goal is 50,000 words in one month or 1667 words a day. If I don’t do it, it will be because I want to forge ahead to finish this novel before starting another, but it’s definitely worth considering.

I hope some of you will give the monthly writing challenges a try. See you on Twitter!

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Book Review: Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
K. M. Weiland
PenForASword Publishing, 2011
187 pages. Available in paperback, Kindle, and Audible formats.
Category: Nonfiction, Writing Reference

Over the last year or so, K. M. Weiland has become one of my favorite resources for writing advice and information, and it all started when I read her book, Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success.

When I decided to purchase this book, which promises that “the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal,” I was trying to rejuvenate a story that I had started to write years ago. I thought that an outline would get me on track, like a carrot on a stick. If I had an outline, I would always know where to go next.

The problem was that the only thing that I knew about outlining was the old “I, II, II, A, B, C, i, ii, iii” method that I had learned in high school over two decades ago. I hadn’t found it useful then, and I still don’t. An Amazon search and hundreds of ratings with an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars convinced me to give this book a try.

Weiland’s goals in this book are stated clearly on the cover. Among other things, the book is designed to “help you choose the right type of outline for you,” “aid you in discovering your characters,” and “instruct you in how to use your outline.” Weiland promises to help authors prevent dead-end ideas and provide foreshadowing while dispelling common, crippling misconceptions of the outline in terms of fiction writing.

She delivers on her promises by attacking those misconceptions first thing, covering why outlines don’t require formal formatting (that old I, II, III) and how they can actually expand instead of limit your creativity. She goes on to provide the many benefits of outlining versus my old standby, “pantsing” (in writer speak, flying by the seat of your pants or winging it).

That is all well and good, but I wanted proof, and Weiland delivered. I could tell by Chapter Three that I was going to like this book. After covering the types of outlining and the possible tools that one can use for outlining (from a pen and a spiral notebook to yWriter software), Weiland offers step-by-step, practical tools for creating an outline that works. Some of her steps include:

1. Craft your premise (”But, Ma, what’s a premise?!” Don’t worry, she covers that, too.).
2. Use general sketches to summarize your scenes and explore motive, conflict, and theme.
3. …

While I won’t list everything in the table of contents here, you get my drift. Weiland introduces a concept, defines it, and then gives examples of how to apply it. Surprisingly, she shows the reader not only how to outline the plot and scene structure but also how to use the outline to manage backstory, develop characters with depth, and use the setting to bring “to life not just the scenery but also the characters themselves”—all in a manageable format and a length of only 187 pages.

As a bonus, between the chapters, Weiland includes interviews with different authors with descriptions of their own outlining processes, the benefits and pitfalls of outlining, the times when pantsing might be the best way to go after all, and the biggest contributing factors to successful outlining. The benefit of these sections is to show us as readers—and writers— how many different ways outlining can be used and how various authors have twisted the process to their own ends in so many flexible ways.

If you are anything like me, when you are finished reading this book, you will find a place for it close to your writing station with your other treasured reference tomes, subscribe to Weiland’s blog and maybe even her YouTube channel, and refer to this book over and over again as you develop your own stories.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small percentage of sales through these links but at no extra cost to you. My editing, design and consulting services are paid for by clients, but affiliate links help me to provide free blog content, videos, and writing and self-publishing resources for all of my readers.

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Taking Risks in Your Writing: “Really Going There”—Writer Unboxed

Today’s reblog comes from at Writer Unboxed. In this post, she explores how “really going there” allows us as writers to get the most out of our writing by taking risks and “letting it all hang out.”

Because I am also an editor, this is hard for me in my own writing process. As I write, I want to go back and edit, make it perfect before moving forward. Sometimes, it takes a real act of will to move forward at all. However, in writing, especially fiction writing, sometimes, you have to turn off the editor and let the story, the creation, flow. Let it run wild. I think this is essential in the first draft.

There will be time for perfecting the details later.

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 version of The Shining is on Netflix now, so my husband and I recently rewatched it. It had been over a decade since I saw it last, and I was a little worried it wouldn’t hold up. (Don’t worry, horror fans; it holds up.) Despite Stephen King expressing dissatisfaction with this movie version of his novel, I think we all know that it’s the best version, plain and simple, and there’s really only one reason for that: Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance is stellar. Outstanding. To this day, it remains one of the most chilling roles in cinema history.

When my husband told me about a YouTube video he’d come across showing behind-the-scenes footage of Nicholson pumping himself up for the infamous bathroom scene (aka ‘Here’s Johnny’), I knew I had to find it. The relevant pre-scene footage is only half a minute long, and necessary for the point of my post today, so I hope you’ll go give it a quick watch: “Jack Nicholson Prepping for The Shining.”

My husband’s commentary? Something along the lines of, “He’s acting like an actual lunatic. Can you imagine being on set with him?”

Yeah. That’s what struck me, more than anything else: to get that iconic scene, Nicholson was willing to make an absolute fool of himself in front of his support staff, coworkers, and bosses. He was willing to really go there, because that’s the only way, I’m convinced, we can get to deeply authentic art.

My next thought was: Thank goodness that, as a writer, my art happens alone. Thank goodness I don’t have to embarrass myself in front of other people to really go there.

That thought has been haunting me for a week now, because it’s a lie.…

Continued at Really Going There


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No Conflict Between Characters—Helping Writers Become Authors

Today’s reblog comes from K. M. Weiland over at Helping Writers Become Authors. She covers why a lack of conflict leads to an ineffective scene and then goes on to tell you what you can do to fix a no-conflict scene with basic tips on scene structure that can makeover your entire novel.

I slapped the FedEx guy this morning.

Okay, not really. My FedEx guy is totally cool. And he brings me cool stuff. I’d never slap him. But that got your attention, didn’t it? Way more so than if I ‘d said, “I thanked the FedEx guy this morning.”

The difference between the two accounts, of course, is conflict. You may not have thought well of me for slapping that poor, undeserving FedEx guy, but I guarantee you would have been interested! Conflict isn’t nice, but it’s inevitably interesting.

And yet writers sometimes create scenes in which there is no interpersonal conflict between their characters. The result, of course, is that everyone’s happy. Except for the readers–who are bored out of their minds.

How to Bore Your Readers With No Interpersonal Conflict

Here’s what your story looks like with no interpersonal conflict:

Geraldine walked down the road to the Averils’ house. The scent of jasmine wafted all around her as she entered the yard through the trellised lych-gate.

Percival’s sister Cordelia answered the door. She looked fetchingly splendid in a new dress of lavender organdy. She beamed. “Gerry, darling! You’ve come for tea after all. Percival will be pleased. Mama too.”

Percival was going to ask Geraldine to marry him today, she just knew it.

Overcome, she flung her arms around Cordelia. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”

Now just assume this scene keeps playing out without a hint of irony. Geraldine and Cordelia have a simply wonderful teatime with Cordelia’s simply wonderful brother Percival, who has a simply wonderful proposal in mind, after which he and Geraldine can ride off into a simply wonderful HEA.

James Scott Bell calls this the problem of “happy people in happy land.” Believe me, I totally get why someone would want to write this. It’s happy. All the characters are friends. They get along. They smile, they wave. There’s no violence, no dissension, no fear, no sadness.

Heavenly it may be, but interesting–or realistic–it ain’t.…

Continued at: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 48: No Conflict Between Characters – Helping Writers Become Authors

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Give Readers Engaging Fiction — The Editor’s Blog

How can writers make sure that their readers read their stories all the way through to the end? What makes a story engaging enough that your audience will keep turning those pages? Why do readers stop reading 10 pages or 10 chapters into a novel? In today’s reblog, Beth Hill of The Editor’s Blog gives writers tips on why some writing does not engage readers, what readers want, and how to make your fiction more enticing. Join her and find out how to “treat readers well and feed them tasty fiction.”

Some element in every story should pop for the reader, whether it’s the puzzle in a mystery, the threat in suspense, the story world in science fiction, or the relationship in a romance.

Readers have to have reasons to continue to read a book past the first page or two, and you’re the one who has to give them those reasons.

One big advantage for writers is that readers come to books intending to enjoy them, intending to get lost in characters and the events overtaking them. You don’t have to do anything to prime the pump.

Yet you do need to deliver. You’ve got to give readers something more captivating than their real-world distractions.

The reader brings an appetite, but you’ve got to serve up the meal. And it should be tasty. Not too skimpy, not bland, and not overly spiced.

Readers come to your books hungry, wanting to enjoy what you serve up, but that doesn’t mean that you can slack off and serve slop.

Readers want a story that tastes good, that looks good.

Sometimes they may want a light meal, sometimes a full seven-course dinner. But they definitely want more than stale crackers and tepid water.

It’s your job to serve an appetizing meal.…

Continued at Give Readers Engaging Fiction | The Editor’s Blog

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