The End of the Poetry [Challenge]

I spent the last 30 days writing a poem every day. Most of them were free verse, a few of them needed to have some sort of form, and all of them had requirements about what to say.

What can I really say about it? I love a challenge. I love trying to do something that’s tough just to see if I can. [That might be part of the reason I like NaNoWriMo, too.]

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from using a different form to express yourself. Poetry that says you have to use a word like carbonated and forbids you to use a word like the. No, those aren’t things we use when writing something to publish, but to start looking at words differently? Mission accomplished.

A couple of the poems I really like. I didn’t expect that, because sometimes a prompt will make you hold to the boundaries so rigidly it wouldn’t fit anything else. I also had fun sharing my work with some of the other challenge-attempters. I would look at the words they poured out, and look at mine, and wonder if we truly did use the same beginning. Then you find the bolded words we had to use, none of the words we couldn’t use, and a minimum or maximum of lines. I’m still amazed.

Today it’s over, though I’m sure several of us held our breath around noon, ready to go look for another prompt. I hear it only takes about three weeks for a habit, and this challenge lasted 30 days. Then my friend who organized it said she might do it again in September. My history has only been to do any sort of poetry challenge about once every three years or so… September might be too soon.

Plus I have a novel to rewrite. More than one, even. Time to dig into that. 

Where Do You Find Your Answers?

I find a challenge is best when looking to boost my creativity. Maybe I should say I’m finding that a challenge is best to really get the gears turning in my mind. This month’s challenge is prepping a novel, which may not seem like such a big deal when one considers that I’ve done this before. Often. But this one I’ve poured my heart into and it’s coming out my ears.

I have a protagonist that has an interesting voice. I have a couple antagonists, one obvious that is simply annoying and a potentially more difficult one who seems friendly mixed in with a lovely set of background events and characters who promise to make life difficult for the main character. I found a big question that my novel is probably answering.

The big challenge today was finding the question. The answer has not yet presented itself, but I’m still working. It’s silly because I wasn’t looking for that particular question. It just popped out of the free-writing exercise like it belonged right in the center of attention. So now, when I think my mind might be quiet, I hear that question whispering through my mind.

Like right before that yoga class I teach, I heard it. Luckily I didn’t repeat it out loud – I replaced it with ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’ and some movements for my students to follow along. I’ve been thinking about it on and off all day, but it just isn’t clear what the best -or worst- thing to happen is.

I know some people don’t write with all this kind of preparation. A few people can dig right into the novel and write from Once Upon a Time and go until The End and have a story when they finish. Often it has to be dusted out of the wreckage of several drafts, but that’s the fun of writing, isn’t it?

I’m curious what you do to find your answers to those questions when you’re writing or when you’re planning a big project. Do you wait for inspiration to strike, or do you hunt down the answers to those questions with single-minded ferocity?

Just Around the Corner

NaNoWriMo is almost here. Seriously, it’s a month and two days away. Yet I get Twitter updates saying “33 Days to NaNo!” and I get excited. One of my friends put together an entire challenge to be ready to write a novel in November, and I help her organize it every year (fourth year running).

The energy is gathering among people throwing in their hats, making decisions about what possible project might be good enough to focus so much time and effort. Sometimes we agonize over the big decisions, like can we manage to get enough world-building in the beginning to make it stretch over the novel writing time without slowing down. It’s a particularly large problem for anyone starting a science fiction or fantasy novel of any kind. How do you get enough of the NaNoverse painted if you drive in on Day 1 without any preparation at all?

It was just that question that drives so many of my friends to undertake a small amount of early work before attempting that big novel. We gather and cheer each other on – digitally since we’re geographically diverse – and sometimes even help get past the inevitable block.

The NaNoWriMo challenge is about writing a novel in a month – usually stated at 50,000 words. The problem with that stated challenge is that most novels don’t end at 50k. In science fiction and fantasy, they’re often between 70,000 and 120,ooo words. For young adult it’s much closer to the guidelines. Many of the challenge-takers stop at 50k instead of finishing the book, or they write so that the book ends at 50k. Then when it’s time for the revisions it gets interesting.

On the other hand, you end up with a half-finished novel even if you didn’t finish the challenge, and the rules are all about starting a new challenge next year, rather than finishing something that was an abandoned idea.

Another drawback is that it is difficult to look at that novel when December rolls around. The energy will sap into a stupor as the crowd that cheered everyone to the finish is taking a collective breath and thinking they ought to rejoin their families and friends. Edits are pushed off from December to June to some other future date. I think it’s just difficult to be that dedicated all the time for most people. Fits and starts get me through some edits, but I’m not consistent in that area.

Someday I’ll wrangle a bunch of people into NaNoEdMo with me, not that March is a better time than November but I think the energy of having a group working through the words would be fun and inspiring to get through it.

Who else plans to take a dash at a massive dump of creative words in November? What do you do with your manuscript when you finish (yes, we’re assuming that we’re all going to finish)? Does the creative flow of energy help you get in the spirit of the novel? Do you ever get bogged down by the pressure of 1667 words per day rather than gushing out of a story? I’d love to hear what NaNoWriMo means to you.


I’m one of those people who’s always looking for a challenge. I like being able to accomplish things, and writing has its own to manage.

These challenges can stretch the writing abilities. I took a piece to my writing group today, and they thought I could make it into a picture book. Funny, I just hadn’t looked at it that way. It would require a few changes, but it’d be cute.

I thought I’d never written anything like that, but it turns out I was wrong. And all of that from a prompt that said to have a story where something makes odd noises at night and not a horror story. Good thing, since I’m not much of one to write horror stories anyway. (I don’t read them much either, if you’re wondering, and I stay far away from the movies. My overactive imagination does not deal well with most of those.)

Sometimes, it’s just nice to try to stretch in that way. To take a stock prompt or random stretching of ability and turn it into something to be proud of.

One day I’m going to take up the challenge of not ending sentences with prepositions… but not in my blog. Here you can read me just like you can listen to me – a little incorrect, but generally well-meaning.


National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, takes place in November. Thousands of writers all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words during the month. It averages to about 1667 words a day, and most of them don’t make it.

Today I finished the novel. Full length novels are generally 70,000 to 120,000 words, so making the word count doesn’t mean the novel is completed. Lucky for me, I decided a YA novel would be good for the challenge and guessed it would be finished near that 50k mark.

My rough draft is 51,147! I have 20 chapters, maybe 21 if I split it a little differently. Editing starts in December, or really whenever I want to now that I’ve finished. I’m finding new ways to write and outline this year that have really helped my efforts.

My average per day I wrote (and I didn’t get to write a few days in there) was 2557. All right, I admit I’m a bit of a nerd and I keep track of those things! My personal best today was today: I wrote 7678 words.

I’ve listened to a lot of people who have strong opinions about this event. Some of the nay-sayers think they need to write quality rather than quantity. I think I can understand that, but I know I’m the type of writer who needs to get the story out of my head before revising it. Sometimes, it takes a completely different turn than I’d planned at the beginning and I like seeing how it all comes to life. When it’s down on paper I find it easier to polish the story and really hone in on what I want to say and fix mistakes. As long as everyone understands it will get a rewrite later, maybe two, or however many it takes to get that gem to shine.

So I’ve been cheering on my friends. This year we prepped together. We challenged ourselves and we planned celebrations. I made it, and I hope every one of them does, too. Then we’ll edit. Some of us will even try to publish them. Wish us luck!