Self-Imposed Writing Challenge


Just for the fun of it, I recently took an online typing test to see just how fast I could get my fingers to work.  I’ve never done this before and I’ve never cared about the “official” number because it doesn’t really matter to anyone.  And by that I mean, the only typing I’m doing is on my latest project and no one’s screaming for it.

I found out I type about 65 words per minute and removing errors, that might be adjusted to 60 or 61.  I believe I can go faster – as if that matters – but, at the moment I’m using a rather old laptop with a space key that notoriously sticks.  I’d say in fairness to my brain and fingers, that’s what’s called a handicap like they might give out in bowling or golf.  Anyway, my curiosity regarding this was triggered by a blog I follow called Writers In The Storm.  They have a group of writers who regularly contribute, as well as guest bloggers.  A guest blogger recently put out a post about how to take advantage of writing fast and even came up with a formula for how many words one could do in an hour if you knew your wpm.

Huh.  Okay, so, if I settled for 60 wpm x 60 that would be 3,600 words in an HOUR.  Are they insane???  That’s WAY higher than my usual goal of 1,000 words per DAY.  That sounded completely unreasonable until she went on to say you could work in fifteen minute increments.  Oh.  Okay, maybe I can see doing it that way.  Hey, I’m all for trying something new for motivation.  And if I only stuck with it for fifteen minutes, that’s 900 words – better than what I’ve done most days lately.  She pointed out it’s also helpful to have notes and an understanding of what’s going to happen in the story before you begin.

In reality, this isn’t any different than NANOWRIMO which some of you might still be recovering from.  There are a couple of differences.  1) You are accountable to no one but yourself, and 2) the goal of NANOWRIMO is 55,000 by the end of the month.  Like I’ve said before, I’ve never participated in it, but that’s about 1800 words per day.  Not within a half hour.  I find this concept of fast writing intriguing because I know if I get into my story, sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my brain.

Plus, I’ve experienced a positive result once before by doing something similar.  This was back in 2012 when my first book was on submission, and I needed a distraction.  We always hear about beginning new projects to take our mind off of worry, and the submission process was all so new to me then, I was trying not to act like a psycho every time the phone rang, or an email dinged into my inbox.  For my own sake, I needed to write another book, partly to subdue crazy me, and partly to validate I could actually do it again.

I remember beginning in early April.  By August, I was done.  A completed story around 86,000 words in hand.  This included editing.  By my math, that’s not very fast – no where near this level of “fast writing,” in the WITS post, and not even close to NANOWRIMO, but in my mind, it was still a blistering pace because it took me 18 months to finish the last project.

My main point is, I wrote it  “fast,” i.e., a consistent 1,000 wpd, with more some days, and less on others, but some number of words on page – EVERY DAY.  Was it any good, you ask?  Well, I sent it off to Caroline Upcher, the editor I used at the time, and two weeks later I got an email back.  I opened the review letter enclosed and my eyes immediately caught the word “wonderful.”  And, it got even better.  (some of you have who’ve been reading my blog for a while have heard this story before)  Turns out she was reconnecting with contacts in the publishing world in the U.K., and sent the ms to an agency there to read with the hope of maybe working out a translatlantic sale if a U.S. publisher picked it up.  The agent, Amanda Preston, of LBA, read it, and contacted her and said, ” I absolutely love it.”

That sounds pretty exciting, right?  And it was – at the time.  Very.  However.  I decided not to go on submission for a variety of reasons that are really neither here nor there in this moment, although I do dwell on what might have happened if I’d done that.  What this post is about is I do love setting goals.  Yapping away about it here means I’m about to buckle down and get serious.  Back in 2004 and again in 2006 I ran a marathon.  One of the first things I did when I made up my mind to run in them was to state it as a fact, “I’m going to run a marathon this year.”   Stating goals for all to hear is more likely to make it happen than keeping it to yourself.

And your eyes reading this is stating my goal.  I will plant butt in chair and achieve 1,000 wpd for the next ninety days. 

One way or the other.

*cracks knuckles, glares at keyboard.*

Have you set a self-imposed writing challenge lately?

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51 Comments

I flip flop back and forth on whether sprints work for me or not. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s a jumbled mess. And sometimes I think it’s a jumbled mess, then when I reread a few days later it’s amazing.

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    I’ve had the opportunity in the past few days to re-read some stuff, and like you said, I see gold nuggets along with a what in the hell was I thinking batch-o-crap. That’s okay though. As we all know, first drafts are ugly ducklings, and later (we hope) they turn into a swan.

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I’ve done a few of those self-imposed writing challenges, and I find they work for me. Some of the time anyway. 🙂

Good luck with yours!

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Hmm… this all sounds very well — but it’s what I do anyway! Only I do it longhand and have to type it up later. I have no problem getting thousands of words down. The only trouble is they all need to be edited after! That’s when the real long slow work begins…

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    Oh. My. Well. No way I could do what you do. For one my hands can’t keep up, and second I can’t read my own writing. It’s pretty bad. I’ve heard of others doing this though, and they say it slows the process down so they can think it through. Thanks for stopping by!

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Hey Donna, I just thought of something. Sometimes I listen to music when I’m writing and a while back I realized I was typing to the beat of the music. I cranked the tunes and man did my fingers fly. The quality of the writing was interesting, to say the least, but it was fun. I was amazed by how my hands knew where the keys were even though my brain was grooving on the music and coming up with something to write.

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    This is sort of strange (in a good way!) that you mentioned this. Just the other day my hubby was in his office invoicing clients and he had his music SO loud it did no good for him to shut the door. My mom and I were on the phone and she said “What is THAT???” I told her it was Blaine “working.” She said, “He can work with all that noise?” Anyway, I went on to tell her that I knew some writers who listened to certain “mood” music to get in the mood. I’ve thought about trying it!

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Donna – awesome. And the “wonderful” is fantastic affirmation. I did NaNoWriMo and the experience was great for exactly what you wrote.

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    And here’s another interesting factoid on this fast writing/typing with that second book of mine. I have a character in it named……………Maisy! 🙂 (which didn’t knock me upside the head till I left my comment on your site.)

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Hey, Donna! So glad you have a WP site and not another Blogger-who-hates-me site.

This post was interesting on several counts, not the least of which is I’m pretty sure I wrote something very similar once about setting a daily word goal. I even tried participating in NaNo one year. Both efforts were epic fails.

It took me way longer than it should have to realize that I’m just not that kind of writer. I can’t write every day. My brain doesn’t work that way. I tend to spend a good deal of time thinking and then sit down and write thousands and thousands of words, however long it takes to get them all out. Then I think some more. And then I write again. The times I’ve tried to write every single day just leave me feeling as if I’ve failed. Which is ridiculous, of course. I just have a different system.

I hope the daily challenge is effective for you! It works for an awful lot of writers I know and I secretly envy them their consistency. And honestly, anything is worth a try to see whether it works.

I hope I do get a chance to meet you at Bouchercon this fall. I’ll be asking whether you’ve completed this next novel. How’s that for a challenge?

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    EEEEK! Yeah, like no pressure at all, right??? LOL! Seriously, I think I’ll do okay, and as I type that I’m already wigging out. In some ways I wish I could do like you and think then write those thousands of words. I suppose processes all have to be tried out and new ones added when we burn out on an old one. I hope to see you at Bouchercon and I might be the one with plugs of hair missing. That’ll be hard to overlook won’t it?

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I’m at the stage of editing/re-writing and preparing to query again. Still, I could set a clearer, more specific goal and progress much faster; like editing/re-writing at least 1,000 words a day, or even a chapter a day. Which is exactly what’s missing for me. When I wrote this MS, I wrote a chapter a day, and it was so much fun. Wow, Donna: this is wonderful. Thank you so much for your very timely post. 🙂

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I often tell people that the one high school class I use every single day was the touch-typing class. I just measured my speed on one of those web sites and got 80 wpm – damn good, I think. Typing speed matters, but not for the reasons some people think. Just because you can type fast doesn’t mean you can come up with the words you want to say fast – but it means that when those words do come to you, the fingers don’t get in the way so much between the brain and the paper.

Challenges – yes, indeed. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo because I’m a teacher and November is absolutely impossible. On the other hand, I’ve set myself to do that challenge in July – Camp NaNoWriMo runs one that I’m determined to get involved in. By the end of that i should have a rough draft done (emphasis on “rough,” of course…).

Oh, and hi from another fan of Her Sharkiness.

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    Seriously, 80 wpm isn’t damn good, it’s DAMN good. 🙂 I tried to type faster and faster on the test and for me it was just about impossible. What I like is when I type and read what I’m typing out loud as I go, I realize it’s ALMOST as fast as a talk – which may not be too fast considering my southern drawl. Heee! (as Diane Major – DLM – would say)

    I think I saw elsewhere someone considering the NANWRIMO in July. Good luck if you decide to go for it!

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Dropping in from QOTKU blog, returning your visit. Wow, 1k wpd? Different kind of marathon. I tell people that ultra-distance bike riding requires stubbornness more than conditioning. Maybe writing shares some of that. Good luck!

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Enjoyed your post. And yes, I have achieved a couple of goals this spring. Well, nearly. You mentioned when you visited my blog I am a “hybrid” writer–non-fiction and fiction. My goal was to get some non fiction under my belt since that was my beginning in my writing career. So, I wrote a vegetable gardening guide with my hubby who is a REAL gardener. I planned a writing tips book compiled from guest blog posts since October. The veg gardening book us on amazon now and the writing tips will be up next week. I announced this on my blog and so, yes, I HAD to carry it through. Being accountable helps you achieve your goals. Next goal–finish up my third mystery and sub it in June! Yikes,now I have to do it because I told the world! Best wishes on completing your challenge!

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Good luck with this, Donna! Whatever works for you is good.

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one of my goals for 2015 was to write short stories and submit them to online mags. i felt like my book writing was going too slowly, and wanted to change up my daily writing habits. 🙂 i’ve had a bit of success with online publication this year, which is super fun, and i’ve even gone back to working on my novel. 🙂 i think the writing challenge you mentioned sounds really fun. i think i’ll try it myself.

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    It worked that one time for me, so I want to try it again. Mainly b/c I don’t want the next book to take EIGHTEEN LONG HAIR PULLING MONTHS, and two, b/c if I don’t state my goal, then I just float off to read blogs. (LOL!)

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      i do similar things, including editing my book until the end of time. maybe 2016 will prove more fruitful for getting my books together (i’m having a baby in a few months, so i’m pretty sure the rest of 2015 will be somewhat absorbed with the new addition.)

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      Congratulations! You must be super excited about that, and yes, I believe your schedule will take a back seat for a while, but it won’t be long before the baby is on a schedule and you’ll figure out when you can sort out writing time. I’m happy for you, a baby is wonderful!

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Donna, your post brought back happy memories of NaNoWriMo. Thanks to last November’s goals I managed to get a 60,000 word start on book 2. Needed a lot of revising but I had a good beginning, knew the ending, and wrote a few good scenes worth saving for the middle. Plan on writing every book this way.

Cheers,
Amanda

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    Amanda, that is really amazing. I’m always so impressed with the NANO folks because they aren’t writing in a bubble. I.e. you sign up, put your name out there that you’re participating and it’s hard (IMO) to write under “pressure.” That’s usually when I get BRAIN FREEZE. I think this is what happened with my third book, A BLACK WATER SEASON. It was a genre I’d never written in before, and third person POV AND two different POV’s. The protag and antag. All new stuff and I was overwhelmed. The fact you got 60,000 words in one month? All I can say is WOW.

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      Thanks, Donna, but if I don’t get it done that one month, I never do, lol. World’s most perfect procrastinator.

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      I think this is exactly why I’m giving myself this challenge. I don’t want to spin my wheels for the next several months. I guess it’s not so much about procrastination as it is worrying about nitpicky thing,down to the commas et al. Le sigh.

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I like goals, and i like contests with myself. I used to take typing tests all the time to try and beat my score. Of course that was before I had kids. Now, my typing isn’t holding me back, it’s my ability to think straight for more than ten minutes before falling asleep.

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    Haaaa! Funny Sara! Actually that’s me too – which is why I can only read like one book a month. I start and get a few pages in and sometimes the thing whacks me in the face b/c I’ve fallen asleep. I only read books for enjoyment/study at night. During the day I read for research, blogs I follow as well as any emails. My GoodReads info on the site here has cobwebs around it I believe.

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Hi Donna,
Great post. When I was a young thang living in West Virginia all girls were obliged to take a year of typing. An entire hour of it, once a week. I’m grateful to have had this experience but at the time I hated it. Also because one of the girls in the class was the teacher’s daughter. I was often the worst. Guess what she was.

How wonderful to hear your experience with the second novel you cranked out. Do you still have it?

I’ve yet to query and that is my goal. I’m still a virgin. I’ve a new story outlined and want to start. But as it stands I’m still re-writing my current m/s. Writing is my hobby. Currently work is painting 8 hours a day and illustrating a story I wrote to teach English to French primary schoolers, writing all the lesson plans to go with it. Eeks it’s too much to think of.

Being self-employed I’ve always been goal oriented and good at planning my schedule.

I’ve lurked on you blog often but never commented because it’s on wordpress. WordPress drives me nuts.

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    Hi Angie – THANK YOU for “lurking” and now commenting! I think there must be an element to all of our various blogs that sometimes works against commenters. (vommenters!) For instance, on most of the “blogger” blogs (the ones with that little orange “b” symbol) we get that “recaptcha” login we have to do. I had such good intentions of visiting every single link Colin posted on JR’s blog, but after doing about 12 or so of them today, I was so sick of having to complete multiple “I’m Not A Robot” steps each time, I was like – GOOD GRIEF! It will take me sometime into next week to visit everyone! I didn’t know we’d end up with over 100, and phew! I get tired just thinking about it.

    The typing test was actually fun, but then again, I’ve taken the Mensa online test -for fun – so you know. What does that say about me? (she needs to get out more)

    Are you from West VA? It’s a beautiful state.

    I hope you will soon be ready to query. I completely understand the editing/re-writing part – it’s hard to decide when it’s done, isn’t it?

    Anyway, I think you lead such a glamorous life! Painting in Paris! Talk about living a dream. That’s one right there.

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Donna, I regularly read your comments on the Shark’s blog. Thought I’d stop by and say hello. Best of luck with your challenge. I’m sure you’ll ace it!

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Wow, I LOVE that advice. It’s interesting too, to hear about your experiences with it. And I feel like I might re-capture some of that “magic” I had when I did TRUITT AMES. I mean sure, I struggled some days but mainly it was a story that came easier than DIXIE DUPREE, and definitely MUCH faster than BLACK WATER.

I’ll do as you said and keep on with the daily goal – no matter what. I have heard about that “train your brain” and this must be what they’re talking about relative to cranking out the pages. I guess we’ll find out if I’m trainable. 🙂

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You can absolutely do this.
I crank out a 650 word column in less than 45 minutes. What’s funny is that the ones that come fast are usually the best. When my column for another paper was anywhere from 750 to 1200 I had them done in an hour.
I will predict that once you get into your challenge you will go way over your 1000 words because you will have trained yourself to crank out thoughts. My advice, even though you are not asking for it, if you go over your word count don’t slack off the next day, go for the burn anyway. Keep your brain and the channel to your fingers open and always on the ready.
If Mr. King can turn out 10 pages a day you certainly can meet your word count.

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Stating a goal is a big part. And I always have to tell someone about it if the goal has a special challenge for me personally or I know I have wiggle room to quit. Your typing test reminds me kids these days can’t type at all. In the computer labs, I tell them to hit whatever key and they have to look for it. Or I say hit “tab” and the button across the keyboard that isn’t doing what we need. I hit the button where tab should be automatically…turns out someone switched the keys. If they knew how to type switched keys wouldn’t matter…it’s muscle memory.

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    Exactly Jennine!

    I know if I talk about it in a broader forum than to myself – which I’m really good at. The lips move. Out in the yard. At the grocery store. No one around.

    Anyway, and here I thought all along kids nowadays COULD type. They can text fast as all get out, so I guess I just assumed they could do the real typing deal. How about that!

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      Oh yea, they text fast…with two thumbs and a small keyboard on a phone that capitalizes and apostrophes everything for them! They’re a mess on a real keyboard that does none of those things!

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      Yep. Such a typical physical profile of today’s teen – head down, little device clutched in hands, both thumbs flying and to watch their facial expressions is a hoot.

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I don’t even want to think about a typing test. I still have the emotional wounds from HS. And it wasn’t from lack of coordination–I played the acordian as a kid for years! It was the monotony and the incredible pressure! I believe I topped out one day at a stunning 28wpm. I know I’m waaay faster now because there is no harm no foul on an errant letter swiped. I also don’t have points deducted for time spent fanning and waiting for the white-out to dry, Nor do I have that quasi-sadistic Mr Carmichael hovering near my desk–waiting–waiting– and then springing into action to kick the sole of my shoe if I accidentally fell out of form and crossed my legs. EEeek!
My biggest challenge is to stay on top of my schedule of deadlines for assorted obligations. In between those, I write like a demon. Ha! In fact Mr Carmichael…I look at my fingers all of the time, slump in my favorite chair crossing AND folding my legs under my laptop for balance all while have a merry old time (thumbs her nose at the Carmicheal Spectre, throws down the mic and walks off into the sunset!).

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    I think I actually feel a little nauseous b/c you’ve reminded me of my OWN typing class back in the day. That’s hilarious – I’ve got this mental image of you doing ALL of the things he would have kicked your shoe over – or maybe even stood at your shoulder, breathing heavily. Oh. That was my experience but hey, you resurrected my own hell. 🙂

    And. You’ve also just reminded me of a job I used to have at ITT, now Alcatel. I worked an assembly line where we inserted components onto printed circuit boards. We were timed. If you were at the head of the line -controlling the speed – it was better. If you were at the end, that too was better. WOE to the people in the middle. And WOE to the poor person who had to use a soldering tool to attach anything. I HATED IT. Especially when the supervisor would walk up and down the aisle behind us and say, “Faster, you have to make XX board per hour. Faster.” Like a drone. UGH.

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ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) April 2, 2015 at 9:06 AM

I read that same WITS post too and though I doubt myself, there is some appeal. I might try it for my next project. I will be interested to find out how it worked/has been working for you. 🙂

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    I thought as part of this “self imposed challenge” I should do updates on my progress periodically – so everyone can see if it’s working. Or if I’m only driving myself crazy. Like I mentioned to Colin, I do like to set goals. It really helps me buckle down.

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Right now, it’s the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge for me. And while I’ve scheduled the posts ahead of time, it’s still a challenge coming up with 26 flash stories. But whether it’s A-to-Z, or Janet’s contests, or Flash! Friday, or whatever, I love a challenge. Not only does it force me to do some writing even when I may feel my creative juices are running low, but it pushes me out of my comfort zone and stokes my creativity.

I have an idea for another novel that’s been percolating in my head. I’ll need to start setting some goals for getting that written soon. Maybe I’ll take up the 1,000 words a day challenge. 🙂

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    Colin! I saw that A-Z challenge on your blog and I almost, ALMOST signed up for it, and then I thought, huh??? I can barely get my own blog posts out every 4-5 days and sometimes it goes a bit longer. Having said that, I work best towards goals. If I don’t make them, I’m subject to flail about like that baby bird I saw this morning trying to get his little feet under him, with Mama Bird squawking nearby. (Bless his little heart) The way I look at it is…for your new novel…, I’d try a goal and maybe not a thousand a day, maybe five hundred. If it’s more, great, if it’s less, okay. It balances out, and by the end of the month, you have 15,000 words. And by the end of five months – depending on genre – you have 75K. Hurray!

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