Why a Writing Challenge is Important (Secrets Within…)

May 27, 2016 at 9:06 am (30 Days of Write, Creativity, Random Thoughts, Virtual Gems, Writing)

So, last you heard from me was–gosh–over two months ago on March 20th. (I’d link it but it was a pretty small post and you know how to find it if you really do want to read it.) Anyhoozles, you are due an update, probably treats and booze too, but we’ll start with the update.

My 30 Days of Write Challenge for March? I did not accomplish a sentence a day for 30 of the 31 days, so one might argue that the challenge was a fail. However, I accomplished something much greater (two things, perhaps) so I call the challenge a great big bucket of win. This leads us to Outcome #1:

A writing challenge is what you make it, so don’t let the rules tell you otherwise or make you feel awful about how you finished.

Here’s what happened to me.

I was motoring along, doing my sentence (plus) a day, when something wonderful happened. I was driving to work, listening to the soundtrack to my book when another book popped into my head. This is one I’ve been working on for a while and it’s been vexing me. I’m thiiiiiiiiiiiiis close–got a strong, fierce heroine but my hero needed that one little something to put him in the neighborhood of the woman he was supposed to end up with. Well, something about the other book’s soundtrack and, what I truly and firmly believe is the writing muscle I’d been flexing during the challenge, came together to bop me on the head like Tinkerbell’s wand to say, “This is what your hero needs to be.”

Ka-blam. Pow. Holy shit. Cue fireworks. I had it. I had it!

This is where the writing challenged diverged in the yellow wood and I, I took the path less edited. Or needing to be edited, I guess, but yeah–I honored Tinkerbell’s bonk on the head and started editing the other book, knowing I was putting my sentence-a-day book on the back burner. But you know what? That’s okay, and it leads us to Outcome #2:

A writing challenge is what you make it, so if you need to leave or alter your original plan, it’s okay to do.

So the editing was going awesomely–I tore through the first quarter of my book by the end of March (so hell yeah, I’m calling my March challenge won and done!) and I was feeling great. But then something beautiful happened again and yes, dear reader, I’m calling this a direct result of the challenge, that writing muscle I’d been flexing–no matter how small–on a daily basis.

I’ve had this other book (don’t we all have about seventy kabillion ideas floating in our heads at any one time?) that I’ve been letting stew deep in the fecund writing stew of my brain. I had a soundtrack and oh damn did I have the characters in my head (and they’re so awesome together. {swoons}) and I had some crucial scenes but it wasn’t ready yet.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

Ka-blam. Pow. Holy shit. Cue fireworks. Tinkerbell’s wand hit me again, gave me a plot point that just tied it all together with a neat little bow. And I started writing this story and it has been flowing so deliciously. I think I’m around 35K right now and am just loving the hell out of it.

So that’s where I’ve been for the past 2 months–editing and writing like a fiend, swimming with the tide my writing challenge started way back on March 1st. That book I started then? Yeah, it’s still in there, building and growing in the back of my head, and I know it’s going to have its moment like this current one did. It’s my process and I am Ned Flanders okily-dokily with it. Good lord willing and the creek don’t rise, this tide is going to carry me through the summer and into the fall. And if I need some help somewhere in there, well you can bet I’m going to get another 30 Days of Write started, give me the boost I need to get back where I need to be.


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One Sentence Has Never Meant So Much

March 20, 2016 at 2:46 pm (30 Days of Write, Creativity, Random Thoughts, Virtual Gems, Writing)

So, here I am at Day 20 for my 30 Days of Write challenge. I just wrote my official sentence (two of them, actually) for today, so I can tell you with swear-on-a-stack-of-bibles truth tDSC02190hat I am meeting my challenge. I haven’t even used my cheat day yet, though some days have been verrrrrrry close.

A sentence a day has been more difficult than I thought, but it’s also been more rewarding. I’ll talk about it more when I’m done and have had a little bit of time to reflect on my 30 Days of Write, but for now I can tell you this: it’s been amazing. Doing a sentence every day forces you to think about your story more than usual, because you have this once-a-day goal chained to your brain. Sure, it’s a tiny goal, but the effects are huge. The sentence is the pebble, but the ripples are the payoff.



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30 Days of Write: Days 2-5

March 6, 2016 at 10:07 am (30 Days of Write, Creativity, Writing)

DSC_0004All I’m thinking right now is I’m a freaking genius. I set up this writing challenge so one sentence a day is a win (see? genius!) and so far, I am winning. Almost took my pass day yesterday but nope–got 3 sentences written. The box on March 5th gets marked with a big green check. Hooray!

And where I could hang my head and mumble about how sick I’ve been and how work was an extra helping of suck on Friday and all kinds of excuses, I’m not. This challenge is about more than that singular daily sentence, always was. It’s about getting back into the mode of writing, the constant brain-churning of characters and plot and arc and beats and themes and everything else that makes up a good story, and it’s working!

  • My 7 or so sentences on Day 2 brought me a single line of description for my antagonist and, if I may say so, it is perfect.
  • My 3 sentences on Day 5 wrapped up my first scene. The final sentence, the one that sets everything and ties my hero and heroine together in ways they cannot even begin to comprehend just makes me giddy, this-would-never-be-just-a-kiss giddy.
  • And to get into writing mode, I’ve been listening to my Michael Hauge lectures over and over again. Though I’ve been keeping the current story in mind, something about listening to them yesterday gave me a few great tweaks for the one I’m about to start editing (code name: Bedlam) which is going to make it so much stronger!

So, you see, the writing is about more than single-story quantity; it’s absolutely about quality across all of my writing, from my current story to editing to even my blog posts. I could scrap my 30 Days challenge now and I’d be very comfortable declaring myself a winner, but I’m not going to. Just think–if I’ve made this much progress in 5 days, what can I do in thirty?


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30 Days of Write: Day 1

March 2, 2016 at 2:30 pm (30 Days of Write, Writing)

I wrote yesterday. It was 11 sentences, but where that number may be small, my victory was huge, because I wrote. I knew it was going to be tough getting some momentum
going and the residual effects of my infection are being tiring, lethargic beasts, but I wrote and, as it was more than 1 sentence, fulfilled my challenge requirements. (Mama didn’t raise no fools…)

PSX_20160302_142140I’m still pretty wiped out today, still have tons of things to do, but you know what? Yup, I’m gonna write again. Those 11 sentences yesterday? Not only were they great for the simple fact that they were written, they’re also fabulous because I turned my hero from something a little beta, a little too nice, into an asshole. Not a raging one, but one who is flawed and has made some very bad decisions. Oh, don’t worry–he’ll pay for them and become a better person in the process, but I’m still going to torture the fuck outta him first. There are no easy love stories in my world.

Bring it on, Day 2.


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30 Days of Write: March 2016 edition

March 1, 2016 at 12:43 pm (30 Days of Write, Creativity, Writing)

First of all, thank you to everybody who voted for me in the #Swoonies2016. I did not make it out of the first round, but it was a total blast being nominated and, knowing Tessa Dare is in the finals? Well, this historical romance writer’s heart is happy and full.

Now, on to business. As you can tell from the title of this blog post, I’m setting up a writing challenge for myself. I’m coming off a nasty respiratory infection, have a epic shit-ton of things to do in March and need another thing on my to-do list like…well, like I need another thing on my to-do list. But I’m going to do it anyway.


Because I need to. I have to. The idea of a 30 Days of Write challenge (yes, I have one excuse day–we’ll get to that later) is a heavy weight, but I. Have. To.

I know me. Once I get a pace going, I’m damn near unstoppable, the USS Pamela Cayne, but the trick is getting that pace going. I’ve blogged about this before–the whole ‘getting a bicycle‘ going, and it’s still truth. But I’ve got this book…I’ve had this book for a while, all set up and ready to go, but then something happened about 2-3 weeks ago.

It changed.

I was doing some light noodling on it and with one “I wonder if…” turned this book on its fucking ear. It exploded–all kinds of crunchy goodness explosions. Plot points opened before me like I was Hermione with a wand, chemistry sizzled and popped like water thrown on hot oil, choirs of dark and twisty romance angels SANG.

But I have to get going on it, get past this sludge I fell into with my nasty infection and Tons of Other Things. And, it makes me think of one of my favorite philosophies–if it scares the shit out of you, that means you absolutely, positively should write it. I absolutely, positively do not have the time to start a writing challenge, but you can bet your sweet bippy I’m going to do it anyway.

All I have to do is write a sentence a day. 30 sentences and I will have conquered the March 2016 edition of 30 Days of Write. But I know me, if not today, then pretty damn soon I’m going to be writing much more than a sentence. Just like I know my competitive side won’t let me take that day off–30 Days of Write will turn into 31 Days of Fuck Yeah.

Join me if you’d like–I’m hoping to be talking about this on Facebook and Twitter, so if it’s one sentence a day, one photo posted online, one line of knitting on your scarf that’s taunting you, join me. Let’s see where we are on March 31st.

Okay, got two tortured and flawed characters who need to fall in love, got JT’s “Drink You Away” blasting on the iPod, got the best cheerleader in the world in my corner. Time to write.





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30 Days of Write: Day 31 (The End)

May 31, 2012 at 5:52 pm (30 Days of Write)


Wow. That last week flew by, didn’t it? I had many posts in mind, but that True North thing I was talking about blew my head off, so between exhaustion and pondering, I took a time out. Then I started to write. 2000 words a day for the last three days, and, if I may quote Crash Davis, you don’t mess with a streak.

I promise to do a recap of this month’s experiment soon, but until then I’ll say thanks for being here this month.

See you…later.

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30 Days of Write: Day 25 (Show up)

May 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm (30 Days of Write)


Hi. This is going to be quick because I’m doing about eighty-billion things today, but I had to share the most important with you. Today I got to hear Joe Lansdale speak. Never read a word he’s written, but he and his son, Keith, were talking about pulp fiction and I had to hear that. Toward the end, the moderator asked for one piece of advice to aspiring writers and immediately Joe answered, “Show up.”

Yup, show up. Get your ass in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and write. I’ve heard the message a hundred times before, but hearing it from such a powerhouse, you know that he’s giving you advice worth listening to.

Show up.

See you tomorrow.

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30 Days of Write: Day 24 (Gyroscopes, True North, and Neo)

May 24, 2012 at 11:27 am (30 Days of Write)


Sometimes I get so scattered in my writing and my ideas and my planning and my editing and everything that goes into them all that I have trouble regaining my focus. It’s like my brain is trapped inside of one of these contraptions and I’m trying to get everything lined up and stopped. Now, I will grant you that these are also some of the times I get great ideas and the Girls are more likely to swing wide and be generous in their acceptance, but there are times when it really sucks. It drains me of energy and creativity and no-boundaries rules and ends up locking me up like I’m in cement. (I’ll spare you a picture of somebody in cement boots.)

And, needless to say, it sucks.

So, this weekend I’m going to try to free myself, not only from the feeling of being scattered, but the feeling that I need to balance myself like the poor girl/guy (sorry–can’t tell) in the photo above. Instead of trying to align my brain with True North, I’m going the opposite–I’m freeing it to go wherever the hell it wants, in this universe, the next, or a completely new place that’s locked to no absolute rules or borders. I’m stepping out of the wheel and launching myself into the ether like Neo at the end of The Matrix.


See you tomorrow.

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30 Days of Write: Day 23 (Courtney, Callihan, and Campbell)

May 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm (30 Days of Write)

Okay, that radio station I mentioned yesterday? My list of songs so awesome they make by ears bleed is now up to 9–some already slated for a soundtrack, and some so awesome they’re getting downloaded because I know *some day* they’re going to be perfect.
And speaking of the awesome, I want to bring your attention to a tweet from two weeks ago:

(No, the tweet isn’t the awesome, you goofballs, it’s the people in it. Sheesh! You think I’m that vain? No, wait–don’t answer that…)

So, Kristen Callihan, Anna Campbell, and Courtney Milan. Yes, they’re incredible, but, you may ask, why did I call them out as inspiration? Let me tell you.

Courtney Milan debuted with Harlequin and had not only the historical romance world, but many other worlds abuzz with how amazingly awesome she was, yet when deal time came for book #3 in her series, she said no.

Let me repeat that: Courtney Milan told Harlequin no. (And with the full support of her fabulous agent, Kristin Nelson, btw.)  She had a plan, a goal, and Harlequin wasn’t able to help her reach that, so she walked away from what many of us would give body parts for and started publishing her work herself. For that kind of strength, determination and belief in herself and her writing, heck yeah, Courtney is on my inspiration list!

And speaking of Kristin Nelson and her clients, you need look no further than Kristen Callihan (and some of you may remember my open letter to her from back in February.) And if you want a reason to be inspired by this deliciously talented author, look no further than this post here. She and Kristin kept fighting until somebody discovered how amazing Kristen was, defining not only ‘underdog’ but why she’s on my inspiration list. All it takes is one, people.

Anna Campbell I’ve adored since the minute I held Claiming the Courtesan in my eager little hands. Not only is she a spectacular writer, but I remember her saying (my words as I can’t find the quote) that she’d been writing for 26 years before CTC, so where some called her an overnight success, she said it took her 26 years to get there. That kind of determination, my friends, is worthy of the inspiration list.

So that’s it. Maybe you’ll feel the same, maybe not. But now you know why I am and why, in my world, I can look at them and believe.

See you tomorrow.

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30 Days of Write: Day 22 (Wiffers, the Dark, and Baz)

May 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm (30 Days of Write)


First I have to say how much I love the Wiffers. You all rock (sorry, we all rock) and I thank the universe almost every day I was lucky enough to discover you.

 I’ve had a crazy day/day-and-a-half and I think part of that is the internet radio station I’ve discovered at work—it’s acoustic alternative and in the first three hours, heard two songs that are sooooo going on a soundtrack. (One to a current book, another to one of my nebulous upcoming pieces.) This kind of music puts me in an odd mood—not a bad one, but certainly one I don’t want to be in at work. It gets me into my creative, dark place, and that is not a place I should be in if I don’t want to start dropping copious F-bombs in front of my boss.

Had some other writing thoughts/events that have gotten me thinking (thus contributing to my creative dark place) and I can’t wait until this weekend when I can give them the space and freedom to develop how they need to. (Let me quickly break away to clarify that when I say dark , that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Heck—it’s what I’m hanging my pitch phrase on: Dark Victorian romance. But keep in mind there can be beauty and joy and peace and richness in the dark and holy crap am I starting to sound like Laurell K. Hamilton, but maybe there’s a reason I’m re-reading her Merry Gentry series for the eighty-seven billionth time right now.) I am both impatient and wanting of some time for these thoughts and their development, but, as one of my mantras states, the universe will unfold as it should. No need for me to push them or hold them back because they’ll do even better left alone.

Perhaps one thing contributing to this current state of mind is the half-hour of Moulin Rouge  I watched last night. You all know of my love for Joss Whedon, but also high on my list of tremendously talented creators who swings wide is Baz Luhrmann. I first discovered him way back when with Strictly Ballroom and have drunk deep of that, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, and Australia. What he does speaks to me the same way Joss does and I’m not saying he’s for everybody, but wow does he get my sparks flying. Maybe I need to have a Baz-a-thon one of these weekends. If it feeds the Girls, right?

 I was going to start this next paragraph by saying “And now for something completely different…” but I realize it’s not, not really. I wanted to share with you a photo I have on my desktop (technically, I have 4 desktops, so this is on one of them) and in looking at it, I realize it falls into that dark, creative side. Ladies and gentlepeople, I give you the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago:

 And since that is one of my happy places, I’m going to sign off here.

 See you tomorrow.

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