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Challenges in Writing

This morning I was thinking about the last few months and how much I‘ve grown in work and scope. Spring started the process nicely. During May I attempted to do what, for me, should have been nigh on to impossible. Those who hang around writers very long have discovered our nasty little secret. We just can’t seem to let a challenge go by without picking up the gauntlet and doing battle.

One week our friend, Paula Yoo, sent out a challenge to all of us who write for children. Paula is a successful children’s writer, screenwriter, musician, etc. Multi-talented is an understatement. Her challenge was this: write a Picture Book per day for one week.

Easy work, you say. Obviously you’ve never tried to write one. Many an exceptional PB has taken more than a year to get ready for publication. Now, Paula did cut us all some slack. We only had to have a rough draft. We didn’t have to polish anything, just get the story down on paper. That’s all.

Just getting a really good idea is half the battle. Some of us would actually lose sleep over this little challenge. Some of us couldn’t complete it because of personal time restrictions, family difficulties and work-related obstacles.

For those of us who did, indeed, write 7 PBs in 7 days, the sense of accomplishment outweighed any loss of sleep. We all knew that maybe, just maybe, 1 out the 7 would actually be worthy of submitting for publication. And if 100 out of all those written for the challenge were sent to a publisher maybe, just maybe, 7 would be chosen to go into print. And as children’s writers know, that’s an optimistic estimate, too. It might be only 1 going into print. If that. That’s how competitive our job is right now. And that’s only one arena of competition within the children’s book market.

Why do we do it? Because we can’t stop ourselves. The ideas keep flowing. The pictures keep waking us in the night. Words weave themselves into phrases and sentences and cluster into paragraphs without any encouragement on our part. We’re only the vehicle used for creating the physical evidence of the story’s existence. That’s our function.

I often wonder if these stories, regardless of reader market, float around in the ether of the universe looking for some poor, unfortunate mind susceptible to their influence. Like mine, for instance. Think about it. Somebody is minding his/her own business, talking to a neighbor, having a meal with the family, whatever, when all of a sudden an idea pops into his/her head with the velocity of a lightnigbolt. It comes complete with slideshow or video, and stereophonic sound (or for the more creative – surround sound), and begins mesmerizing the recipient of the mental movie.

The same process is called daydreaming by some, zoning by others, and wool-gathering by still others. Take your pick.

For the writer, as opposed to the non-writer, the idea will not usually be allowed to stagnate within the confines of the wetware. It must be written down, if only as a passing idea to be revisited another day. Most writers have notebooks full of errant ideas for stories, articles, novels, you name it. I have file boxes of them. Some complete, some not.

Some only need a final edit or rewrite to be ready for a publisher. Of course, that assumes that I still want to send it out or that I still think it’s worth sending out. Generally, since writing is as much a learning occupation as anything else, I can reread one of these gems and know that it really isn’t as good as I once believed, and it may need months of rewriting to get it to a point where it needs an outside reader for review and critique.

This is where challenges come into play. Without the little teaser challenges we give each other, we cannot grow as writers. Entropy takes control, leaving us to believe that we need not wander into another stage of writing or arena of endeavor.

Another friend during that week of frenzied PB writing challenged us to write a story in 15 words. Try it. It must have a defined beginning, middle, and end. Well, we got through it and went on to the 30 word story. We could get in details then with room for a subplot.

There’s also the 3-sentence-pitch-for-story-or-novel challenge. The poem a day challenge for the entire month of April, the little rejections-letter-in-rhyme challenge, haiku challenge….

You get the drift. I’m waiting for the “Three-Children’s-Plays-in-One-Week-Challenge where each play must run a minimum of 10 min., timed, in one act. I wonder who I could get to throw that one out with a hook?

Oh, I almost forgot. There’s the ICL’s Members Monthly Write Off challenge for fiction or non-fiction – children/adult – running up to 2500 words that take their ideas from a particular prompt and guidelines for the month. Deadlines must be met. There’s voting for best of month which gets posted for all to see.

And let us not forget, the posted writing contests, whether NF, Fiction, or Poetry from publications, publishers, writer’s guilds, etc. that go on all the time. We push each other to join those competing in various categories. Of course, we each have our working pieces, either fiction/non-fiction, research for WIP, interviewing for WIP, and networking for all those reasons.

Can a dedicated writer have a life outside of his/her profession? Don’t ask me. I couldn’t tell you. I live and breath what I’m doing now. I do become aware of things on certain days of the week only because I have standing appointments.

Those are the only things that give me a clue as to what day it is and what week it is. Time flies for me. That’s what challenges do. They distort time and space. They take up a lot each.

Now I have to go. Submission for the MWO is this week, and I have to come up with a creative non-fiction piece in less than 600 words with a subject taken from three topics: cities, ocean, or weather. What to choose, what to choose.

Oh, yeah, the PB’s of May. I turned two of them into rebuses and submitted them. Two went into short shorts for young children and sent to e-zines, and the rest are still being floated on the consideration pool in my mind to see where they will be sent.
I hope your time filled with challenges and that the rewards of meeting those challenges fills your heart and mind.

Clauds

 

 

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Categories: Writing and Poetry
  1. August 26, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Hi Clauds,

    I can’t believe you wrote 7 PBs in 7 days! Good, bad, or indifferent, that’s still an amazing accomplishment, in my opinion. Great blog, I’ll be back often to read your words of wisdom. I like the way you think.

    Mikki

    • claudsy
      August 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself. Come back any time.

  2. August 26, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Wow! 7 pb in 7 days. That is a challenge. Picture books are not easy to write.

    • claudsy
      August 26, 2009 at 9:15 pm

      Billy,
      I don’t think of this as unusal for doing rough drafts. I once did a novel [512 pages rough] in three weeks. I haven’t done anything with it since then, but I did write the rough draft of the sequel. Still haven’t done anything with them. Adult novels, though. When I’m writing, I’m writing fast. Some call it quick and dirty and I suppose it is, b/c there’s always lots of revision.

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