WFMAD Day 31 – End of the challenge

The 3rd Annual Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge has reached its last day. We made it!

How did you do?

If you did not write every day this month, do me a favor. Instead of beating yourself up, or lining up the excuses why you failed despite the best of intentions, take that energy and turn it into writing. Today. If you messed up, it’s water under the bridge.  No worries. Start over.

I saved some of the hardest writing questions I received for last.

How do I weed out the “fluff”, to see the forest for the trees, so to speak, no matter how awesome the fluff may be?

It’s very hard. Putting your manuscript away for six months can sometimes help, if you can steel yourself not to look at it. When you finally take it out, you will have laser vision for the fluff.

How do you know when a story is worth the time of others for a critique?

You don’t. You take a leap of faith and ask the members of your critique group to be gentle.

How do you maintain confidence when success rate is like 0.1%????

If you quit, your success rate is guaranteed to be 0%. Which odds do you like better?

All three of these questions touch on a central element of the writing process.


It is uncomfortable to have this writing dream and not know what to do with it. So you try your hand at crafting a few chapters and they suck and that’s uncomfortable, too. So you try a different story or you revise what you’ve written, and while you might see some improvement, for the most part, reading what you’ve written is akin to dancing in hellfire. It usually takes years of work to write that first book that is good enough to be published. That is a very long time to be in discomfort.

This is one of the many, many reasons writing is like running.

Runners know a great deal about discomfort. (After yesterday’s run, I feel I might know more than most.)

It doesn’t matter if you are Olympic caliber or that funny-looking lady who shuffles down the street singing loudly (that would be me), if you are trying to run faster or run a longer distance, you are going to have endure some discomfort.

Notice I did not say pain. There is a world of difference between actual pain (hamstring tear) and discomfort (tender hamstrings from extra mileage). The runner learns to identify the difference if she wants to continue to move forward.

Writers must do the same thing.  You have to live with the discomfort of less-than-perfect 24/7 if you are a writer. Even if you write a book that is published, you will probably have paragraphs in it that eventually make you cringe. Or you’ll look back at in 5 years and you’ll be stunned that people read it, because you are five years older and wiser and you have a new bunch of writing techniques that are sharp and shiny in your tool belt.

When you sit down to write, greet your discomfort like it is a slightly annoying office mate who smells. Stay upwind, if at all possible. You don’t want to engage this person in conversation because then you’ll hear about his diabetic gerbils and the bugs in his walls and the transmission issues in his car and… and… and… Grab your coffee, rush back to your desk and keep your head in your writing.

Singing loudly helps, too.


“The first draft is a skeleton–just bare bones. It’s like the very first rehearsal of a play, where the director moves the actors around mechanically to get a feel of the action. Characters talk without expression. In the second draft, I know where my characters are going, just as the director knows where his actors will move on the stage. But it’s still rough and a little painful to read. By the third draft, the whole thing is taking shape. I have enough glimmers from the second draft to know exactly what I want to say. There may be two or three more drafts after the third to polish it up. But the third is the one where it all comes together for me.” Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Set… pretend it is the first day, not the last

Today’s prompt:

For the love of all that is holy, write out the creative dream that is in your heart.


20 Replies to “WFMAD Day 31 – End of the challenge”

  1. So I guess the lesson is: Keep Writing! Get through the first draft and dip in to the second draft like it’s a cold lake and you are going for a swim.

  2. Thanks for sharing so much about how to do this work well. In the end, the more ink I spill on the page, the more likely it becomes that I might create something that does not make me cringe. Sad for the ink trees, but there it is. Also, writing badly is much more rewarding – and far less damaging to the soul – than not writing at all. Hope your autumn is filled with all good things. – Paul

  3. “Even if you write a book that is published, you will probably have paragraphs in it that eventually make you cringe.”


    Thanks for a month of inspiration, Laurie. You make us all better.

  4. How about trying another tack–turning the discomfort into joy? The runner’s rush. That high when even the hard things become wonderful. Fool the eye. You really, really love what you do, even the bad parts.

    And suddenly. . .you do love it. You want to get to the work more than you want not to.

    Trust me, I have loved my writing for more years than most of you have been writing. Or thinking about writing. Or even been thought of by your moms.

    Distinction: loving the process is not the same as loving what you have just written. Hardly anyone loves what they have just written. Not even me. Especially not even me.


  5. “When you sit down to write, greet your discomfort like it is a slightly annoying office mate who smells. Stay upwind, if at all possible.”
    Best. Advice. EVER! Seriously. I write down analogies like this one and hang them in my writing space. I think this one needs to go front and center for awhile. In 32 point font! Thanks for this month…you’ve really been an inspiration!

  6. I’ve been on an Eddie Izzard kick lately, so for me it’s “Go toward your fears.” But it amounts to accepting discomfort, and maybe even finding it a bit of a rush.

    Classes started today, so I didn’t have much writing time, but I did sit down with my notebook, packed specially for this purpose, and while I ate my lunch on the campus terrace I scribbled some more on the beginning of Re-Visions Rnd 1. Tomorrow’s a writing day and I’m going to dive in.

  7. Thank you again for such a fabulous month of nudging and challenging us all. I cannot wait until next year. Perhaps one of my favorite strategies was to not count blogging as writing. I spent more time writing in my notebook this month than in a long time. I also loved how to really get into the heads of our characters and look at things from a different viewpoint.
    Thank you for your generosity in all of this. I can’t wait until next the 4th annual.

  8. I am writing and dreaming and singing.
    I am writing and dreaming and singing for me, for my work, for my right to do what brings me the greatest of joy.
    Echoing Jane’s words, it is loving the process, not necessarily the words you write. At least, not all the time.
    But then you get to revise. You get to soar and explore and laugh and cry and . . .
    feel so alive that you cannot wait to begin the next story that clamors for your attention.
    You have touched my life, Laurie. And I will honor this gift by writing every day, even if it is only for fifteen minutes.
    It will, I promise, be more than that.

  9. Love what you wrote, Laurie. Then Jane Yolen’s comment pushed me further into wanting to work on writing that I’ve been avoiding lately. Your inspiration is appreciated. If I’m not writing, at least I’m reading about writing!

  10. I cannot believe I actually did it! I made it a whole month for the first time ever!
    Thank you so much Laurie for being my coach and inspiration for this month 😀
    Can’t wait till next year!

  11. Thanks very much for this challenge, and the encouragement, Laurie! It was the worst month in the world to take on a writing challenge: combined writer’s block on my novel with an injured shoulder – this writer’s discomfort went into the physical realm. But it was also the best time to do this, because it pushed me back into my journal and gave me a creative break (I posted about this on my blog for tonight’s writing assignment). Thanks again!

  12. Thank you so much for this wonderful month of encouragement. I did it! And so did my sister, Shannon!

  13. Thank you so much for answering my question and giving so much of your writing knowledge to me this month.

    Indeed it is important to remember that there is not a person known who writes perfectly. The love of writing and the process is more important than not writing at all. I don’t think I would know what to do with my hands if I didn’t write–let alone the characters that live for moments in my head, begging to be placed on paper.

    Again, thank you so much for taking time to mentor. Your efforts are much appreciated.

  14. This is very helpful advice.

    I guess the snag I keep hitting is the panic attack that keeps coming on when I remember stuff like “Only 0.01% of people are huge successes” or “it takes around 10 years for most people to break into the children’s market.” These are probably the truth, so in that sense I appreciate honesty. But it makes it even more scary. Especially when so many of us seem to have a lot riding on our writing — we’re trying to develop careers. It’s not just a hobby. It becomes bigger than us.

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