Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Five

How did you do? Was it totally impossible to make writing time on a national holiday? Was it harder than you thought to summon the motivation on a day off from work when the lack of structured routine made you just want to lie in a hammock and nap?

Or did you manage the day like pro, skillfully making time for writing and everything else? (I did. Wrote from 6am – noon.)

If you fell off the wagon, all is forgiven.

This Challenge is not about kicking you off the island when you mess up. This Challenge is to help you take your writing dream more seriously. Of course you’re going to mess up. You’re human. The trick is not to avoid failing. The trick is to get back to the work immediately after a bad day, without indulging in self-loathing or negative thoughts about your writing potential.

Little kids fall down all the time, but they get up because they want to walk. This is one time when listening to your Inner Toddler is a good thing.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes (minimum).

Today’s mindset: forgiveness and determination.

Today’s prompt: Describe the aftermath of a Fourth of July party (a neighborhood party, or at a beach or one of the big city celebration, or a village town square). The cleaning crew hasn’t been through yet. Have your character move through the mess. (I don’t know who the character is. Make someone up!) Your character is looking for something. Try not to allow yourself to figure what s/he is looking for when you begin writing the scene. It’s fun to just let things pop up. You can write the scene totally with narrative description and interior monologue if you want, or you can throw another character in for dialog. Try to pick details about the setting that provide us with information about how the celebration went.


Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – 4th of July Edition

Today Americans celebrate the courage of the men and women of 1776 who, after a generation of frustration with British economic policies and military heavy-handedness, declared this land to be free and independent, and fought a war to make it so.

Yes, I said “and women.” My newest book, INDEPENDENT DAMES: WHAT YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT THE WOMEN AND GIRLS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION examines the roles that women and girls played during the war.

Please read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Read it to your kids or your partner or your cats. This document is the beginning of our promise to ourselves: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The men who wrote this document fell short of their own dreams, of course. They could not find the courage to grant freedom to people of color, or to recognize that women were equal and able partners. See my forthcoming book, CHAINS, (pub date 10/21) for my take on how the Revolution looked to a slave from Rhode Island.

But the Declaration was a magnificent start. We still have lots of growing to do, as a nation, but as a very smart man said, “America is the sum of our dreams. And what binds us together, what makes us one American family, is that we stand up and fight for each other’s dreams…”

What does this have to do with out writing challenge? Everything.

Today’s goal: Write for fifteen minutes. Don’t judge, don’t edit (yet!), just let the words chase each other onto the page.

Today’s non-fiction prompt: Write your own Declaration of Independence. Declare to yourself and the world which old, unsatisfactory notions and habits (relating to your writing) that you are freeing yourself from. Write down how your former mindset was hurting you; stifling your creativity and strangling your dream. Post some of it in the comments section, if you want.

Today’s fiction prompt: Historical fiction alert! Write down a scene from the interior of the Pennsylvania State House where the men of the Continental Congress were gathered to debate the Declaration, and possibly sign it, thus committing themselves and their families and fortunes to high treason against the King. (Don’t worry about getting the historical details right (YET!). If you were to turn this into a polished piece, you would find all of those while researching.) Try to jump back and forth between the exterior action and dialog (the debate about the document and its consequences) and the interior thoughts of your main character.

Today’s motivation: A lot of people died so that you and I could have the right to write and say what we want. Write for the ones who sacrificed themselves for our freedom. You can do it for fifteen minutes.

Think of me while you’re eating potato salad today.


Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Three

Welcome to everyone who wandered over here from Sarah Dessen’s blog! (Sarah has not stopped writing even though she had a baby last year, btw.) And before I go any further, Happy Birthday, Kate Messner!

I spent a big part of yesterday running errands, which is right up there with dentistry on my list of things that I hate to do. I had to take my laptop into the Apple store to see if the seizure it suffered in California was from too much sunshine or a symptom of a larger problem. The computer is going to get a physical, then a spa treatment. If I’m lucky, they’ll replace the keys I’ve worn out, too.

The other big part of yesterday was wrestling the jungle that used to be my garden. The weeds went nuts when I was away. I got two of the three vegetable beds under control, popped a blister, got dirt in it, and then poured hydrogen peroxide on it and made up new curse words. The broccoli is pretty much done for the season, but we still have lettuce. I planted cabbage yesterday and new eggplant plants (that sounds silly) because the ones I planted last month never exactly grew. The tomato plants are ridiculously huge.

When did I write? First thing in the morning. I also took a notebook on my errands and when I stopped for lunch at the grocery store deli, I wrote for half an hour. I also snuck in a few paragraphs while I was waiting for the shade to hit the garden.


Several people have written to me asking if blogging or email “counts” for this challenge. I suppose all writing counts, technically. But I’d like you to ask yourself why you’re writing.

Self: “Why am I writing?”

If the answer is because you’d like to write a novel and have it published, then perhaps you’ll reconsider having email count for your 15 minutes. If you want to write a novel, then write a novel! Write a page of it. write a paragraph. Write a physical description of a character or a snippet of dialog.

The holiday weekend approacheth. You are going to be tempted away from your writing by parades, softball games, grilled hot dogs, potato salad, fireworks and parties. You can enjoy all of them. Just wake up fifteen minutes early and write.

Today’s advice: Don’t judge, criticize, or edit what you’re writing this month. (There will be time for that later.) Right now, we’re concentrating on getting the words down on the page. You can do that.

Today’s prompt: Describe someone you know, but don’t give us the typical physical characteristics like hair and eye color. Try to show some of that person’s personality by showing them in action.


Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Two

What a terrific start! Aside from all the comments on LJ, I got a lot of feedback on MySpace and Facebook, plus a couple of emails. Thank you to everyone who wrote and congratulations on jumping in!

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes.

Today’s wreath of forgiveness: I know a number of you are kicking yourselves because you didn’t write yesterday. You forgot or you “forgot” (meaning you didn’t really forget but were afraid to start so you made up excuses all day long and you woke up loathing yourself.)

Do not call your therapist. Do not abandon the writing dream. Simply forgive yourself.

This is hard and it can be scary. You don’t have to write a novel today. You don’t even have to write anything coherent. No one will judge the quality of your work right now, or condemn you for starting today instead of yesterday. Just write. 15 minutes. You can do this.

Today’s motivation: It will make you happy.

Today’s prompt: Write about the most embarrassing incident from your childhood.


Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day One

That’s right folks; today is the official start of my 15 Minutes A Day Writing Challenge.

The rules are simple. In fact, they aren’t even rules. They’re more like guidelines, the Pirate Code of Writing.

1. Commit to write for 15 minutes a day for the entire month of July.
2. Just do it.

Seriously. That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to sign up anywhere, or meet minimum word count goals or complete a whole freaking novel in 30 days.

Just. Write. Every Day.
15 Minutes.

I’ll give a topic a day for anyone who is feeling stuck. Today’s topic: Why I want to develop better writing habits. If that sounds too much like school work, then tackle this one: describe the perfect picnic.

I would love it if you guys checked in with me by posting in the comments section (feel free to be anonymous if that’s more comfortable). Tell me where you wrote today or for how long, or what you were working on. Tell me what kind of resistance thoughts cropped up as you were writing, or trying to start writing. Tell me what it felt like when the 15 minutes were up.

I’ll be checking in every day, too. I’m working on my new historical this month, so you’ll get to see how that’s going for me. I suspect I’ll be posting blog entries more than once a day. (I’ll start with the ALA posts this afternoon – AFTER my writing time.)

Turn off your internet connection, let the answering machine pick up the phone. Take your notebook and walk into a park. Put a sign on the door and tell your family they will be OK for fifteen minutes. Hide in the bathroom if you have to.

Ready…..Set…. Scribble!