My 500 Words Challenge: Week 1

I have made it through the first week of my challenge without falling flat on my face and I call that an accomplishment! First, here are my stats:

Day 1: 611 words/Blog post (My 500 Words Challenge)

Day 2: 503 words/Writing Workshop Exercise

Day 3: 523 words/Random reflections about the Oscars

Day 4:500 words/ Writing Workshop Exercise

Day 5: 652/ Writing Workshop Exercise

Day 6: 569/ Blog Post (Letters to My Daughter)

Day 7: 546/ Plot Treatment for my WIP (work in progress)

Total for the week: 3,904

What I’ve learned so far:

Having announced this on my blog did wonders for my accountability. Anytime I even considered slacking off for the night I remind myself that “people will knooow!” Maybe I should tell you all when I intend to do laundry or the dishes…

As I expected, writing in chunks of 500 words isn’t all that challenging in itself, it’s really the commitment to do it every day that has been tough for me.

On the other hand, knowing how many words I’m writing while I’m actually writing can actually put a damper on how much I write sometimes. If I know all I have to do is write 500 words, then I’m not as motivated to do more. In the long run though, I’ll have more cumulative words because I will have written MUCH more frequently. So I might cover my word count bar with a sticky note until I feel like I’ve done enough writing for the day.

I expect my word count to increase as I get used to my new routine. I also have a lot of writing projects going on at once (blog, final revisions on my novel, drafting a new novel, outlining the new novel, a writing workshop course I’m taking, etc.), so although I may not be getting as many words down in a sitting as I’m used to, I know that I’m getting a lot done in other areas of writing that can’t be counted by words.

Excerpts from this week’s writing:

My first blog post about this challenge was included in this week’s word count My 500 Words Challenge

My second Letters to My Daughter from Fictional Characters blog post was also included.

Here is a quick first draft (as in very rough draft) of a scene from my WIP:

The curtain went up with a silence that catches in my throat. The dark silhouette of the audience behind the blaring lights is somehow menacing tonight.

As if they are waiting for disaster.

Franco begins his intro and my stiff limbs are forced into motion. Carby could be anywhere in the theater– the front row, the balcony. He was here, I was sure of it. I tried scanning the audience, but couldn’t make anything out. Sarah hissed at me as I narrowly avoided a collision with her. There was sweat rolling down my back now.

I hated the not knowing part the most. Was he going to arrest me up here on stage or wait until the performance was over? He didn’t seem to be the waiting type to me, but then again, perhaps there would be less civilian involvement if he waited until the opera house cleared out. Unfortunately for him, I would be long gone if it came to that.

I hit my stage marks but Links knew something was off. I could see him watching me out of the corner of my eye. I tried to relax my shoulders. My part was coming up and I was determined to sing it without giving myself away.

Franco’s last note echoed to silence. I crossed to center stage and took my stance, one arm outstretched dramatically towards my lover. The violins took up the melody, soft and sweet. I took in one long steadying breath and began.

As the song filled my lungs, I felt steadier and steadier. Maybe it had all been nerves. Maybe he wasn’t here after all. I was getting too jumpy these days. I stole from people while they stood right in front of me. How could I possibly be losing my nerve now?

I was working my way up the trills to the climax when I saw it. A shadow, separating from the rest, walking down the far left aisle.

The shadow had a limp.

In that moment, my voice abandoned me. The music kept playing and the cast, frozen in place, eyes bulging, silently begged me to get a hold of myself. But the shadow limped closer and my traitorous voice would not follow my orders.

When it was obvious the man was making for the stage. An attendant walked quickly down the aisle after him. The audience was so wrapped up in my apparent fall from grace, they didn’t even notice what was going on in the aisle.

Bianca suddenly appeared on stage. She immediately took up the thread of melody that I’d lost and smiled at the audience like they were all in on a little joke together. When she turned, her face crumpled into a hateful glare at me. But I was paying her no attention. The man was within arm’s reach of the stage, but the lights still kept his face hidden from view. I would take no chances.

I started to inch myself sideways off the stage. I could still make a run for it. He didn’t know the maze of backstage like I did.

And that’s my wrap up for this week. Have questions, tips, or stories about your own writing experience? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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My 500 Words Challenge

The habit. It’s the one thing that can make or break a writer. Either you show up and sit down to write or you don’t. It really is as simple as that. And as complicated. With the explosion of writing communities all over social media, the ways in which we can fool ourselves into thinking we are being productive also expands.

Writers love to talk about writing. They love to talk about their process and their current WIP (work in progress). They love to tweet about how difficult it is to get the words out. They love to post instagrams of their notebooks, pens, laptops, and steaming coffee mugs. They love to declare #AMWRITING! (Read all of this really as “I” love… I am extremely guilty of every one of these things.)

But when it comes down to it, it’s just you and your blank notebook or screen. Only you really know how productive you’ve been, no matter what facade you’ve subconsciously built on social media. If you’re not putting words on paper consistently, you’re not going to get anywhere. You can keep chasing that dream of authorship all you want, but it won’t happen without the true sweat and effort that no one else sees.

I write this as a pep talk to myself as much as to anyone else. I struggle with consistency in my daily writing habit and I’m always looking for ways to improve. Now, with the impending arrival of my first baby, the stakes are even higher. If I let myself slide now, in the month before my due date, all chaos will break loose after she’s born.

“Don’t overdo it!” you say. “Be easy on yourself- this is your first baby.” Don’t worry. I know. Those precious first days and weeks with my newborn daughter are highest on my priority list. The most common remark I get at this stage? “Sleep while you can!” (which I find ironic, seeing as how the last trimester is usually when your ability to get a good night’s rest completely disintegrates). I plan on taking at least a full month off from a “work schedule” after she’s born.

But that itch to write, that groove of habit I’ve dug, must be there in the background and this is my last chance to dig it in deep. When I’ve found some semblance of “normalcy”, I’ll need to be able to jump back into writing even though my routine may look completely different. This is where My 500 Words Challenge comes in. The challenge is simply this: write 500 words every day, no matter what, for the next month. It can be a blog post, drafting, journaling, whatever. Just show up, get at least those 500 words down and go from there. Super simple. And simple is where it’s at right now.

500 words is not a lot. It’s really not very ambitious. But it’s the habit I’m concerned about more than the word count. I usually only write on the weekdays, so getting those weekend words will be more of a challenge. But most importantly, it feels doable enough to continue even after Eliana is born (though the actual challenge only lasts a month).

To hold myself accountable and share my experience with you, I’ll be posting weekly updates on my progress and include excerpts of what I’ve been writing with those 500 words a day. Want to join me in the challenge yourself? Comment below and link up over at Jeff Goin’s Blog to get started. You can begin your challenge on any day that you choose. I’ll also be tweeting updates with #my500words. I would love some company!