Because the words won't write themselves

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because sentence fragments are an art form only in the right hands. blogher 13 writing workshop 1 blogher 13 writing workshop2

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So. A month or so ago, Deborah and I led a couple of writing labs at BlogHer13. Our topic? “Finish that Manuscript.”

And we talked. Oh, how we talked, with all the smart and creative and funny and accomplished women who showed up. (The great thing is that, in writing this post, I’ve had a chance to visit their sites and read their words and, well — happiness for me.) We went round and round the table and talked about our books and our blocks and strategy for overcoming the latter in order to make headway on the former.

We talked about technology hacks (including low-tech things like, oh, locking one’s smart phone in one’s vehicle in order to focus) and software — like Scrivener, and Write or Die, and Freedom and Anti-Social (which is now available for PCs! guess what I'm buying today?), and StoryMill and Written? Kitten!, which shows you a picture of a kitten every time you write a set number of words and therefore wins.

We talked about our favourite books (Dara Marks’s Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc made my second draft possible), and quantity versus quality, and buddy systems and accountability groups and when blogging helps versus when it hinders. We talked about what kinds of music we can and can’t listen to while we write — no lyrics, no jazz, and did you know that there are online white noise generators? We talked about NaNoWriMo and Yeah Right!, and when it might just be time to pay money for a coach or a course or an editor.

And we talked about the public setting of goals, how saying out loud — or online — just what you intend to accomplish may just help you reach those goals. With that in mind, we went around the table and each of us made a public promise: one or two steps we would each take to get closer to finishing. I said I would go home and immediately post all our goals on this here blog. You know, just to keep us honest.


And then summer and holidays and camping and sidetracked and children and working half time and children and humid and earning money and a million other excuses as to why this seemingly simple act left me completely blocked. I thought about posting our goals and then I didn’t, for reasons I can’t quite explain — I mean, not even about me, right?

And then I went out for dinner with a writerly friend a couple of evenings ago and we talked about how so much of creativity is — yes — daily practice, but then there are the ideas that come to you almost fully formed and so urgent that there’s nothing you can do but follow them. And then the next morning, yesterday morning, I woke up at 4:24 AM with a short story collection already formed in my head, the vision so strong that I hauled myself out of bed to write a page of notes on the subject. (For the record, I hate writing short stories. I’ve written maybe three in my adult life, but all of a sudden a short story collection is what needs to happen and I’m a few hundred words into the first one, and it's exactly what I need to be doing, apparently.) And today is one of my two full days of work this week and all I want to do is write All The Things I’ve been putting off.

Like my novel. And this blog post.

So, without further ado:

  • Allison will have two short stories submitted by mid-August. (How’d that go?)
  • Barbara will have her Comic-Con interview done by [and I can’t read my own handwriting here], and her fourth draft completed by August 30.
  • Briar is going to show her draft to her husband.
  • Christie will have nailed down the structure and finished draft two of her manuscript by September 9.
  • Deborah will have her first draft completed by February.
  • Grace will have her manuscript agent-ready by December 30.
  • Kizz is going to finish the first draft of her novel by Christmas.
  • Lea will have a third revision of her whole memoir completed by August 15 (and she did! Because she is a SuperStar!)
  • Lori (Lori! I don’t have your site! Please send it to me if you’re reading this!) is going to finish the third draft of “We’re too young to be this old.”
  • Meredith will have 10,000 words by Thanksgiving.
  • Mijdalia (Mijdalia – ditto!) will have established the best platform for her to write with by the end of September.
  • Vikki will have edited five essays by October.
  • (Yes, that was alphabetized.)
  • And me? I promised to finish the third draft of my novel by the end of October. And now I am going to have 40 pages of a short story collection ready for grant applications by December 1. 2013.

Let’s go, girls. We have All The Words to get out there, and they’re not going to write themselves.

This post was sponsored by Grammarly, an automated online proofreader. I am a certified grammar snob, but this site's insights did make me change a few things. All opinions are my own. Photos by BlogHer.