That’s known as a writing challenge, and I took it this February, participating in (and leading, for full disclosure) Jersey Romance Writing Month (JeRoWriMo).
I founded the challenge three years ago for the New Jersey Romance Writers because many of us liked the idea of National Novel Writing Month. However, it takes place in November when we are madly scrambling to prepare for the holidays. So for our challenge, I chose February, the month of lovers, and also the dead of winter when our members have fewer non-writing obligations.
I’m a slow-and-steady kind of writer generally. I need to think before I sit down at the keyboard. I don’t pour forth dozens of pages a day as some much-envied writers are capable of doing. Taking on a writing challenges forces me to push myself beyond my usual comfort level. And when I do that I learn things about myself as a writer.
This year, I did something I thought I could never, ever do. I worked on two stories at the same time!
What led to this breakthrough?
I started the challenge expecting to finish the Christmas novella I had already written several chapters of. It was going slowly, and I thought JeRoWriMo would give me the kick I needed to get it done. Instead, I found myself struggling, bogged down in key moments that should have been flowing easily.
In desperation, I wrote the first chapter of a new book I had proposed to my publisher. It was so much fun that I wrote the next scene. And the next. My fingers were flying across the keyboard again. What a feeling! I hit my 30,000-word goal at a gallop.
And suddenly, I wanted to get back to my novella. My subconscious had been working silently on the emotional underpinnings of those critical scenes, and now I knew where they should go.
That’s why I recommend taking on a writing challenge: desperation makes you try new things. When you try new things, you discover strengths you didn’t know you had.
(On the purely practical side, I’ve made noticeable progress on two manuscripts.)