Slaying the Demons

January’s over, and so is the JANO 2013 Writing Challenge sponsored by Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers. How did I do? Well, that’s a matter of perspective. Isn’t it always?

I wrote more than 20,000 new words—my biggest writing month ever, by far.

I worked through a sticky plot problem, researched the Egyptian underworld, outlined a whole series of new obstacles for my young heroes and spent a lot of time imagining scenes for the final act—all necessary steps for me before I’m ready to actually write.

Since JANO wanted us to submit our first pages, I faced my fear of coming up with a compelling opening and wrote a first page—which placed third in the Best First Page competition.

I also wrote a 100-word story description that won the prize for Best Blurb.

All in all, I’d say January was an outstanding month for my writing. And yet, technically, I failed.

Like National Novel Writing Month, NaNo for short, the goal of JANO was to produce 50,000 words in one month. As the challenge began, people offered advice on how to produce so many words so quickly—don’t think, don’t edit, don’t research, just write something even if it’s bad, use more words than you need to beef up your word count, etc.

Now there are as many ways to produce a manuscript as there are writers, and I know this method works beautifully for many people. This is the antithesis of how I write, however. I plot everything out carefully ahead of time. I research during every stage of my story planning, then research some more. I don’t begin writing until the scene is playing out in vivid detail in my head. I edit as I write, removing unnecessary words when I spot them. You get the idea.

So does a speed-writing challenge like JANO have any value for a slow-and-careful writer like myself? You bet! True, I will probably never “win” NaNo or JANO, but who cares? I’m 20,000 words closer to my goal of producing a publication-worthy manuscript. JANO helped me do that by giving me ammunition against my twin demons of Perfectionism and Procrastination.

Every writer—every human, for that matter—has their demons, and right now, those are mine. Don’t get me wrong, I procrastinated plenty. (Just look at my Twitter following—it ballooned from under a hundred to more than eight hundred in January. Not a terrible use of time, but writing my book would have been better.) But JANO gave me a reason to write the best story I’m capable of, even if it’s not perfect, and to do it right now. That was enough to help me have my best writing month ever.

So now that JANO’s over, how do I use these lessons moving forward? Obviously, I need deadlines and accountability—those are the weapons I need to fight my demons. JANO provided that for a few weeks, but what now? Oh, lovely critique partners, I think I have a job for you!


29 thoughts on “Slaying the Demons

  1. Lisa Medley

    Keep up the good work! Forward progress is the only way! You may be a perfectionist, but it is to your advantage. Your manuscripts arrive like Athena from Zeus’ head, fully formed and armed for battle 🙂

    1. Sharon Keeling Davis Post author

      Hmm. I know I’m afraid of failure, and afraid of making mistakes, and now I’m afraid that I’m afraid of success. That’s a lot of fear for this early in the morning!

      Thanks for the comment, Chuck.

  2. B.K. Stevens

    I enjoyed your post. Like you, I work the plot out in some detail before I get started, and I have to do some editing as I write–I’d go crazy if I didn’t. I didn’t make it to 20,000 words, either, but I still found JANO a valuable source of motivation. Good luck as you continue with your book.

    1. Sharon Keeling Davis Post author

      Good question, Jill!

      Join a local writers’ group and attend meetings if you can. Ozarks Romance Authors and Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers have both been very encouraging toward young writers, and they’re open to all genres, not just romance and mystery. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll get you information.

      Read lots of books on the craft of writing. “GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction” by Debra Dixon is a particular favorite of mine. These books can be expensive, but are usually available through the library.

      Write, obviously. The more you do it the better you get.

      And, when you’re ready, have your work critiqued by other writers. This can hurt, but it’s an important part of growing as a writer. Ozarks Romance Authors has a critique group before their meetings that is gentle and encouraging. There are also online options such as Don’t forget to critique others’ work, as well. You can learn an amazing amount that way.

      Hope this helps!

  3. alltentoes

    Yes I’m not sure about speed-writing as being helpful. Having said that I’m kind of the opposite to you in my technique. I write almost as a stream of consciousness, without stopping, without continually checking what I’ve written. Sometimes I’ll go back and edit a chapter but in general I usually try to just keep at it and block out everything else around me. My family talk to me then later remind me of what was said but I have no knowledge of it. I’m lost in my writing. Once I’ve finished, I go back and ‘craft’ it. Then edit it several times. This means I produce lots of words quite quickly but they’re going to need crafting later. Some of my friends are the old ‘rip the paper out of the typewriter and throw it towards the wastepaper basket type. Tortured perfectionists, constantly re-reading what they’ve just written. They’re more meticulous than me, but they say they envy me. They’re mostly super educated, which is probably a disadvantage to the writing process and they certainly don’t enjoy the writing process. Enjoying it is a must for me. Keep up the good work Sharon. Quality is everything. Nice photo by the way (:-))

    1. Sharon Keeling Davis Post author


      “Tortured perfectionst”–yeah, that sounds about right. Not sure whether I qualify as “super educated” but I do have an Ivy League degree and most of a master’s degree. And like your friends, I envy the joy you get from the writing process, but not the long crafting and editing stage you then go through. Every method has its advantages and disadvantages.

      Thanks for your insights!

      1. alltentoes

        Thanks for replying to my somewhat presumptuous post. Ivy League degree is ‘Super Educated’ in my book. Glad if feedback was useful. May you continue to produce good work. I’ll be reading you soon. All the best and have a good week. Mark

  4. Beth Carter

    Great post. I have those same twin demons. It sounds like JANO was a great success for you. Not everyone gets to 50k by a long shot. I never have. I think 28k was my highest achievement in one month. Good luck with this year’s challenge. Sometimes, I wish I outlined a bit. I’m a total pantster but it’s fun when the characters surprise me.

    1. S. D. Keeling Post author

      I’m hoping to do JANO again this year, but I’ll need to finish revising book one then research and plot book two in the next month and a half. Not sure I’ll be able to pull that off, especially with the holidays and a busy client order season to take care of.

  5. sarakayjordan

    I think it’s important to remember, that there are various types of success and all we really need to do is make the most of those opportunities when they roll around. Great post!

  6. Pingback: Still Battling the Demons | S. D. Keeling

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