After a series of false starts, this writer thought she knew what she had to do to get started on her novel. Then a 10,000-word writing challenge came along and changed everything.
by Cynthia A. Jensen
I’ve always loved to read. Especially when I was in school—I would read while the teachers would teach. Needless to say, I didn’t do very well in my classes.
When I was eighteen, I had notebooks filled with my writings, until my sister spilled Kool-Aid all over them. They were ruined, and I was so depressed. From that time on, I never wrote stories—or anything personal—again.
Then I stumbled onto ChapterBuzz. An author I knew had a book on there, and I was eager to read it. Afterwards, I looked around the website and thought, Hey, maybe I could be a writer, too.
So I decided to buy a computer, because surely that would help me write, right? Wrong. I needed a computer desk and chair so I could be comfortable while I wrote. Got those, and still I sat in front of the blank screen. I couldn’t write. I didn’t know where to begin. So I went to the bookstore and bought a bunch of “How to Write” books. I read a few of them, and feeling encouraged, sat down to write. Nothing. Another blank screen.
Maybe I could write stuff in notebooks again, I thought. So I found a nice set of composition books with pretty pictures on the covers. Of course, I would also need a writing pen, so I threw that in my shopping basket too.
Then I stumbled onto ChapterBuzz. I looked around the website and thought, Hey, maybe I could be a writer, too.
Then, in October 2017, Chapterbuzz was having a Challenge: The 10K Novel-Building Challenge. I thought to myself, If I commit to this Challenge, I’ll force myself to finish it. Thus began the story of The Girl in the Woods. I was so nervous just looking at the blank document. Then the first line came to me, and I was off! As I wrote, I could see scenes in my head as I typed them up. I was really doing it! I was writing! Sometimes it would be challenging to keep my word counts up, and some days I couldn’t write at all. But in the end, I finished the Challenge—mentally exhausted, but so very happy. It was the first complete story I had finished.
That was the last time I wrote until this year. I have a debilitating mental illness, and for quite some time, I couldn’t write. As in, I physically could not open my computer and sit down to write. My mind was blank and I felt like a failure. But my daughter, Melissa, encouraged me to take the Challenge again. In fact, she’s the one who gave me the idea for Starrbodies.
So I signed up for this October’s Challenge and I was shocked to learn that we had to write 10,000 words in just a week! The last time I did it, we had a whole month to write that many words. I didn’t think I could do it, but I worked hard and did it, writing 10,063 words in the first week.
Since then, I realize I have to write something every day—anything—just to stay in the flow. And that’s what I encourage you to do. Write every day. Even if it’s just a line or two, just write. Much like an athlete needs to train his or her muscles every day, as writers, we need to train our minds.
So just write!
Cynthia A. Jensen is a Tier II Rising Star Author at ChapterBuzz, and author of Starrbodies, a thriller novel-in-progress about a man who kidnaps a fitness guru to help his depressed sister lose weight.
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