3 Writing Commandments and Why I Love ROW80

ROW80LogocopyNovel writing isn’t for sissies.

I’ve written software training manuals, short stories, a memoir and more than 500 blog posts and still full-length fiction makes my soul shake in fear.

I hitch on my titanium panties and keep writing, and I really (really, REALLY) try not to think about it…but my writer soul shakes all the same.

You see, I’m really close to finishing the first draft of a work of fiction that is near and dear to my heart. I’m also about to start a work project that will be crazy-making for the next few months.

The only way I know how to do the kind of schedule I’m embarking on AND write is to dive back into ROW80. You will never find a more supportive bunch of peeps.

What is ROW80?

  • It’s the writing challenge that knows you have a life.
  • It’s full of partying peeps who will jump online and do writing sprints with you.
  • It’s the place where I’ve met some of my closest online pals. (Y’all know who you are.)
  • It’s a fantastic way to hold yourself accountable.

My 2013 Round 3 Goals:

  • The last 30K of the current book – I’ll break that down in my next ROW80 post.
  • Managing Writers In The Storm for the month of July.
  • Posting twice a week + a ROW80 update here at More Cowbell.
  • Walking 4 days a week while I’m in San Francisco for five weeks.
  • Getting back to Crossfit 3x/week when I get home in August.

If you’d like to join ROW80, encourage your fellow peeps, or just read Gandhi’s 10 Rules For Writing, click here. To join the blog hop, click here.

I believe in giving back, so while I’m busy hitching up my Undies of Steel, I’ll also share my “Favorite 3 Writing Commandments.”

We’ll see if y’all agree or disagree that these babies will help you keep your sanity while you pen your stories. (Note: Some of you have seen this list before on Writers In The Storm, but if I’m reminding myself, I figure it’s only right to share it with my posse here at More Cowbell.)

Commandment #1 ~ Thou shalt not quit.

“The only way to guarantee failure is to stop trying.”

Susan Mallery was the one who really brought this home to me (click here for her words). She freely admitted to being “an OK writer who didn’t give up until she became a good writer.”

All the writers I know, except a few tentative ones who worked hard on their craft before they put their babies books out there, were rejected for years.

Did they give up?? No they did not.

They kept learning and working until the doors that were previously closed inched open. Maybe those doors only opened a teensy little crack but, like the prisoner who digs for freedom one spoonful of dirt at a time, these writers kept writing.

Commandment #2 ~ Thou shalt not adopt nonsensical rules.

The only rules that matter are the ones that work for you. Really. Truly. I promise.

I’m not saying you don’t need to have structure. I believe you do. A novel without structure? That’s a paper brick you’ll end up heaving under the bed with your dustbunnies.

Those of you who’ve been at this for a while probably shake your head over your early work. This is what beta readers and critique partners are for, so you don’t throw that brick onto Amazon before you know better.

The point of this commandment is you must write your stories in a way that allows you to finish them. Period.

It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by linear, plotting writers. If YOU aren’t linear in your process, nothing is going to lure you to The End of that book. No magic potion will help you zoom straight through to the end using “someone else’s methods” because you can’t.

Your brain doesn’t work that way. It works your way.

Learn good craft, but above all learn your own process!

Part of why I’m unpublished is it took me so damn long to figure out I’m a scene writer. I don’t write straight through a book. I simply can’t do it. Scrivener has saved me by allowing me to write MY way.

Writing like my linear pantser friends gave me nothing but frustration and bad self-esteem. Using other peoples’ processes ensured that somewhere between page sixty and one hundred, I’d start moaning to the Writing Gods about what a failure I was.

My way lets me see pages pile up and allows me to participate in challenges like this one. Plus, now that I’ve figured out “my system,” I’ve got about 9 books to finish. And the first one is on deck this round!!

This leads me to my third point…

Commandment #3 ~ Thou shalt finish thy books.

I wrote a post called The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned about a conversation I had with my pal, Natalie Hartford, about fear. Like all writers, Natalie was floundering out of the gate because she felt like she had to get some “BIG IDEA” to run with.

There’s only like six story ideas on the planet so we all need to chill and just write. And never, ever forget that “done is better than good.”

If you’re staring at your blank screen and need brainstorming ideas, you might also enjoy this post.

One last thought:

Part of the writing pain that led to Commandment #2 was good old fashioned fear. It’s hard to make rational decisions about your story when you’re scared.

The best post I’ve ever read on dealing with fear comes from Susan and Harry Squires: Think Small. I’m not going to say more because you really need to click that link.

Do you have some hard and fast “writing commandments?” What are they? What’s guaranteed to take you the other direction and hold up your process? Have you ever participated in a challenge like ROW80 before? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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22 Responses to 3 Writing Commandments and Why I Love ROW80

  1. I can not believe I totally missed yesterday’s post. I have my reasons. You’ll know why when I get the new banner revisions complete..

    Okay. Here’s one sentence that scored a C&P for me: …like the prisoner who digs for freedom one spoonful of dirt at a time, these writers kept writing.

    While I hate that writing is appropriate for comparison to being a prisoner, that’s how it sometimes feels. In my case, I am the prison. The perfectionism. The inner editor. The fear of failure. The go big or go home.

    The words, paragraphs, pages and scenes are my prisoners. They’re in there begging to be set free.

    I’ve heard many times to write no less than one page a day. That seemed like so much blahdy-blah-blah. Chump change. A cop out. A waste. If I couldn’t find time to commit more time and more words on a given day, what good was I? [This optimist cringes at typing those fatalistic and negative-vibe words, btw.]

    Then I read The Artist’s Way. One of the exercises was to write a letter from your eighty-two year old self to your current self. I’m doing hypothetical math here, because age is a number and I embrace “How Old Would You Be if You Didn’t Know Your Age?”

    For this exercise, let’s use age 55. My eighty-year-old self wrote a scathing comment to my 55 year-old-self. “Why did you ignore the advice to write one page a day? Had you done that, you’d have 9,855 pages written by now. At 375 pages per book, we would have 26 full novels written, you dipwad!”

    Do your own math.

    Stellar post, Jenny Jo.

    p.s. It did not go unnoted by moi that this comment could be a blog post. A short one. But, a blog post. You have no idea how many blog ideas are held prisoner because they weren’t long enough, good enough…


  2. Laura Drake says:

    Gloria snuck in my takeaway line from this post, Jenny, but I agree wholeheartedly with her! (can you believe I just used an adverb? Hey, stuff happens when I’m only on my second cup of coffee.)

    Soldier on, troops! There’s lots of us in the trenches with you!


  3. K.B. Owen says:

    Hey, Jenny, great tips! I’m still learning my process, and I’m stalled right now with life stuff, but I see the end of that stuff coming soon (I hope). I started as a writer because it gave me JOY. But lately, I’ll get frozen up by all the rules and deadlines, and worrying that my stuff is crap and I won’t have any more ideas for future books. I want to get back to the JOY!


  4. When I typed “the end” the first time, I thought, “Now I know how to do this, it will never be that hard again.” LOL Yeah. Each book presents its own, new challenges, but that is what keeps it fresh and fun and amazing. The good news is, you do get better at the craft of writing and you can streamline some parts. And totally agree with doing it your way. I read a bunch of “how to write” books before I figured out that I could only write my way. LOL Great blog post!


  5. Great stuff here! Fear, perfectionism, and that wicked blank screen can be killers. One that I’d add: Thou shalt not compare thyself to others. This fits well with #2. We shouldn’t try to write like someone else, and we certainly shouldn’t worry that someone else got published when we didn’t. We’re all in this together and should be supporting each other’s successes. Some day, that’s going to be us up there with a published book. By whatever means we got there, we need to celebrate it and not stress that we didn’t do it ‘this’ way or ‘that’ way. Or that so-and-so is selling more books. Stop the madness!

    It’s funny writing linear gives you a twitch. The thought of writing a scene here or a scene there makes my heart palpitate and I get a rash. For real.

    Write on, my dear friend! In what ever capacity that brings you joy.


  6. Julie Glover says:

    I agree with your commandments! I would probably add Thou Shalt Learn Craft. Because while I eschew adopting someone else’s process that won’t work for you, there’s overall story structure, point of view, characterization, and other issues that any good writer should master. And some writers ignore that because they have lovable characters and pretty sentences and their grandmother really liked their book. But that doesn’t make it a good story that readers will want.

    When friends ask why it’s taking me so long to do this writing thing, I answer that I wrote for a year before I realized what all I didn’t know about writing. Then I started really learning my craft, honing my skills, and turning out better story.


  7. Amber West says:

    “The only rules that matter are the ones that work for you.”


    Seriously, though…do what you gotta do to get the words written.

    And I am SO with Tameri. The days that I let myself start comparing my work or process with others are the days that I get nothing done. It’s crippling and not at all productive.


  8. pamelavmason says:

    I love this Jenny Hansen.
    That is all.

    Are you with ROW80 on G+? FB? Twitter?
    Not stalking! Just looking for the support network group!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      There is a Facebook group, and we hang out at the #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter. I am not sure if there is a G+ group, but Kait Nolan would know. She’s on Twitter @kaitnolan. 🙂

      And thank you! I miss seeing you in my feed.


  9. Lara McGill says:

    Right with you Jenny. Another scene writer here. And because I tried to go linear, my brain shut down like you wouldn’t believe.

    Segue – how do you get to the watercooler to do sprints? I’d love to try that!!!


  10. Dawn says:

    Love, love, love this. Great food for thought – thanks for posting!


  11. Good for you Jenny! I know you love the ROW. Great commandments. I loved all three of them. I have to say that I am not in a rush. As if you couldn’t tell. lol. I view it as going to school as I write while learning my craft. I tend to be a perfectionista. And because my name is going to be on the front cover, it’s important that what I write is a good representation of the writer I aspire to be. So I’d rather take my time and do it right than to publish a book that isn’t ready for consumption. So I’m here to cheer you on girlfriend! You will finish your book and it will be a awesome piece of work! 🙂


  12. S. J. Maylee says:

    Love the commandments. Thou shalt finish thy books is a biggie for me right now. I have two that need endings and another that needs some rewriting. There’s no time like the present. The EDJ is done until Friday. I better bust a move. 🙂 Looking forward to cheering you on this round.


  13. All good tips. I just keep reminding myself that every NYT Bestselling author is also a multi-rejected author. Some day, I’m going to be the NYT author, but I have to get my multiple rejections first. It doesn’t work the other way around.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  14. filbio says:

    Again, another great post with plenty of info on writing tips. You know your stuff! Happy July 4th!


  15. I’m late to the party, but in my defense I was following a goal that has nothing to do with working and everything to do with enjoying what we do. I was READING. Yep! Now that that’s out of the way I want to say, “Right on, Jennie!”. Write it your way, finish it, and never surrender! I would add avoid the flashies to the finish it. I had a new idea this month and it’s been killing me to ignore it and stick with the plan. I only take a few minutes to jot down the ideas as they come, then it’s right back to the main event, getting the novel out there that is finished. You would think that would be easy, but it’s not. That also takes some grit and lots of hand holding. So once your novel is done we’ll all be here cheering you on into the next stage!


  16. Cate Russell-Cole says:

    You go girl!!!!!!!!!!


  17. Pingback: Writing Resources 06 July 2013 | Gene Lempp ~ Writer

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