30 Day Writing Challenge

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Get out of your own way and just write!

I was definitely inspired by the National Novel Writing Month challenge but didn’t want to wait until November to try my hand at writing an entire book/novel start to finish in just 30 days, so I decided to just go for it!

So here I am starting up my own 30-day writing challenge – be prepared for some panic attacks and deep reflection regarding the validity of my sanity, I mean who really thinks they can bang out a novel (roughly 50-80 thousand words respectively) in just 30 days? Well honestly, I do. It may just be a rough draft, full of messy typos and run-on sentences but that part of the writing process is just as valid and important as the final stages of grammatically correct sentence structure.

I can guarantee it is going to be difficult to down right impossible at times, but the point of this challenge is not to glide through the writing process it is to discover what you are capable of when you step out of your comfort zone.

Step one: Identifying the problem

I am very skilled in the art of procrastination. For much of my college career, I would wait until the week (sometimes days) before a paper was due before actually sitting down in front of my computer. It sounds strange but being under that amount of pressure was invigorating, I had no time for over thinking my word choices I just wrote.

But that kind of procrastination can kill a writing career – If you have no deadline then what is motivating you to finish that novel you have been “writing” for the past three years?

This is especially important for those of us just starting out, without a publisher to keep us in check or an agent calling to check in the only motivator is ourselves.

So the first step to tackling the 30-day writing challenge is to identify where your weaknesses are so you can adjust your routine. Think of this process as reading a book, you are looking at the word choices and sentence structure to understand the author’s (your) motivations. The more you understand the motivations behind a particular action, the more you connect with the overall story (who you are as a writer).

Step Two: Creating a plan

Creating a plan of action can help to make the rest of the writing process flow more smoothly (hopefully). This may mean planning out each day individually, i.e. how many words you want to write and when you plan to sit down and dedicate time, or simply planning out some overall themes and characters you want to include. It doesn’t have to be the same process as other writers, it just needs to work for you and be consistent.

The one thing I have read time and again when looking for inspiration and advice on my writing career is consistency is key! Regular practice, and instilling the habit of actively choosing to sit and write does more good for your career than all the webinars and writing courses. You may learn a lot, but if you aren’t consistently writing then you aren’t going to improve.

I set up a reminder on my phone and computer to go off each morning – this helps to make writing a priority, I begin to actively plan my day around my writing rather than just saying I will fit it in if I have time.

Make your writing a priority, set reminders, block out time, create a story board, but most importantly find a process that works well for you.

Step Three: Write

This is the hardest part of any writing challenge, I think. I love the planning phase – character creation and world building are some of my favorite parts, but it is easy to get lost in all the little details. Which is why I decided to do the 30-day writing challenge. I wanted to stop bogging myself down in all the extraneous details and just get the story out of my head and onto the paper.

Giving the internal editors a break and allowing the good, the bad, and the unusual to exist together on the page. Don’t worry if the sentence doesn’t sound quite right, or you can’t think of the appropriate word. All of that you can fix, and will after you have completed the messy, tear stained first draft.

So just write, stop worrying what others will think, and just write. There is nothing you have written that cannot be edited, deleted, or embellished in later drafts.

Post in the comments section below about any writing goals or challenges you have taken up recently. How did they work for you? Was it a total success or not so much?

Everyone has a story to tell, and I would love to hear yours.

Best of luck!

Alisha

Girl Made of Wood Part 2

He Followed Dawn into her bedroom, “So what is it I need to see?”

“Dawn where’s the flashlight?” Dawn’s mom popped her head out from behind the door in the wall.

“AAAH! Jeez, you scared the pants off me!”

“Oh stop being melodramatic, you’ve still got your pants on.” Her mom laughed and then came over to where they were standing.

“Here’s the flash light, do you think it leads anywhere?” Dawn was so excited about finding this hidden door; she had to go and check it out for herself.

Peering into the dark passage, she couldn’t see anything past the small sliver of light from the open door. She couldn’t wait to go check it out.

“I’m sure it does, but don’t go exploring yet until your dad and I make sure it’s safe. Who knows what kind of condition that part of the house is in.”

“Okay, whoa stop right there. Are you two telling me that you found a secret passage? That is so cool. Here I thought this place was just some creepy old house, and now I see it is a creepy old house, with a secret passage. Childhood dream finally realized! Take that Hardy Boys!”

“Hahaha! Okay calm down there tiger, and come help me move this door a bit more.” Dawn’s mom said turning on the flashlight.

“Oh, okay. But, seriously this is exciting. How did you two find this thing?”

“That’s the cool part! you trigger the door by pressing on this little carving on the fireplace mantle.” Dawn showed her dad the small figure.

“Hmmm, Kind of looks like you Dawn. I wonder if she was based off a member of the family?” He could barely contain his excitement. “Oh, maybe this is the room of some great, great aunt who vanished mysteriously as a child and her father carved this to remember her by.”

“Then why would he make it into a secret passage?” If there was one thing Dawn and her dad loved it was a mystery. “I bet it was part of the underground railroad or the entrance to a secret spy den!”

“Honestly you two have the wildest imaginations.” Dawn’s mom just stood there shaking her head and smiling. “It’s probably just a coincidence that the girl resembles Dawn.”

“Buzz Kill.”

“You’ll get over it. Now let’s see where this goes.” Her mom stepped into the dark corridor and froze.

“Well, does it go anywhere? Don’t keep us in suspense,” he said walking over to check out the opening in the wall for himself. “Oh! wow, this goes on farther than I thought, and it looks like it branches off.”

“I know right; I wonder if it runs through the whole house?”

Dawn came over and pushed through the small opening to stand next to her dad. She didn’t want to be the only one left out; it was in her bedroom after all.

She couldn’t believe her eyes; the passage was large enough for two people to walk side by side easily without bumping into the walls, and though it was hard to see passed the reach of the flashlight Dawn could see where it branched off.

“Cool!” Dawn’s voice echoed slightly. “So are we going or not? I definitely can’t wait to see where all this goes!” She took a few steps forward and then her mom pulled her back.

“Hold on there, as I said before your dad, and I will go check it out first. You can follow but stay behind us, and if I say stop you stop. These floorboards could go at any time.”

Dawn saluted her mother, “you got it, Mom, I mean General.” she couldn’t resist joking with her. It was the first time she had been excited about anything since they decided to move here, and she was making the most of it.

Her mom just rolled her eyes, “you are your father’s daughter.”

Her dad stood up a little straighter and smiled “I am so proud,” and wiped his eyes. “Now let’s go already the suspense is killing me.”

Dawns mom turned her attention back to the dark passageway, but couldn’t resist a little chuckle. She was trying to be the responsible adult, but she was just as excited as they were and wanted to know where these tunnels lead.

The hallway was musty and thick cobwebs hung from the beams like tattered curtains, in a few places the wood had begun to splinter and chip revealing the beams underneath. There was little noise outside of the creaking wood as the three of them crept along the passage.

Reaching the end of the short hallway, Dawn’s mom turned to the others, “Well what do you think should we go left and see where this corridor goes, or do we try out this stair case?”

“It might be safer to keep going down this hallway rather than risking the stairs, at least until morning.” Dawn’s dad said glancing in the direction of the staircase. Even with the flashlight, it was hard to see past the first few steps, and it looked like it was a steep climb down. There wouldn’t be much room for all of them at once.

Dawn looked down the corridor off to their left and back at the old stairwell, she couldn’t decide which path she wanted to take. They both looked equally creepy right now all covered in shadow and cobweb. Standing so close to the roof line Dawn could see where small holes had started to form, from either small animals trying to get in or time and weather. A cold breeze whipped through her hair, sending shivers up her spine.

Looking down the hallway, a sudden flash of movement caught her attention, “Did you see that?” Dawn pointed towards the now empty corridor.

“See what?” Her mom pointed the flashlight to the spot Dawn was looking at, but whatever had moved was gone now. “Maybe we should get you to bed; this has been a long day.” putting her arm around Dawn.

“No, really I’m fine, let’s keep going for just a little longer. I agree with Dad, we should wait until tomorrow to see where the stairs go, but let’s just check out this hallway a bit longer, please.”

“Hmm, alright. We can keep going.”

“Good! now that is settled, let’s go, team!” Her dad said enthusiastically.

“So Dawn what is it that you thought you saw?” He sounded genuinely curious.

“I’m not sure; it looked like a streak of light or something. It moved from one side of the hallway to the other.” Dawn gestured to the spot on the wall where she first saw it. Getting closer, she saw the wall was a little cracked and worn in places but otherwise solid. Maybe she imagined things, her mom was right it had been a long day after all.

“Do you think it could have been an animal of some kind? This is a relatively old house, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find things living inside the walls.” He said while checking the floor for any signs of critters.

“Oh, please don’t tell me we have rats. I hate rats!” Her mom started shining the light all over the place checking to make sure there weren’t any rats hiding in the shadows. She could be a brave woman most of the time but not when rats were involved.

“Oh don’t worry honey the only rat I see is the one about to fall on your head.” He chuckled.

“EEP!” Dawn’s mom jumped and after confirming that there was no rat, grumbled a bit and walked on ahead.

Both Dawn and her dad started to laugh.

“That is not funny!” She said as she reached the end of the passageway.

“I’m pretty sure it is.” Her Dad chuckled.

“Well, it looks like this is it.” Dawn’s mom waited for the other two to join her while she started scanning the wall for any clues.

“Is that it? It looks like every other inch of wall in this place. Why would they make a hallway that doesn’t lead anywhere?” Suddenly Dawn was feeling less than thrilled to be standing in this dark, smelly hallway.

“There must be some reason the passageway goes in this direction, do you think there might be a door somewhere? In most cases, there is always a secret door.” Dawn’s dad had not given up hope and started running his hands along the beams.

Dawn’s mom wasn’t sure they would find anything. Most of the beams looked fairly solid.

“Look at this! there seems to be a latch here set into the stud of the wall.” He reached for the flashlight. “This whole wall must be a door.”

Dawn squeezed in front so she could take a look. Her dad was right; if it weren’t for this rusty metal latch you wouldn’t be able to tell this wall was anything more than a wall. Running her hand over it, she wondered if it still worked. But even more, she wondered where this door went.

“Can I open it?” Dawn looked back at her mother.

“We might as well try it; I have to admit I am curious to see where this goes.”

Dawn smiled and brought her attention back to the latch. Her heart was racing. She clasped her hand around the latch and pulled.

Nothing happened.

Girl Made of Wood

The first night in a new home. Maybe the excitement would come later, after unpacking, after hanging her posters on the faded yellow walls, and after she made friends at her new high school. Right now she just felt empty. She wanted so badly to be the kind of teenage girl who spends the whole length of the move arguing and haggling, forcing her parents to see how crazy it was moving to this freaky old house. Who cared if some strange relative they never met left her mom the house, it was her life too! And they couldn’t just take her away from all her friends like that.

But, she wasn’t that kind of teenager. She would be understanding and helpful, knowing that her parents spent almost four months debating about the move. She knew her mother was struggling to find work and her father’s job allowed him to work from anywhere, so he was open to the idea of a new “adventure” as he put it.

It still hurt, the day she had to say goodbye to her best friend Emily was the worst day of her life. Emily was the kind of teenager who would argue and haggle and put up a fight until everyone knew exactly how she felt, and Dawn loved that about her.

How could she not feel anything right now? She felt so much that day, anger, sadness, fear. Where did all those emotions go when her parents asked what she thought? It was as if someone else had taken over her body, making her nod her head and agree with everything they said. “It could be fun, living in such an old house.” Those words spilled out of her mouth before she even knew what she was saying!

Of course, it wouldn’t “be fun” to be the new girl in school, living in the big creepy old house on the block.

Here she was, her whole life stacked around her in cardboard boxes and she still felt nothing. Unzipping her purple and white striped suitcase, she began sifting through it for her flannel pajamas; Not only was this house old but the heater was an antique, and she was freezing.

Finally, finding them buried at the bottom, she changed and crawled into bed. The single desk lamp cast much of the room in a faint orange shadow. The only interesting thing about it was the fireplace and a large bay window. She would have to see if her dad would let her build a fire one night? Dawn tried desperately to look around the old faded room and see it as hers. To become interested in the people that used to live here and plan for all the nights she would spend sitting by the fire. She became focused on the fireplace, examining every curve every minute detail. A large wooden mantel surrounded the hearth with the most intricate carvings of flowers and garden paths. There were no repeating patterns, but one singular design seeming to tell a story. Dawn could just make out the figure of a young girl underneath all the ash and soot.

As the light flickered, Dawn could swear that the young girl had even glanced at her, urging her to come closer. But that was silly. It was simply the light casting shadows on the old wooden carving, nothing more.

A sudden knock on the door pulls her attention away from this miniature world, and Dawn turns to see her mother, still in her jeans and sweatshirt, peering in from the doorway.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hey there sweetheart, I thought you would be asleep by now.” coming into the room she sat at the edge of Dawn’s bed. “Is there anything on your mind? You have been awfully quiet today.”

Dawn still wasn’t sure how to explain what she was feeling, or in this case not feeling, to her parents, so she settled for a version of the truth. “Hmmm, Oh I was just looking at the fireplace.”

“The, fireplace? Okay, I’ll bite what is so fascinating about the fireplace?” She was sure Dawn was avoiding the question, but she went along with it.

“I’ve just never had one in my bedroom before, and the carving on the mantle is just so, so unique.” She shrugged, apparently, she wasn’t even able to describe why it captured her attention so much. She knew there was something familiar about it and also a bit hopeful, but her mom would think she had lost it if she told her that.

Standing, her mom crossed the room, looking at the carvings of different plants and animals, she nodded, “Well it is beautiful, there is a lot of detail her and hmmm, what is this?” She was looking at the figure of the young girl. “This bit could use some cleaning; it is almost impossible to make out any detail for all the ash and soot.”

“That was what I was looking at when you came in; I was trying to make out what it was.”

“Well, lets clean it up a bit then.” Whipping the small figure with the sleeve of her sweatshirt, Dawn’s mom cleared away the layers of black ash to reveal a smiling young girl, dancing down a stone path. “Dawn come here and look at this! she reminds me of you for some reason.”

Dawn came over and stood next to her mom, staring at the carving there was something very familiar about the young girl. It was in the way she smiled – looking genuinely happy to be here. So why couldn’t Dawn feel the same? She began to envy this little etching.

Reaching up she rubbed the final traces of ash from the girls face when the small figure shifted under her thumb followed by a loud ‘click.’ Pulling her hand back in surprise, Dawn and her mother jumped back as the wall to the left of the fireplace suddenly opened.

“What in the world..” Dawn’s mom walked over to the place where the wall used to be and began examining the dark space behind it. “Dawn grab me a flashlight! you will want to see this.”

“Okay, there was one in the box on the kitchen counter I think. I’ll be right back.” She bolted out of the room and down the back stairs that lead into the kitchen. Her heart was racing, how cool was it that they found a secret passage in HER bedroom. Her mind started to race with ideas and questions. Why was it there? Who used to sleep in her room? She suddenly became very curious about the former owners. The only thing she knew about them was they were distant relations of her mom, an aunt or possibly great aunt.

Turning the light on in the kitchen Dawn went to the box on the counter, it took her a moment before she found the flashlight.

“Dawn! were you able to find it?” Her mom yelled down from the top of the stairs.

“Yeah, I got it!” smiling for the first time in months she climbed the stairs two at a time, and almost knocked her dad over in the process when he stepped out into the hallway.

“Whoa! Slow down speed racer. What are you in such a hurry for? and what is all the commotion about?” He grabbed onto Dawn to keep her from falling backward. “Did you find a rat or something? I wouldn’t be surprised, in an old house like this. But never fear, Dad is here.”

Steadying herself on the landing Dawn had to take a moment to catch her breath, she was so excited about finding out what was behind the door.

“No rat, something way cooler!” she blurted out between breaths.

“Dawn is that your dad? Tell him to get his butt in here! I can’t believe this!”

To be Continued….


 

This is the first part of a short story I am working on. It started from a writing prompt, and I am so happy with how it is turning out. Check back for the next installment soon!

 

Yours,

Alisha Kendall

The Toy Maker’s Promise

Ceaselessly he toiled, the little man, in his little shop at his little desk. Only the shelving had any sense of volume, sweeping either side of the room. Upon them bins of all shapes and sizes, their contents spilling out creating cascading ribbons of copper threading.

You might just miss the little man tediously working at his desk. Blending in with his surroundings, echoing the elaborate automatons he loved. A mix of copper and coarse wool fabric, only the mop of wild gray hair brought him any distinction.

What limited table space there was housed all manner of figures. Some wispy and small others large and cumbersome, each one painstakingly crafted as to be almost alive.

Mumbling quietly to himself, he worked. Tonight was important. He must finish. He made this promise to her so long ago and so many times before. Working endlessly, as the sun began to set and the cuckoo clock on the wall struck five.

The final gear was put into place.

At last!

Rubbing his eyes, he looked at the small figure that had taken weeks.

It was the most beautiful creation yet, a little dancer balanced on a single pointed foot. The little man smiled. It was complete. She would be proud of him, she would clap and smile and delight in what he made for her.

The light fading, he said goodbye to his little mechanical world.

The promise was placed in a little box tied with string. Putting on his coat and hat he looked once more, breathing it all in, before snuffing out the final candle.

With promise in hand, he walked out the door. As the lock clicked into place, the shop fell silent. No more would the little man sit at his little desk.

Alisha Kendall

About this Flash Fiction story:

This was a piece I wrote for a flash fiction contest a few months ago through Fish Publishing. It did not win any awards, which is why I can share it with you, but I am still very proud of the work I put into this. I have started getting into writing Flash Fiction more and more, and while I continue to work on my longer stories, I would like to explore this area of creative writing further.

There is something so challenging and exciting about telling an entire story in 500 words or less. You begin to look at the characters with more scrutiny and cut out any superfluous information. With fewer words you have fewer opportunities to get your idea or scene across, so you need to make the most of it.

I won’t give an overly detailed explanation about what inspired the story, or even what I wanted to convey emotionally, I will leave that up to you the reader. It does touch on my love of all things Steampunk, if you needed some direction.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

Thank you,

Alisha Kendall

Short story draft

To be so innocent…

She was, at first glance, perfect – resting on the mantelpiece her soft round eyes gazed out at a world beyond her reach.

Delicate, young, naïve, words repeated so often as to become truth and substance. She embodied these words. Not once did her smile falter, a beautiful and timeless treasure, admired and then forgotten.

She delighted in the fragile nature of her being, the cherished doll of so many. Sitting alone on her mantle, she would be what they loved.

Perfect.

No hair out-of-place, no flaw upon her smooth porcelain face – forever the same, unchanged and innocent.

 

The First of many cracks…

It started as the smallest of cracks impossible to see, insubstantial to us but for her life changing. How had no one noticed? Didn’t this new mark make her something less, something unwanted? No, they treated her as they always had.

The idea sent her mind spinning.

As the fissure spread, it brought a sudden surge of unfamiliar emotions and anguish.  It traveled the length of her arm; she felt helpless – they would get rid of her now. This fracture, this imperfection was too large to conceal.

She tried to repair the damage, piece herself back together. You might never see how damaged and hurt she was.

Maybe they were right? She should just sit here on her little shelf and smile.

This world was too much for her.

……………………………

Okay so this is a portion a short story and/or poem I am working on. I started out writing a poem and the words just kept coming out of me. This whole idea stemmed from a lot of anxiety and hard truths about myself and my life.

I really want to get this polished up enough to possibly submit to a literary magazine – there is also the prospect of writing and publishing my own small ebook of flash fiction and poetry.

I would love any feedback, even if it is just clicking the like button.

Thank you,

Alisha Kendall

Taxi Rides and Tulle

I sat in the taxi fidgeting with the tulle of my skirt. I would rather be at home. Instead, I was going to my sister’s engagement party. It was only last week she came to my apartment pleading with me to go. Our family was broken, she said, and hoped this would repair the cracks. Honestly, I thought it was just wishful thinking

Looking out the dingy cab window, I repeated the conversation with her in my head a thousand times. She was asking too much of me. They would never accept me, and the prospect of being trapped in a room with them for hours caused yet another wave of anxiety to wash over me.

I never meant to hurt them. I just couldn’t lie to myself any longer. It took years for me to understand it, and longer to say it out loud. Coming out to my friends and co-workers was the easy part. However, the day I decided to come out to my parents the only tears were from me as I stormed out of the house.

The taxi made a right and now I was only two blocks away from the banquet hall and my heart pounded against my chest.

Why did I agree to this?

I tried to focus on the sounds and lights of the city.

Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the smudged glass, I see myself as a blend of lights, and concrete. I feel as though I am only partly here. A façade of make-up and tulle, I am not really me anymore but an emissary for peace and progress.

The taxi stops at the curb of the restaurant and as my reflection fades it is replaced with my sister’s sweet face. Paying my fair, I step out into the world. Even still there will always be a part of me sitting in the cab fidgeting with the tulle of my skirt.

Tears

A scream builds and churns inside of me.

It shifts and pushes against my chest.

Tearing at my heart like a rabid beast.

I will it to come but all that seems to stem from my pain are these tears.

The salt burning my eyes and impairing my vision.

I can see no future.

Only these tears.

Alisha Kendall

Steampunk and Werewolves Oh My!

Have you ever had a book series that you became so enthralled with that it not only became impossible to put down but also inspired physical reactions from you while you were reading it. I am not just talking about laughing and crying when warranted, but those moments where you are almost shaking with frustration or fighting the urge to throw the book down in anger because the character you most connect with is at the present being treated unfairly or placed in a hard situation. Maybe you even find yourself having to put the book down and step away for a moment, you know it is a work of fiction but even fictional characters need the silent treatment sometimes

Personally I love it when the author has inspired such an emotional connection to the characters that when they are being treated unfairly you feel as though it were you in that situation.

930986_originalI am currently reading a series by Gail Carriger called The Parasol Protectorate. I have just finished with the second book in the series called Changeless and I admit I have gotten so connected to the main character and her life that I found myself genuinely upset even angry with the ending of the book. I shall not give away any details, except to say that it is a sudden and sneaky twist to part of her life which seemed to be well and truly settled. I really want to start reading the next book in the series but am slightly afraid to find out what happens next. I absolutely love the way Gail Carrier creates such captivating and relatable characters, especially her female leads. They each have a distinct and important role to play and they do so by being intelligent, strong, and cunning without denying that they are women and proud off it!

This is an author who has inspired me in so many ways and I hope that my books can instill the same emotional connections that hers have done for me. I very much recommend that anyone who is in to steampunk and fantasy read this series, you will fall in love with the world and the characters.

Alisha Kendall