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The Challenge to Write


By Leeann Betts

(from her writing craft book, Nuggets of Writing Gold© 2015)

Several years ago I completed a 14-day writing challenge where I committed to do something every day related to writing. While I thought the process would be a breeze, it was anything but.

On Day 1, I listed the titles of ten books I’d like to write. This is what I put down for myself and for my real life persona, Donna Schlachter, who writes historical mystery:

Titles of 10 books Donna would like to write:

  • Then Sings My Soul
  • Christmas Inn, Colorado
  • Klondike Gold
  • Honor Denied – Book 2 of the Heart of Honor Series
  • Denied Liability – Book 3 of the Heart of Honor Series
  • Collusion – Book 2 of the Florida Detective Series
  • Resolve – Book 3 of the Florida Detective Series
  • My Surrendered Heart – Book 1 of the Echo Canyon series
  • The Long Trail Back – Book 2 of the Echo Canyon series
  • Home is where the Heart is – Book 3 of the Echo Canyon series

10 Titles I want to write:

  • There Was a Crooked Man — Book 2 of the By the Numbers Mystery series
  • Unbalanced – Book 3 of the By the Numbers Mystery series
  • Five and Twenty Blackbirds – Book 4 of the By the Numbers Mystery series
  • The Labyrinth – Book 2 in the Lighthouse Foundation series
  • The Landfall – Book 3 in the Lighthouse Foundation series
  • One Moment in Time
  • Of Horses and Wishes
  • Walking on Sunshine
  • Characters and Creeps
  • Remembering Mama

The good news is that Donna has written some of those books. She finished Christmas Inn, Colorado as well as My Surrendered Heart, and I have written There Was a Crooked Man and Unbalanced, as well as nine other titles in that series. She also finished One Moment in Time. Some of the others are still in progress or in the planning stages, and honestly, there are a few that I wished I’d made notes about because I don’t have a clue what I was thinking at the time.

All of this goes to my point: writing a book rarely happens in a vacuum. We get an idea, a nugget of dialog, perhaps a snippet of setting, maybe even a title, and before we know it, a plot and a character or two fall into place. When this happens, the creative juices flow, and we are off to the races. In this case, reviewing this piece ignited the desire to write these books. I’ve printed off the page with the titles and placed it in my “To-Do” pile.

Unfortunately, the muse can flee as quickly as she appeared, so that what once seemed like such a great idea fizzles like wet firecrackers.

What do we do when that happens? We can press on, force the story, force the ending, and maybe end up with something worth revising.

We can start at the beginning, with the gem that got us excited about this story, and see if we can find the true essence of the story in a different direction.

We can toss out the whole thing and start all over with a new project.

Or we can do a little of each, and treat it like a tossed salad of words.

In Donna’s case, for example, Remembering Mama was probably an idea for a coming-of-age story about a girl whose mother died when she was young and the impact that had on her life. There have been several books published with that theme in subsequent years, however, so she’s thinking she may need to switch the story around a little bit. Maybe Mama didn’t die, but ran away from her abusive husband, leaving her children behind. And the father forbade the children to ever mention their mother. But they do. The more he says forget her, the more they get together in secret to remember her. Except they don’t have much to go on because they were young, and so they make up a lot of the details. Until one day the father dies, and the mother comes back. And she isn’t anything like what they remember. Bittersweet for the mother and the children.

Plus, a while back, thinking about this story sparked an idea for another. Taking Daddy Home is about three estranged sisters who get together for a road trip to drive their deceased father’s ashes back to his hometown. What should have been a joyful reunion turns into something else. Donna isn’t certain what at this point. But that’s okay, because up to now, that’s about as much thought as she’s put into that particular story idea.

All this to say: Don’t be afraid to abandon one story idea in favor of another. All writing is good exercise for the brain, so nothing is wasted.

Takeaway: Writing requires discipline, but don’t try to shove a square peg story into a round hole outline.


  • Make a list of ten books you’d like to write. Make notes, maybe a couple of sentences, about the story so you’ll remember it later.
  • Choose the title that excites you the most. This would be the one where you can already see the main character and what’s going to happen to her/him.
  • Start writing that story. Let nothing stop you until you write “The End” on the first draft.

Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Christian Authors Network, Pikes Peak Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories, and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC.

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