JeRoWriMo – Reflections on Writing in Unison

Congratulations to: Carin Marinan!  Her name was randomly selected out of all of our wonderful Violet Femmes followers for the month of romance — February.  A bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolate are headed your way.  Thanks to all of our followers, and be sure to check back at the end of March for another lucky winner.

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JeRoWriMo – Reflections on Writing in Unison

In February 2012, thirty brave members of the New Jersey Romance Writers took the plunge by participating in our own version of the National Novel Writing Month, fondly dubbed New Jersey Romance Writers Month—JeRoWriMo.

The goal: write 30,000 words in the month of February.

Although February 2012 was a leap year, that one extra day wasn’t enough to hold back the panic and self-doubt—was it possible to write 30K in a month or roughly 1,034 words a day?

JeRoWriMo was facilitated by published author Nancy Herkness, who coaxed, charmed, and cheered us over every obstacle and along every milestone.

And, with great success. Our combined word count is an astonishing 383,247.  That’s about five completed novels—in a month.

The Violet Femmes word count isn’t too shabby either with 104,627 words. Together, we’ve written a novel and a half.

Yet, more impressive were the unexpected discoveries from this writing challenge.

Here are my reflections on this wonderfully satisfying experience.

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

Working with a deadline helped my writing process. Why? I embraced the fact this was a draft—no one was going to read it. Time spent malingering over word choice or perfect phrasing was cast aside as the focus was on word count.

Not to say these issues wouldn’t be addressed. But later, during revisions.

I developed some useful tips as well. Microsoft Word’s highlighting pen was a newfound tool. Sketchy word—bright yellow.  Stumbling sequencing of scene—splash of green. For plot need-to-fix-er-uppers—blatant pink. Now, with a skeleton on paper, I could move onto dressing my manuscript up and turning my rainbow back to white.

Lesson Learned: Stop fretting and let the story unfold.

Let the Creative Juices Flow

My neighbors think I’m mad, with all the chortling and rambunctious outbursts of laughter—at various times of day, and night. Chances were taken because there was no time for self-doubt or the inner critique whispering, “Are you really writing that!” And you know what? Some of these risks still make me giggle, and might even see the light of day. Writing for a word count allowed the story to unfold in a spontaneous, natural way, and allowed the creative juices to flow.

Lesson Learned: Be fearless—even if the neighbors (or loved ones) think you’re crazy.

Prewriting Plotting

Writers can be plotters, pansters, or somewhere in between. My writing process falls with the latter. Knowing this, and foreseeing writing myself into a hole, I took the time to flex my plotter fingers, outlining scenes and story structure ahead of time.

Despite this, one bleak February evening, I bit my lip and hit the delete button, erring on the side of caution over word count. Yes, the manuscript is a draft but writing aimlessly would leave me with a draft rockier than a mountainside trail after an avalanche. And let’s face it, who wanted to dig out of that mess?

Lesson Learned: Keep awake so you don’t tumble into any rocky outcrops.

Writing in Unison

Imagine a choir of wonderfully talented women. The bass sings out in a mature, seasoned voice encouraging all to follow. A few confident altos join in, and everyone nods and smiles. A soprano lifts up the emotion from heights far above and tenors sweetly nudge from below. A harmonious blend of styles and voices unite in song, and together, their voices grow stronger, and stronger.

The most rewarding part of JeRoWriRo was the harmony within our group. Every time someone crossed the 30K finish line, a chorus of cheers sounded. Life hurdles were acknowledged, and warm hugs given. Inspiration sang out from every single participant. The nights when the world tossed a monkey wrench into the mix, daily updates refocused the direction.

Lesson Learned: Singing in harmony makes your solo performance even better.

So what began as a writing challenge became so much more. Friendships were established. The New Jersey Romance Writer’s chapter grew stronger. Published, RWA-Pro, and soon to be Pro writers joined hands, and gave a squeeze of wisdom laced with kindness and encouragement. You can do this.

Our 383,242 words completed sums it up best . . . we did.

Lesson Learned: Join a terrific organization like the New Jersey Romance Writers. You’ll be surprised by how much better you and your story will sing.

If you are interested in joining the New Jersey Romance Writers, here is our link:

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  1. What an awesome post, Michele! You expressed all of the aspects of the challenge in a nutshell, and summed up with the best part of all…the forming of friendships and the stronger ties of our group. It might not be as life altering as a war, but we all fought our battles together, and doing so made us all stronger!

    Go, 30Kers! Go NJRW! Rock on!

    • Hi Jaye, It was a terrific experience to have with such an inspiring and nurturing group. We all feel the same way, it seems. Cheers! Michele

  2. This is a wonderful post, Michele. You captured the essence of what JeRoWriMo was, a safe haven for writers of all skill levels and genres to work together and cheer each other on. Even the writers who did not make the 30K mark did reach personal milestones. It was a great personal challenge.

    • Hi Lita, you summed it up exactly. A safe haven for writers of all levels and genres. And hey, it’s a DRAFT and something to work with. Maybe we should have a revising in unison session too! Michele

  3. hieubietusa

     /  March 4, 2012

    Wow! You convinced me…I’m gonna join NJRW.
    All kidding aside, this read like an instruction manual for successful writing. Each aspect of the work was “right on” as a way to increase your skill…and hopefully get published.
    Writing in unison was the hardest thing for me to accept. Yet, whatever gem I might have created…my critique partner and other members of NJRW should get the credit.
    You should add another section…developing dialogue, especially character arguments while driving. The car seems a natural place to develop hostile dialogue and conflict.
    Very informative post…super…

    • Hi Joe, my characters always talk to me at the worst times. Have you ever had to pull off the roadway? Worse than texting. I’m not sure about the instruction manual for writing – it was just my experience with the whole shebang!
      Best regards, Michele

  4. Great post, Michele. This was an invigorating challenge–one I almost didn’t make! But finishing was a huge sense of accomplishment and I wouldn’t have gotten there without my NJRW pals. That said, I don’t think I could mentally do it again until next February! 🙂

    • Hi Joanna, I feel like the past few days I’ve done nothing but clean, laundry, groceries, etc. as it was a huge commitment to accomplish 30K in 29 days. I was confident YOU would get there – and your draft probably reads more like a polished piece, too. Whoo whoo! Michele

  5. What a wonderfully wise post! You captured all the great things about JeRoWriMo. I loved your metaphor of the voices blending together in a choir of support. (Gee, I guess you’re a writer. LOL!) The collective experience of the group was absolutely amazing. Everyone contributed to the chorus. It was a marvelous month and I feel privileged to have been part of it! Thanks for letting the world know about it.

  6. Hi Nancy, We wouldn’t have done this without you! Thanks for being such a terrific facilitator, mentor, and cheerleader. I do love my similes and metaphors . . . and ironically am a horrible singer. Happy revising, Michele

  7. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  March 5, 2012

    Excellent summary of a wonderful experience. Thank you, Michele.

  8. Hi RoseAnn, thanks for commenting! I’m trying to regroup for March Madness now. But, don’t you think it’s even more rewarding knowing we’ve done this together? Happy revising, Michele

  9. Wait, karaoke? Um….

  10. Great post, Michele. JeRoWriMo was a great experience for me, too. I almost didn’t do it because I hadn’t yet fully thought out the plot for my next story. Despite that, it worked out and I’m further along than I thought. Re-energizing the thought process and committing to write even a little is a good thing. It wasn’t about hitting a number, it was about engaging the mind and writing. NJRW is a great place with great writers and I’m glad to be a part of it and to have met so many wonderful people. You are all a great motivator!

  11. Hi Maria, It’s been fun reading all your responses to my post as our impressions of JeRoWriMo are so similar. It was a great experience although I have to admit
    I’ve taken a week off since Feb. to regroup (and clean, etc. etc.).

    Like Joanna said, we’ll have to have a karaoke night out soon. Be forewarned, although I have a singing metaphor in my blog, I can’t sing. Michele

  12. Jenna Blue

     /  March 12, 2012


    FAB! YOu are so right on with this post. It really was an AMAZING experience, so much empowerment, felt personally and as a whole group. I love your “choir” metaphor–so cool. I hope to do JeRoWriMo every year with you, ladies!

    Uh, was that Jenna me, Jaye? ‘Cause you soooo don’t wanna hear me sing!



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