Updated: Aug 30
My grandmother was the most creative person I have ever known. She could paint, draw, do just about anything crafty, beat me mercilessly at Scrabble and she always wanted to write a novel.
She loved history and genealogy and spent years doing research to prepare for her novel. After she died, we found all of her old research laid out in boxes, covered in dust. She had collected mountains of information about our family and the time period she wanted to set the story in but she never did anything with it. She never wrote that novel.
I didn't get her talent for art but I did inherit her love of reading and writing. When I saw all of her hard work being thrown out, unused, I decided I was going to do it. I was going to write a novel. I didn't want to for my son to someday be going through my things and find the pieces of my dreams stuffed in an old dusty box. A Facebook friend posted a link to Nanowrimo in 2013 so I jumped in and began writing a story. It soon became obvious I had lots to learn. I began reading craft books and blogs and joining writers groups on Facebook. Someone in one of the groups introduced me to a writing contest by The Writer's Workout. I joined, not expecting to do very well and hoping for nothing more than some writing practice. It’s been said that you have to write a million words before you can write something worth reading and the Writer's Workout was going to help me get there.
They gave me so much more.
The Games showed me that I could do something I never would have thought possible; write a complete story and edit it within 72 hours. It boils everything down to the basics. How can you tell a great story with only a few characters and a limited amount of description? It's no easy task to bring characters and a story to life in so few words and so little time. It taught me to strip everything else away and only use those words and sentences that propel the story forward.
Finishing in the top ten out of over a hundred people also showed me that I am a better writer than I was giving myself credit for and every year that I finish at a higher place, I know I am getting better.
Then I signed up for the team portion of the Games. I was thrown into this crazy situation, writing a complete story with eight other people I didn't know. It was fun, a little stressful and the most challenging and rewarding writing experience I have had. I made friends that I wouldn't trade for anything. They are my motivation and my strength. We are on a journey together and I can't wait to see where it takes us.
The Writer's Workout competition didn’t start me on this writing journey, my grandmother did. What it did was give me the confidence to keep going, the skills to make my writing better and the support system to help me realize my dreams.
About the author: Rachel Kolodziej is a two-time champion of the Writer's Games and leader of The Red Herrings. You can follow her on Twitter: @Rachelsworldx2.