Friday 23 November 2012

The Merits of Writing Challenges

Wow! It's already week four of NaNoWriMo. Can you believe it? Now in case you hadn't figured it out I gave up on doing NaNoWriMo on like Day Three but I know my own short comings so we'll bypass that.

Even though I've given up on this noble endeavor I still get people asking me what NaNoWriMo is  which usually gets the same reaction:

they look at me like I'm crazy and I get the "who the hell would want to do that?" questions. Some are getting a little more understanding as I venture off into University-land but it's still the same.
Of course recently a friend asked me what NaNoWriMo was and I explained the basics and she smiled and nodded and looked genuinely interested which is a dangerous thing when you're talking to me because if you look like you're paying attention and actually care about what I'm saying I will just start talking - kind of like I am now. So after I explained NaNoWriMo I started talking about the other writing programs that are available that cater to the different kinds of writers out there. And because I love you all so much I thought I'd share a basic rundown of some of them.
Of course these aren't all of the writing programs out there. In fact these are only a select few - in chronological order - that might appeal to different writers. Ready?

Year (for the drawn out planner):

There are two writing 'programs' that are meant to be compelted over the course of the year. The first is the Year of the Novel which is like a the drawn out version of NaNoWriMo where you write every day for 365 days. You set your own goals from 100K to 1 Million words (are even as little as 25K if you really want to take your time) and you just write. There are different challenges and worksheets to help you along was well as a forum and chat room but it is very much dependant on you sitting down and writing a certain number of words every single day.

Second is the One Year Adventure Novel. Now this one is very different. It's actually designed to be completed in the span of a school year (about six months) and is specifically created for homeschool students. There are lesson plans and activities designed to teach about writing structure and character development as well as buckling down and writing a novel. The catch? It's rather pricey. It starts at $199 and goes up but like I said, it is actually created as a lesson plan - like taking a creative writing class in High School - so if it's something you were REALLY commited to, that option is there.

90 Days (for the scene-oriented):

3 Months is a very popular number for wannabe writers because it's supposed to be the number that a lot of great writers take to complete their first draft (Stephen King being a primary example) so of course there are a few 90 Day Writing Challenges. The first one is a book called the 90 Day Novel but Alan Watt. I haven't read it but it's supposed to be very helpful. He also hosts workshops both in person and online.

I did, however, get my hands on 90 Days To Your Novel by Sarah Domet which is a day-to-day guide on writing your novel from developing skills to learning your characters to physically writing your novel. The thing I love about this is that it's not a set number of words that you need to write but rather it's seperated by scenes. You write in scenes until your novel is finished regardless of number. (I tried this back in January - failed miserably - but if anyone would like the outline from the 90 Day Challenge, let me know).

30 Days (for the enthusiastic caffine craver):

Everyone knows the 30 Day Novel Writing Challenge. You sit down and write 1667 words every day for 30 days and then take a nap. The most famous is, of course, NaNoWriMo but NaNo has some sisters (JuNoWriMo, JulNoWriMo and SeptNoWriMo) which embody the exact same concepts except sometimes it's just easier to do it at a different time of the year. For example, November falls in the middle of exams for university students so the idea of plunking out a novel instead of studying is actually quite daunting.

Then of course there's Script Frenzy, run in April by the same crazies who brought you NaNoWriMo, in which you write a 100 Pages Script in the month of April. I also tried it this year and got close but no cigar for me.

Week (for the budding romantic):

This is not actually a full-fledged program so much as a few people scattered over the internet who've tried it. Same concept as NaNoWriMo without the hassel of a month but rather you write 50K in a week. Impossible? Well this guys did it: it's a lot more words in a shorter amount of time but if you keep on believing the dream that you wish will come true.

3 Days (for the budding sociopath who works best under pressure):

Yup, 3 Days. I know a lot of writers - especially University students - who don't like pressure but when they're working against the clock they tend to get it all done. So if that's you, this challenge is for you. Officially it's run every Labor Day Weekend and runs kind of like a contest. There's a $55 dollar entrance fee and at the end you send in our manuscript (unedited) and the one they like best will actually be published. And even if you don't win but you finish they send you a certificate. If you do this 3 Day Challenge next year please let me know, I'm curious to see if it can be done.

And there you have it, 11 Writing Programs for the goal-orineted writer. If you do any of these let me know and I will definitely cheer you on. And of course if there are other programs - I know there are - let me know in the comments below so I can check them out.


  1. Wow, I had no idea there were all these out there! I'd heard of NaNoWriMo (tried it a couple years ago and failed miserably), but none of the others.

    I'm actually intrigued by the week one. Because I think it's nearly impossible to write a novel in a week, that would give me free rein to make it complete crap. LOL It would probably turn out to be more of a typing fast exercise than actually writing for me, but it could be fun!

    1. I know it's crazy right? That's why I like all of these different options for writing.