Get-Writing Challenges: NaNoWriMo and More

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a nonprofit organization that leads an annual event where writers commit to writing 50,000 words in November.  On the NaNoWriMo website, writers can track their progress and connect with other writers. These features are available once you create a free account.

As exciting as this prospect is, those of us in school are often too overloaded with midterms and final projects to take on this feat, and some of us aren’t novelists but want to challenge ourselves to write every day.

If NaNoWriMo isn’t a good fit for you, but you still want to commit to getting some writing done or setting a monthly goal, here are some alternative ways that you can challenge yourself to write without getting stuck in forever-editing land:

  • Poets – write one poem a day; don’t come back to any piece, your goal is to write 30 new poems this month. If this feels too easy, write two a day! Pick a number that’s achievable without adding stress to your schedule and stick to it for the whole month. 
  • If short prose is your style, you could write one flash fiction piece per day, or one short story a month.
  • To keep those writing gears well oiled, write 10 ideas a day about anything, no matter how ridiculous or random they seem. Then, when you do find time to write, you’ve got lots of things to pull from and your brain is warmed up and ready to go.
  • 250 words a day about anything — 250 words is a lot more approachable than the 1000+/day that NaNoWriMo calls for. Even a small commitment will add up to a lot over the course of time! Then, when you find yourself with extra time to write on a lazy Sunday, you’ve got lots of material to work with and elaborate on.
  • Schedule time for writing, even if it’s 10 minutes in the morning with your coffee or 10 minutes before you go to sleep — whether its journaling or writing creative pieces, you’ll start to build the habit of picking up a pen (or opening your laptop) to write every day.

If you’ve got the time and willpower to take on the 50,000-word challenge, here are some ways to make NaNoWriMo work for you:

  • Choose a different month for the challenge besides November. Though you’ll miss out on the online excitement of it, November is a busy month for students and it might just not be feasible. 
  • Use the month prior to your 50,000-word stint to start practicing a routine — make your goal 250 words a day and get used to the routine of sitting down every day to write.
  • Find a group of people to help you keep some healthy competition.
  • Don’t worry about writing in chronological order! The content doesn’t have to be perfect when it hits the page–get the ideas down and you can reorganize them and revise later. 
  • Remember that the point of the exercise is to get the skeleton of the story down; you can flesh it out later.
  • If inspiration isn’t coming to you, do something else for a bit, but listen or watch something that’s similar to what you’re wanting to write about to help keep you in the writing space.
  • Write down future ideas for the novel as you go to come back to! 
  • Write in 2-3 chunks per day rather than one long writing session — small bursts can be more sustainable when you’re writing every day for a month!

Writing challenges are a great way to get content down without getting stuck in the editing loop, but the same strategy isn’t good for everyone. Customize it for you. Make it approachable and realistic. Then, get to it. Good luck!

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