I am currently 4,134 words deep into NaNoWriMo 2014 – that’s “National Novel-Writing Month,” for the uninitiated. I say that firmly tongue-in-cheek, because I’m barely initiated myself. I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for years (I seem to be embedded in a social network of creative writers – and I like it that way!) but have never participated. This year, though, I finally had an idea for a story kicking around in my head and I felt that if I didn’t have a challenge like NaNoWriMo to motivate me, I might never actually get any of it down on paper. NaNoWriMo challenges writers to produce a 50,000-word story between November 1 and November 30 – a novel written in one month, see?
It’s not the best idea for me, really. I feel guilty about taking time to write a fictional story when I need to be writing journal articles, and November is a disastrous month to be committing to anything. The biggest national conference for my field is always the third week of November, which requires presentation prep and out-of-state travel, and then we return from that just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, when I always lose at least one workday (which I guess is the point!). So NaNoWriMo falling in November each year has always been a bit of an inconvenience.
Still, as others have pointed out, if you can write this much in a busy month, then imagine what you could get done in a less-busy month! I always imagine saying this with a sort of rictus grin. Anyway, November is not great for me but I am trying it anyway because that’s when everyone else is doing it and I am unhealthily competitive. What’s the point if you’re not playing along with everyone else, right? Besides, I want the “I finished!” badge-thing. (It doesn’t take much to get me going, obviously. I would do it just for the bragging rights.)
NaNoWriMo is a lot to take on, though, and not necessarily suited to the type of writing academics might need to do. Luckily, there are a number of other “writing challenges” that can help to prod you along if you’re stalling out or finding that you’re not making enough time to write. And, for some reason, most of them are in November. Curses!
The first is the Academic Writing Month, AcWriMo, which is very similar to NaNoWriMo but, of course, tailored to academics. AcWriMo is the brainchild of Charlotte Frost of PhD2Published.com, and you can find details of the competition (which encourages you to write 50,000 words in November, like NaNoWriMo) on the website and through the Twitter hashtag #AcWriMo.
There’s also Digital Writing Month, or DigiWriMo. This challenge promotes engagement by encouraging participants to commit to digital writing. It’s more flexible than NaNoWriMo and AcWriMo in that participants can set their own goals and accomplish them as they wish. You can count blogging, Tweeting, Facebook-posting, and any other digital writing you produce, public or not. This project has a very active Twitter fanbase (check #DigiWriMo) – naturally, as Tweets count towards the goal and project discussions are all held there, not on site-specific forums like through NaNoWriMo.
Finally, there’s the cutely-named “A Round of Words in 80 Days,” also known as ROW80. This challenge is tagged as “The writing challenge that knows you have a life” – I like it already!
ROW80 allows you to set your own goal – not just in terms of a word count, but perhaps just writing for a certain amount of time each day, or moving towards completing your next manuscript. Unlike the other month-based competitions, there are four different ROW80 cycles per year that each run for 80 days. If you miss the start of a cycle, you can join in at any time – just jump in, share your goals, and start working on them. The only requirement is that you have a blog where you can set your goal and update your progress. You use your blog to check in twice a week (Wednesdays and Sundays) – a good source of accountability so you don’t start slacking! You can also make use of the #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter.
So there you have it – at least four different writing challenges to help you get motivated. You can use these challenges in addition to or in place of any writing groups you have with friends or colleagues. It’s a great way to meet friends, engage with a much larger writing community, and get some encouragement (and gentle butt-kicking) as you work. It’s nice to feel less isolated – writing can be such a lonely task, and it’s nice to know there’s other people out there staring at their keyboards, too.
There – 772 words towards my #DigiWriMo goal. See how easy that was? Now back to grading!