11 January, 2020 § Leave a comment
Writing challenges are terrific to spark your productivity and focus. It doesn’t matter what kind of challenge – just focused action with butt in chair doingness.
If you want to get the best out of any challenge, here are two key things you need to do.
Schedule the time
That’s right. Drag out your trusty diary – digital or paper – and plug in the times to be allocated to this challenge. Then stick to it! Some challenges will have specific times allocated where everyone in the challenge gets on a call or skype in or whatever.
Check the times and dates, double check any time-zone calculations if needed, and mark those times out in your diary. They are non-negotiable appointments with yourself.
Here’s a tip – sync all your diaries so you don’t miss the time!
Set up a reminder to alert you ahead of time to get ready. You know, grab your coffee, get your papers together, kick start the computer, sharpen the pencil, grab the sign-in details and chocolate (always chocolate).
Decide on your priorities
It helps to know ahead of time what you’ll use this time for.Obviously if you sign up for a 30 day squat challenge, you know exactly what you’ll be doing. But in writing, we have so many choices 🙂 Will you work on your book, your book front matter, your back matter, your author platform pieces, your quarterly planning schedule …?
As soon as you sign up for the challenge, write down what prompted you to do so. Usually, there is something in the back of your mind, prompting you to join, that said ‘this will help me to …’. That. Write that down. And if you can’t remember, write down a shopping list of the things you need to be getting on with. Then pick which is most important and can be progressed in the time frame you’ve got. Notice I didn’t say completed. It’s about moving forward. If you can complete something, all the better. But don’t overly stress yourself.
Know what you are going to work on before you start the challenge.
30 Writing Challenge Activity Ideas
Here’s a grab-bag of activities and tasks that might inspire you to get underway or done during a challenge.
- write a chapter in your book
- brainstorm chapter titles and choose the best ones
- mock up an idea of your cover design before getting it done professionally
- review your book notes and refine any ideas
- create a book plan if you don’t have one
- outline your blurb
- draft your book’s premise
- set up your front matter eg dedication, acknowledgement, disclaimer etc
- sketch out your characters – protagonist, antagonist, others
- make notes about your setting to stay consistent
- list a set of questions your non-fiction book will answer for the reader
- prepare a speech you plan to give eg at a local library book launch
- write up a blog post or ideas for a series of blog posts
- write an essay or an article for publication
- create a series of social media posts
- prepare a publishing calendar including social media, blog, newsletter
- think up some swag ideas to sell on Etsy then create them
- put together a timeline to finish and publish your book
- write a set of course notes and materials
- draft a description and keywords for your Amazon listing
- compile a book bible including mock cover, and all elements (setting, characters, chapters, messages)
- prepare a set of questions you’d want to answer in an interview about your book
- create a freebie lead magnet, giveaway, reader/subscriber gift – journal, planner, checklist, quiz, workbook, recipes, extra stories about characters – be imaginative
- write a prequel to your book series
- generate ideas for a pen name and decide on one
- set up digital spaces for your author platform eg website, facebook, etc
- draft and finalise your author bio
- check your online branding is consistent across platforms
- prepare for your book-signing event (include extra pens)
- create a calendar of events/activities for the year
Note that a writing challenge doesn’t have to be about the act of writing. It can be, but if you are also a self-publisher then there are lots of moving parts to distribute and market your books. In that case, there are even more activities you could take action on.
Ideally, you are set up with a plan and are working towards an end goal. If not, then any activity that enhances what you are doing is good. Better is when you select tasks to tie on with your overarching plan. That’s why you need to set your priorities before heading in to a challenge. Work hard on the right things.
Of course, you don’t need a collective writing challenge: do a challenge on your own. Set a specific day and timeframe, say Thursday from 1-3pm. Mark that in your diary. Decide what exactly you will work on, say drafting a table of contents. Note that in your diary too. Decide where you’ll do it and get everything ready before your time starts so you can hit the ground running. Get into the routine of doing a self-challenge a week and you can make progress faster on things that matter.
I challenge you to join a challenge or set your own. DO it now. Your future writing productivity will thank you for it.
9 September, 2019 § Leave a comment
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades
How true is that?
Most people can write, even if only their name.
Most people can fashion a blog or a letter or a job application, even if they need some help.
Those who are called to write from a professional standpoint … it becomes harder.
Forcing creativity is a challenge. The right words don’t always come. Or they fall out in the wrong order. Or some words are missing and they’re needed to make the entire work make sense.
Inspiration doesn’t come on demand and sometimes pops in at the most inopportune times when you don’t have a pen or paper or app to capture it.
Deadlines can be killers of words. The closer a due date looms the harder it is to write. The words that are written are scratched as soon as they hit the paper. More than one writer has begged leniency from an editor for an extended deadline. And self-imposed deadlines? They are made of elastic.
Finally, that sense of writing something beautiful, read-worthy and magical that puffs out your chest and makes you feel you’ve chosen the right path can be vaporised into the air by one tiny criticism, a rejection letter, a comment.
Such a nefarious activity, writing.
And yet, we crave it. We love it. We play with words and build castles of stories.
We wouldn’t have it any other way. Writers are tough, strong, persistent, insistent and dedicated to their craft. We can handle difficult … can’t we?
13 December, 2016 § Leave a comment
Don’t know about you but I’m always up for a challenge to get me focused and productive. So, in looking about for a suitable writing challenge I came upon this little gem.
Now I haven’t yet attempted NaNoWriMo but I suspect I’d be pushing it uphill to get that done at the same time as this challenge but hey, it’s a personal pursuit. If you can do both, fine. If you can only do one, also fine. You get to choose your own adventure.
Either way this is a neat little way to add some light relief to what is a serious challenge (being NaNo). Apart from the drudgery (?) of a daily word count during the month you get to check what your secondary challenge is in the list below.
For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month being November. It was dubbed ‘National Novel Writing Month’, or, NaNoWriMo for short.
So, in the interests of ensuring I don’t forget about this one with the intention to do it “one day” I am popping it in here. Who knows who else may benefit?
I know some of these already exist, but I WANTED TO MAKE ONE FOR MYSELF. (And that’s what NaNo’s all about, amIright?)
Note: If you reach 50k, or your personal goal for the month on any of the days during November you do not have to do the challenge.
- Day 1: What are you writing? (The title of your novel, how you picked the title, and how you got the idea for the book)
- Day 2: Worst fear. (What are you the most nervous about for the month?)
- Day 3: Writing a Tourist’s Guide for your world. (Write a paragraph about your setting/world like a tourist guide book, and include at least one place to spend money!)
- Day 4: I don’t know if you noticed this but– (A glaring plot hole, character that’s come out of nowhere, that subplot that had no end)
- Day 5: Adrenaline and coffee are my only friends! (What powers you through the month?)
- Day 6: Write like you’re snowed in. (Make yourself a pillow fort, get some hot coffee, snacks, and hide in your room and write. Bonus points if you put on Christmas music)
- Day 7: Community Chest! (It’s the last day of week one, finish your word count and then share a scene with someone! Online or otherwise. Must be at least 500 words long.)
- Day 8: Confession Friday! (Confess one thing about your novel, and have your MC make a confession either in story, or to Tumblr.)
- Day 9: Please keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times! (Come up with three punishments. No candy, no t.v., what have you. If you don’t meet your word count for the day, you must follow those punishments for the next 24 hours. (And it can’t be ‘no writing’!)
- Day 10: These shoes are just starting to pinch. (List three things about your story you liked in the beginning, but are now starting to bug you.)
- Day 11: ‘Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes~!’ (Describe the most dramatic character, and most dramatic scene in your novel so far.)
- Day 12: Hi, these are my friends: ____ and ____ (Introduce us to your favorite and least favorite characters)
- Day 13: It’s a beautiful day! (Write outside for at least one hour, or 1667 words, whichever comes first. (only excuse is unsafe, or rain))
- Day 14: Get out of jail free card! (No challenge today, except to meet the word count!)
- Day 15: The tipping point. (If you’ve met the word count when you read this, then list your favorite and your least favorite things about your novel. If you haven’t met the word count add an unexpected death to your story.)
- Day 16: Whip it out Wednesday! (I don’t know what you meant, but I was talking about your word count. Post your word count online. If the last digit is 1-4, post the last thing your MC said, 5-8 the last line you wrote, 9 , write another 234 words.)
- Day 17: Pat yourself on the back! (treat yourself to something special. If you haven’t met the word count then treat yourself and write 1 word for every cent your treat cost, up to 1700)
- Day 18: The Day of all Days (The most important event in your novel so far, and a brief Newspaper article describing it. (If you’re down on word count, just a headline))
- Day 19: What do you mean the 20th’s tomorrow!? (Include an unexpected twist or revelation in your story. Bonus points if this event gets you more than 500 words!)
- Day 20: Nothing can stop me now, except – (What’s your biggest threat to reaching 50k on time?)
- Day 21: Royal Flush! (Grab a card deck, pick a card at random. If you get 2-10 you write 350 extra words. Face cards are no effect, and Ace means 1,000 extra words.)
- Day 22: Big lipped alligator moment! (Include a scene that is totally random, contributes nothing to the plot, and is never explained or mentioned in the novel again.)
- Day 23: Monster Reborn! (Remember that death in on the 15th? Guess who’s back! If you didn’t have to kill a character, then bring in a new one for at least one scene)
- Day 24: Seven Deadly Sins (Pick a character, or scene to go with each deadly sin, and a short reason why. Exp: Astithe = Envy. Astithe envies Orithur’s power and marriage to Jestelle, which drives him in the story.)
- Day 25: WHAT DO YOU MEAN PEOPLE ARE ALREADY WINNING!? (Do a 30 minute word sprint, and congratulate the writer’s who have already won.)
- Day 26: Your Burn Book. (Write a bad thing about every one of your characters. Extra points for every extra bad thing, or if you mention the book in story)
- Day 27: It was ______ at first sight! (How are you feeling about your novel right now? Do you love it, hate it, both, neither, other?)
- Day 28: Chocolate feeds my soul and my word count. (Give yourself a prize (candy, minutes on Youtube, etc) for everyone one of your NaNo buddies who have reached 50k)
- Day 29: 10k Friday. (Try and write 10,000 words in 24 hours)
- Day 30: IT’S OVER! (Did you win? Did you lose? Will you participate next year, do you think? Did you have fun?)
- Day 1: It’s December now. (Do not write anything. Live. Speak to your friends again, eat healthy meals again. Sleep.)
The source for this challenge came from here.