Writers in the Storm

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February 11, 2015

3 Steps to Conquering "Writing Challenge Addiction"


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Hi everyone, I’m Orly and I’m a challenge addict.

It started innocently enough. You know, a writing challenge here to get motivated, another challenge there to get a draft done. Pretty soon it became multiple challenges a month. What can I say, there’s just something about being in a group of writers suffering with supporting each other.

And there are so many challenges out there to enable motivate the writer in need.

Since I’m recovering from a month with two challenges, dog-paddling through the beginning of another challenge, and looking ahead to the next challenge, I thought I’d share a few thoughts to help my writing friends:

1.  Identify.

Not all challenges are created equal and not all challenges are right for you. NaNoWriMo, for example, is a great motivator for those who can crank out word count, but if you’re a slower writer or an agonizing writer, that kind of challenge may be more disheartening than motivating. ROW80 ("the writing challenge that knows you have a life") requires measurable goals but you must post a blog with your progress every week.

A Facebook writer’s group I’m in had a fun challenge in January pitting writers against rewriters. Everyone picked a side based on where they were in their project, then announced their personal goal. It was energizing watching everyone post their accomplishments.

There are challenges of all shapes and sizes. Look around, ask around, and pick one that suits your needs. Signing up for NaNo when you’re revising probably isn’t the best plan – trust me on this! Been there, tried that.

If you don’t find one that suits you, create one with your own writing group. Challenges don’t have to be huge or complicated.

2.  Plan.

Once you identify the challenge, it’s time to figure out what you’ll need to accomplish it. Each November I sign up for PiBoIdMo, that’s Picture Book Idea Month. “Planning” for that includes buying an adorable notebook to capture my 30 days of picture book ideas and then optimistically writing out 1 through 30 on the top right corner of the pages.

If you’ll be participating in a challenge with word count, planning may include advance research or ensuring you have dedicated time each day to write. This wouldn’t be the time to schedule a bathroom remodel where you’ll be constantly interrupted by workers and construction noise (yes, been there, done that – noticing a trend here?).

Make sure you have whatever research or craft books you need for writing handy. Draft an outline or post your plot points where they’ll be easy to see. Print out any inspirational quotes that will kick your creative brain cell butts into gear.

3.  Jump in.

Now you’re ready. The calendar clicks over and it’s time to jump in. Bring on the challenge, baby! One additional thing you need, though … a good attitude.

You only have 14 new picture book ideas instead of 30? That’s 14 more than you started the month with. And out of those 14, there are probably at least one or two that can be flushed out into a great manuscript. You publicly announced that you’d write 25k this month and only wrote 17k? You’ve added 17k to your manuscript and established forward momentum.

Challenges are for celebrating accomplishments. Every word, every idea, every page revised is an accomplishment because you're that much closer to a completed project. Not to mention the camaraderie and bonds you’ve made with fellow challenge participants.

Okay, I lied. Following those steps won’t help you conquer the challenge addiction. But they will help you have fun and succeed. And isn’t that the point of joining challenges in the first place?

Are there challenges you absolutely love and want to share with WITS readers? Do you have other success tips to share?

Because we’re suckers for a good challenge, the WITS team decided to share our addiction with our beloved readers. On April 20, we’re holding our own little challenge - Write Up A Storm. From noon to midnight Eastern time, we’ll be Writing Up A Storm on the WITS Facebook page. That’s write … wait, right, ahh they both work. Pop in for an hour writing sprint or hang out for a couple of hours or the entire 12 hours. After all, misery creativity loves company.

Will we see you at the WITS Write Up A Storm challenge?

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About Orly

OrlyAfter years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonigLopez or on her website, www.orlykoniglopez.com.

19 comments on “3 Steps to Conquering "Writing Challenge Addiction"”

  1. Orly, as a s-l-o-w writer, I usually avoid writing challenges, but you've made me rethink that. I'd never do NaNo (I have enough frustration and failure in my life, thanks), but if I set reasonable goals (for me), this could be fun.

    You made me want to do it.

    I did the WFWA Write-a-thin (inside joke) in January and really liked it - maybe I'm going to need to push my envelope a little.

    1. NaNo isn't for you, Laura. I'm not sure MY nerves can take you doing NaNo, so we're not going there. 😉

      But there are so many great challenges you can get into that are inspiring and fun and so worth it!

  2. I did NaNoWriMo last November. It gave me the incentive to get my novel finished. I'm still working on edits, but at least I have something to edit. It felt good to finally finish.

    1. Congratulations!!! NaNo is huge. I've yet to actually nail that goal.
      And always easier to edit - Laura just fainted reading that but you can't edit a blank page! 🙂

  3. I tried NaNo for the first time, because it was the first time I was starting a new book. I finished, I 'won', but 50,000 is about half a book for me. I found I was too focused on word count and abandoned much of my usual process of editing as I go. Even theough my normal word count goal is only a couple hundred words fewer than the NaNo rate, I was pushing for banking words, writing more words just to get ahead in case life intervened, etc. It became about words, not a story.

    The book was a mystery, and I'd lost track of when I'd dropped clues, red herrings, etc. I'm not a plotter, but I normally track more details as I finish each scene. Having to go back and do thata for 50K words was a nightmare. Yes, I could have--should have--kept my own process. But I doubt I'll do NaNo again (although the free books Kobo gave to winners was a nice perk)

    1. Trying a new "process" (can you call it that???) is a good exercise but not always a successful one. At least now you know.

      Angela Ackerman wrote a couple of great posts for WITS about preparing for NaNo. If you decide to try again, you may want to try some of her suggestions. Maybe keeping a notebook handy to jot down notes at the end of each writing sprint will help as well.

      I stand by my original statement, though, not all challenges are right for everyone. If you like the idea of challenges, find another that lets you set your own goals and works for what you want to achieve.

  4. Orly - the challenge that has worked for me has been a simple Excel spreadsheet with a daily word count goal. I've managed to finish 14 novels using it. I fear I'm the sort to get caught up in challenge hype/competition otherwise. Just ask me about tracking steps with my FitBit!

  5. Great post. I finished NaNo in 2009. It was brutal and my family has since forgiven me. Now I'm thinking it's time to pull it out and take a look/do some edits. Even if it doesn't go anywhere, it's something to work on when winter has all but frozen my creativity!

    1. There have been several NaNo books that became best sellers, Chris! Pull that baby out. 🙂

  6. NaNo is not for me but a realistic challenge - I'm up for it. Count me in on the WITS April challenge. What usually works best for me are (almost) daily sprints with other writers using FB PMs. My brain can handle 20 minute sprints - but a month to write 50K and my brain shuts down

    1. I'm with you on that big scary goal. I like the challenges that allow you to set your own goal. 🙂

  7. I did NaNo for the third time and it was third time's a charm for me. The difference was in how much prep work, notetaking, outlining, etc. I did ahead of time. And this weekend the hubby and I are taking a three-day, internet-free retreat to the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter where all there is to do is write. I'm going to finish the draft of my NaNo book; he's going to write a couple book proposals and sample chapters.

    1. That writing weekend sounds heavenly, Erin!!!! Can't wait to hear about your NaNo book.

  8. A group of us OCC RWA members will be finishing up Candace Haven's FastDraft 14-day challenge tomorrow. The goal was 20 pages a day (or whatever you can manage). We all set our goals on Feb 1st and checked in at the end of the day with our totals. I said I'd do 10 pages a day. Some days I did, some I didn't. Ain't going to make it today, but I now have 90 pages of the next book in my series written. That's 90 pages I wouldn't have gotten done otherwise. This was really my first serious writing challenge. I just might get addicted.

    1. That's the point of these challenges. The trick is to have a positive attitude about what you DID accomplish and not fret about what didn't get done. Much easier to edit written words than a blank page. 🙂

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