NaNoWriMo and Beyond: 7 Writing Challenges for Novelists, Poets and More

NaNoWriMo and Beyond: 7 Writing Challenges for Novelists, Poets and More

Do you have trouble making time to write? Do you wish you had a community to help you work towards your writing goals, including staying on time and finishing your work?

Many writers sign up for writing challenges to help them solve these problems and write a large body of work in a short amount of time.

When you participate in a writing challenge, you work alongside a group of other writers who all share the same goal: finish that novel, finish that picture book, or write those short stories. You support each other and hold each other accountable.

If you’re up to the task, here are seven writing challenges to try, whether you’re a novelist, poet, picture-book writer or something in between.

1. NaNoWriMo

This is the one you’ve probably heard of: NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, has been an annual November tradition since 1999. During NaNoWriMo, writers around the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

What’s special about 50,000 words? As NaNoWriMo’s organizers explain: “Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. The length makes it a short novel (about the length of The Great Gatsby).”

You’ll need to write about 1,667 words every day to hit the 50,000 word count, but you won’t be alone; the online NaNoWriMo community helps you track and share your progress while awarding badges for hard work and providing inspiration through interviews with well-known writers and other motivational tools.

Several writers have published novels they initially drafted during NaNoWriMo, including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

2. NaPoWriMo

If NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, I bet you can guess what NaPoWriMo stands for. National Poetry Writing Month takes place every April, and challenges writers to pen 30 poems in 30 days.

Independently organized, NaPoWriMo is much smaller than NaNoWriMo, so don’t expect your local library to organize NaPoWriMo nights — unless, of course, you want to organize one on your own!

Some writers share their NaPoWriMo poems on their websites or via social media, and help spread their love of poetry while showing off their ability to complete the challenge.

3. StoryADay

So we’ve got novel-writing in November and poetry in April. What about short stories? That’s in May, and it’s called StoryADay.

StoryADay is a little different from NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo in that it focuses on completing a short story every day, rather than ending the month with a certain number of stories or a specific word count. The rules:

If you miss a day or don’t finish a story, move on. You still have every other day of the month (of your life) which is a new day, on which a new story can be told.

Don’t go back and try to finish yesterday’s story. Leave it. Wash your hands of it. Move on.

As long as you keep writing, you’re not failing.

Starting — and finishing — a new short story every day sounds like a much harder challenge than writing a 50,000-word novel in a month! What do you think?

4. 12 x 12

If you write picture books, you might want to consider signing up for 12 x 12, a writing challenge created by Julie Hedlund, author of My Love For You Is the Sun. The challenge: write 12 picture books in 12 months!

12 x 12 is different than other writing challenges in that it comes with an membership fee. The basic package, which costs $45, gets you access to writers’ forums and online discussion. If you choose one of the higher levels of membership — which are only available to people who have already participated in at least one year of 12 x 12 — you get to submit your work directly to participating agents.

Do 12 x 12 writers get published? Absolutely. Check out their list of published writers to get inspired.

5. ReviMo

After all of this writing, it’s probably time for a little revising, right? That’s where ReviMo comes in.

It stands for Revise More, and it’s a week-long challenge in which picture book author and artist Meg Miller invites writers to spend seven days revising a picture book. Miller provides support with daily motivational posts as well as prizes for authors who revise their work.

Want to learn more? Join the ReviMo Facebook group to get to know other writers who understand that the most important part of writing is revising.

6. ChaBooCha

Young-adult writers can use NaNoWriMo to to write their books, but there’s also a writing challenge just for them: ChaBooCha, or the Chapter Book Challenge.

Hosted by writer Rebecca Fyfe, ChaBooCha  runs every March and challenges you to “Write one completed first draft of an early reader, chapter book, middle grade book or YA novel in the month of March, starting on the 1st of March and finishing on the 31st of March.”

Your results could be anywhere between 1,000 and 80,000 words, depending on whether you’re putting together an early reader or writing the next book in your YA series. ChaBooCha is there to help you get the job done, with motivational blog posts from authors, agents and publishers — as well as prizes.

7. YeahWrite

After reading about all of these programs that challenge you to write 50,000 words or 31 new short stories in a month, are you ready for a writing challenge that’s designed to fit your schedule?

It’s time to check out YeahWrite, a writing site that issues one writing challenge each week for each of three genres: nonfiction, fiction/poetry and microstories.

This writing challenge differs from the others on this list because every week, community members vote on a challenge winner. You’re not only participating in a writing challenge, you’re also getting reviewed by other writers — and you might write well enough to win the week!

YeahWrite is all about community, so it’s free to join. But a paid membership helps keep the site running and gets you access to editorial consultations with YeahWrite editors. There are three membership packages, ranging from $25 to $100 per year; each gets you a few more perks, so check them out!

So, are you ready to take on one of these writing challenges? Let us know if you’ve tried any of these programs before, and whether you’re planning to sign up for any writing challenges this year.

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11 comments

  • Dayle says:

    Taking note of these things is good for writers.

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  • Julie Duffy says:

    Thanks for mentioning StoryADay. It’s tough but amazingly fun. We also have an accountability group that meets on the 1st of every month to set goals for that month’s writing, and weekly writing prompts throughout the year. All are invited!

    • Kirsten McAleese says:

      Hi Julie,

      I’ve heard about StoryADay last year, from my mum who was told about it by your mum and I checked it out somewhat and it makes me want to get properly serious about wriitng. Looks good and sounds good from what I’ve seen/heard. Good hard work from you and I’m very glad you are making a career from creativity and inspiring others too. I’ll be doing NanoWriting again this year and if I see you in person I’ll give you a collection of my poetry, but I think I should try prose a little more often – that can work for performance too.

      All the best and well done for working on your art overseas — hope to see you in Scotland soon!

      Kirsten McAleese

  • Nina Amir says:

    You forgot about NaNonFiWriMo…I run National Nonfiction Writing Month, also known as The Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. http://www.writenonfictioninnovember.com.

  • Karen says:

    There’s also NaBloPoMo for bloggers–to post a blog post every day for a month! 🙂 So many great things to choose from.

    • Kirsten McAleese says:

      It’s always good to hear about ant poetry communication – thanks for your info on NanoWrimo and other writing challenges.