We'll begin by using my track record as a newbie. As a beginner, I joined every challenge possible. That was a huge mistake as my time was so fractured, I had no time to spend on my own work. I followed all directions given by the moderator/group leader. I worried if I was doing it "correctly," if I had to use a certain form, or if I had really met the requirements for the challenge.
I still see comments that illuminate my first attempts in forums now, and I know the anxiety these writers feel. If you are asking questions such as "How do I prove I wrote 30 ideas in 30 days?" or "What's the best way to organize ReFoReMo research?" you need to relax and think about YOUR goals and what you need this challenge to do for you.
- Your time is precious so pick your challenges wisely. If you are on deadline or juggle writing with another career, an event like StoryStorm (a new idea each day) or Halloweensie (a story of 100 words or less) is more doable than NaNoWriMo (a complete novel in one month.)
- Survey your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and choose accordingly. Since I had less knowledge on writing chapter books than picture books, joining ChaBooChaLite proved to be just what I needed. If you need help crafting a pitch, help others craft theirs or submit your pitch to Susanna Hill's "Would You Read It Wednesdays." It's great practice.
- If you are intent in connecting with other writers, finding critique group, or submitting, 12x12 will satisfy your needs.
- When beginning a new conest/challenge, look for files with resources contest rules and forms. Review past years' challenges and see how they worked. Don't be afraid to ask questions of moderators and long-time members. These tips will save you time.
These anecdotes from my past will explain how I made events work for me after I'd spent a year or two following all instructions to a "t."
- NaNoWriMo: This is year two for me, and I'm considered a "rebel." ( I love that NaNo has a nomenclature for what I do.) I am writing 10,000 words, not the recommended 50,000. I am using a picture book plot as my outline and am transforming it into a chapter book. I still get the motivation and camaraderie NaNo provides but on my terms.
- Contests such as the Halloweensie, the Valentiny Contest, and 50 Precious Words: Word count is crucial in these contests, the lower, the better. I find WIPs that may not be working and shave them down to the required words. I have saved time and haven't sacrificed a new story. An added bonus for me is these contests have taught me how to write in rhyme, a form I tend not to use.
- ReFoReMo: Reading and learning from the copious mentor text lists is always a fun challenge. Now I peruse the lists, and select the texts that fit my current work – be it humor, science, circular stories. I also try to read a stack of books from specific publishers/imprints if I am querying them in the future.