Thursday, November 9, 2017

Make Writing Challenges, Contests, and NaNoWriMo Work for YOU - by Kathy Halsey

NaNoWriMo, Storystorm, ReFoReMo, PBPitch, Susanna Leonard Hill's contests and Would You Read It Wednesdays... I know you can recite the writing alphabet with me if you are serious about this industry. So many opportunities and such a finite amount of time so what's a savvy writer to do? My answer is to customize these events so they work for you! 


In the Beginning

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.


How to Thrive

  • 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.
How to Customize


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.
As writers, we all the same amount of time given to us each day to hone our craft. Find ways to make contests and special writing month authors create for us work to our advantage. Make the process a win-win.  Please share in the comments ways you've modified challenges to fit your needs. 


16 comments:

  1. Kathy, what an enlightening post for me this morning! So many enticing writing possibilities and I've got a buck- shot approach. You've given good suggestions on how to determine which are best and ways to customize your participation to get the most out of those you choose. Thank you!

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  2. Thanks, Anne. I'm glad to help. It can get overwhelming.

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  3. I identify SO much with this post, Kathy! Like you, I joined every challenge I could and tried to do it "exactly" because that would be the golden key to the golden door, right? And I spent too much time on the wrong things. I certainly got a lot out of them, but now, like you, I modify challenges to fit my goals and am much more productive! Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Deb. If I can help anyone in making these work, then good.

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  4. What a fabulous post Kathy! Thanks so much! I tend to take on too much in addition to the 3 Jobs I work for pay, so it’s been a challenge to choose wisely. Nice to know others feel the same. ��

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    1. Yes, your time is the most precious thing you have. May you find that balance sand a bit more time for you.

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    1. Hey, Jarm. I appreciate you stopping by to read this.

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  6. Great post. Love the "rebel" status for NaNoWriMo. Might need to try that next year.

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  7. Thanks for the reality check, Kathy. Can't do everything, can we? And we can't waste time with things that don't matter in the long run. This is the first time I've heard of ChaBooChaLite. Gotta check that out before I get on with my own work this morning. Cheers!

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    1. Jilanne, we do learn as we go, right? At first we're attracted to every shiny thing.

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  8. Great reminder that we need to participate in those things that will help us with our writing where it is now.... contests and challenges that suit us one year may not be where we need to put our energy the next. There's a buncha NaNo rebels who do their thing in January.... or June...

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  9. Great post, Kathy. I used to try and do every challenge, but stopped when I realized I had a large circle spinning me around. I try to choose more widely and focus on things that pertain to me.

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    1. Yes, Charlotte. We were on a spinning wheel.

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