I’m excited to say we have Lisa Hendrix stopping by again this week and just in time to give us something to ready while everyone is watching the big football game (I preferring seeing the 6-legged turkey at the end, but that’s me). Lisa is talking about reading challenges and she even introduces us to a few writing challenges. Most of us are aware of NaNoWriMo (Jesse has 80k words at the moment), but there are actually several out there.
Of Gauntlets Thrown and Taken Up
Thanks to Jackie for hosting me here at Literary Escapism. I had fun going back through the posts here to see what she likes to talk about so I could add to the conversation instead of merely interrupting with me-me promo.
The thing that jumped out was the number of reading challenges she issues and accepts. I wasn’t aware that readers were doing challenges like this, although I should have had some clue after I saw how many people signed up for the Reader portion of the Unleash Your Story Challenge for Cystic Fibrosis. Officially, readers reported just shy of 25,000 pages read during the month of September. UYS was sort of a brute-force challenge, looking for sheer numbers of pages. Jackie’s challenges have more finesse, what with their themes, search for new authors to read, going back for seconds on previously read authors, etc. I am honored to be one of the new-to-her authors included in her 2008 list.
So I’m looking at challenges. The roots of the word challenge are interesting. According to Merriam-Webster online, it comes from Middle English chalengen to accuse, from Anglo-French chalenger, from Latin calumniari to accuse falsely, from calumnia calumny (13th c). Definitely a taint of aggression and dispute in there, which is reflected in the first few definitions. Things get more interesting further on, though. Definition 5 is in three parts:
5 a: to confront or defy boldly; dare; b: to call out to duel or combat c: to invite into competition
And then there’s #6:
6: to arouse or stimulate especially by presenting with difficulties
Dare and stimulate: that’s what the best blogs do, and Jackie certainly manages to do that here for readers, both with her regular blog posts and reviews and with her reading challenges.
But I’m figuring there are some writers among her fans that might appreciate a roundup of writing challenges. Most people know about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but there are others not as well known. Here’s a short list. You can probably find others, but if you’ve always dreamed of writing a book, one of these may be just the kick you need to get started.
NaNoWriMo – Held every November for the last ten years, this year NaNo has attracted 117,870 authors, all trying to complete a 50,000 word rough draft in just 30 days. It’s just winding down this week, but it’s not too early to start thinking about next year.
Book In A Week (BIW) – Created about the same time as NaNo, this was the first writer challenge I heard of and participated in. Now, ten years later, the group is still active, doing a BIAW challenge every month. Okay, you’re not really going to write a whole book in one week, unless you have wrists of steel and the an infinite ability to stay awake in front of a computer screen, but you can do a heck of an outline/synopsis or complete one or more chapters. The nice thing about BIW is that you get to set your own goals (publicly, of course, because public humiliation is a great motivator) and if you want, you can increase them month to month to truly challenge yourself.
Book In a Month – This is both a website and a book, and Ms. Schmidt offers the BIAM templates as a free pdf on her site. She also has a Yahoo group called VBIAMClub which offers daily prompts and support to help keep you on track during the challenges.
EnduranceWriting – Another, smaller Yahoo Group with a different approach. I’ll let them explain: “HOW E.W. WORKS: We all get together as a group in a Yahoo Messenger Conference Room and write as fast as we can (“sprint”) for a set period of time (between 20 and 45 minutes, usually). Then we take a break (about 15 minutes), for fun discussion, chocolate, coffee, etc. Then we start all over with another sprint. Simple, right? But it works!”
Unleash Your Story Challenge – The CFF Charitable Challenge I mentioned above. Write and gather pledges to help out kids with CF. A great way to motivate yourself and get your friends and family to actively support your writing.
And finally, my favorite writing challenge:
A Book Contract – Sorry, no website to offer, and you won’t get to participate in this challenge until you’ve already won another one, whether one of the above or one you simply issue to yourself. But once you’ve got a contract, boy is it ever a motivator. I just finished this kind of challenge, completing nearly the equivalent of NaNo to finish a ms that I’d gotten behind on for various reasons. In fact, I sent Immortal Outlaw (Book 2 of The Immortal Brotherhood) off to my editor just last Friday, and started working on Immortal Champion (Book 3) the very next day. It and Book 4 are my challenges for 2009.
There are probably challenges out there for almost any long task, whether weight loss, quitting smoking, building a wooden boat, or training a horse (in fact, I know of a horse-whisperer type challenge where wild horses are taken by trainers, who have one week to turn them into good saddle horses). Someone could probably set up a Challenge Central website and make a living off the Google Ads income.
We’re coming up to the end of the year and the time to set goals for the new year. A challenge just might be your ticket to success. So, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Figure out what you want to accomplish in the next year, how you want to stretch yourself, and accept a challenge to help you do it. Then post in comments:
What challenge are you going to accept for 2009?
Lisa Hendrix is the author of Immortal Warrior, the first book in an all-new paranormal historical romance series, The Immortal Brotherhood. Please visit her website, Lisa Hendrix for excerpts, contests, and more information about Lisa and her books. Lisa can also be found on MySpace, Facebook and Goodreads.
I did not realize there were so many writing challenges out there. It doesn’t surprise me, but still, wow. Thank you Lisa for stopping by and enlightening us on these great opportunities.