Writing can get kind of lonely sometimes.
Not only that, but it can get stale. Sometimes we fall into a formula when we write books, or we can’t get ourselves past the first few chapters of an idea, or we’re stuck in the dreaded middle section of our novel for what feels like forever. It can feel a little like getting stranded, and it’s no wonder some writers jump ship on their projects.
But it doesn’t need to be so lonely, nor does it need to be boring! Participating in a writing challenge might be your ticket out of that sticky spot.
What are Writing Challenges?
Writing challenges are exactly what they sound like. They’re challenges created for writers with the intent of getting writers to, well, write! These aren’t writing contests—there often isn’t a cash prize or publication prize for people who participate in writing challenges.
If there isn’t a prize, why should you bother?
Why Should I Try a Writing Challenge?
Writing challenges do a few excellent things for their participants. First and foremost, they connect a participant to a community of writers participating in the same challenge. This sense of community helps writers amp each other up—it’s a team dynamic we don’t often get to experience as writers, and it can make the world of difference powering through a first draft or a difficult round of revisions.
Writing challenges also encourage writers to practice, often every day. Of course, you don’t need to write every single day to be a “real” writer, but just like athletes do marathons, writers can get a lot out of a good challenge. You can flex your writing muscles, maybe try something new, and have some fellow participants to commiserate with. What more could you need?
For me, personally, writing challenges often feel a little bit like writing camp. You get to stay in the comfort of your own home, but you’re meeting people online, you’re working on a new project, and the whole enterprise has that fun, novel feeling you get at summer camp. The momentum might not last forever, but you don’t need it to! The goal is to have fun and make something.
If you’re looking to try something new, power through a difficult draft, or just crank out words, writing challenges might be worth checking out. And lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of some writing challenges you can participate in!
Here are Nine Writing Challenges to Enter:
“National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now, each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand new novel. They enter the month as elementary school teachers, mechanics, or stay-at-home parents. They leave novelists.”
NaNoWriMo is perhaps the best-known writing challenge, and it’s a doozy. Contrary to popular belief, the challenge isn’t really to write an entire novel in a month—it’s to write 50,000 words of a novel, which is not a whole lot less difficult. It’s got a built-in social media system to connect with other writers working in similar genres, a word count tracker that measures your progress, and rewards you with badges as you complete milestones throughout the month. Here are some other ways to set yourself up for success, too.
If NaNoWriMo happens at a bad time of year for you (for example, I could barely do this challenge in college, since it was exactly when my classes started heating up), check the website for Camp NaNo and other challenges that happen throughout the year.
“During the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, also known as National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), you are personally challenged to start and complete a work of nonfiction in 30 days. This can be an article, an essay, a book, a book proposal, a white paper, or a manifesto.”
This challenge is intended as an alternative to NaNoWriMo for Nonfiction writers. Instead of using a word count and word goal to keep track, this challenge encourages the honor system, and the intent is to complete any work of nonfiction.
“Your mission (should you choose to accept it): Write an ebook for your audience in 30 days, from November 1 to November 30.”
This challenge encourages its participants to complete a polished ebook in thirty days. The premise is simple: novels are huge, and ebooks are generally smaller. This challenge takes you through actionable steps to write and polish an ebook, with the goal being to have a completely finished ebook for your audience by the end.
“StoryADay is a creativity challenge:
Write (and finish) a short story every day during May and/or September.
(or on your own schedule!)
StoryADay exists to promote creativity, not to teach you how to ‘be a published writer’.
(And sometimes we do it all over again in September.)”
If novels aren’t your bag, or the thought of working on a single project for a month feels too daunting, StoryADay might be for you! StoryADay challenges you to write a story every day during May or September—you don’t have to post or publish it, and they give you prompts each day to keep your gears turning. There are a handful of ways that writing stories can make you a better writer, so don’t sleep on this one.
“12 x 12 is a year-long writing challenge where members aim to write 12 complete picture book drafts, one per month, for each 12 months of the year.
A draft means a story with a beginning, middle, and end—NOT a submission-ready piece. Founded by picture book author Julie Hedlund, 12 x 12 has been supporting, encouraging, and educating writers since 2012.”
12×12 is a great resource for picture book authors. One of the biggest perks of this challenge is its community—participating in this will connect you to lots of other authors, as well as resources for writing, revising, and submitting your work.
“The Chapter Book Challenge, otherwise known as ‘ChaBooCha,’ was created by Rebecca Fyfe and first ran in 2012. It runs every year in the month of March. The challenge is 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.”
During the month, you’ll find a helpful community to engage with, original articles from published authors and successful agents, and giveaways throughout.
“The Super Challenge is typically run in two rounds. During each round, we’ll release the prompt on Friday at 10pm US Eastern time. That’s right—you don’t have to stay up all night to get your prompt! Writers then have 48 hours to write a story or essay responsive to that prompt.
Once the writing phase is complete, our judges go to work. Each piece is scored and given positive and critical feedback by each judge. Writers will receive their feedback 12-24 hours before we announce who will advance to the next round. For more information about this phase of the challenge, check out our FAQ.
Roughly ten writers from the first round of competition advance to the second round to compete for first, second and third place prizes.”
If you’re looking for a writing challenge with a little incentive, look no further! This challenge uses prompts to get writers in a variety of different genres competing for cash. This takes place once a quarter and lasts for six weeks, so check in every now and again to see if they’re running a challenge that looks like it’s for you!
“What is 365 Writing Challenge? It’s an organized group of writers who encourages and supports each other as they try to write consistently for a calendar year.”
This challenge is a subgroup of the 10 Minute Novelists group—just link up with their Facebook page to join! For this one, you and your fellow novelists can cheer each other on as you work a little every day on your novel. Momentum can really build after a while, and this challenge can have you cranking out hundreds of thousands of words by the end of the year.
“The Writer’s Games is a two-month, challenge-based competition that can seem daunting until you dive in. It’s not your ordinary writing competition for several reasons. First, all participants must register in advance to participate. Second, competition writing begins only after Events are announced. Third, Events are kept secret until the start of the Event. Fourth, every entry submitted on time receives honest, unbiased feedback from a team of future editors, professors, and literary agents, regardless of placement!”
If you want a challenge with a little pizzazz, here’s your pick! This is another prize-winning option. Find the prompt on their site, take a look at the core concepts, and respond with a short story within their parameters (750-6,000 words) for a chance to win!