I recently participated in The Write Practice’s 100 Day writing contest. It is similar to NaNoWriMo in that the contest challenges you to write your draft in a specified period of days (in this case 100). With the 100 Day challenge, you set your own word count target based on the genre you’re writing in.
I took a slightly different approach to the contest, deciding to revise my manuscript, The InBetween. I originally penned this novel for NaNoWriMo last November. My revision process includes a lot of extensive rewriting and even original writing. I needed to grow my manuscript from roughly 70,000 words to my targeted word count of 90,000. For purposes of the contest, I needed to revise/rewrite 1,000 words a day.
I found participating in the contest very motivating. The best part was access to the whiteboard, an environment where participants shared their chapters each Friday. I found myself looking forward to the new submissions and to seeing what feedback I got. Reactions from my peers helped me to understand what was working in my plot and what needed more development. I found myself expanding on elements that beta readers liked and occasionally double-down on what wasn’t working, looking for ways to make those parts of the story more compelling. I even made a major plot change: deciding not to kill off a popular character.
The need to post every Friday kept me on pace with my overall goal. Ultimately I produced over 100,000 words in this draft. I found that having beta readers who were following my story kept me engaged as a writer. I didn’t want to let them down, and so it was fairly easy to push through the natural mind games that creep in when you are trying to complete a big, audacious task.
I’m pretty psyched about this graph. It demonstrates that I did a good job of keeping on task and staying on pace of the goal. I think it is interesting to note that my productivity
did sag at one point, around the three-week mark. I can’t remember if I had life events going on at that that interfered with my performance, but I think it is fairly typical for productivity to flag after the initial rush of the honeymoon period wears off.
Sometimes goal setting scares me because I’m afraid that the disappointment of missing a goal will completely derail me. It looks like I went through a ten-day period where I was running behind pace. Around Day 33, I had a spurt of productivity, and after that turning point, I kept pace with the goal. I think in this case, the goal of the writing challenge pulled me through my muddle like an attractor beam. The peer pressure of knowing that others were reading my work helped a lot too.
I have to admit that I wasn’t much of a goal setter until I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2016. That experience, writing an entire novel in 30 days, woke me up to the power of goal setting. That process worked for me and so when I saw the 100 Day challenge, I knew that it would provide the push I needed to get my novel revised.
In fact, I got so jazzed about my novel that I decided to pitch it to agents at the Writer’s Digest Conference in August. I was elated to have five agents respond affirmatively, asking me to send my work to them! So now I have a new challenge in front of me. While they say that you have a year to respond to such agent requests, I aim to get them chapters by January. This year for NaNoWriMo, I’m going to write short stories. So, that gives me October, December, and January to get the next draft turned around. Thanks to writing contests like NaNoWriMo and the 100 Day challenge I now know the formula to make that happen.