1) Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo): Here's a description from the official website:
"This challenge is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). . . . You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses. . . . Daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories."As an added bonus: "Participants who register for PiBoIdMo and complete the 30-idea challenge will be eligible for prizes, including signed picture books, original art, critiques and feedback from one of five picture book agents." These are some highly respected agents, too! You can see the list on the official registration page. So, if you're a picture book writer, I suggest you join our own Esther Hershenhorn and Jill Esbaum by signing up for this challenge!
2) National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): Here's a description from the official website:
"National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel."While I've never officially participated in NaNoWriMo myself, I did organize a pseudo-NaNoWriMo event to write the first draft of my YA historical back in January 2009.You can read a little about that event in this blog post. (My friend Megg Jensen was one of the other writers who participated in that challenge, in which she completed a draft of her novel Anathema.) You can read about the "prizes" for NaNoWriMo participation provided by their sponsors on this page.
In recent years there's been some backlash against NaNoWriMo, which I addressed in this blog post that was written BEFORE I learned that bestselling YA novel Cinder (Feiwel & Friends) was a NaNoWriMo project (as were its sequels!).
Special note to writing teachers: NaNoWriMo has a Young Writers Program (YWP) with online resources for educators, including a classroom kit. See their Educator Resources page for details.
While I'm not participating in either of these challenges, I have been thinking about/gearing up to start a new writing project. That's prompted our next TeachingAuthor topic: I've asked my fellow TeachingAuthors to discuss how they approach new projects, along with the perennial question: "Are you a plotter or a pantser?"
If you're not familiar with the term "pantser," it refers to someone who writes without outlining first, or what some call "seat of your pants" writing. I've confessed here before that I'm a "pantser." But that doesn't mean I don't do any prep work. I typically spend time journalling about the characters and plot possibilities. I also set up a three-ring binder with partitions labeled "characters," "plot," "setting," "themes," "title ideas," etc. I think of this more as preparation, though, than plotting. How about you? How do you approach a new writing project?
Lately, I've been collecting articles about how other writers approach a first draft and/or how to write a first draft quickly. These articles include:
- "9 Tips for Writing a Really Good Shitty First Draft" by Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (Ten Speed Press)
- "First Drafting: Now 96% Faster" by Tara Dairman, author of the middle-grade novel All Four Stars (Putnam)
- "Writing the Tight Synopsis," which is really about using a synopsis as a plotting tool, by crime writer Beth Anderson.
- "How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day" and the follow-up post "12 Days of Glory" by fantasy writer Rachel Aaron.
- Notes from 2011 RWA Convention Talk on How to Fast Draft by Candace Havens (you have to scroll down a few paragraphs to the notes from this particular session).
- "My Weirdo Writing Process--Middle Grade Edition," in which Shelley Moore Thomas, author of The Seven Tales of Trinket (Farrar, Straus Giroux), describes using a writing "manifesto" as a springboard to her first draft.