Today’s challenge is to start and finish the first draft of a story in 1 hour (or about 50 minutes).
This is a special, cosy winter write-along, so in addition to pen and paper, I recommend equipping yourself with a hot drink, and some thick socks. When you’re ready, hit PLAY.
Don’t worry if you find yourself changing direction or contradicting yourself as you write. Just enjoy the feeling of the story unfolding, and know that you can expand it, tidy it up, and polish it later!
A writing challenge is perhaps the fastest and most enjoyable way to grow as a writer, and to finish an interminable writing project. Pick and choose your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals and piece together a year you can’t wait to write about!
Engage in a Year-Long Writing Challenge
A year-long challenge takes a lot of focus and stamina, and it’s easy to get bored and fall off. However, a big challenge can also be very rewarding, both in terms of the end result, and the habits that you develop throughout the year. And even if you “fail”, you will no doubt have learned a lot, and made considerable progress in the meantime.
If you would like to take on a year-long writing challenge, here are a few suggestions:
Write every day. Even a few words a day can help to keep your project moving forward. If you need motivation and support, start a WriteChain!
Write first thing every morning. Many writers do their best work in the morning, especially before the rest of the family wakes up. If you need some company, you can join the #5amWriters on Twitter.
Take the Ray Bradbury Challenge and write a short story every week. This is a really fun challenge because you:
Finish a project every week.
Get to work on something fresh and exciting every week.
Can experiment with lots of different forms and genres.
Write a novel. It’s a common but admirable, challenging but achievable ambition. Will this be the year you finally write your novel? If you’re not sure where to begin, I would recommend a plot formula.
Pitch a novel. If you have a completed manuscript and you’re looking to publish it traditionally, you might want to focus your efforts on finding an agent. If you need help, (and a deadline) Pitch Wars is an annual mentorship programme that helps match writers with agents.
Publish a novel. If you would rather go down the self-publishing route, you might want to focus on getting your manuscript ready for uploading, and on preparing marketing materials.
Think back to your favourite novel, and you’ll probably discover a celebration of some kind, whether it’s a cocktail party, an eleventy-first birthday bash, a school feast, a funeral wake, a royal baptism, or a harvest festival.
It’s important to celebrate in life, and even more so in fictional life where gatherings can serve many purposes that further the plot, develop characters, and build up the story world. And unlike real life celebrations that we’ve planned, we’re happy when things go wrong in fiction!
If you’ve fallen behind on your NaNoWriMo novel, you might be in need of a pep talk right about now! Your characters may need one too, whether in a private conversation with a mentor, or on a crowded sports pitch, or on a field before battle. Or perhaps it’s your readers who await encouragement, motivation, incentive, impetus, ignition…
Here are a few quick tips for writing a pep talk, from my favourite film, Gladiator. General Maximus is addressing the cavalry before battle:
“Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line. Stay with me. If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled, for you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead! Brothers! What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
Address your audience’s desires, and if possible, show how yours align with them (especially if you’re working together towards a common goal).
Furthermore, offer them a vision of themselves in possession of their desired outcome.
Give them specific instructions or tactics to employ.
Throw in a joke to lighten the mood, and (if possible) the audience’s fears.
Comfort the audience and show that you’re beside them to support, protect, and guide them. Demonstrate that you’re worthy of their trust.
Offer a metaphor that gives the audience greater perspective on the challenge.
Remind the audience of the reasons why.
Make the speech timely, succinct, and to-the-point. Also, if possible, deliver it in a place that supports the message, or makes it more memorable.
Philip Pullman’s Pep Talk (I remember my excitement when this landed in my inbox!) – “This is a strange thing, but I’ve noticed it many times: a bad day’s work is a lot better than no day’s work at all.”