A couple months ago I decided to step up my writing challenges. NaNoWriMo has been a fun experience for me in the past, but I need something that can keep me writing year round, and I know I can do more than 1667 words a day if I’m pressured enough. So I joined Book-in-a-Week (BIW). No, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. Writers can choose how much they want to write, so long as it’s at least ten double-spaced pages. But it does require regular check-ins and interactions with other writers, which makes it feel more like a brief writing workshop than a NaNo-style challenge.
I have completed two BIW challenges so far, and here are my conclusions. BIW is for serious writers. It does demand year-round attention and dedication, and if you’re not sure you want to get serious about writing fiction, you’d do best to steer clear of this. But if you are a serious writer and want to get more into the habit of writing daily, BIW can give you the help and support you need. There are prompts, inspiring blog posts, and other people writing right alongside you. The sense of community is very tight and it becomes a personal commitment as you become involved.
It’s also a very flexible program when it comes to actual writing requirements. Every month you can expect some people to walk away from the challenge with actual 100+ page novels in their hands… but most people don’t write that much. If you’re busy one month, you can stick to the minimum, which really isn’t much writing at all. But if you’re up for an extra challenge, you can go for it! And setting your own challenge makes you push yourself to your own limits, no matter how much time you actually have to dedicate to writing.
I know people who are hesitant about writing challenges and communities, because of the risk of mingling with too many “bad” writers and sacrificing your own creativity by turning writing into nothing more than a contest against your will. And yes, that is a risk. But for those of us who want to be finishers of books and who need an extra push to see a project through to the end, a challenge and community can be a great way to do it.
What are the downsides to BIW? Well, it does cost money to join. A grand total of $3 is needed–not much at all, but enough to deter some people who might not take the opportunity as seriously. The Moodle platform which the challenge is run on can also be confusing to figure out, though there are video tutorials that help explain it. You need to check in several times during the week and then provide a grand total in the end, or risk getting pushed out for the week for not interacting enough with the group. This can be frustrating at times and hard to keep up with, especially if you’re not sure if you’re really done writing for the day or week but don’t want to forget your check-in.
I’m still adjusting to the pace and requirements of BIW, but I am pleased with the writing that it’s helped me complete and looking forward to next month’s challenge. I do recommend it to serious writers who want to get in the habit of writing more often, and I encourage anyone who’s interested to check out the website at www.book-in-a-week.com!