Today is October 31st, or Halloweeen. Why should you, a nonfiction writer, care? The answer is not that you get to dress up as your favorite literary character and go out to a party–or eat lots of candy (or drink, as did many famous writers). For thousands of nonfiction writers, the last day of October has importance because it means they have just one day left to prepare for the start of the fifth annual Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) challenge.
Now “preparing for WNFIN” means something different to me than for the average nonfiction writer or WNFIN participant. I founded WNFIN. Therefore, I have to prepare 30 days worth of expert blog posts for publication in the WNFIN blog, which runs for all 30 days of the month. (That’s right…one for every day of November. The rest of the year, the blog remains up for you to read all the archives, but I rarely post to it.). I have to solicit the posts, schedule them, edit them, write an introduction to them, post them, and round up the last expert bloggers who have not turned in their post by the deadline—which was 30 days ago (I won’t name names, but for a complete list of WNFIN 2011 expert guest bloggers please see yesterday’s post.). This year, I also have to choose someone to win a free copy of Rochelle Melander’s new book, Write-a-Thon, and prepare for the newest WNFIN feature—FREE teleseminars! (The first one airs on November 1 and will feature Roger C. Parker. You can learn more and register here.)
A lot of people ask me what nonfiction project I’ll be working on during WNFIN, since WNFIN is a challenge to start and finish a work of nonfiction in 30 days. I used to try and run WNFIN and complete the challenge. I gave that up last year. I made WNFIN my WNFIN project. You can see from the paragraph above, though, that for me the start of November entails a lot of work on WNFIN the blog. That’s my pre-November and my November project. I think it qualifies for WNFIN, don’t you?
Every writing project requires preparation. For WNFIN, I go back over past posts looking for idea for new ones or for subjects I haven’t covered, do a brainstorming session on new topics to cover, create a list of guest bloggers, contact guest bloggers, follow up with guest bloggers (several times), edit blog posts, write intros to blog posts, write blog posts of my own, publish blog posts, and write promotional copy for the challenge. Additionally, there’s the promotional preparation: get information out to the media, write guest blog posts for other bloggers, appear on radio shows and podcasts, etc.
If you are taking on a challenge like WNFIN or preparing to complete a project on deadline, you will want to do similar preparation. You might want to:
- Look over your project description.
- Brainstorm all possible ideas related to your project.
- Strategize your approach.
- Consider all your potential research resources.
- Contact anyone who might help you.
- Figure out how to organize your project.
- Create a schedule so you complete it on time.
- Clear your calendar.
- Make sure you have all the necessary materials.
- Create an outline, table of contents, synopsis, or some other writing guide.
Then do, in fact, make sure you prioritize the time to get the project done. You’ll need to be sure that you set writing goals in specific terms of pages or words written per day and stick to it—or be prepared to make up the words or pages you don’t write. For example, you can have weekends set aside as make up days. If you were supposed to write 1,000 words per day five days per week to meet your quota and your deadline but only averaged 750 one particular week, make up the 1,250 missing words on Saturday or Sunday in addition to the 1,000 words you need to write on each of those two days.
Some people don’t understand why they should bother with the WNFIN challenge. After all, it’s not NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). WNFIN does not (yet) have 200,000 people taking part, as far as I know, and I don’t have a gizmo to count your words nor do I offer you a little badge that says you “won.” On Dec. 1, you have no way to prove you actually completed the challenge. Except….
If you participate, you can sign in and then post status updates or chat on the WNFIN Facebook page about your progress. When you are done with your project you can submit it to a publication editor, a literary agent, acquisitions editor at a publishing house, or self-publish it as an e-book or print book. If your article or essay or your book gets published (traditionally or independently), you will, indeed, have something to show for the fact that you took the WNFIN challenge and succeeded.
So…today is October 31. Why should you care (other than the fact that you could put on a costume and go to a Halloween party or walk around in the dark with your child for many hours while they wear a costume and collect a lot of candy)? You should care if you have a nonfiction project you have:
- never started
- started and never finished
And you should care if it’s your dream of becoming a published nonfiction writer and you want to discover how to make that dream come true.
Five years ago when I founded WNFIN, I ran the challenge and the blog alone…in more way than one. I didn’t have many readers, and I wrote all the posts myself. I produced a huge brain dump of everything I knew about writing, publishing and promoting nonfiction. The second year, I realized I needed help. I had little else to offer. So, I asked other experts to sign on as guest bloggers. Guess what? I learned as much as the readers of the blog—double the number of readers as the year before.
The following year I considered quitting…just not running the challenge. I did it anyway, though. Why? Because I’d learned so much from the blog posts the year before. And I’ve kept on doing it ever since for just that reason. And that’s why readers visit the blog all year long, even though posts are only added during November, and that’s why readership has doubled or tripled each year.
How many writers take the challenge? Hard to know. But you could be one of them, and by month’s end you could have a draft or even a finished product you can publish or send off to an agent, editor or publisher. And, if you take a writing break to read the blog, you’ll learn something to help you become a better writer, get published and promote yourself and your work.
What could be better? And you only have to commit 30 days. Not bad…30 days to meet a goal or realize a dream.
I can’t wait for this year’s blog posts to publish. I’ve asked my expert guest bloggers to fill in some of the gaps I felt were left empty from previous years as well as to cover topics that marketplace changes make it essential for writers to understand. I can’t wait to learn from my experts. You can see the list of expert bloggers here. Also, please note that as of tomorrow, you will find that Write Nonfiction NOW!, this blog, will dovetail with Write Nonfiction in November. All the great posts there will be featured here as well.
I hope this pre-WNFIN challenge post has left you feeling the import of October 31. Yes, it’s a time normally spent running around in silly costumes and collecting and eating candy. (I’ve noticed writers like doing this almost as much as children–especially in costumes related to their favorite writing character.) It’s also a time spent making sure you are prepared to take advantage of opportunities to write, opportunities to become the published writer–the author–you’ve dreamed of becoming, opportunities like Write Nonfiction in November.
Two other things you can do to prepare:
- Participate in the contest to win a free copy of Rochelle Melander’s new book, Write-a-Thon
- Register for the WNFIN kick-off FREE teleseminars on November 1 with Roger C. Parker here
So, if need be sit down at your desk in your Halloween costume and with your bowl of candy, and get ready to take the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. (I admit it…I ate a bit of candy while I wrote this post. No, I did not wear a costume.)