Writing Challenge! March Madness for Writers

pen_and_pencilWelcome to March, and a month-long writing challenge designed to help you all take your writing to the next level, whatever that may be. For the past two years, I’ve run a December Writing Challenge to offer writers a small kick in the butt during what is, arguably, the busiest month of the year. But this past December, a reader commented that March might be an excellent month for a challenge as well, and so here we are.

The December challenge focuses on writing every day, even if just for fifteen minutes. The idea is that you can find that small amount of time for something you consider a priority, no matter how  crazy your schedule. So that part of the challenge will remain. But in order to change things up a bit, and also offer a higher level of challenge for writers who already have a regular daily writing habit, I’m going to offer some additional components to the challenge. It’s up to you to choose how much or how little you’re prepared to tackle this month.


Part One: The Foundation

  • I challenge you to write every day during the month of March, for a minimum of fifteen minutes, but I hope for more. Whether you’re just starting out or have been writing for years, I want you to commit to your craft. If writing is important to you, make it a priority.
  • You can write anything you want, as long as it is for you. Don’t count assigned writing for your day job or that note to your child’s teacher. Focus on getting time in for your own writing projects. It can be something brand new, a work in progress, something out of the bottom drawer, writing exercises, or bits and pieces of many different works. Just get those words down.
  • As with December, I’m giving you an optional two days off during the month. Use them wherever you’d like, or not at all. It’s up to you.

Part Two: The Homework

In addition to writing daily, you have a bit of homework for the next few days. Take a couple of hours over the weekend, either all at once or in drips and drabs, and come up with a bunch of writing prompts that interest you — 20 or 30, but at least a dozen. Try to get a good variety, prompts appropriate for both short and long works, and across diverse subjects, including things you might not normally write but are curious to try.

Maybe you already have a list somewhere, or a collection of them in a notebook, and that’s fine. Add to them. Otherwise, start a list, anywhere you’d like, though I recommend having a smallish notebook that you can throw in your purse or laptop bag and have on hand when inspiration strikes.

Please do this even if you’re in the middle of working on a book and already plan to continue with it through the month of March. You can always use the prompts later, and you might get lured in by one or two of the other challenge exercises and find the prompt list useful.

You can find prompts anywhere. Jot down ideas you’ve been mulling over. Go through your writing books, or check out a few at the library. The internet offers a wealth of sites that have writing prompts. Don’t forget to check out photos or works of art online, as well, for a bit of inspiration. I’ve listed a few websites at the end of the post.

weightliftingPart Three: Circuit Training

Given I’m stealing the title of this challenge from the sports world, it’s appropriate that I use another athletic term for part of the challenge. Starting Monday, March 4, anyone interested in a more complex or challenging month can choose to participate in a round or more of writer’s circuit training. I will provide a list of week-long exercises, each of which will focus on some different aspect of craft or writing in general. For the next four weeks, you can pick an exercise to add to your challenge from Monday to the following Sunday. Any writing you do for the circuit training will count toward your daily writing quota.

Circuit training will give you the chance to develop different skills, or simply to make your challenge a bit more interesting. You can choose a different exercise each week, repeat an exercise you find particularly useful, participate in the circuit all four weeks or just a few. Personalize the challenge according to your own schedule, interests, and needs. While everyone taking the challenge will be writing every day, different participants will be in different phases of the circuit, depending upon what exercise they choose, or if they decide to take on one of the specific exercises at all. Remember, circuit training is optional.

I’ll post the entire list of week-long circuits on Sunday, so you can get an idea of what’s in store for you. Some of the exercises may require a little more thought and planning than others. Meanwhile, get writing, and don’t forget to start collecting prompts.

Prompt sources:

Sunday Scribblings – A new prompt each Friday or Saturday, with a good backlog.

The Time Is Now – Fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry prompts from Poets & Writers magazine.

Creative Writing Prompts – Huge list.

Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Prompt – A pretty diverse selection.

Prompt Generator – Supplies random prompts.

Writing Excuses – Each week’s podcast includes a writing prompt.


Friday Links

Happy Friday, and happy March! I will return a bit later today to kick off March Madness for Writers, the brand new writing challenge that begins off today. In the meantime, I offer you the traditional links to end the work week.

I’ve got a pretty diverse collection today, including some amusing industry anecdotes and helpful tips, plus excellent advice that is geared toward new authors but will likely prove handy to more seasoned writers, as well. I hope you find them educational, entertaining, and just a good break from the tasks of the day. Enjoy!

10 Commonly Misused Expressions from British English – A very helpful list, a few of which might surprise you.

Back in the Day: Industry Veterans Remember the Early Years – Stories from various professionals about their early experiences in publishing. I’m tempted to add a few of my own, but I’ll save those for another post.

Five Cover Letter Tips for Submitting to a Literary Journal – Most of these would apply for any sort of submissions.

Weirdest Titles of the Year – Good for a chuckle.

Ask the Writing Teacher: Novelists on First Drafts – Some words of wisdom from various authors, as collected by Edan Lepucki for The Millions.

Debut Author Lessons – A self-explanatory 12-post series from author Mary Robinette Kowal.