4 Writing Challenges to Help You Finish 2017 Strong

4 writing challenges

There are 109 days left in 2017. Yikes, right?

Doesn’t it seem way too soon to be talking about the end of the year? And yet… 109 days.

I don’t why the earth passing once around the sun should matter at all to my writing, but I also know that I’m not alone in freaking out a little that 2018 is just around the corner.

There’s something about that looming, self-imposed deadline that makes us want to write, to sit our buts in front of our computers and not let another year go by in which we haven’t finished our novel. What that arbitrary date of December 31st does NOT do is give us an actual framework in which to make progress toward our goals.

Writing challenges are a great way to set up that framework, to give some structure to our desire to write. Here are a few that I’ve heard of over the years.

100 Days of Writing

There are a few different versions of this one out there. Some focus on prompts (check out Qwicklit, Nicole Zhu, or eadeverell.com). Others skip the prompts and focus more on the dscipline of writing every day for 100 days (see Dead Darlings, Kayla Dawn Thomas, or the 100-Day Novel Writing Challenge).


If you’re a writer and you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, you probably don’t have internet (in which case, I am so totally flattered that mine was the first site you came to when you finally logged on). National Novel Writing Month is a yearly challenge in which writers commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

You create an account, you track your progress by entering how many words you’ve written each day, you can make buddies, and go to meet ups in your area. I did it last year for the first time and it was actually really fun. And I ended up with about two thirds of a draft of what will be my second novel. Very rough, of course, but man is it satisfying to print out those pages on December 1 and think about how far you’ve come.

Increase Your WPH

I got really into writing faster at the end of last year. Maybe it was the NaNoWriMo thing, but I realized just how much I cold write when I had a huge word count to hit and just started writing. I did a bunch of writer sprints where you set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and try to write a certain number of words in that time.

At the beginning of November I could write about 500 words per hour (WPH). By the end of December I had quadrupled that, simply by practicing. You can read a more detailed post about it here. This is a particularly useful skill if you have kids and have to steal small chunks of writing time while they’re in the bathtub or something.

The fun side effect of setting this goal of writing faster is that it takes a lot of practice. That means that, unless you’re writing the same thing over and over (which would be stupid, don’t do that), you’ll be making really good progress on your manuscript.


This one is my own little invention. It’s not for writing itself, but rather to encourage submissions to literary journals and other publishing platforms. Using my submission tracking spreadsheet, I note every rejection with a PASS with the goal of collecting 100 rejections in 2017. I tweet about it with the hashtag #100in2017.

The idea, of course, is not that rejections are all so fun. No, the point is to get used to rejections, to know a lot of them will come along the way to getting published. As I’m writing this, I’m up to 68 rejections for 2017, with two acceptances in there (yeah!).

The trick with this as a goal is that you are dependent on literary journals for responses, so if you haven’t started submitting already, you might not be able to get to 100 this year, but if you start submitting a bunch now, you could line yourself up for a whole bunch of rejections (and maybe some acceptances too) in 2018.

How are you facing the last 100 days of the year? Do you partake in these kinds of challenges, or does the passing of time not phase you at all? Are there other fun challenges I may have missed?

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2 Responses to 4 Writing Challenges to Help You Finish 2017 Strong

  1. Bryan Fagan September 18, 2017 at 6:00 am #

    For me, the problem with Nano is that I wouldn’t see it as practice. It would be the real thing. On the other hand I am about ready to dive into the first draft of book number 2 so maybe I could fool myself.

    #100in2017 was already done in 2016. Deep sigh…..

    On the other hand I am dusting off some short stories I wrote many moons ago. I could always track them and use their success as encouragement if that were to happen. Anything to forget 2016.

    • April September 22, 2017 at 9:05 am #

      IMHO, NaNoWriMo was made for first drafts. As for the #100in2017, I had to write some new short stories for submission this year. When I dusted off my older stories, I just wasn’t happy with the writing anymore (which I take as a good sign – I’m growing as a writer, right?). The work I got published this year was brand new. While it’s disheartening to let go of those old stories, I take solace in the fact that they’re no longer my best work.

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