3 Alternatives to NaNoWriMo

by Emily Wenstrom | 14 comments

There’s no doubt that NaNoWriMo rocks. Just thirty days of work in trade for a complete first draft? Awesome.

But that doesn’t mean NaNoWriMo is for everyone. To succeed requires the perfect storm of story, determination, temperament, and an open schedule. Cranking out 1,666 words a day (yes, I did the math) is not for everyone.

alternatives to nanowrimo

Photo by Julie Jordan Scott (creative commons) Adapted by The Write Practice.

But don’t worry, NaNoWriMo isn’t the only way to join a community and work toward a writing goal. Here are three excellent alternatives.

1. A Round of Words in 80 Days

This challenge may be over twice as long as NaNoWriMo, but it has the advantage of letting you set your own goal. And since this challenge refreshes with a new crew every 80 days, there’s plenty of opportunities to give it a try. Tagline: “The Writing Challenge that Knows You Have a Life.”

2. 52 Week Short Story Challenge

This challenge requires a year-long commitment, and follows Ray Bradbury’s philosophy of writing a story a week to hone and sharpen your skills. “It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row,” he famously stated. And hey, Bradbury did alright for himself. Why not give it a try?

3. Continuous Creation Challenge

Organized by the Value of Simple, the Continuous Creation Challenge is the most personalized and the shortest challenge I’ve come across. Intended not just for writers but creative projects of any kind, the idea is to shift all your energy usually spent consuming (news, TV, books, Internet randomness) into creation. You simply identify your goal, determine your time period, and tackle it.

NaNoWriMo Is Great, But There Are Alternatives

NaNoWriMo is a fun way to draft a book and engage the writing community, and it holds its own special place within the modern writing tradition. But it’s hardly the only option. If NaNoWriMo isn’t a great fit for your style or goals, there’s still plenty of choices.

What’s your favorite writing challenge? Share in the comments.


Take some time and consider: How and when do you get your best writing done? What structures help you reach your goals the best? Share your tricks and lessons learned in the comments!

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By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.


  1. Rene Mullen

    Less an alternative than a much needed addiction fix, I used Book-In-A-Week.

    Book-In-A-Week is a monthly self-ascribed goal based on number of pages you say you’ll write in a week. It starts the first Monday of the month and you have to give daily total page counts.

    It’s a great way to keep the blood flowing and the words cranking out.

    It does cost a small fee to join as a lifelong member ($3 when I signed up). But that cost is for life and the forums work a lot like NaNoWriMo for pep talks and motivations.


    • Emily Wenstrom

      Oh interesting — thanks Rene, I hadn’t heard of this one!

  2. AnnM

    At the urgings of a young friend of mine who was a third year and 3 book veteran of NaNoWriMo, I signed up last year. I had only written story stories to that point and until a few weeks before the November deadline I didn’t know quite what I’d write about. Inspiration showed up one night and finally I knew what I wanted to do. 25,000 words and 30 days later I was surprised to find I had written more than I ever had before and was well on my way into the project. (Trouble was that I then started for the first time that I might publish something, combined with the worry about getting my facts straight meant that it’s still not done. )

    I have signed up again… This time with something new as my brain needed a break from the glitches I’m having with the first one. Over this last year I have learned a lot about writing and how to prepare to write, synopsis and planning etc, so I feel I am more likely to get farther than I did before. We shall see of course and “life happens while you are making other plans” so something may get in the way. If I didn’t sign up however I would probably procrastinate longer so the goal, though I’m not stressing about making the 50,000 words, will help keep me motivated.

    I will check out some of the alternatives mentioned in the blog too for later, so thank you for letting us know some more options.

    • Miriam N

      Hey that sounds like me. I participated in NaNoWriMo last year and I was only able to get 25,000 words about. I’m doing it again this year after doing a lot of plot development in preparation. I’m hoping to get more words than last year if not the 50,000. I wish you luck on your novel.

    • AnnM

      Sounds like we had a similar experience. Hope you do well with your novel and enjoy the experience of NaNoWriMo yet again.

  3. George McNeese

    I thought about doing NaNo for a couple of years, but never made the commitment. Writing over a thousand words a day for thirty days seems u feasible for me with the schedule and commitments I have. So, in the spirit of NaNo, I set out to write every single day. Journaling, note taking, short stories. It doesn’t matter. But even without that pressure to write over a thousand words, it still takes discipline; something which severely lacking. But maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself. I know this year will be especially tough, but I will make the commitment to write every day.

    • Emily Wenstrom

      That’s a great idea George. Smart way to make the challenge work for YOU.

  4. The Cody

    I’m considering doing NaNo. However, the idea I have would never be published or public. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it. Has anyone done something like that? Essentially, I want to write the back story to a character who’s going to be VERY important in the second book of a series (the first is 99% done). Maybe I don’t need a 50,000 reference book.

    As far as when I get my best work done, I’m DEFINITELY a night person. I force myself to write in the morning, but the juices really start flowing around 9:00PM.

    • Emily Wenstrom

      Cody, for me, NaNoWriMo was the impetus that got me started on a very long-lasting habit of writing at the same time every single day — something that has been monumental for my overall writing. And I didn’t ever publish that project either (in fact, I lost it on a hard drive that died halfway through). Good luck, whatever you decide.

  5. Marcy Mason McKay

    Really great advice, Emily, because NaNoWriMo is NOT for everyone. I hadn’t heard of any of these, so I’ll definitely check them out. Thanks!

    • Emily Wenstrom

      Hope you find one that works for you, Marcy!

  6. Jessica Ruprecht

    Yes! Love this. As someone who is opting out of NaNo this year, I’m so glad to see this being talked about. NaNoWriMo is definitely not for everyone and (for me at least) it can even be destructive. The last couple of years I’ve exited November so discouraged it was hard to pick up the pen in December, January, even sometimes in February. The partial draft of my novel I’d so casually abandoned lingered on my harddrive like an email left too long unaddressed in the inbox… growing ever more distasteful as my guilt of neglect increased daily. So I’m opting out of NaNo this year and hoping this means I’ll still look forward to picking up my pen in December. I think it’s a worthwhile trade.

    Also, thank you for mentioning the 52 week short story challenge! That might be more my style… I’ll have to check it out.

  7. Nancy Cudis

    Thank you for this. I agree with some comments here that NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. I’ve been trying to sort myself out in preparation for this month. But when it arrives, for some reason or the other, I just couldn’t commit and see myself writing through for 30 days straight. I think the Short Story Challenge is a much better fit for me.



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