A writing challenge – the first AcBoWriMo has been announced

The following post is by guest contributor Dr Narelle Lemon. Narelle works in Arts Education in Teacher Education programs within the School of Education, RMIT University in Melbourne. Narelle is 17 months post doctoral thesis and just beginning to write again and put into practice what she has learnt from this experience. She tweets @rellypops

Image via Ted_Major.

Life at university is a constant juggle – it is dealing with students, writing curriculum, teaching, researching, administration and pastoral care. Now, in Australia at least, the teaching is done, the marking is almost complete and an academic’s mind can turn to thoughts of research and writing and in the distance, publishing.

Yesterday was the 1st November and with that comes a month’s supply of tea and chocolate, washed trackies, slippers, favorite music blaring from the stereo, and an assortment of cafes selected that are conducive for writing. I have been preparing for November, like Triple J and their Australian Music Month – planning, preparing, inviting and motivating others, inquiring, and most of all thinking.  A writing challenge has been set and I, along with several friends and colleagues have signed-up for the first AcBoWriMo. As academics busy most of the year with teaching, many of us are now winding down that part of our work and dedicating an entire month to writing.

November is hereby declared the first Academic Book Writing Month or AcBoWriMo. Created by @PhD2Published , and the organizer and co-participant @charlottefrost, AcBoWriMo takes its inspiration from  National Novel Writing Month or  NaNoWriMo the spin is that instead of writing a novel, we are writing for an academic audience and can be flexible in terms of where our total word count goes –  journals, book chapters, books, doctoral thesis, or academic reviews that we just haven’t got around to. The challenge also establishes itself for one to learn how to be a writer, to learn what it means to be a writer, and to set this as a focus in order to succeed in producing writing that shares your ideas, research and message.

In taking up this challenge, AcBoWriMo is igniting explicit thinking and action about a writing task. So if you are taking up the challenge, or thinking about joining in, here are some tips for approaching this new approach to learning how to write and share your research.

1. Write about something you are passionate about. This excitement will support those moments during November when resistance to this project come into play.

2. @charlottefrost recommends a decision needs to be made ‘upon a target word count and to try and make this something that would really push you beyond anything you ever thought possible’. The challenge has been set for 50,000 words in a month – ‘for an academic this could be a challenge but one that allows for a stepping up that could result in some amazing output’. But in setting a target you also need to be honest about what could be and can be achievable for you, so go for a lesser target if that is more achievable for you.

3. Look at your diary and block out time each day so you can meet this word total. If you want to work 5 days a week, with a total of 22 days dedicated to writing, then you are aiming for approximately 2, 273 words a day. But if you are like many, and want to write on the weekend as well then you have the focus of 1,666 words a day. @charlottefrost recommends for those who want to focus on thisbit of a nutty goal for academic writing in one month’ that it ‘works out at something like 2,500 words a day’. I have gone through the entire month and dedicated full days (hopefully for extra words) and blocks of time so I can set myself up to succeed in this project. I’ve learnt from my doctoral writing times that I can get easily distracted

4. Plan what you are going to do with your words. For me I’m going to focus on a book proposal I have been thinking about but never find the time to prioritize it amongst my teaching, research and administration tasks. I have set this as my goal plan and have also shared it with a few colleagues who are participating so we have a reference point for checking in on progress.

5. Once decided what your AcBoWriMo project is, create a writing framework and allocate words to sections, and even apply these to subheadings. These guides will assist greatly for the word target and also your own project management for success. As a successful NaNoWriMo author has reported, planning is essential.

6. Invite others to undertake the challenge. Celebrating and learning from each other allows for seeing what others are doing in how they approach writing. This support is a great way to share perspectives on the learning and teaching associated with participating in AcBoWriMo. As has discussed before on this blog, opportunities to learn and to see things from a different perspective leads to discovering some really interesting perspectives.

7. Share your writing successes each day. The Twitter hashtag for AcBoWriMo is already beginning to generate some supportive advice, tips and hints for like minded people. @PhD2Published and @Teachingtomtom are linking fellow writers and are not short of encouragement for challenging your month of learning to be a productive writer.

8. Set yourself a personal learning goal for AcBoWriMo participation. Open yourself up to alternative ways of writing, perhaps even implement some techniques that you haven’t had the chance to yet but would like to try. See how you go for progressing your writing.

9. Spice up your daily writing time. Shutupandwrite sessions often utilize the Pomodoro technique for 25 minutes write, 5 minutes break, followed by 25 minutes writing. If you want some incentives for this, and a tracker who will make your pauses transparent, think about downloading the Pomodoro App for your idevice.

10.  Add some exercise into your plans for writing – chocolate, coffee, and sitting at a computer will add more than words to your achievements in the month of November if some walking, running, cycling or swimming aren’t a part of your regime.

11. Find a place or places where you know you can write, and think about what time of the day works for you. I write well in the morning, and I know which cafés work for me for dedicated productive writing while I enjoy a coffee when I need a change of scenery from my office.

12.  It’s all about words, not about tools. There have has been much debate about tools that can assist in framing your writing (Scrivener has been mentioned a few times via @ThesisWhisperer and @ResearchWhisperer). Repeat NaNoWriMo writers have reported that for the month of November, if you haven’t used these tools before then now is not the time to begin as you end up spending more time trying to work out which one is right for you. I would have to agree with this. I spent several hours looking at the apps available for my iPad and before I knew it I really didn’t have one tool that I could understand its full capacity to support me for my writing. I’m going to suggest noting these possibilities and set December as a month to play and discover for writing.

13.  Start fast and target those word limits each day, and if the words are a flowing let them flow. If daily targets are busted then this allows for some release of pressure on other days.

14.  Work through writer’s block and set yourself the challenge to learn how to ‘blah write’ – just get something down on paper, don’t worry about spelling and grammar at this stage, just write when the ideas flow.

15.  Back up those precious words you have produced, as there is nothing worse (and we all have our horror stories) in losing your writing. This is a great learning curve in approaching all your learning and teaching, and research endeavors.  I have been utalising Dropbox for backing up my writing and for allowing access across multiple computers.

16.  Set a time in December to share your writing with a fellow AcBoWriMo colleague. Co-read and give each other feedback. The month of November has been dedicated to producing an amazing amount of text, so some feedback will be part of the celebration and academic integrity to gain perspective. Hopefully you haven’t lived on coffees to reach your target words, but just in case those fingers have typed overtime, this sharing will allow for some proof reading as well.

As the month progresses it will be fascinating to see where our writing takes us. Who else is up for the AcBoWriMo challenge? Follow and be inspired through Twitter using the #AcBoWriMo hashtag or blog.

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