#AcWriMo and #NaNoWriMo: Two differences

After two years of doing Academic Writing Month, or AcWriMo, I’ve made a change. This year I’m doing National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. There are a lot of similarities between AcWriMo and NaNoWriMo. Both encourage prioritising writing. Both require self-discipline. Both are a really helpful way to develop your voice. But there are differences.

Here are two differences I’ve found so far:

1. Who decides the targets?

With AcWriMo, you can set your own targets. There’s nobody telling you whether what you’ve chosen is “enough”, or checking whether you’ve achieved it. There are places to declare goals and track your progress (such as Studious Jenn’s excellent accountability spreadsheet.

With NaNoWriMo, the goal is 50,000 words. There are other projects during the year with more flexible targets, but for the main event in November, 50,000 is a pretty non-negotiable goal. That works out to just under 1700 words a day, if you write every day. The NaNoWriMo website allows you to “validate” your word count, meaning you paste what you’ve written into a word count tool. The “stats” section of their website is a powerful motivator, showing you how much you’ve done, and how much you have to do to finish on time.

Which is better? Neither. And I feel the main difference is the driving force behind the two. To me, AcWriMo is a time to prioritise whatever it is that needs to be done with my academic work. And because noone knows my academic work better than me, I get to decide what it is that needs to be done. And for me, NaNoWriMo is a time to achieve something that I might never have done otherwise. The externally-created target is there to show that I *could* write 50,000 words of a novel if I really put my mind to it.

2. Dialogue

I did a lot of free writing for my PhD, especially during my first AcWriMo. That has been incredibly useful for NaNoWriMo. My AcWriMo free writing was often a way of voicing an inner monologue. Similarly, my novel is written in the first person and at the moment there’s a lot of inner monologue. What AcWriMo hasn’t prepared me for is dialogue. Multiple people speaking to each other. I have been vividly thrown back to my childhood, to school days of writing early literary gems. To days of trying to find as many ways as possible of saying “said”.

“Where is the rabbit?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know,” Alex replied.

“When did you last see the rabbit?” Sam enquired.

“I don’t know,” Alex responded.

My NaNoWriMo writing is feeling a bit like that at the moment. I’m trying to ignore the part of me that’s screaming “you can’t write like that, it’s far too clumsy!” and to just keep going. I know that I’m developing a voice, and that this part of my writing hasn’t had much of an airing since I left school. But it’s an unexpected challenge.

Do you have any tips for making dialogue sound more natural? Do you prefer setting your own targets or having them set externally? Let me know in the comments…


From #acwrimo to #nanowrimo

Despite my previous post about the benefits of Academic Writing Month, or AcWriMo, I’m actually not doing it this November. I’ll be supporting those who are, but not taking part myself. In a way, I’m delighted not to be doing Academic Writing Month, or AcWriMo, this November.

For those who are new to the concept, AcWriMo hinges on the concept that for the month of November you make academic writing your priority. You pick your targets, declare them online, and report on your progress. The concept isn’t as restrictive as the title appears. Firstly, AcWriMo doesn’t just include writing; it can also encompass editing, reading, analysing, or almost anything that is part of your own academic practice. And secondly, as I’ve previously written, you can choose the targets that suit you best. For some, it’s a set amount of words each day. For some, an amount of time. And for some, it’s completion of specific tasks. Whatever you choose, it’s important to make sure that your targets are broken into chunks. “Finish my chapter” might be a great overall target, but you’re significantly more likely to achieve that if you set daily goals. I’ve gained a lot from the two previous AcWriMos I’ve participated in.

“This sounds great,” I hear you exclaim. “Why on earth aren’t you doing AcWriMo this year?”

Well, everyone, I’m not doing AcWriMo this year because I submitted my PhD at the end of August. I’m delighted because I’ve been prioritising my PhD for four years, and this November, I don’t have to. I can think about how that hard work and prioritisation has resulted in a submitted thesis.

However, that’s not to say I won’t be doing any writing this November. This year, I’ll be doing National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which was the original inspiration for AcWriMo. The rules seem to be a little more strict; the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel within the month of November. That works out to a little under 1700 words a day, if you’re writing every day.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about AcWriMo if I’m doing NaNoWriMo instead this year. The reason is simple: They’re really not that different. Even without the fact that one was based on the other, both rely on prioritising writing for a time-limited period. Both are a great way to develop your voice. And both have a lot to teach about task/time management. I loved AcWriMo, and I’m excited to try NaNoWriMo too.

Are you taking part in AcWriMo or NaNoWriMo this November? If so, how are you feeling about it? Have you taken part in previous years? If so, how did you find it? Let me know in the comments.