Gimme AcWriMoar Please!

Around this time last year I did something very silly. Inspired by NaNoWriMo I decided to try and bash out 50, 000 words of my academic book in one month, and I invited the international academic community to do it with me. I called the event AcBoWriMo (Academic Book Writing Month) and used PhD2Published and it’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to organize it all.  I copped the odd bit of flack times for appearing to suggest that this target was A) possible B) likely to produce polished work and that C) academia should be fast and furious – three things I never meant to imply at all. But ultimately the event went really, really well.

The actual point was to bring a writing community together and share our ways of working. I did promote the idea of writing a lot and trying to do it quickly but only to snap us all out of our procrastinatory hazes and to provoke discussion about the difficulties of our writerly lifestyles. And boy did we build a great writing team. I was so lucky that over 100 people took part and generously shared their own processes and the highs and lows of trying to write up academic research. And recently, some  people have even said that it was the bonkers idea of writing so much that compelled them to take part. I just wanted to get people working together and being open and honest about their practice. I set up PhD2Published entirely out of a desire to be free and open about academia and Ac(Bo)WriMo is no different.

And quite frankly it was an experiment – although one that went better than I could ever have hoped!

I was deeply touched  to receive many public and private thank yous after the month-long event. So many people told me that having a support network helped them feel a lot less lonely and learning new techniques helped them form better (and happier) writing habits for the future. And I’m not too tough to admit that being thanked in Emily Kothe’s PhD thesis acknowledgements made me teary eyed (see image)! I remember only too well how tough it is to write a thesis and I was thrilled to know I’d been able to help Emily in some small way. (I wish I’d had a virtual team to help me through the last months of my own thesis, I’m sure I’d have eaten a lot less Nutella).

So anyway, as November approached I had a good chat with PhD2Published‘s managing editor Anna Tarrant and we thought what the heck, let’s do it all again!

This year we’re about ALL aspects of academic writing, and encourage participants to set their own (wild) goals. As a result of that, and the strength of the AcWri community that built up after last year’s dedicated writing month, the event is now called AcWriMo – we’re dropping the ‘Bo’. And then it’s pretty much the same six rules:

1. Set yourself some crazy goals. Try and come up with some outcomes that would really push you beyond anything you ever thought possible. I always said 50,000 words is a bit of a nutty goal for academic writing in one month (it works out at something like 2,500 words a day and that’s just bonkers) but if you’re bonkers, go ahead and set that target. Otherwise, think about how much you are comfortably able to write a day and set yourself the task of regularly exceeding that amount. If you can manage 300 words a day then we want 400, if you can do 1000, then we want 1500 – something like that. Last year, a lot of people preferred setting themselves a time-based goal. They would try to write for so many hours a day or week and often used the Pomodoro technique to count units of productive time. If that’s your thing, go for it! How about sneaking in an extra Pomodoro a day? Or, look at all the writing tasks you’ve got to achieve over the next few months and decide to get a set amount of them done in November. In the US it’s job season, so how about you count your job-letter-writing-time. Or article drafts maybe?

2. Publicly declare your participation and goals. You can do this by adding to the comments of the original blog post, by tweeting using the hashtag #AcWriMo, by writing on our PhD2Published Facebook page, or by adding yourself to Jenn Lim’s AcWriMo Accountability Spreadsheet. Being accountable is key to this working for you as a way to push yourself, but if you want to silently take part, at least tell a friend who is likely to hold you to it.

3. Draft a strategy. This is essential if you’re going to make a success of this. Sitting down to write without preparation is the first step towards being struck down with writer’s block. We’ll be blogging and tweeting lots of ideas to help you, so before you start, work out a strategy for how you’ll tackle your set tasks. For example, establish how much you’ll need to write a day, and on which days you can definitely do this. Offload as much other work as you can, and get in some supplies (we recommend stocking up on decent coffee of course). Think about how you work best and adopt that approach from the start – this means planning everything from comfy clothes to reading sessions.

4. Discuss what you’re doing. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is imperative! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? We want you to tell us all if you need help with something but also to celebrate your successes with us too. And nothing is TMI when it’s AcWriMo because that’s the point: sharing!

5. Don’t slack off. As participant Bettina said of AcBoWriMo, you must ‘write like there’s no December!’ But guess what? If you work super hard now, there’s going to be more December to go round. Remember how December usually creeps up on you and suddenly its Christmas Eve and you’ve failed to buy gifts or take time out for yourself. Well, if you put the work in now, there’ll be so much December you won’t know what to do with it all!

6. Publicly declare your results – and please be honest! As a writing community, we’ll all benefit from sharing in your achievements, but it is also good to see what works and what doesn’t. And if you don’t make your targets, you’ll still be achieving the selfless goal of making the rest of us feel more normal – so it’s a community win/win really.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed for us all, it’s going to be a pretty full-on November with lots being blogged and tweeted about academic writing. For example, I’m excited to be featuring writing on PhD2Published by Wendy Laura Belcher, author of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks, who finds obstacles to academic writing and shows you how to pole volt over or tunnel under them with aplomb!

One Response to “Gimme AcWriMoar Please!

  • When working with digital writing, collaboration can be both synchronous and sequential. During this activity, you’ll be co-writing parts of a short story with the group at your assigned table (if you are online, choose any table, introduce yourself to the group, and keep up), and collaborating with the larger group to complete several short stories at once.

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