Beginning in January and ending in December, the yearlong 85K Writing Challenge moves through a series of productivity “cycles.” A 90-Day Write cycle, a 60-Day Edit cycle, a 60-Day Prep cycle, a 60-Day Publish cycle, and three strategically scheduled 30-Day Finish cycles.
- 90-Day Write (January, February, March)
- 30-Day Finish (April)
- 60-Day Edit (May, June)
- 30-Day Finish (July)
- 60-Day Prep (August, September)
- 60-Day Publish (October, November)
- 30-Day Finish (December)
Our flagship challenge is the challenge to write 85,000 words in 90 days.
How the 90-Day Write cycle works:
Q: Why 85,000 words?
A: Eighty-five thousand words is the average length of an adult novel so that’s our target number. Your novel should be as long as it takes to tell a great story. Some genres have different word count expectations. For example, middle grade novels tend to be shorter than 85,000 words. Epic fantasy novels tend to run much longer.
Q: What if I don’t want to write a novel? What if I want to write a novella and two short stories?
A: What you write is up to you. The goal is to write 85,000 new words in 90 days. At the 85K Writing Challenge, we embrace the writing life by advancing the practice of productive writing. Commit to writing 85,000 new words in 90 days, and you will form a powerful habit that just might change your life.
Q: Can I write blog posts and articles?
A: Absolutely. Though the focus on the website is novel writing and though most writers in the community are working on novels, the 85K Writing Challenge is first and foremost a community of writers. If you wish to challenge yourself to write 85,000 words as a collection of blog posts, articles, short stories, novellas, etc., that’s perfectly fine. Many writers create portfolios of writing samples to reach different audiences during the 90-Day Write and then spend the rest of the year moving through the production pipeline of editing, prepping for publishing, and publishing.
Q: How many words do I need to write to stay on track?
A: If you’re joining us on January 1st, then your writing pace is about 1,000 words per day. That’s about four typed pages. Technically, you only have to write 944 words per day. And guess what? Many days you’ll write more because the more you write, the easier it will be to slip into “flow state.” When you’re in a flow state, the words come more easily and reaching your word count goals will become less of a concern. Amazing things will happen.
Q: Writing every day? Isn’t that a lot of pressure?
A: Sure. The intention behind encouraging members to write every day is to help writers form a writing habit, one that embraces the writing life through a structured, disciplined writing routine. That said, we fully recognize many writers won’t and can’t write every day. That’s why we’ve designed a program with plenty of “padding” and extra days built in should life, family, and work commitments interrupt. If you want to write on Saturdays only, or two nights and one morning a week, or whatever, then do that. Whatever works for you.
Q: How do I track my progress?
A: Using the WriterStat BookStats™ Project Tracker software installed on this site and generously supported by our Founding Sponsor, WriterStat.
Q: Am I required to upload my novel to this site or verify the words I’ve written?
Q: Which software should I use? Microsoft Word? Scrivener? WriterStat Author? Something else?
A: The type of software you use is up to you. All writing will be done on your computer, in your notebook, etc.
Q: If I want to share my creative writing, can I do that?
A: Yes. The “wall” on your Personal Profile page is the perfect place to share your writing. That said, you are not required in any way or at any time to upload the words you write.
Q: How do I stay accountable during the 90-Day Write?
A: During the 90-Day Write cycle, writers report their word counts twice per week, every Monday and Friday, in the Forum dedicated to word count reporting. Report using the “Monday Word Count Reports” and the “Friday Word Count Reports” entries in the Forum. Under each of these entries, you will find a calendar date under which to report.
Q: What if I don’t write anything that week?
A: Even if your word count is zero words written, you still need to check-in on Mondays and Fridays, so you stay connected, and stay accountable. Being accountable in this way functions like having a personal trainer or a workout buddy at the gym – but for writing. If you reach a Monday or a Friday and you have not written since the last word count report, simply report “zero words written” and then focus on increasing your productivity before the next twice-weekly check-in.
Q: What if I need daily word count check-ins to stay disciplined?
A: You will find an optional daily check-in in the Forum titled “Daily Word Count Reports.” Daily word count reports are optional. Monday and Friday Word Count Reports are required.
Q: Why is the 90-Day Write scheduled January through March? Why not some other time of year?
A: The spirit of the New Year strengthens the resolve to write. It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, a good time to “hunker down” and focus on large projects. It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, a good time “settle in” and focus on large projects. Also, there are no major holidays in the first quarter of the calendar year to compete with writing time.
Q: What happens after the 90-Day Write cycle?
A: The 30-Day Finish cycle, which happens in April. If you didn’t complete the first draft of your novel during the 85,000-word, 90-day challenge, use April to finish this task. Or, use the 30-Day Finish cycle to take a break, to recharge, or to focus on other things. Or, use the 30-Day Finish cycle in April to begin work on the next cycle in the 12-month pipeline, the 60-Day Edit cycle, which begins in May and ends in June.
Q: So, isn’t April’s 30-Day Finish cycle just an extension of the 90-day challenge?
A: No. Do not think of April’s 30-Day Finish cycle as an extension of the 90-Day Write cycle. The 85K Writing Challenge is not a 120-day writing challenge. We write for 90 days every January, February, and March. As a last resort, the April 30-Day Finish cycle allows for last minute pushes across the finish line, but you should not slow your word counts or productivity during the 90 days dedicated to writing. Ideally, your novel will be complete by the end of March, so you can set it aside and let it (and you) “rest” during April to ensure fruitful, objective edits during the 60-Day Edit.
Q: If writers are writing for 90 days, taking 30 days to finish that writing (or get started on editing), and then they’re editing for 60 days and taking the month of July to finish that editing, isn’t that the same as taking the first seven months of the year to write and edit your novel?
A: Yes. We spend seven months writing and editing our novels.
Q: What happens during the 60-Day Edit cycle?
A: Another task cycle organized around the concept of a challenge. This time, a 60-Day Edit challenge. With eight weeks dedicated to editing (May and June) and four weeks dedicated to finishing the edit (July), we structure the 60-Day Edit this way: developmental edits in May, line edits in June. Finishing, polishing, and final beta reading in July.
Q: What happens during the 60-Day Prep cycle?
A: All sorts of things. This task cycle is a “catch-all” task cycle that centers around things that are not directly writing, editing, or publishing. Marketing, author websites, social media, preparing for publishing, are all common topics during the August and September 60-Day Prep cycle.
Q: Is there a challenge component to the 60-Day Prep?
A: Yes. We release a daily task challenge in the form of a “60 Days, 60 Things-to-Do List.”
Q: What happens during the 60-Day Publish cycle?
A: Whether traditional, hybrid, indie, or micro, the path toward publishing is unique to every writer and every piece of writing. The 85K Writing Challenge encourages writers to pursue publishing when the time is right for them and when their novel is at its best which may or may not be during the months the 60-Day Publish cycle is scheduled. Whether querying agents or hiring book cover designers and placing your book on sale, October and November are dedicated to publishing efforts, knowing the actual outcome of desired results may take much longer the 60-Day Publish cycle.
Q: What happens during the December 30-Day Finish cycle?
A: Writers use the time to finish tasks from the year and prepare for the coming year which often entails outlining their next 85K Writing Challenge novel in preparation for the start of the next yearlong challenge.
Q: What’s the most important thing to remember on the 85K Writing Challenge?
A: Honor your dreams. Embrace the writing life. Never give up.