9 alternatives To NaNoWriMo

Congratulations to those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo, win or not, it’s a huge endeavour and I admire you for giving it your best shot. But what if NaNoWriMo isn’t for you? And just in case you’re wondering why that might be, here’s some thoughts on the subject from Anne R Allen.  But if you’d still like some form of writing challenge, I’m re-posting this useful article.

This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

Whatever your reason for skipping the NaNo-mania, you can still experience the camaraderie of writing with a community of authors who are working toward a common goal by participating in one of these alternate events:

What To Do In November BESIDES Write A Novel For NaNoWriMo

1. Write Nonfiction In November (WNFIN). If you would rather write in the nonfiction genre, this event is for you. Write an essay, article proposal, or other nonfiction project, and you’ll enjoy community support, plus a website chock-full of tips for nonfiction writers.

2. NaBloPoMo. National Blog Posting Month challenges you to write a post a day. Not sure you can come up with thirty blog article ideas? Don’t worry—this page has a helpful list of daily blog post prompts and motivational notes, and bloggers are encouraged to share their finished products. (Psst—need more ideas for blog posts? Check this out!) Whether your blog is your livelihood, a hobby, or a marketing tool for your book or author website, NaBloPoMo can help you become a better blogger and grow your following.

3. PAD Challenge. Though this challenge officially takes place during National Poetry Month (April), you can still embrace your poetic spirit this November and write a poem every day for a month. The official blog of the Poem-A-Day Challenge offers writing prompts and resources, and it even features some participants’ poems.

4. EBookWriMo. Instead of creating a magnum opus, National E-Book Writing Month challenges you to write a compact, 20,000-word e-book. This post walks you through the process from start to finish. EBookWriMo is a great way for writers to gain experience with the process of researching, writing, and self-publishing!

5. 750 Words Challenge. With a website that promotes “just-because” writing, the 750 Words Challenge invites writers to sign up free for the month of November and privately pen 750 words (three pages) per day, on any subject. You’ll never be required to share your writing, though there is a system of rewards and consequences for each day to keep you motivated. The site also provides tools to track your emotions, preoccupations, and time.

6. NaNoEdMo. This challenge is slated for March but its goals are useful all year round: NaNoEdMo is for writers who have already completed a manuscript but need time or motivation to prepare it for submissions to literary agents. Instead of encouraging authors to write a new book, NaNoEdMo asks participants to focus on editing and recommends a time commitment of fifty hours over a monthlong period. NaNoEdMo’s blog includes advice from published authors and goodies for participants.

And If You’re Ready For A Longer Commitment…

7. A Round Of Words In 80 Days. Marketed as “the writing challenge that knows you have a life,” ROW80 is a challenge for busy but focused writers. Set a writing goal—any goal, so long as you can measure it—and work to achieve it within one of ROW80’s four periods. Weekly check-ins track progress, and participants are accessible via social media.

8. 52-Week Short Story Challenge. Created in homage to writer Ray Bradbury, this challenges you to write a story, of any length and topic, every week for a year. Bradbury famously said, “The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a lot of short stories…doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing.”

9. StoryADay, runs every May (and November), for those who love short stories.

To this comprehensive list, I’d like to add Winter Writing Week or WinWriWk, as a new alternative being championed by David – aka @BreakerofThings – and his colleague @FunSizeSuze.  Pick a week in January or February and set yourself a writing goal. This could be to write a paper, a chapter of your thesis, an article – really, whatever works for you. Clear the decks and write as much as you can.
To paraphrase the catchline of a popular Saturday night show … Keep writing!

And see you all in 2018!



The Pact

Cherenkov radiation flared from the edges of the hole that appeared over the North Pole.  Such radiation is usually expected to be blue, shading towards violet, but the exotic matter from other dimensions, spilling over the edge of the perfect circle, caused all the colours of the Aurora Borealis to be emitted.

The sled, pulled by the traditional eight reindeer, burst through the hole in time and space and, as suddenly as it had opened, the hole closed behind nearly, but not quite, cutting off the brass lamp that projected on a pole from the back of the sled.

The driver checked his instruments, brass trimmed and set into a walnut board in front of him.  The chief of these was a vast clock that commenced to count down from the moment that the sled was in the clear, cold air of the utmost North. Around the deer and driver little sparks glittered in the air as dust and micro-debris impacted on the forcefield and either glanced off or were burnt up.  The driver twirled dials and flipped switches.  Buttons were depressed and gauges tapped.  Balancing the various fields acting on the sled, he called out to the deer:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!”

And if there had been anyone to see this strange sight, they would have seen that deer and driver all were wearing thick, protective goggles.

Coordinates were checked and rechecked, a flight plan made ready, reins cracked and the sled sped away into the swirling snow.

Minutes later, a series of more ragged holes were ripped open and, anyone who had been around to hear would have heard baying preceding the arrival of fearsome, grotesque hound-like creatures, who, pausing only to sniff the air, set off in pursuit of the sled.

The first target showed up on the screen, blinking phosphorescently on the grid.  The driver shook the reins and the deer plunged into a dive.  He toggled a switch, and the brass chasing on the sled seemed glow blue before the whole assemblage shimmered and seemed to disappear.  Anyone looking now would find their eyes watering as the sled seemed to be simultaneously travelling at supersonic speeds and at the same time travelling so slowly – as it passed through the walls of house – that the driver was able to negligently lean over to one side with a carefully wrapped gift in his hand and place it exactly in the right spot under the tree.

They passed through the other side, the switch toggled,  the reins flicked, and they were off, dodging chimney pots: up, up into the sky.  He glanced at the screen and fed in the new coordinates, noting as he did so the trailing traces of his pursuers.

There were nineteen more deliveries to make, and each time he slipped into this delivery mode, he knew that they would gain on him.  He’d done this countless times before, and knew a few tricks – like the one where he slipped into this special mode and went through mountains… Still, there was the time limit to bear in mind as well…

The hunt continued through the long night.  He felt old, older than ever.  This might be the year that he didn’t make it, that his pursuers won…

One more delivery and then the dash for the North Pole.  He needed to shed this reality as quickly as possible, but the Pact demanded not only the presents, but the ritual.  So tired now.  The deer were feeling the strain, flagging.  Ears pricked as they heard the baying.  How could the hounds sound so vigorous, so fresh?  Weren’t they tired of the chase? The Pact must be maintained, must survive.  There must be something that he could do?

He slipped into delivery mode for the last time, and as he was reaching to put the parcel in place he saw it, and reached for it, and snagged it: a bottle of brandy.  As he exited the house and flicked back to normal, he sloshed spirit on his handkerchief and stuffed this in the neck of the bottle.  Looking at the display in front of him, he lit the handkerchief from his pipe, and at the last moment executed a barrel roll that put him over the top of the hounds.  As he threw the bottle at the lead hound he turned off the forcefield long enough for the bottle to drop away.  He watched the bottle hit the lead hound on the nose, smash and spray burning brandy onto several hounds, throwing the pack into disarray.

All this, took but a moment and he flicked the reins to urge the deer on – the timer was ominously close to zero.  Righting the sled, he looked at the screen again.  This was going to be tight.  He flicked the reins again, and again, and felt the deer pick up the pace, almost as if they could see the finishing line themselves and were determined to win.

The hole in space and time opened ahead of him and the deer and sled slid through with the timer on three seconds.  With a final burst of Cherenkov radiation, the hole closed on a chuckle:

“Ho ho ho!”

And he was gone.


© 2017 David Jesson

#SecondThoughts – Dick Francis

I have every book he’s ever written – with the exception of his autobiography, the biography of Lester Piggott and those he co-wrote with his son in later years – although I have read them too. But his solo thrillers, they’re now all safe and snug – on my kindle.

My father had every copy in his bookcase, most of them in hardback, for they were the “go to” gift he wanted each year. As children, we insisted on a strict rotation for who would get him the cherished gift. Not just because they were his most desired gift, but because the giver got first dibs on reading the book after Dad had finished. For we all loved them.

I’ve oft wondered how they became my comfort reads. Me – who prefers literary fiction, who loves most Man Booker winners and a large number of those short-listed. It makes no sense at all.

My father told me recently that they were commended to him by his mother. My grandparents were keen race-goers, owners and breeders – of horses for flat racing, that is. Not here, but in India, where they lived for many years. They had a large stable and some of my earliest memories include going to evening stables, watching early morning training at the track, in particular when the young horses – bachchas – were taught how to use the starting gates. Bachcha is Hindi for young child by the way, and that is how my grandparents regarded their horses. We were brought up to recognise and love each of them too. When they retired and moved to Europe, they continued to follow racing and that brought Dick Francis to my grandmother’s notice … as a reader. She liked him. She gave my father his first one, my father liked him too. And the rest – as they say – is history.

So, who is Dick Francis? Ex-jockey, ex-Champion jockey in fact. Infamous for being aboard the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Loch who oh-so-nearly won the Grand National in 1956, except for an extraordinary and unexplained collapse just before the finish line. He went on to be a prolific writer of thrillers, often – but not exclusively – based in the horse world. His wife, Mary, was credited with being his researcher, although later gossip suggested that she did a great deal more than that. Her research was legendary with just two examples – it led her to obtain a private pilot’s licence and set up an air-taxi service as featured in “Rat Race”, and becoming an accomplished photographer with her own darkroom in order to fully research “Reflex”. With such a terrific support, Dick Francis was able to produce a book a year. Research started in late summer and by January, Francis would sit down to write, meeting his publisher’s May deadline. But Francis, himself, viewed them as a unit – he was known to family as Richard and she was Mary – to him, the pair of them made up the brand that was Dick Francis.

Dick Francis heroes were always a certain type of chap – regardless of their career – resiliant, reticent, stubbornly independent, decent and honourable. And they always got the girl. One or two of the books are quite dark but, mostly, they’re undisturbing fare and I’ve read them, re-read them, and re-read them.

My initial plan was to wait till I inherited all Dad’s hardbacks but, with the advent of kindles, the thought of having them always on hand was simply too appealing. So I’ve been buying them up, a few every now and again, for quite a while. I do hope that didn’t cause the Amazon price to fluctuate wildly for others.

Recent re-reads on my kindle have been as satisfying as always, proving that knowing what you’re going to get isn’t always a bad thing. Even when remembering everything before it happens. But in some, I don’t. I found one recently that I couldn’t recall, and the re-read told me that I’d probably not have been quite so drawn to read other offerings if I’d read it now “as new”.

The result of my musing is it’s the fact they form such a big part of my history that gives them their status. I’ve read them through pretty much every illness or injury, they’ve been my constant companions through some dark and lonely times. I still find their comfort read status strange – for they’re not great literature, they don’t weave complex and tangled webs as do some successful thrillers writers – but they are satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, they’re very decent reads, they’ve sold far too many copies and won too many awards to be otherwise. It’s just … unexpected, for I do truly love them.

Maybe it’s because if I was the girl, I’d like to bag me a Dick Francis hero …


© Debra Carey, 2017

A New Christmas

Melanie had been worried about her sister. Sue was newly divorced, but that wasn’t the problem. Sue’s life had been much lighter since her husband Malcolm had left – around 180lbs lighter to be precise – and everyone had commented on how different she now looked. Prettier, happier, not so skinny and care-worn.

No, the problem was Sue’s son, Martin who wasn’t spending Christmas at home this year. Having announced that he and his girlfriend were now “serious”, Martin had asked Sue if he could use his grandmother’s ring as an engagement ring when he popped the question on Christmas Eve. Sue had been delighted, but she’d rather assumed he’d meant to do that at her house. Martin being rather too much his father’s son had avoided making it clear to Sue that his plans had always been to spend Christmas with his girlfriend’s family. Well, until it was too late to ask him to make a change, that is.

For Martin preferred being with Patty’s family. There was a huge crowd of them all living in the same village and they tended to have relaxed and somewhat rowdy gatherings, whereas Sue liked everything to be structured and restrained. Oh … and the wrapping paper always had to bloody match whatever colour theme she’d decided on for that year’s tree. Still, it had been mean of him, for it left Sue alone having turned down many invitations, all whilst hinting heavily there’d be something rather special happening at home.

And this year, Melanie and Bob were also going away. The kids being all grown up and travelling round various parts of the globe, they’d decided to have that New York Christmas they’d always talked about. Melanie tried to persuade Sue to come – and she’d nearly succeeded – until Sue saw the cost of flights. She could afford it, truly she could, but …  Melanie reckoned that spending too big a sum of money might make it appear as if she was desperate, and that would never do for Sue. Too proud by half. And always had been.

That left Melanie – on December the 20th – packing for a dream holiday … and worrying. With a sigh, she closed up her suitcase, ready for Bob to carry downstairs. It was time to finish off her carefully planned care package. Pulling a few last items from carrier bags – books and DVDs – Melanie carefully tucked them inside coloured tissue paper before popping them into the huge gift-wrapped box. It had taken for ever to wrap the damn thing but, even if she said so herself, it did look dead classy. Covered tastefully in silver and white paper – to match Sue’s theme for the year – Melanie tied up the big satin ribbon, attached a few silver and white baubles, finally tucked in some silvery-sprayed holly. Stepping back to admire her handiwork, Melanie nodded. Yes, that would meet Sue’s exacting standards, now they just needed to stop at her sister’s home on their way to the airport so Bob could put in under the tree. Sue was out, meeting Martin in London to hand over the ring, so it would be a nice surprise for when she returned later on.

Melanie smiled. Before she’d met Bob she’d had a Christmas alone – the children were spending it with their father for the first time since the divorce. Some kind person had done the same for her – one of her divorced friends. They’d asked for no thanks, simply saying it was something to be ‘paid forward’… and now it was Melanie’s chance to do just that.

It would be different next year. Sue would have the kind of Christmas she liked. She’d scoop up the local waifs and strays, give them a wonderful meal, full of tastes and traditions. Melanie and Bob would be there too, for there’s no doubting Sue was an excellent hostess. Even Martin and his fiancee might get an invite …


© Debra Carey, 2017

Missing Christmas!

Old Matthew sat and stared into the log-fire at the pub. He was on his own ‘cos everyone had heard his moans once too often. But this year, there was a stranger, who’d kindly bought Old Matthew a pint of ale before sitting down with him.

Old Matthew’s voice drifted out across the pub: “It all started in 2017 when they outlawed glitter. Yes … and it quickly snow-balled from there.” The stranger managed a chuckle at the terrible pun and rewarded with a broad smile from Old Matthew. “I was never much for an over-the-top Christmas, but it never did no-one else no harm. ‘Cept all too soon, it became non-PC. Then slowly but surely, it was outlawed.”

Mary pulled up a chair and joined them. She put another pint of ale in front of Old Matthew and one in front of the stranger before warming her hands and her mulled wine by the flames. She added her quiet voice to the discussion: “‘Tis true. And before you knew what was happening, here we are in 2025, having to celebrate Christmas …” Mary’s voice dropped to a whisper – “… without sparkle.”

Mary continued, a bit braver and louder now: “Course, the little kids never experienced anything different, so they don’t care. They still get excited on Christmas Eve. They’re not bothered that their gifts come wrapped in brown paper, all tied up in vegetable-dyed string.” Old Matthew supped his ale and nodded in agreement before adding: “And who’d have believed that stockings would be replaced by those big old padded envelopes?” Mary sighed: “I hold my breath each year hoping they don’t get ripped or torn, they’re so hard to come by now.”

None of them noticed Angela till she spoke: “But what I really miss is the glittering lights. No strings of little flashing bulbs, and no candles. All that stuff about lights being frivolous nonsense and candles too dangerous except during power cuts! Makes me mad to think about it.”

They all fell quiet for a moment, till Mary laughed: “Makes me remember how poncy I could be about Christmas lights – nothing multi-coloured, no blue, nor that bright white – only warm, golden white. These days I’d put up with anything I could get. But the only way to get ’em is on the black market and I’m too old to go to jail for something that stupid.”

And with that they all fell silent once more … and stared sadly into the flames.


[419 words)

© Debra Carey, 2017

FF Prompt: Missing Christmas


What’s your favourite part of Christmas?  Some people love the decs, some the carols.  Some people go mad for the dodgy jumpers – but we don’t judge here!

So now imagine that your favourite part of Christmas has gone missing.  This could be a heist and someone has stolen it, a dystopian reality where it has never existed, whatever you like (it is Christmas, afterall) – but we’d really like ~500 words on a Christmas sans your favourite thing.

Deadline: 2pm on Friday, 8th December 2017.


A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  

Two caveats if you want to go down this route: if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.