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Writing challenges like NaNoWriMo are excellent because they force new writers to focus on finishing a draft. As the old saying goes, you can't edit a blank page. The problem is that November can be a tough month for students, and planning Thanksgiving can take time away from writing for a lot of Americans. I don't think I'll be able to participate again this year, let alone finish. Fortunately, there are other options available all year round.
NaNoWriMo is probably the most famous writing challenge, but there is also A Round of Words in 80 Days, which is a lot more customizable. It has a community-based approach, like NaNo, but you don't have to write an entire book.
If you already have the community part locked down, there's also the Pomodoro Technique, a time management plan. Admittedly I haven't tried in a long time, but a lot of people use it to write quickly and efficiently. (I hear it also works for studying.) And a lot of writers swear by Write or Die,
The main goal, though, is to have a routine and stick to it. You can't reliably compare your word count against anyone else's - it's a little more complicated than that. Novelists have to balance plot, characters, dialogue, and description. They have to write draft after draft. Writing challenges certainly help, but you'll know when you're done. However you get there is your choice.
The power of identity
Five things I learned from NaNoWriMo
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