Academic Writing Month ('AcWriMo'): Time to Focus on Writing

Academic Writing Month takes place across the world in November each year - will you take on the challenge and write 50,000 words for your PhD in a month?

Academic Writing Month ('AcWriMo'): Time to Focus on Writing
Taking a month to focus on writing a certain amount of words can be a highly effective habit.

Other than fireworks, Guy Fawkes, St Andrews Day and ahem, my birthday, November means just one thing; it's National Academic Writing Month, also known as 'AcWriMo'. If, like me, you're struggling to keep up with the amount of writing you need to do then this may be what you need to get you inspired.

National Academic Writing Month is an opportunity to focus on your writing throughout November alongside a community of academics who are doing the same. Using the Twitter/X hashtag 'AcWriMo' easily allows you to connect with other writers and academics to share what you've achieved. It takes place every year throughout November.

I'm actually getting pretty good at a semi-regular writing routine and I am getting quicker in some respects. However I haven't written as much of my PhD thesis as I would have liked. I've also just committed myself, through a blog program I've enrolled in, to write 12 blog posts in the next 30 days. And another 30 in the month following that! Therefore anything that will help give my writing a boost will be a huge bonus over the coming weeks. Enter Academic Writing Month. If you're struggling finding your writing mojo, then this focused month of writing may help give it a boost.

Twitter hashtags you'll want to know

  • The 2022 twitter hashtag is #AcWriMo2023.
  • The hashtag for general use is #AcWriMo
  • The ongoing yearly hashtag is #AcWri.

The concept of AcWriMo originates from the US

The idea of AcWriMo originated from Charlotte Frost in 2011. She was a post-doc at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was inspired by the National Novel Writing Month or 'NaNoWriMo'. She created a similar framework with the goal of writing 50,000 words in her own academic research work. The idea has evolved a little through the years, but the idea remains the same; use November to focus on your academic writing. It has also expanded somewhat; from 100 initial participants to a global audience. Both National Novel Writing and National Academic Writing Months have grown in strength and allow people to connect globally through writing.

National Blog Posting Month seems to have fallen by the wayside somewhat.

The purpose of AcWriMo is to make some serious headway on a writing project

While there are critics on using quantity rather than quality to make progress on a writing project, a wide body of evidence suggests that the quantity approach works too. And may actually be better.

Academic Writing Month was designed to facilitate writing. Writing is often the part of academic research that academics dread. It can be difficult to be motivated or find the time to write the words down on the page. The idea of a focused month is to provide the drive to sit down and write. A little like I am doing now. And doing with others provides the other key component; accountability and celebration.

With a dedicated community on Twitter, we can share our successes and failures and talk about what we would like to achieve. It's a public account of goal setting. If you work with new prompts each day, then it might help get over 'blank page syndrome' too.

People at a typewriter with a cup of coffee; story is written on the paper
Use prompts to help avoid blank page syndrome.

AcWriMo is primarily aimed at researchers

Obviously anyone can take part in the month, but it's primarily aimed at early career researchers and academics in general to work on theses and manuscripts.

Taking part in Academic Writing Month will improve your writing

There will always be a million other things pulling for your focus and time. Why not use Academic Writing Month as an opportunity to make some headway on something that will eventually catch up on you anyway?

There are many beneficial reasons you should take part in Academic Writing Month. These include:

  • Learning to write faster and improve your writing skills generally
  • Learning to write without interruption, especially if you set a focused hour
  • Trying out the quantity approach to writing rather than quality i.e. set yourself a word target for each day
  • Connect with other (potentially struggling) academics and be part of the community
  • Most importantly, get some of that writing done, that's been hanging over your head for what months, years?!

If you want to think about it in an unthreatening, but maybe slightly unrealistic way, then if you wrote just 250 words a day, then in 1 year you would write 91,250 words. Or in other words, an entire thesis and probably then some. If we scaled this down to 30 days, then that's 7,500 words. If you can manage 1000 words a day for a month, then we're looking at 30,000 words. Yes, a lot of it will be low quality, but there will be a substantial number of nuggets in there. And the likelihood is, that by the end of the month you will be better and faster at writing.

Top tip: if you prepare outlines and sub-headings before November then you'll get off to a flying start! When I did a month of writing 60,000 words for my blog, having topic ideas to dive into straight away was essential.

Your own university may have events for AcWriMo

Most of the interaction for AcWriMo takes place on Twitter but your University or institute may have their own events. If they don't, why not consider starting one? My university usually has a focus on courses around writing skills in November. Make sure to use the Twitter hashtag AcWriMo to connect with other members of the online community.

People working together on a puzzle
Get together with others for some real accountability

Here's some examples of people who have used it to progress their writing

If you're looking for other academics who have used this month to focus on their writing and what they took from taking part in the month, here's some useful approaches:

It is interesting to note how many academic authors have a changing relationship with AcWriMo. It's a bit like the academic equivalent of marmite and your opinion of it will change from year-to-year.

Fitting AcWriMo into your busy schedule may be a challenge

I get it. We're already trying to cram so much into our days, that cramming in another 'thing' may just push us to breaking point. But could you squeeze in 15-30 mins here and there? Even if just to do an outline or scribble down some thoughts? We're not aiming for polished and professional pieces here (we'll leave that for December!).

How much you want to write will depend on your own personal circumstances

The ultimate aim is to write 50,000 words in the month, but really just use it how you want. A daily target is good one to go for as it keeps up momentum.

I have personal and professional writing goals for the month

I'll be really happy if I can reach the 50,000 word target but that is not my ultimate goal. Instead, I have one personal and one professional goal for this month. They are:

  • Write 1000 words a day for my blog
  • Write (more likely outline) for 1hr on my PhD - most likely Chapter 2A

You'll notice that I've set a word-limit based target and a time-based target. This is partly tactical. I know at the moment that I am highly unlikely to write 1000 words a day on my PhD Chapter 2A because, well I haven't finished doing the analysis yet. So I'll need to kind of analyse and write at the same time. However 1hr or focused time will move me forward on this project. The second goal is more in the spirit of Academic Writing Month and that's a word-based target. It was easier to set a word-limit for the blog because, well it's easier to write lots of words at once!

I'd love to write a third goal which is to do some of the alternative National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to write some of my novel! I've written a previous snippet of my writing here in case you're interested 😉 However, I think that would be too ambitious at this stage!