This is the Book-in-a-Week (BIW) FAQ. I hope you find the answer to the questions you are looking for here. You will get the gist of the group and how it works. If you have any questions, please click on “contact” in the left sidebar to contact the moderator of Book-in-a-week.

1. What is the purpose of BIW? To write. To exchange support with other writers.

2. How do I join? Visit the join page for instructions.

3. How do I leave? To unsubscribe from the group please email the moderator and she will delete your membership.

4. How often does BIW occur? Once every month. Usually near the beginning of the month. There is a listing for the current year on the when page. BIW begins on the Monday at 8am EST and ends a week later on the following Monday at 8am EST. The last 8 hours is included in the Sunday total. A reminder message is sent to the group the week prior to the start of the next BIW. At which time you will also be given an enrolment key to enter the challenge.

5. Do I submit my writing to the list? No. This is for your eyes only. You submit only your page totals. We work on the honor system.

6. Is there a membership fee? As of May 2007, Book-in-a-week requires new members to make a small $3 non-refundable payment via PayPal. Follow the directions on the join page.

7. What is a reasonable starting goal because I have no idea? It’s different for everyone. Goals range from 10 pages (minimum requirement) to 200 pages. Most writers work up to the higher totals after months of participation. Start off with a modest goal for your first BIW and write as much as you can. If you surpass this goal you know for the following BIW where to set your goal.

8. Where do I post my goal and how do I ‘check in’ during BIW? Sometimes it’s just nice to wait and see what everyone else does. The Thursday before an active BIW a reminder message is sent to the group letting you know that BIW will start on the following Monday and that it is time to post your goal. Check in daily with a fresh post. Include your name, the day, the number you were assigned for the current BIW and the number of PAGES you’ve written. If you’re writing about something else in your message keep it separate from your daily total so it’s easy to find. Read How To page for more details.

9. Is there a deadline for posting goals and totals? Post your goals before the Monday 8am EST start time. Post your totals a minimum of three times a week, daily is best, and a final total at the end of the week (your first post must appear before Wednesday or you will be removed from the current month’s participation). Final totals must be in by Tuesday 8 am EST, the following week, to be included in the final results. Time zones 8 am (EST), 7 am (CST), 6 am (MST), 5am (PST), 1 pm (GMT) and 12 am Tuesday for New Zealand. Here are a few cool time zone websites. There is also a clock on the main community page and in each challenge area. Read more details on the How To Participate page.

10. Who wins? Everyone who participates! One page or 200 pages (but there is a minimum goal of 10 pages).

11. What is a page? One page consists of 250 words. A page is defined as one, double-space printed page in Standard Manuscript Formatting.

12. What is the participation prize and how do you pick the winner? The participation prize is usually a book prize but it could be another writing related item. One winner is chosen at the end of a BIW challenge based on having met the following criteria: completed the weekly challenge and checked in with daily totals for the minimum requirements or more; wrote a minimum of ten pages; has not won in the last year; lives in the US or Canada (only these two countries are eligible because of shipping costs/times and exchange rates). The moderator uses Random.org to generate five random numbers in a column (top to bottom) between the first and last number of how many members are participating for that month. She then goes through each number chosen by Random.org until she finds one that qualifies based on the criteria.

13. How do I keep track of my output? The best way is to use the word count and divide by 250 words to give you a page total. Keep track of how much you write EVERY day. Keep your totals for the week in case the ones on the list are lost. Keep a post-it note next to your computer or keep an email saved in your email template folder. Here’s a simple form to keep track of your totals for each month of the BIW year. There are a few other options under Helpful Tools page.

14. Can I submit word count instead? No. Page count, please. Do the math

15. Am I allowed to work up an outline up first? Yes. ABSOLUTELY! Work up an outline. Do it the week prior to BIW so when it starts you’ll be ready to go and write, write, write! You are allowed to do any preparation you want for BIW–outlines, synopses, lists–whatever your technique is for getting ready to write. You are of course more than welcome to write by the seat of your pants, meaning no outline is necessary. Many BIWers have produced oodles of pages from free writing.

16. What if I don’t finish my book in one week? That’s ok. Keep writing, edit what you have or tuck it away for the next BIW and continue from there. Some writers finish a book during one event and others work on the same book only during that event. Some don’t even work on a book at all but a collection of articles or some other writing. It’s your goal, you get to choose what your write but know ahead of time what your plan is.

17. Are any members of BIW published? Yes! Members have been published in book form, online, in magazines etc. We also have those who don’t desire publication and those working towards publication. Check out some of our member

18. What is the length of a book?
* Novella – 15,000 words (about 60 pages).
* Single Titled Novel – 100, 000 words (400 pages).
* Average Series Contemporary – 43,750 words (175 pages).
* Average Single Title – 96, 250 words (385 pages).
Check out this article at Fiction Factor for more info.

19. Who can join? Anyone. Anywhere. As long as they have internet access. Note: This is not a group for young writers (underage). Those seeking membership will be asked to provide personal information. Requested information is not sold to another party and is collected in an attempt to reduce spamming and get to know the writers. We retain the right to refuse a membership without explanation.

20. Can I continue with a WIP (work in progress)? Yes, as long as you are writing new pages and not reworking old ones.

21. Can I submit my story for review? No. For copyright reasons please don’t submit your work to the list. IF you meet someone who you would like to critique your work please contact them privately. There are members who belong to critique groups. Just ask the list.

22. What’s the schedule for the upcoming year? Click on “When” in the Navigation column. Write the dates on your calendar!

23. Who do we send daily tallies to? Send your daily totals to the thread you enrolled in for the specific day you are posting to. Moe (BIW Moderator) keeps track of the goals and totals.

24. Is there a page to watch progress? All updates can be viewed in the month your participating in. Visit the moodle link.

25. How do you know I really did it? We work on the honour system. If you didn’t do the work you’re only cheating yourself and will get bored pretty quickly.

26. How do I decide on a goal? If you are already writing you may know how much you can do in a day. Keep your goal realistic and achievable. If this is your first BIW, post a small goal, say 10-15 pages. Write all you can. What you crank out will give you an idea of what you can do. The following month post a goal exceeding the previous month’s total.

27. Why do I have to report in every day instead of just at the end? Accountability. It lets us know you’re still alive. It encourages others. It makes you part of a team of writers instead of out there on your own. If that isn’t enough, because the Moderator said so. And really, if you are not going to check in often, why are you here? Minimum participation is: three daily updates, one before Wednesday and a final total. The final total doesn’t haven’t to be separate from the last check in. No, posting an update a few minutes apart doesn’t count.

28. How do you guys write so much?!?! By doing. As a whole, we’ve probably created our own library. We have different degrees of writers. Those who churn out 100+ pages have generally been with us a long time. It takes practice and lots of BIWs. The more you practice the more you write. It’s that simple.

29. Well, what’s the point, if you don’t actually turn in pages? Candie Moonshower, long time BIW member and published author says it best. “I tell folks that for me, the point is to challenge myself and then be honest with myself regarding my output. The first YEAR I participated, I did NOT ever make my goal. But I kept trying. For some folks, it takes a while to let go of that need to edit. It takes time to feel free to just sit down and write JUNK. But when you finally hit it, it’s awesome. And the point (for me) is this: Quantity is what develops quality. If you only write a page a week, because you’re worried about how it reads, then you have so much less of a mind to dig in for those nuggets of gold. If you can free yourself up to write as many pages as you physically can, you will have a huge source of work to dive into and cull from. And out of that, over time comes pages and pages of great writing!”

30. What does BIC HOK TAM mean? This is one of our mottos/cheers. Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, Typing Away Madly. In fact it is the main premise behind BIW. If you follow this you will reach your goals.

31. What is NaNoWriMo? This is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo for short). It has occurred in November since 1999. You can learn more about it at their official website. We have a lot of BIW members who participate in NaNo, watch for them in the forums!

32. What is Mad (Mad Challenge)? This started off as an off-shoot of BIW and some call it a “sister” group. Originally a small group of BIWers attempted to write 10,000 words in five hours. Although they were unsuccessful they were greatly motivated to try again… so Mad Challenge was born. For a while they held different challenges throughout the month and had their own forum thread in the BIW community but they have since petered out.

32. Can I advertise on your website? Here is a link to the BIW website advertising page.

How do I get my website listed in the “member site” area? Being a member is more than paying the $3 fee. A true Book-in-a-Week member participates in monthly challenges. Once you have participated in at least three BIW challenges then submit your website addition request to the moderator for review (it is up to the moderator whether or not the link will be added). Participation — posting a goal, posting the minimum required checkins, and finishing off the week with a grand total. All with in designated time frame of challenge.

Tips from Members

Comparing Yourself to Others: “First, a word of caution. Don’t get discouraged by the page totals of others writers. The idea here is to write as many pages as YOU can write on YOUR story. While we offer the prize as another little incentive to do BIW, you’ll be making a mistake if you start comparing your page totals to those of someone else. Everyone’s situation is going to be different. Some of you are able to write fulltime during this week. Others are able to write only a couple of hours a day. Make the most of the time you have regardless of what it is. And don’t worry that your page totals are lower than those of other people.” ~ Carmel Thomaston

“Something I’ve found that helps me when I want to do something in particular is to have a piece of paper next to me along with something to write with. I’ll start my task, reading, writing, cleaning whatever it is, and when something pops in my head that I need to do, or at the time, would rather do, I write it down and forget about it. I have found that after about 45 minutes of doing my set task, there aren’t anymore things that I can come up with to do, and since everything that needs to be done is written down, I can do them when I’m finished so that they don’t interrupt my writing.” ~Jayde

“Glare = Eyestrain. Eyestrain = Pain. Pain = your body tries to keep you away from the computer by shutting off your brain. As Crissy Gottberg points out, one way to avoid this is to change the background of the ‘paper’ in your word-processor to a soft color like mint or ash or sky blue. If your monitor has a switch for it, run on ‘word processing’ rather than the brighter ‘graphics’ setting. Bright brings up detail in games and graphics, but it brings up headaches when you type for hours.” ~ Holly Ingraham

“One way to keep away the horrible intrusive phone, that great waster of time, is to put an answering machine on and turn
it way down or put it in a closet a long way away from you. Put on a message like ‘I’m sorry, but I’m writing my heart out this minute trying to get this book finished, and my writing group is waiting to hear my word count for the day. I’ll check my messages on my next break, but I’m just not free for chit-chat until next Saturday. Then I’ll *love* to forget about writing for a couple of days and catch up on everything with you. Please leave a message after the tone’. You could just change your phone number, and not pass it around until you’re through for the week, but this could panic some of your family.” ~ Holly Ingraham

“I once asked a physical therapist what was the best thing to do at a computer for bodily health. ‘All the things your grade school teacher told you to not do,’ was the answer. ‘Wiggle in your seat. Stretch. Gape and yawn’. I will type for a couple of hours at a stretch. I do try to remember to wiggle rather than ‘be a good child.’ When you do take a break, *don’t sit at the computer.* Don’t sit. Walk around the block, do some little household chore like scrub the toilet, or get out the exercise machine. Exercise gets blood and oxygen to the brain, which helps writing. Mindless physical activity is the best break from intense creativity.” ~ Holly Ingraham

“I think one of the most important things is the daily check-in. I know Moe counts on this for her records. Even if you don’t write a thing, at least pop a quick e-mail to let us know why… maybe the group can help. Remember NOT to beat yourselves up if you don’t write. All said and done, you’re really only accountable to yourself and what you want from your writing. We’re merely a support system… not a judge and jury.” ~Kelly

“Make http://www.book-in-a-week.com your home page! At least during the BIW challenge. What a great reminder very morning when I turn on my computer that I need to be finishing my book. It’s a great homepage to have. Clean with all that white space and then the mantra there to kick my butt into getting my fingers typing. I’m keep it as my home page at least a week a month… Maybe longer.” ~Olgy

Miscellaneous tips:

* Avoid eye strain by looking away from the computer or notepad often. Do lying figure eights with your eyes for a break.

* Take regular wrist breaks. Make clockwise and counter-clockwise circles with your wrists. Stretch out your fingers and forearms.

* Take a break every 50 minutes. Stand up, stretch, get a drink of water from the kitchen.

Want more tips? Check out the member interviews on the BIW Blog.

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About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.