What I learnt from Digital Writing Month

A bit delayed – better late than never I guess – but after attempting to take part in Digital Writing Month back in November I quickly learnt a few lessons. This is what I gathered.

I enjoyed Digital Writing Month. I love writing and I certainly loved the idea of the challenge. However I think I dived into the challenge too quickly, which unfortunately was down fall and the main reason for not being able to complete it. I’m hoping they’ll do it again this year so I can attempt a more improved effort. Below is a list of what I learnt from Digital Writing Month and took away from itand what I’ll be bringing to Digital Writing Month if it happens again this year.

1. Pick the right topic

I had a choice between two topics; both of which I was very interested and passionate about. This is something I did do right with the challenge. It makes it so much easier to write and research something that doesn’t feel like a chore, something you enjoy reading and writing about and luckily I had a choice of two! However I think this was also my downfall – I enjoyed my topic so much I was so excited to just get home and start writing. Which brings me on to my next point.

2. Prepare

Digital Writing Month was basically like an elongated essay and that’s how it should be treated. So like an essay, you need to plan the outline of your content. What are you going to write and when? How far into this “essay” will you bring up certain topics? I did start a plan and an outline of the topics I was going to write about, however once I got so far and couldn’t think of any more topics I stopped. I got to ‘day 14′ and thought I’m sure some more areas to write about will come to me, so I’ll leave it till then. Which of course was the wrong attitude to take. I should have continued looking into the Red Bull topic and found other areas to discuss.

I basically started the project with an incomplete end. Next time I would plan and plan and plan until everyday had a topic of discussion. Even if as I was writing I decided to change day to day topics or move some around, it wouldn’t have mattered. The point is to start with a complete plan and outline. The addition of a complete plan adds so much. It probably goes without saying in all honesty, but I also think it’s very easy to just think “I’ll come back to that.” So lesson learnt there.

3. Research and timescales

One of my favourite parts of Digital Writing Month was researching all the different areas and topics. I do very much live the branding that Red Bull have done and how they’ve repositioned themselves as a brand, so I loved reading about it all. However I didn’t give myself the time to do it. I “planned” the outline of my challenge about two weeks before it was due to start and then once November kicked in I began researching each topic day by day…definitely the wrong way to do it.

I definitely underestimated just how much of my time researching and reading was going to take. I’d start researching a topic on my lunch, bookmark a tonne of pages come home and do more research, plan the outline of that days discussion and then start writing, by which time it was getting quite late and when you have to be up for work the next day, it’s not ideal. Research was taking up more of my time than I had to actually write it.

For the next Digital Writing Month I am definitely, definitely going to start researching a month in advance. I’ll plan each topic nice and early and then give myself a good month to research each event and topic and begin putting a rough plan in place. The challenge is Digital Writing Month after all, not Digital Writing and Research Month. It is possible to cram too much into your spare time and that’s something I learnt very quickly.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

A huge community came together for Digital Writing Month. There were people from all over discussing the challenge, what they were doing, what others were doing, asking for help and ideas and that’s one thing I didn’t do. I did discuss the challenge with a few people, but I didn’t go over my plan with anyone and asked what their thoughts were, or if anything was missing. I was pretty over-focused really, but sometimes you really need a second opinion – even a third or a fourth!

Next time I will certainly go over my plan with others. After all, you’re writing in the hope that someone else will read your efforts – there’s no point only writing about something only you know or want to know – what do your readers want to know? I think that was something I was very short sighted to. I would definitely make more of an effort to get other peoples thoughts and opinions and really push myself.

So overall I learnt 4 very simple, but very obvious lessons. When you’re excited by something it’s very easy to just jump straight in the deep end and get going, which is great when you’re passionate about something, but that’s not the only thing Digital Writing Month is about. I definitely learnt the value of dedicating time to researching and planning. Looking forward to the next challenge!

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