The #prompt Prompt

Day 241 - Into the sunset

Over the last few years, DigiWriMo has thrown lots of crazy digital writing prompts at the web, like this one or this one or this one. We’ve co-authored a novel in a day, a multimedia novel in two days, and we even unleashed a few hundred zombies. Sometimes the rules of a prompt have been followed. And sometimes breaking the rules became the most imaginative and the most delightful response to the prompt.

Now, it’s your turn to wreak your own brand of havoc upon the Web.

The Challenge:

  1. Compose a prompt, your own digital challenge that you’ll set loose.
  2. Your prompt can be any length. You can write a blog post that sets the stage. Or you can craft a prompt that fits into a single meticulously-composed tweet.
  3. Consider making your prompt multimedia — a picture, a sound file, a video, a computer game. The more compelling the prompt, the more likely you are to lure unsuspecting participants and the better their results will be.
  4. Whatever its shape, wherever it lives, make your prompt beautiful. Assignments/activities/prompts have their own artistry.
  5. Don’t get too caught up in predetermining outcomes. Sometimes the best result is something you couldn’t have anticipated.
  6. Keep the instructions as simple as possible. Inspire, incite, encourage, and maybe even constrain (which can encourage improvisation). But don’t overwhelm or too narrowly control.

Once you’ve written, composed, drawn, filmed, or recorded your prompt, send it out into the world. Share it on Twitter with the hashtags #digiwrimo #prompt. Post it to the Digital Writing Month Facebook page. Link to it in the comments below. Send it to your friends and family by e-mail. However you can best drum up some excitement about it. Don’t be afraid to wave your digital arms around a bit. Sometimes people skip readily onto a playground, and sometimes you have to do some jumping up and down to get them there. And if and when folks start to do your prompt, show off the results by retweeting, linking, sharing, liking, favoriting, +1ing, etc.

And, now, the most important part: Rise to the challenge of someone else’s prompt. Check Facebook (posts to the page are on the bottom left), search #digiwrimo #prompt on Twitter, look in the comments below. Skip merrily onto the playground someone else has built.

Lastly, share this post and the prompts you find especially imaginative to get more folks involved. While this is officially our weekend challenge, we encourage you to repeat this activity throughout the rest of the month.

[Photo, “Into the Sunset“, by Brian J. Matis licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.]

What is Digital Writing? A Twitter Essay

We’ve spent the month doing big things, like this and this and this. Over 75 people wrote a 42,000+ word collaborative novel in a Google Doc. Over 150 people turned zombie on Twitter. We wrote poems. I wordled a month’s worth of e-mail (32,366 words). @Dogtrax made a webcomic series. And I cried twice (here and here). We did lots of big things this month in our quest for 50,000 words. Let’s end by doing something small. 140-characters small.

1. Write what I call a “Twitter Essay.” Here are the instructions:

What is digital writing? Answer in exactly 140 characters using #twitteressay & #digiwrimo. Play, innovate, incite. Don’t waste a character.

(By the way, the instructions above are exactly 140 characters, so this will give you a sense for how much space you have to work with.) Post your “essay” on Twitter. The only rule is that you include the hashtags “#twitteressay” and “#digiwrimo” somewhere in your Tweet. You can add additional hashtags or links, but you can only write one Tweet and it must be exactly 140 characters. Spend time carefully composing, making sure that every character of your tweet is necessary and meaningful.

2. Now, peer review. Search #digiwrimo and/or #twitteressay on Twitter to see all of the Twitter essay tweets. React. Respond. Retweet. (Peer review tweets do not have to be exactly 140 characters.)

3. Finally, tweet a link to this page so we can, as a group, gather together as many contributions as possible.

On the Horrors and Pleasures of Counting Words

Jesse Stommel is Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities in the Division of Continuing Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this post, he illuminates the reasoning behind word counts, and the ways in which counting words can be both useless and fruitful.

On the Horrors and Pleasures of Counting Words

by Jesse Stommel

Good writing is not reducible to numbers; the word count for the expression of an idea can’t always (or even usually) be determined in advance. Ideas fit all kinds of containers, some small, some large, some book-shaped, some made of 1s and 0s. When I aim for a specific word count (or ask students to aim for a specific word count), it’s not because I think there’s something intrinsically meaningful about lining up a certain number of words. It’s not because 500 words amassed are somehow better than 25. But knowing the size of a container can give us a sense for what and how we might fill it. 500 words looks different than 25 words, and 500 words feel different coming out of our mouths or fingers. For the same reason, it’s sometimes (but certainly not always) useful to pre-determine the genre for a piece of writing, the shape of the container, before sitting down to construct it. Continue reading

30 Day, 50K Words, Can You Hack It?

Digital Writing Month has people all over the country are preparing for their challenges. In case you need a little inspiration, here are a few folks who are rarin’ to go!

A Few Questions about DigiWriMo

1. Do I have to write 50,000 words? Really? Can someone even do that in 30 days?

You do not have to reach 50,000 words. No police officers will show up in the middle of the night, Kafka-style, if you don’t reach the goal. No one will look down at you, or shake a finger your direction, or decide not to share their chocolate milk at lunch. The real goal is to write, to discover writing anew, to invent it in ways you haven’t done before, to allow yourself to set aside your editor, your critic, your perfectionist. Stop asking your writing to behave, and give it permission to go a little crazy. Continue reading