Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

The Great Novel Challenge

Because I Got So Many Questions…

The Great Novel Challenge Starting Up

For the last few years I have done quarterly challenges that many people have enjoyed. And a lot of novels or short stories have come out of those challenges that I enjoyed reading.

So when we started The Great Challenge for short stories, I got a ton of questions about why not do a novel challenge as well for the novel writers.

Kris and I have been talking about this one for a while. So we decided to just move it up and start it at the same point.

— And yes, if you are signed up and paid for the short story challenge and want to move to the novel challenge instead, just write me.

— And yes, you can do both if you are as crazy as I am at times.

Here are the basics…

The Great Novel Challenge is to write a new novel within two months and turn it in to have me read it. (Yes, I will read and comment on each novel.)

Only rule for the novel is that it be original, not something from your inventory. But yes, it can be a new novel in one of your series or worlds. And you can’t have started it before the first day of the challenge.

No genre limitations.

Length from 40,000 words minimum and up.

It has to be turned in to me by attached file in manuscript format by midnight West Coast Time on the last day of the second month after you started to count in the challenge. (If you end up starting in the middle of the month, your due date for each novel would always be two months from that date. That way it is possible to jump into the challenge at any time.)

My suggestion is go to teachable and listen to the introduction video.

I will limit this, but you can sign up now and not start until the middle of May when you finish your current novel. No problem on that at all. Your two-month timer for the first novel starts when you tell me you are starting. Then goes every two months after that from that date.

I will read the novel over the next few weeks after you turn it in and get you a reader response.

The cost is $600.

If you miss, at that point you get two regular online workshops or $600 credit toward any online teaching, such as Pop-Up series or lectures or classics or lifetime workshops.

So in essence, you are buying two workshops, just as my challenges have been in the past.

Some Help…

Every week on Teachable I will post a novel hint post dealing with something to do with writing novels. Each will be short, but over time they will add up to a lot of help on writing novels and how to think about writing novels.

(I am doing the same thing with story prompts on the short story challenge.)

The Great Challenge Reward…

First, you have a new novel every two months to get out to markets or up to readers for as long as you can keep the streak alive

Second, if you hit 6 novels in a year, you get three workshop credits ($900 credit).

And third, if in the following month after you turn in the novel to me, you send me a paperback of the new book for all six books during the year, you will get a lifetime subscription of your choice to all workshops, all lectures, all Pop-Up series, or Las Vegas workshops. (Yes, it is possible to publish a novel, do a paperback of it, and send it to me within a month. But you don’t have to. The writing is the important part.)

So, in summary…

The Great Novel Challenge consists of the following…

— Video help on writing novels every week.

— I will read your novel and make comments and answer questions.

— Novels must be minimum of 40,000 words, no upper length. Any genre.

— If you miss, you instantly have credit for two workshops.

— If you get all six novels done in the year’s time, you will have $900 credit toward workshops.

— If you send me a finished and published paperback within the month after you turn it in each time for the entire year (6 books), you get a lifetime subscription. (Not easy, but possible.)

— Cost is $600. (And yes, if you miss, you can buy back in and start over.)

— Challenge starts any time you tell me you want to start. (That date will be your deadline every two months.)

— Sign up on Teachable under The Great Novel Challenge header, where the novel advice videos will be each week.

— This will be limited because I just can’t read too many novels with my bad eyes and maintain my own writing and pleasure reading as well.

— First novel hint goes up on Sunday, just as the first Short Story prompt appears on this coming Sunday.

Sign up on

Questions, write me.

This is going to be great fun.




  • Harvey

    Oh, man. Thinking about jumping into this one. I suppose there isn’t any “penalty” for finishing a novel early during the cycle? We can turn it in, start the next one, and just keep going? (grin)

    • dwsmith

      Nope, no penalty for finishing in a month and starting the second book in line. None at all. Just got to start fresh with the first one is all we ask.

  • Topaz

    Hi Dean,

    now I am really tempted to jump in. 😀

    Are there any plans to let all participants connect? Like having a mailing list or something to cheer for each other along the way?
    I’m missing the chance to exchange experiences with other students of your workshops. The video dates with you live and others asking questions in the chatroom and learn about others is so much fun to me. For both reasons: Asking you questions directly, and meet a few other students.

    • dwsmith

      Topaz, the only place we do that is at the live workshops here in Vegas. Then we set up an email list and those who come to the workshops use it for a time afterwards as well as ahead of time. But just not possible for these online workshops that doesn’t bring in far, far more issues than it helps. And the real key with the writers that come here or to our Vegas workshops is a single-minded focus on learning fiction writing and the fiction writing business. We start opening up a forum or something like that and it would get away from that. So sorry, but nope. I see the good side, but I also see the really ugly side of it, especially in this Facebook and political world. I think we’ll just stay focused on one topic here. Fiction Writing.

      Trust me, we’ve talked about it a lot over the years. Always come to the same answer.

  • Kate Pavelle

    You tempt me, you evil, scheming man! ((GRIN)) If I do a double challenge, it will power me through the Time of Great Forgetting (which has already begun, because gardening and biking and projects, oh my!). But I waver. Aside from having to pay a narrator, there is the “how realistic is this?” issue.
    It’s realistic. I think if I do okay on the short story challenge for a month, you’ll might hear from me.
    Thank you for opening this up. I especially love the paperback requirement.

    • dwsmith


      Yup, going to do a blog about the Time of Great Forgetting again in a few days, since that is exactly why we are starting these challenges at this point.

      Not sure what you mean by paying a narrator? Lost me on that. And yes, if you are in the short story one already, see if that can power you through a month or more and get that pattern set up. But either way, no matter what, you get workshops remember. Good luck fighting “the time” this year.

  • Topaz

    I’ve found a second question:
    What happens after 6 novels / 12 months? Do I have to buy in again or can I keep writing and sending them to you as long as I keep my streak (a novel every other month) going?

    • dwsmith

      Topaz, great question and I think I’m going to cut it at a year for those who make it. You get the three workshops at that point, or if you have been doing the paperback, the choice of lifetime subscriptions. I would hope that the forward momentum and habits built up would carry you into the future at that point.

      • Topaz

        Dean, thank you for both your answers.

        I hope as well, that a year long habit will have enough momentum to carry forward. Yet, sadly, I’ve learned a year wasn’t enough for me after last year.

        So another question, because I already have so many of your wonderful lifetime subscriptions:
        Making it to the end of the novel challenge, printed books included, could I swap the lifetime subscription for the craziness of getting into one year of both the novel and short story challenge? (Without getting another price after those two, of course.)

        • dwsmith

          Sure don’t see why not. Sounds great and logical to me. And we are always doing new stuff, things like Ask Kris Anything, so no issue by me at all.

  • Stefon Mears

    Darn it, now I have to consider this. A couple of questions though.

    * Do you expect progress reports, or can we keep radio silence until it’s time to turn in the next novel?

    * For the paper editions, are proofs all right? I may have specific ideas of what I want to do with my release schedule, once the books are finished. And I know me. If I have them print ready with ISBNs, I’ll toss out my plan and just put them up.

    • dwsmith

      Proofs are fine and dandy. And nope, no progress reports needed. Just tell me when you start and I will expect a novel in two months and every two months after that.