NatArtFiMo (National Article Finishing Month)

It’s that time of year again. Your friends on facebook are pledging to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting tomorrow. The idea is pretty simple:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30. Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of NaNoWriMo is the community support aspect. Folks post their successes to Twitter and Facebook. There are constant reminders to write. And it works rather well, as tens of thousands of eager amateurs manage to write 50,000 words in a month’s time.

Of course, I’m tempted to join the fun. (NaNoWriMo would be a great time to finish that Twilight fan fiction novel!) But I also know that there is a half-finished article calling my name, occasionally reminding me of its continued existence. What if there were also a National Article Finishing Month?

Now there is.

National Article Finishing Month draws on the model of NaNoWriMo (and also on the advice of sci-fi author Neil Gaiman to finish things). For legal academics, the challenge is different. November is a doldroms (at least, it is for me). Thanksgiving is here, and recruiting season (with call-back interviews to attend), and millions of endless committee meetings. With no nearby article submission season, there’s no burning motivation to write. If you aren’t careful, you might go all month without picking up a pen. NatArtFiMo pushes back. It’s like a writing retreat, conducted online.

The rules are as follows:

1. Eligibility.

If you want to finish an article this November, you’re in. (As a practical matter this group may be most appealing to legal academics.)

2. The article.

You should start with an unfinished article. For our purposes, let’s tentatively define an unfinished article as something which is not yet posted to SSRN (or if posted, it is in very short skeletal form of less than 20 pages). (Does this work for people? Additional suggestions are welcome.)

(Is it okay to start with nothing at all? Yes. However, remember that this will put you on a very accelerated writing schedule.)

3. Deadlines and Check-in.

To participate, you should:

a. Write up a short, 1 paragraph (4-5 sentences) description of your writing goal for the month. Briefly describe your article, where you stand on it, and which parts of the article you are going to complete over the month.

We strongly encouraged participants to set ambitious but reachable goals. For an already-started, research-begun, half-written project, “having this ready to post to SSRN” might be a reasonable goal for a month’s of focused writing. But obviously, it will vary from article to article. If your goal is simply to figure out a Meereenese Knot, that’s fine too.

b. Post that paragraph in comments here, or on our new Facebook group (or both). Note that the group is “open,” so please don’t disclose trade secrets. You can keep your description as vague as you need. However, it is generally preferable to post more detail. (“I will finish Part 3, add research from Hoffman, and come up with a better conclusion” rather than just “I’ll finish the article”) so that your supporters can encourage you or suggest ideas.

c. Post an update once a week (suggested time: over the weekend). This includes a final update (either the weekend of the 26th, or on November 30th, or whenever works best.

d. Participate in conversation in comments or at the Facebook group, as often as you’d like (though not to the detriment of article writing!). There is no minimum or maximum, but the project will likely be more successful the more that people participate.

4. Benefits.

a. Publicity. Concurring Opinions is a top-ten legal blog by traffic. Our readers include legal academics, practicing lawyers, and law students (including those ever-elusive law review editors!). That’s a lot of eyeballs looking at and thinking about your article, and NatArtFiMo provides a central location for discussion.

Next Sunday, I’ll post a kickoff summary of people’s descriptions, citing a few sentences. I’ll post short follow-up summaries each following Sunday, drawing on participants’ updates. I will also highlight one randomly selected participant’s work in more depth each week.

b. More publicity. At the end of the month, I’ll host an SSRN party (complete with links) to highlight all articles which were part of NatArtFiMo and which have been uploaded to SSRN by November 30th.

c. And even more publicity. At the end of the month, I will also ask one randomly selected participant to participate in a mini-interview about her article, in a stand-alone post.

d. Support. Finally, I hope that the project will result in broader community support. Some of this may be simply encouragement. (We can all use reminders from time to time!) Beyond that, I think that participants might also receive substantive support from readers and other participants. Readers, if you have a suggestion about someone’s article, please let her know.

5. Amendment.

I welcome any suggestions or feedback. This is a new project, and I’m still figuring out all of the details. (Please bear with me!)

I will try to maintain as much continuity as possible. However, if someone suggests an excellent tweak to the structure (especially in the first day or two), I may amend these rules. (Any amendment will be clearly noted.)

Those are the rules as I’ve got them set out for now. If you have any questions, please let me know. I look forward to participating with many of you in the inaugural NatArtFiMo!

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3 Responses

  1. Will Baude points out that Christina Mulligan is helming a similar project, this one involving mostly aspiring academics. Can people join both groups? Yes! I think that cross-pollination is an excellent idea, and we’re happy to welcome members of Christina’s group who would like to participate here as well. Twice the support, twice the fun, and twice the monetary rewards! (2 x 0 = 0).

  2. Miriam A. Cherry says:

    Thanks for doing this, Kaimi… I am trying to finish a rough draft of my article this month. The article is about unconventional markets that are forming in cyberspace, and the role that technology plays in market formation. It is also about commodified versus non-commodified areas in cyberspace. Now that I’ve written this, I think that I actually do have to finish the article by December 1st…

  3. I have a rather poor draft of an article on the TSA’s security screening procedures (i.e. the enhanced patdowns and scanners that can see through clothing). My argument is that the procedures do not violate the 4th Amendment, but that they infringe on a fundamental right to interstate travel, thus violating the 5th Amendment. My goal is to expand my argument in places, polish the whole thing, and post it on SSRN by the end of the month.