How to Write 10,000 Words in a Day

How to write 10,000 words in a day: 6 steps to a successful writing marathon | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comWe word sprinters like to push ourselves. The pressure of a time limit makes us more productive and we thrive on the challenge. And what greater challenge is there for a sprinter than writing more words in a day than we believed possible?

For those of you looking to really test yourselves, the 10k Day Challenge might be just the thing. If you’re interested in giving it a go yourself, here are my six steps to writing 10,000 words in one day.

(Before I start, I will add a small note: although the focus of this post is on writing 10,000 words in a single day, the steps listed can apply to any word count goal you set yourself, whether that’s 1000 words, 10,000 or more.)

Step 1: Break down your target into manageable chunks.

10,000 words is a BIG number. To some, it seems impossible. It’s not. It’s all about perspective.

Start by making that big number smaller: divide it by the number of hours you’re planning on writing today. I’ve found 10-12 hours to be the optimal amount of time writing—it’s long enough to get that 10k written, but not so long you start to cut into time you should be sleeping.

10,000 divided by 12 is 834 words an hour. If you wanted to take an hour out for dinner and another out for a longer break, then you’d be aiming for 1000 words an hour. That’s not impossible. If you’re a word sprinter, you can probably churn that number out in 20-40 minutes. When you look at it that way, this whole 10k day thing seems a little more reasonable, doesn’t it?

Step 2: Create a schedule.

Take the hourly goals you set yourself in Step 1 and use them to make a schedule for your day. Out of the three 10k days I’ve completed, the easiest by far was the one that stuck to a structured schedule.

How long does it take you, on average, to write your hourly target? 20 minutes? 30? 40? Choose a word sprint length that will allow you to write your hourly target and have a short break before the next sprint, but don’t forget that this is a pace you’re going to have to keep up all day. It’s no use setting yourself the ambitious target of 1000 words in 30 minutes if you can’t keep that up. Once you’ve decided on your word sprint lengths, it’s onto the next stage.

Step 3: Plan regular breaks.

When creating your schedule, it’s easy to focus on the time spent word sprinting and forget about what you’ll do between sprints. Big mistake. Though you’re not doing anything more strenuous than typing, writing for such a long stretch often feels like a three day trek through the desert.

Guard against physical fatigue and stiffness by scheduling in exercise. Stretch, do some yoga or go for a short walk between sprints—just do something to get the body moving and the blood flowing. This also gives you a break from the computer screen, which helps to combat eye strain.

What about brain strain, though? Mental fatigue is the real challenge in a 10k day. Fight it off by exercising between sprints, having healthy food and drinks available (make sure you drink lots of water!), and taking your mind off writing during your breaks. Once you’ve re-fuelled and refreshed yourself, it’s back for the next word sprint!

Step 4: Pace yourself.

Don’t expend all your energy at once. It’s very tempting to push yourself hard at the start of a 10k day so that you reach your target sooner, but, in my experience, that only wears you out faster. To avoid burn-out, write at a steady pace throughout the day. That way, you fall into a routine, which helps you to keep going and buffers you against the physical and mental fatigue we talked about in the last step.

Step 5: When you’re writing, turn off the Internet.

Don’t let procrastination or distraction eat into your writing time. To stay on track, you’re going to need every minute of your scheduled word sprints, so switch off the Internet when the sprint starts and don’t stop typing until it ends. Afterwards, as a reward for reaching your hourly target, you can spend some time surfing the Web. Just not too long; we have a schedule to keep to, remember!

Step 6: Don’t go it alone.

There’s nothing more motivating than having supporters behind you. Tell people what you’re doing, whether they’re fellow writers on the Internet, your friends, family or the people you live with. Get them to write with you, if you can! Comparing word counts and setting yourselves fun challenges for each word sprint makes the time fly.

Letting the people you live with know about your 10k day is particularly helpful. First, they’re less likely to distract you by interrupting your sprints or asking you to do something for them. If they’re really nice, they might even bring you refreshments and food so that you can concentrate on writing.

Second, they’re great for accountability. Get them to ask you about your progress every time you emerge from your Write Cave for a tea or toilet break. If you start to fall behind, their soft ‘tsk’s can get you back on track. If you’re ahead, their amazement can buoy you up, ready for your next sprint!

So, are you ready to give the 10k Day Challenge a go? Then check out the #10kWritathon hashtag on Twitter, find other interested parties, or plan out your own! If you want some buddies to write beside, let us know the time and date of your writing marathon in a comment below and we’ll spread the word on Twitter!


For more information on writing 10,000 words in a day, check out my article on planning a successful 10k day!

What’s the most you’ve ever written in 24 hours? Would you ever consider writing 10,000 words in one day?

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30 thoughts on “How to Write 10,000 Words in a Day

  1. Pingback: What makes 1k of words special (to me)(get your own special number) | datanode.net

  2. Just found this through a Camp Nanowrimo hashtag. I tried shooting for 10K one day and did manage 7000 one day in about 5 hours, but was so tired I had to stop. However, your suggestions for dealing with breaks sounds perfect. Will try again soon!

  3. Yes an interesting challenge indeed, on average I can manage 4000 wds a day and when I push I can take it up to 5000 wds. It’s actually challenging at first but overtime it does become easy, it’s about believing in yourself and attempting to achieve that goal.

    As for the 10 000 word challenge…today is the day I’m gonna take a shot! :D That’s right bayyyybeeee!!!

    • 5000 words in a day is a fantastic achievement! Before I took part in my first 10k day during NaNoWriMo 2013, the most I’d ever written in a day was ~4000 words. Aiming for 10k from the start and believing that I could do it played a huge part, as you say.

      Best of luck with your 10k day! If you’re on Twitter for it, tweet @TheSprintShack and we’ll spread the word and join in! :D GO GET THOSE WORDS!

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  6. I’m actually doing this right now.
    Pulling an all-nighter.
    My goal is in number of posts though, rather than word count.

    My goal is 50 posts (these are short, typically 200-300 words) by 8am HST. I’m 3 and a half hours in, with 12 posts (2,700+ words) and more than 8 hours to go, so I’m right no target. But I am fading fast haha. Taking a breather right now…

    • Go, Chris, go! That’s an incredible writing marathon you have lined up! If you find yourself in need of a motivation boost, @FriNightWrites is hosting #WriteClub word sprints on Twitter all day today. There’s nothing like sprinting alongside others to keep your spirits and your word counts high.

      Best of luck with your marathon, Chris! You got this.

  7. This is how I typically do Nano. I’ve done as much as 18k in 12 hours. I set a words per hour goal and start with a sprint. If I’m doing 1000 an hour, I do a ten minute sprint. If I’m doing a 1500, I do 15 min, and so on. After the sprint I write until I reach my goal and then take the rest of the hour off. Sometimes I end up with 30-40 minute breaks, sometimes I only get 10. It all depend on how well the story is going. But I’ve found the spint is the key to getting started.

  8. I find it so taxing to write this many words a day! But also so rewarding!

    If you are able to set aside time each day and really focus, then anyone can do it. That’s a lot easier said than done though.

    I try to write at least 5000 word post a week and even that is a daunting task. I commend you and the others who can do this frequently!

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    • 10k days are certainly taxing (it’s not something to do every day), but they’re definitely doable if you plan smart and work smart. 10 hours is the time limit I usually set myself—I can churn out 1000 words in a 30 minute word sprint and have 30 minutes to eat and rest between—but I know some people prefer to set themselves higher hourly goals to reduce the time they’re writing (some brave folks do it in 4 hours—crazy!). It’s all down to the individual, really.

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  12. Reblogged this on Sakura Skye Writes and commented:
    My daily goal isn’t nearly this ambitious, but I advocate all of the tips presented her regardless of your goal. Hope you are all doing well this NaNoWriMo (the writer’s Hanukkah). Perhaps a 10K day will help you catch up if you’ve fallen behind

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  16. Shut off the internet, lock myself in a room with nature/ Celtic music playing in the background, curl up in a comfy spot with some tea and snack food of choice with a notebook and a pile of pens. My process hasn’t let me down yet. XD

    Love your suggestions though. :)

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