We 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?