Okay, first confession: I wrote the first draft of this post DURING, not after, yesterday’s #10KWritathon. I needed a word boost and a break from my current WIP, which I’d been working on for approximately 6 hours. So I figured it was time for a change of pace, subject, and genre.
This was my first #10KWritathon, so I thought I’d write up a post for you guys on how it went and what I learned. And my decision to switch gears brings me to my first two lessons: be prepared and switch it up.
Lesson #1: Be prepared. Probably the hardest part about this Writathon for me was that, not only was it my first time attempting to write 10k in one day that I can recall, I wasn’t as prepared as I’d have liked to have been. My original plan was simple: spend the few weeks between the announcement of the Writathon and the actual day of it tearing apart my WIP and reorganizing it into a cohesive outline, then work on rewriting problematic areas during the Writathon itself. But what I didn’t account for was a little thing called life, and that actually-not-so-little thing wedged itself between me and my plans just about every day possible until I had very little time left. As a result, I found this challenge to be a struggle—perhaps more so than I normally would have with a concrete outline and budding ideas—and so, I had to resort to lesson 2.
Lesson #2: Switch it up. Ideally, this step should take root in your planning and preparing stage. Come to the Writathon with a list of things you’d like to work on, which can include anything from a short story to an article to a chapter, or even an outlining or brainstorming session for a new work. Of course, some will want to knock out 10k on one manuscript alone, and that’s great! But for many, writing for hours at a time on one manuscript can often bring us to that proverbial brick wall we call writer’s block when we’re suffering from sheer exhaustion, and having something different to work on—bonus points if it’s a completely different format or genre— is a great way to wake your brain up and refresh your creativity.
Lesson #3: Have a timer ready. This goes for whether you’re participating in the Writathon or hosting it, yourself! I used my phone as a timer to remind myself when sprints began and ended, that way I didn’t accidentally let my break spill into writing time or get so caught up in a lucky wave of words that I missed the sprint’s end. Of course, if you’re going to use your phone, you’ll have to be diligent about not checking it during your sprints; the whole point to having an alarm is to prevent you from looking up to check the clock/Twitter, so make sure to put your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb mode so you aren’t tempted to check it!
Lesson #4: Writing all day is hard. Well, duh, right? But I include this here because, during the busy hubbub of our daily lives, it’s easy to forget that, yes, writing is hard—even (and, sometimes, especially) when you have all day to do it. It’s so darn easy to stretch that break out a little longer, or call for an extra break before you really need one, or busy yourself with menial tasks to avoid the actual work. So, while most writers will tell you with confidence that writing 10,000 words in a day is hard, participating in a #10kWritathon might be the exact reality check we need to understand just how hard it is to do this daily for a living. And maybe, possibly, that’ll give us some more appreciation for whatever our daily life is like, and encourage us to enjoy and make use of the small snatches of time we have to write amongst all our other responsibilities.
Lesson #5: Word padding isn’t helpful. Some may argue with me on this, and this is a lesson born of both our Writathon AND NaNoWriMo, but it’s one I’m going to stick to. While writing the original, unfinished, messy draft of this WIP during NaNoWriMo, I let the words absolutely fly. Adverbs ran amuck; I stretched conjunctions into their full length to create stiff but wordy dialog; and I described everything I could, often derailing my work from the plot and the issues at hand. It helped me reach 50,000 words, and I did get some great lines and ideas out of it, but I took it too far. The result? A troublesome #10kWritathon in which I struggled to reorganize and rewrite the beginning of this work, and the manuscript is such a nightmare to get through that reaching 10,000 words, even including outlining and brainstorming, felt like slogging through thigh-deep mud to a far-off finish line.
In fact, I didn’t reach 10,000 words. I burnt out at just over the halfway point.
Ultimately, though, this challenge has brought me to a little epiphany I’ll call our bonus lesson: Any word count, whether 100 or 10,000, is a victory. This is something we commonly say to motivate anyone who is disappointed in their word count during a sprint, and it’s true—but until yesterday, I didn’t understand just how true. Watching the #10KWritathon hasthag scroll throughout the day on my Tweetdeck was a great reminder of how productive this challenge is for so many people; some reach their goals, some don’t, others don’t aim for that number at all. But it’s helpful to know that, even if your word count didn’t get quite where you wanted it to, it may just have inspired someone else to keep writing—which is one of the wonderful and beautiful things about our little writing community on Twitter.
And now… our Hall of Famer! While I didn’t get to 10,000 words yesterday, one determined writer did. A HUGE congrats to Christina (@chuffwrites) for reaching 10k in our first in-house #10kWritathon!
And, of course, here are some honorable mentions with their stellar word counts:
Cari Wiese (@cariwiese) with 8,003 words
Tami Veldura (@tamiveldura) with 7,954 words
Holly Starkey (@holly_starkey) with 6,000 words
L.A. Lanier (@TheSquibbler) with 4,986 words
Congrats everyone! And for those not mentioned here, if you participated, let us know how you did!