From the Archives: How to Do a Wordcount Enhancement Program [10K Day of Writing]

lolcat10k Day

This post is an updated archived post, originally published in February 2012. This month, Milli Thornton, who was listed with several links in the original post, contacted me to update her links.

I took the liberty to check all the older links in the post (some of which had changed, naturally), and append some more recent information as this refreshed post. Updated completely from 2 years ago.

Wordcount, baby. That’s what I’m talking about!

I’ll start off by telling everybody here that I’m already historically proficient at 10K days. During particular NaNoWriMo and monthly novel writing efforts, I have previously put in 10K-12K-15K days (and once an 18K day of effort) – for 25 days in a row.

Yes, while most WriMos were struggling to push 50K out in the month I was annoyingly meeting that target in the first week, then going on to post up 150,000 word novels to get my certificate. (I stopped at 150,000K, just because I realised that I would have a hell of a lot of revising and cutting to do – which I never got around to, and gosh, I was a little embarrassed by the total).

Update: 2013’s NaNoWriMo efforts have been very different, as I changed my mind a week in, and started a novel completely unprepped.

I type quick. That’s the one method to my madness, is all I gotta say. (As though that weren’t obvious by now with the size of my regular blog posts).

That kitchen-sink writing approach, however, hurt. It hurt a lot. My back, eyes, arms – my family had to deal with a walking zombie for days afterwards.

I decided that I needed a new approach, and fell into a 2000K goal for 4 days a week. And hey – it wasn’t really working for me, prompting the original Wordcount Enhancement Program post of 2012. So, maybe poking a 10K day out again, just the once per month, might be the way to go.

I’m not going to write down my tips on how to do it here. Mine aren’t particularly healthy, and involve distraction free hours which I no longer have access to. Once I get through my own 10K Day, then I might put together a post on the practices (healthy ones) that worked for me this time around. Cross fingers.

But I figure that marathon runners get into a training program before they attempt 10 Kilometres (not that I know anything much about exercise), so writers could benefit from some training beforehand too.

And here is my training program –

How to do 10K of Words in One Day

10K Day for Writers

(Formerly at Fear of Writing, but has now been updated as at November 2013)

Milli Thornton, at 10K Day for Writers actually holds two 10K Days each month  – on a Wednesday and Saturday. You can sign up, and join in the day with some international support.

The schedule didn’t suit my own, but I appreciate the following pages of tips you can find for doing 10K at 10K Day for Writers

My takeaway from the above – make it a watery day (drink plenty of water, and take a shower to freshen up later in the day, good advice).

Jennifer Turner – 10K in a Day

Jennifer’s static page for 10K Day wordcounts is reasonably famous out there, and forms the basis for many 10K events. On this page she gives a run down of prep advice for the week before, the day before, and then the 10K Day.

Rules for the day include No Editing, No Structure, No Searching, and work in two hour increments.

My takeaway from the 10K Day page is to stay away from dictionaries, thesauruses and the like.

What the page doesn’t mention is that if using a computer to write with, there are plenty of software / writing programs which offer a distraction free environment. You can get these free for download also. So, not only turning off distractions such as a dictionary, but also keeping off the internet etc – practical advice for the day.

Rachel Aaron

Rachel Aaron had a popular post up in June 2011 – How I Went from Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. She even provides a diagram ‘The Triangle of Writing Metrics’ – a pyramid pointing to 3 important factors – knowledge, enthusiasm and time. She has a consistent run of days to evidence that her method works for her.

Rachel suggests the most important part of the triangle is the knowledge of what is meant to happen in the scene you are writing. She’s not talking about plotting or outlining beforehand (with a rough idea of what the scene entails) but spending five minutes before writing the scene, roughing out the full contents, interactions, characters, events, etc which are meant to happen. Sometimes this is a simple list of – this happens, then this… Other times it might take several quick pages (Rachel handwrites the ideas into a notebook).

My Takeaway – that’s my own takeaway from Rachel’s post. I’ve previously become scarpered on some of my own scenes, despite having outlined their high-end contents previously. So I’m going to try the notes in 5 minutes pre-scene approach and see how it goes. I think taking the time out to rejig and develop thoughts in a scene-by-scene format makes a great lot of sense, and also will help in recreating that enthusiasm I have for the original outlining.

2kto10kI think one of the important factors that Rachel stumbled upon here – as per her 90+ comments, was that these pre-notes are handwritten. Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ insists on handwriting morning pages as a writing/creativity practice.

I’ve always been reluctant to do that – handwriting aches, and I love the quickness of typing – but seeing it as simply a shopping list, or even a drawing (mindmap) or using other diagrams and symbols to arrange my scene approach, that’s something which suddenly incredibly appeals to me. Magic.

Update: Of course, since my own original post on this topic, Rachel used her blog post to spawn a full ebook: 2k to 10k: How to Write Better, Write Faster, and Write More of What You Love. Which I gave 5 stars to.

Others who have tips

PD Martin wrote a post in 2011 on a 10,000 words in a day goal giving a schedule of her day (Also published at Murderati).  There is a suggestion that it helps having a writing buddy doing the same thing – and the suggestions that coffee and chocolate have a place in such a day. Finally! I’ve been waiting to hear that for some time.

My Takeaway – chocolate. And more chocolate. Gotta have that ready-access energy. Oh, and find a writing buddy who wants to do the day too.

Zoe Winters (November 2011) discussed her own 10,000 word day. And she talked a lot about time, and being prolific in the creative time she has. In a follow-up post Reporting Back: 10,097, she appears to have had some success, despite the distraction of pizza.

My Takeaway – what works, works. Try it and see. Because basically, the 2000 word goal per day for me isn’t working to maintain my enthusiasm for the project.

Marrisa Meyer on How to Write 10K Words in One Day and points out that “major writing sprees can be really fun and allow for a huge sense of accomplishment, but they’re also mentally demanding and bad ergonomics.’” She gives some rules to those so inclined, one of which is to tweet or blog your progress.

My Takeaway – I guess I’ll tweet or blog my progress. Yeah. Maybe after the fact, because I’m meant to have twitter and all that turned off for the day, right?

JB Lynn at Killer Chicks wrote in this post that she failed at participating in the 10K Day for Writers event through the Fear of Writing challenges (now 10K Day for Writers – see above). She was distracted on her day by agents and editors, leaving her at 5000K. Despite this, she got something out of the ‘clearing the decks’ approach which made the ‘experiment’ as she calls it, worthwhile. 5000K is certainly worthwhile.

My Takeaway – 10K Days are not for everybody. Look at the comments on this post, and you can see that some writers are plainly reluctant to attempt such a day. Other comments through some of the above posts also indicate that for some writer’s ‘maximum output’ and ‘writing’ are something different to them, which is all fine and dandy- for them, but not helpful comments when you’re set on a mission.

But, if I’m really going to take the 10K Day seriously, I have to fully take it seriously – by not answering phone-calls, and switching off distractions, and being fully focussed on completing the day.

Simon Haynes – Spacejock Software – NaNoWriMo Tips – Catchup Day – Simon, the programmer behind the free (and excellent, I must say) yWriter5 software, has a section on his NaNoWriMo tips page called The One Day Catchup, which is where he offers a form in several formats and this process: –

I don’t recommend using this method regularly, but it’s a fantastic way to boost your word count. How? Print the form (OpenOffice, XLS or PDF format) and plan your day from 8am. Start writing, and stop the moment you have 500 words. Then take a break and do whatever you want until the stroke of 9am. Then write another 500 words. Repeat all day until you finish the last 500 words some time after 10pm. All you have to do is write 9 words a minute throughout the day. Can it really be that difficult? (Don’t waste all the break time – think up two more scenes for every one you write!)

My takeway: Increase the wordcount per hour to 700 words, and you’ll have not 7500 extra words, but 10,500 words during your 15 hour marathon effort with a lot of breaks.

Luc ReidHow to Write 10,000 Words a DayPart 1 and Part 2. June 2012 posts, In response to a fellow writer, James Maxey, who wrote a novel in a week.

My takeaway: Be a fast typist.

Forums and Challenges go the 10K Day Way – there are plenty of writing forums and writing-challenges which use a 10K Day challenge as a motivation to add wordcount.

  • NaNoWriMo often runs a few of them during November, or WriMos doing the challenge run their own from their personal blogs, using twitter hashtags. Update: recently NaNoWriMo have been running writing marathon days (as well as write-ins), normally starting mid-month from midnight on a Saturday. These run municipally or locally, but also over the internet. Look out for NaNoWriMo marathon twitter hashtags, and announcements through NaNoWriMo emails.
  • Check for 10K events run by bloggers via the Twitter hashtag #10KInADay.

Blogger Marathon Days – during November inspired by NaNoWriMo in particular, many writing orientated bloggers run writing marathon days, usually using a twitter hashtag for discussion over the day.


Addendum: Was I successful?

The original post was written in February 2012. In March I did do a 10K personal marathon day, and was successful, with this post recording it. Since then, I’ve done further personal 10K days as needed, but I was always capable of doing that anyway.

Since those posts, Rachel Aaron came out with her 2K to 10K book, and this year Milli Thornton has moved over her 10K posts into a full-on website on the topic, which offers monthly 10K days. Milli also has a course available on the subject. A few other bloggers have tipped in with their thoughts on such marathons, which I have added here in this updated post.

Credit: the cat in the lolcat header image is indeed my own cat, and this image was used 2 years ago also. Ernie hasn’t changed at all since, but my flooring has, as I’ve since moved house. Ah, memories.

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