Camy here, and yes, you read that correctly. I recently wrote 18,000 words in 13.5 hours and I’m blogging today about what I think helped me to do it.
I was on deadline (but you guessed that already, right???) and trying to finish my novel so I’d have enough time to revise it before sending it in. At the time it was only 15,000 words I needed to write before Sunday so I’d have all day Sunday to do any last minute tweakings, but I ended up needing 18,000 words to finish all the scenes I’d had mapped out.
Let me preface all this by saying that I knew exactly what scenes I had left to do and what I needed to accomplish in each of those scenes. I knew the ending (I’d known the ending from the moment I started the book) and I just needed to write the climax as I envisioned it and tie up loose threads.
How to write a heck of a lot of words in a really short amount of time:
1) Pray really hard. I know some of you may not be Christian, but I am, and I did a lot of praying. That didn’t mean I spent an hour on my knees before I started writing, but before I wrote and while I was in the bathroom on a potty break and while I was eating lunch, I prayed to God and asked for His help. Relying on Jesus’ supernatural assistance is really the only way to go.
2) Make sure you’re comfortable. I had my chair adjusted so I could sit for long hours, but I also got up to walk around every hour.
I even had a timer go off every 60 minutes so that I’d remember to stand up and stretch (and go on a potty break). However, I also had a second timer set for only 10 minutes so I wouldn’t let my break take longer than that.
I turned the heat up so I wouldn’t have cold hands, I had a blanket on my legs, and I made sure my water bottle was close by.
3) Prepare the rest of your family. I had already told Captain Caffeine that I had 15,000 words to write that day and could he please get his meals on his own. He also walked the dog for me and washed dishes. I had leftovers in the fridge that were ready to heat up for both him and for me, so I wouldn’t have to waste time cooking my own meals.
If you have kids, arrange for babysitting by the spouse or someone else. If your kids are older, make sure the office door (or bedroom door) is locked and they cannot disturb you unless they are bleeding and burning.
4) Prepare yourself. This is not a cakewalk. Don’t lollygag around. Sit down and focus your mind and prepare yourself like you’re going to war.
5) Surround yourself with things that will help you to focus. I tend to write better when I have snacks, a mug of tea, and music without words playing. It will be different for you. Some people like scents, some don’t. Some people like music, some don’t. Surround yourself with what you need to focus.
6) Get rid of all distractions beforehand. I didn’t realize until only a few months ago how incredibly distracting it was for me to have so much clutter around me. I spent 3 days cleaning my office and discovered I have a much easier time writing now than I did before.
Clutter might not be the same type of distraction for you, but whatever your distraction is, get rid of it. Do not tolerate distractions because they will break your focus and reduce your creativity and your efficiency.
This is not to say you shouldn’t take breaks—by all means, take breaks if only to keep yourself from injury (see above about a timer set for every 60 minutes). But get rid of distractions that will take you mentally away from your goal of High Word Count.
Only you know what your distractions are, but be completely honest with yourself about what your distractions are. It doesn’t help your efficiency if you lie to yourself.
7) Get off the internet. This is what really helped me, but I’m not saying it’ll work for everyone. Anytime I had a research question I needed to look up on the internet, I made a note for myself in the manuscript to look up what I needed later, and I moved on. I labeled my notes with [xxx] so that I could do a Find for “xxx” and find all my notes to myself easily.
NO EXCEPTIONS. If I needed a name for a minor character, I named him Character A and used that for the entire scene. Later, I did a Find and Replace for “Character A” and changed it to whatever I determined his name should be.
Anytime I needed to look something up on the internet, no matter how small, I did not let myself do it, because even if I didn’t check email, the time taken for internet research could take as long as 30 minutes sometimes, and I wanted to focus on writing, not on research.
Research and writing use different sides of the brain (left and right, respectively) and for me to switch back into right brain creative writing mode is hard. So I did my best not to move out of that right brain creative writing mode, even for research.
In the end:
I wrote 18,163 words in thirteen hours, twenty minutes (give or take a few minutes). This included breaks. Quite frankly, this is the fastest I’ve ever written in my life.
If I can do it, you can too—you just need to prepare both your family and yourself for what you need to do.
GIVEAWAY: Thanks to Tina for this idea. I’m giving away a free 30-minute telephone mentoring session. To enter, answer this question: What would you need to do in order to prepare yourself for a writing marathon? Also please leave your email address or some way for me to contact you, otherwise I’ll pull another name.
Winner will be announced in the Weekend Edition.
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her romantic suspense, Formula for Danger. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.