I wanted to write a novella in one week. The math was simple enough; my novellas ended up around 25,000 words long so if I wrote 5,000 words a day for five days, I’d finish it Friday, leaving Saturday for rounding up any extra words which spilled over.
The actual thought of 5,000 words in one day was intimidating to consider, but I knew of another writer who had recently written 10,000 words in one day. If he could do that much, surely I could do half that amount and keep up the pace for a whole week.
The first order of the day was to map out the number of words to write along with when they needed to be written. In my case, I was writing a novella in one week, but this same structure would work for any wordathon, be it a novel in one month or a chapter in one day.
But that was just the beginning. Before I typed a word, I spent a week in preparation, going over the course my fingers were to cover in the next week. I looked up names, planned out characters, and outlined the story. It wasn’t perfect; in writing there are always some things which just happen. One character unexpectedly appeared halfway through my novella, and I didn’t work out the details of the climax until the day before writing it, (not something I’d recommend). But having an outline to work from, and knowing what was supposed to happen next, was a great help later on when I just had to focus on writing, not smoothing out numerous bumps and potholes in the plot.
Next, I cleared the week of my wordathon, discarding everything which didn’t absolutely need to be done. No extra writing. No Greek. No extra reading. Not that I couldn’t do anything else, but there was nothing scheduled beside the bare necessities.
Then, I wrote about 2,000 words over the weekend before my marathon just to warm up and make sure I had the voices of the characters down well and the story flowing somewhat smoothly.
Last, but far from least, was my mental resolution. I was determined to get the novella done in a week and I prepared my mind accordingly. If one goes into any race or challenge halfheartedly, it’s easy to give up when the going gets hard.
“As a general rule, one must have the resolution of the will and mind, not just the fickle desire of the heart, to accomplish a challenging wordathon.”
But, eventually, all the smoothing and surveying was accomplished and it was time to sit down and write against the clock. Depending on the story and your temperament, this can be harder for some writers than for others, but I believe any writer can move much further and much faster than they’d first imagine.
As far as my wordathon went, my pace was fresh and unwavering for one whole day. The story flowed pretty smoothly and I finished my 5,000 words by late afternoon on Monday. And then Tuesday happened. Halfway through the day I’d fallen back on will-power rather than desire. I’d resolved to write the novella in one week, and write it in one week I would, regardless of mental weariness. Each day for the rest of the week, I’d start the morning fairly refreshed, then lapse back to determination about halfway through.
But, though determination was a large aid, it was hardly my only one.
My first aid was mental. After testing myself Monday, I quickly settled into a routine of sorts. 500 words seemed like a natural break; at least in my mind. That meant I only had to write 500 words ten times in one day. And then I broke it into larger segments, such as getting 1,000 words done early before school; getting 2,500 done before lunch, etc.
I also reminded myself that I was writing a rough draft. There was no going back to edit unless I realized I’d forgot to add something important, or I was changing a quick detail. And even then, sometimes I’d just leave a note for myself when I’d go back in future corrections.
Finally, I rewarded myself after each 500 words by checking social media, reading a chapter in a book, or doing something of that sort in the breather between sections.
And, day by day, I had the satisfaction of seeing my novella grow by leaps and bounds. One day I even wrote extra and, on Friday afternoon, I drew a second wind and jubilantly wrote the conclusion.
And then I was finished. Nearly 28,000 words written in one week, counting the 2,000 words at which I’d warmed up with. Not only did I have my novella complete in about one sixth of the time it normally took, I also had a greater confidence in how much I could accomplish if I set my mind to it, as well as a foundation for future wordathons.
I believe all writers would profit from the occasional writing sprint or wordathon. It doesn’t have to be a novella in one week; there are numerous lengths and speeds, but it should be challenging. Getting extra writing done is a plus, but the greatest good of such an exercise is the mental push. It shows you what you can do, even if you don’t want to write that fast on a normal basis. Yes, it’s hard, but if you endure, it will strengthen you as a writer and as a person, preparing you for greater challenges which lie ahead.