That’s 40 pages. Can you do it?
1. NO EDITING!
This means no fixing typos, no rewriting at all. You should write as fast as you can and go with the flow of the story (using your outline if you have one).
2. NO RULES
Do not concern yourself with the standard rules of writing, word choices, or other issues you think may be incorrect, such as brand names or language you’re not sure will fit publisher’s guidelines (e.g. swearing, lingo). If you’re not sure which character’s POV is correct for the scene you’re working on then head hop if you want to (this can be changed during editing later).
3. NO RESEARCH
This should all have been done the week before. For areas needing more research, for now just use your imagination and sketch in details that you THINK would work. Use a marker such as three asterisks (***) in your manuscript so that you can easily find those sections later, once you’ve had time to check facts. Research notes may be glanced at, but not studied. Don’t waste time shuffling through papers to find something. You already know what’s there, just make your best guess.
4. NO SCROLLING BACK
Once it’s written, that’s it. Don’t go back and add things, move things, or switch things. This is what your pen and paper are for. If you think, “I’ll need to change that,” or, “I should go back and add this part in” write a few memory cementing phrases on paper to remind you what you want to fix later during editing then continue working AS IF you’ve already changed it.
5. NO STRUGGLING
When we write on our regular days, we have a tendency to search for the perfect description, the perfect word choice, or to create the perfect scene/moment. Forget all that. Allow yourself to be awful. This won’t be seen by anyone else. This is “For your eyes only.” Remember to write as fast as you can, close your eyes if it’s too difficult to watch. Make sure that you NEVER second-guess yourself. Part of the excitement of doing a writing marathon comes in making friends with your own voice. Too often we tend to strangle this voice with our idealism of the perfect work.
6. NO STRUCTURE
Don’t concern yourself with chapter or scene breaks, page count, or proper formatting. Naturally, you can add these as you write, but these are not final and should NOT be a concern. Structure is secondary to the act of free-writing and the stream of consciousness approach (while following your outline if you use one). Remember: Anything and even EVERYTHING can be changed in the editing phase.
7. NO SEARCHING
Don’t open other files for that tidbit you wrote last week. Don’t go into other realms of the computer for information you think you want to read. If it’s already in your computer, it will be there during the editing phase and you can search for it then. This includes email and the Internet. The only time you’ll use these tools is to communicate in a group setting within the rules of the marathon. Other than that, you should be completely cut off from the world.
8. WORK IN TWO-HOUR INCREMENTS
This is only to be broken by bathroom breaks and (only if absolutely necessary), a refresh on the drink or snack of your choice. At the two-hour mark, take 10-15 minutes to make yourself as comfortable as you can for the following two hours. This includes meals. Don’t break for lunch any longer than you did for the regular breaks. Eating every two hours (snacks–healthy or not, that’s your choice!) should be enough to keep hunger at bay for the entire time you’re writing.