Rules for writing 10,000 words in a day

That’s 40 pages. Can you do it?

The rules:

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).

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How do you get started writing a novel?

The first time I sat down to write my novel, I was so intimidated that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to start the first chapter. So I didn’t. I wrote Chapter 6 instead. Then, because I still couldn’t figure out how to write Chapter 1, I wrote chapter 4. Then chapter 13. By that time, it didn’t seem like as big a deal, especially since I kept reminding myself that it didn’t matter if it was crap – I could fix it later. It was just important to start. Period.

Another thing – about that infernal editor. If you have problems turning it off, you can try any number of things to force it to be silent. You can give it a name – and a whole other personality – and tell it that it’ll get its say soon. Or, if you have decent typing skills, put on a blindfold and type away – can’t edit if you can’t see, right? Or write by hand – there seems to be more of an emotional connection as opposed to typing (or so I’ve heard). And keep reminding yourself that the first draft is just that – a first draft. There’s plenty of time to chop, change, add later. Just get the flow down and worry about the rest later. You can start in the middle of some action or conversation – that way you have something to propel you forward.

That’s my $0.02 (that’s $5 Canadian).

Writing without editing. Also known as Blitz-drafting.

This was difficult for me, but I figured out a way to train myself to do it. It sounds hokey (I don’t know how to spell that word – never seen it in print before – but I think you all will probably know what I mean) but it worked.

I sat down in front of my computer with a mask over my eyes so I couldn’t look at the screen. It helps that I can touch type, of course. After a few days, I had myself trained to just shut my eyes and not look, and didn’t need the mask anymore. I still do this.

I find that if I look at what I’m typing, I’m more inclined to want to edit, but if I type with eyes shut, it’s a lot easier to turn of the infernal editor (yes, that spelling was intentional).

Hey, if it works, use it. If not, well, you can at least laugh at it.

(I havne’t written a damn thing all week except for emails cuz I’m still too sick to use any brain cells.)