Lots of writers around the world just finished National Novel Writing Month, in which the goal is to write at least 50,000 words in November. With that in mind we thought we’d talk about other pushes we’ve done to get a big word count down on paper in a limited time period.
Edith: For me the key ingredient is isolation. I have several times taken myself on a solo writing retreat for a long weekend. Twice I went out to the fabulous Wellspring House in Ashfield, Massachusetts, in the western part of the state. Once I rented a Quaker retreat house on Cape Code. And last year over the New Year’s Eve holiday, I house sat for a friend one town over. All those times, I was alone, either in the house or in my monastic room. I wrote all morning, all afternoon, and into the evening. I just kept pushing. I took meal and exercise breaks, but nearly completely off the Internet – also key! That kind of pushing isn’t a sustainable pace for me, but especially when I was also holding down a full-time job, it really enabled me to get a big chunk of first draft written. One three-day weekend I produced 10,000 words.
Jessie: I agree with Edith that retreats are really helpful. The Wickeds have blogged about our joint retreats in the past and they have really helped me to rack up the words. When I am at home the best way for me to produce a great deal in short order is to use a time management technique called Pomodoro that focuses on one task at a time. I do 25 minute bursts on my work-in-progress with five minute breaks in between. I don’t even reach for my cup of coffee in the twenty-five minutes. I just type. On days that I apply this technique I get a lot done. It is sort of like a mini-retreat within my day.
Liz: I’ve started NaNo three or four times and never finished. I think it’s the month of November that doesn’t agree with me – too much else going on. That said, I’ve had success with the Chocolate Challenge, an exercise run by the Guppies. Every February, the person who writes the most words during the month gets chocolate from the other participants – great motivation for me! I agree with Jessie, though – our joint retreats are so helpful to get me focused and writing a lot of words. There are, however, some weekends where I can just stay home, hibernate and churn out a lot of words – I actually did this last weekend and turned out about 6K. It all depends on the deadline, too – that’s a great motivator to get words on the page!
Sherry: I’m more the tortoise than the hare when writing. I’m much more likely to do 1,000 words a day than spew out a bunch in a short period of time. I’ve had one what I’d call mystical writing experience when I was writing the proposal for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. It just poured out of me. I wish that would happen again. I like the idea of going on a mini-retreat by myself. Where to go? This picture looks like the perfect retreat place to me.
Barb: I have to admit I’ve always wanted to go on one of those literary writing retreats where some helper silently leaves lunch on your front door stoop while you work away in your cabin. I’ve never done it, though. Not that I’ve suffered. I’ve taken all sorts of courses and workshops in interesting places–Star Island, in the Isles of Shoals, Seascape on the coast of Connecticut, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Kripalu in the Berkshires. I will go on a literary retreat someday, but for now, for me it’s butt in seat and work, work, work. And yes, deadlines are tremendously focusing.
Readers: How do you use stretches of time for creativity? And have you ever “won” NaNoWriMo?