About six years ago, I heard about this thing called NaNoWriMo. Apparently you wrote a 50k novel in a month? I’d dabbled in story writing as a teenager, and always felt like I had a novel in me, but had never managed to get past one messily scrawled notebook.
I decided to give it a shot. I think I googled something like “how to write a novel”. Somewhere I read the famous recommendation–“Bum in Chair, Hands on Keyboard”. That sounded like good advice to me. I even called the filename to my NaNo story BICHOK, which felt clever acronym and also a good way to remind myself the only way to write that many words was to show up and do it.
I wrote 50k that year. It was nowhere near a novel, was out of sequence, and generally not very good. I also lost that file shortly after in a hard drive crash. I mourned for a while. Someday I’ll rewrite it.
The thing I learned through that exercise though was that the only way the words happen is if you write them, and if you don’t let yourself get distracted by going back and editing what you’ve already written, as an excuse for not moving forward. I know this is a controversial idea, and lots of people are successful at drafting and editing simultaneously, but I am not. Get the words out, quit whining, make them better later, that’s my approach.
I christened my first day of this 20k challenge by doing exactly that. I went to my first ever Shut Up and Write. It’s what it sounds like. It’s a writers group only in that there are a bunch of writers in a room all writing together. No one shares. No one critiques. You don’t have to talk at all if you don’t want to. You just sit down, shut up, and write.
The Toronto Shut Up and Write group is on Facebook. If you’re somewhere else looking for a group, try Google. The one here functions on the Pomodoro method, which I hadn’t seen before. There’s a timer that runs for 25 minutes, with a 5 minute break between most intervals, and a periodic 20 minute break for stretching, food, feeding the parking meter etc.
While it sounds like a pasta dish, I thought it was super effective. Twenty-five minutes doesn’t feel insurmountable, and the five minute breaks are just enough to take a pause without losing your train of thought. You can find Pomodoro timers online that already have the intervals organized for you, so all you have to do is set it up and let it run. I do word sprints with online partners sometimes, but I’m always keeping half an eye on the clock while I do it, and it slows me down. A Pomodoro app means all I have to do is sit down, shut up, and write. Add eat some eggs benny, because Toronto’s SUAW meets at the Glad Day Bookshop, which has an in-house kitchen and all-day brunch on the weekend, and there’s no reason to leave.
Result? Over 3000 words in a little under four hours! I had visions of hitting some gigantic total that would springboard me to success in the first half of my week but, alas, I can only write about 1000 words an hour. My little fingers just don’t go faster than that. So I’m going to have to put the time in every day if I want to hit that goal. 20k still 100% achievable, and I’ve built in a little wiggle room now, in case I’ve got a few days where I actually want to, you know, go out and see people while I’m off work.
10 Days to 20k Summary
Words Written Today: 3,676
Total Words Written: 3,676
Words Left: 16, 324
Percent Complete: 18%