Monday, September 12, 2011

Go Team 9k!

I did it!!! I, along with Sarah at Empty White Pages, wrote 9000 words over one weekend. 9063 to be exact. Sarah put me to shame. She cranked out 9784 words by 5pm on Sunday. How awesome is that?? We took on my 9k Writing Challenge and won. I feel a great sense of accomplishment - I followed through on a goal and worked on my WIP. Those things don't happen as often as I like.

My favorite part of this exercise, though, was what I learned about my story, my writing, and myself. It had been a long while since I focused so intensely on a WIP. No work or other responsibilities to distract me. I was locked in my apartment with my WIP, and we did some major bonding. So I bring you 9 things I learned about this weekend:

  1. I work better at night. I wrote 5,889 words past 9:30pm, and 3,853 words past 11:30p. It felt like college, burning the midnight oil. I want to change myself to write early in the morning, though. I can't stay up until 2am writing when I have to be at the office seven hours later. 
  2. I don't know my characters well enough. Half of the reason for any writer's block I faced came because I didn't know how my characters would react or how they truly felt or what they wanted. I didn't know the minor details about them that fill the gaps between major events. I love to plot, and I realized that my characters are being driven by plot, not vice versa. At the same time, this challenge helped me get to know them better. But I still have work to do on this front.
  3. I stopped worrying about finding the best word. If I was stumped looking for the right word for a sentence, I didn't waste time thesauring or googling or smacking my forehead. I picked a lesser word and moved on. When I edit, then I'll obsess over one word. But right now, it's not worth it. 
  4. I need to work on my procrastination. On Friday night, I didn't begin writing until 10:30pm. On Sunday, I didn't sit down until 9:30pm. I could've finished by noon, but I procrastinated. Maybe I don't love writing at night so much as I am addicted to procrastinating. This has to stop.
  5. I think I use the same words over and over. The same expressions. How many times can someone burst out laughing, or shoot someone a nasty look? Maybe this is my writerly doubt kicking in. Do you ever feel like you use the same words over and over? Again, this is a problem for the editing stage, not first draft stage. What will combat this is to keep reading, expand my horizons, and learn from other writers.
  6. I have to push myself. Writers write. When I sat down to write on Saturday morning, I eeked out 700 words in two hours. It was slow going and painful. But I pushed on. I couldn't wait for inspiration to strike me. And soon enough, the words came faster. So if I'm feeling blocked, I won't stop. I will keep going.
  7. I wrote 9000 words in about twelve hours. That equals 750 words/hour. Not too bad. If I can write for 1.5-2 hours per day, then I can keep making progress on my WIP.
  8. I obsess too much over word count. I checked my word count repeatedly this weekend. I found myself doing a little cheating - writing wordy sentences, not using contractions. Unlike many writers, I worry that my book will be too short. But I need to stop overwriting to hit certain word goals. If my book comes up short, then that's a story problem. I need to write enough to complete the scene and then move on.
  9. I can't do it alone. I was so happy that Sarah agreed to this challenge with me. We emailed our progress back and forth, and knowing I had someone else in it with me kept me going. Tweeting my progress and receiving positive responses showed me I have support. I may have spent much of the weekend by myself, but I was not alone.
Overall, a great experience. I'll let you know if I do this again. Maybe next time, I'll try for 10k.


  1. That's a lot of words. It makes my head spin thinking about it.

  2. Wonderful news Phil!! Glad you made your goal. I can tell from the post you have a very deep and well deserved sense of accomplishment.

    I also appreciate your analysis. Helps you to pinpoint the things that work and the the things that don't work so you can strengthen where you feel weakest.

  3. Yay, Phil! Good for you! That's freaking awesome, man.

  4. Phil, I was going to write about this but I might just link to your post as you've said it so well. I agree with you about not trying to find the 'right' word. It's easier to change something later than to think of it right now!

    I can also say, without a doubt, that I wouldn't have done this if we weren't doing it together. There were times on Sunday when I really wanted to stop. I knew where the story was going, I could have picked it up on Monday but I was determined not to let you down. I ended up getting through that and writing a bit more besides, so thank you!

    I would definitely be in for having another go sometime with you, thank you for helping me this weekend.
    Go team 9k :-)

  5. That's fantastic! I do NaNoWriMo every year. It's such a creative rush and helps teach you a few lessons about yourself. I obsess about word count during that month too.

  6. Great post, Phil! And man, that's a lot of words. I did a 10k weekend with my critique partner once and, I swear, it damn near killed us! But! It's awesome to know you got so much under your belt in a mere two days! Plus, you're totally right. It gives you a chance to learn so much about your writing process. Awesome & Congrats!

  7. Congrats Phil! And these lessons are so valuable. How smart that you stepped back and really evaluated what happened in your process. I write better at night too...but it's becoming so terrible to wake up in the morning for work.

  8. Way to go, Phil! I love challenges like these, but unfortunately, this whole do-it-myself-crafty-wedding thing I've got is a major time suck. Hopefully once that's over, I can start doing some 9k weekends. :)

  9. @Offutt - Didn't mean to make your head spin. I need an old priest and a young priest...

    @Angela - Thanks! I'm glad I could take some lessons away from it.

    @ER - Thanks!

    @Sarah - I loved having you there to motivate me, too. I would definitely be up for another 9k weekend or more. I just need to find a weekend that I have like nothing planned.

    @Christine - I've never done Nanawrimo. Never been prepared enough, but maybe this year...

    @Kelley - Thanks!

    @Chandler - Thank you for the inspiration!

    @Melissa - I wish I had the energy to wake up in the morning. ugh, heavy sigh

    @J - Your wedding takes priority. You'll have plenty of time to write once you're hitched.

  10. That is awesome. You've inspired me. I so wanted to take part but already had a crammed weekend with kids and stuff. I'm definitely going to try this sometime--maybe during the week and maybe I'll start with a 5k. Great idea!

  11. Wow, that's amazing! Congrats to you both.

  12. Found my way over here courtesy of Chandler's blog.

    Congrats on cranking out a phenomonal amount of words. I think on my best days I did about 800, so this is definitely something to be proud of.

  13. Wow, that's a great load of words you got written. Good job. I gave up needing the perfect word on a 1st draft, too. I'll underline it or something, so I know later. But usually most of the sentences get rewritten later anyway.

    I do much more extensive outlines and for characters after the first draft.

  14. Nothing like a challenge to kick start your writing motor. Great job! And as to procrastination . . . let me tell you about that! :-)

  15. Congratulations--impressive, to say the least!
    I'm now following your blog and looking forward to your posts.
    Fellow MG-YA Campaigner

  16. Good job--that's an impressive amount! Now if we could all do that every weekend, imagine how fast we could crank out books!