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How to Write 20,000 Words in a Weekend

By Jessica Albon

Last month, I won NaNoWriMo (participants write a 50,000 word novel in a month). While I’d decided to participate on the 1st of November, and even made a bit of progress throughout the month, on the final weekend, I was 20,000 words away from the 50,000 word goal.

So, I did what any sane, sensible person would do: decided I would write those final 20,000 words over the weekend. And then I did it.

Along the way, I learned a few lessons about writing faster, so read on to find out how you, too, can write 20,000 words in a weekend.

  1. Clip your nails. I’m a gal with strong, healthy natural nails. And I generally keep them a longish length. Not super long, or even long enough that they impede my regular daily typing tasks, but longer than short. What I discovered when I was keeping the focus on speed was that they got in the way. So I cut them right off and viola was able to type a lot faster.
  2. You may or may not need to clip your nails. But, I’d imagine there’s something in your environment that is slowing you down. Find it and cut it out. Mercilessly. After all, it’s not as if nails don’t grow back.

  3. Play the right music. Early on in my weekend of 20,000 words, I stuck with Pandora which I often listen to while I’m working. But, I quickly found that I was too easily distracted by whether or not I “liked” a song when it came on (Pandora lets you vote thumbs up or down on each song so that it can customize itself to your preferences).
  4. After realizing just how much I was switching to my web browser window to vote on a song, I asked myself what CD I wanted to listen to (Marc Broussard‘s Bootleg to Benefit the Victims of Hurricane Katrina was what sprung to mind), got up, put that on repeat, and got back to the writing. (By the second day, I kept the album set to repeat track number five exclusively… But you might like a little more variety than that.)

    You might write best with classical music, even though that’s not what you usually listen to. Or, you might write best with no music (or TV) in the background. Ask yourself what sounds you need to be most productive and do that–even if it’s not what you’d choose otherwise.

  5. Break the goal down into manageable chunks. When I started my weekend, I knew I needed to write 20,000 words. Since I’d already written 30,000, I didn’t see the need to break the goal down into smaller chunks. After all, how hard could this possibly be?
  6. After wasting almost the entire day Saturday, I was procrastinating, reading blogs when I came upon this post: I Made It! 5000 Words Today. I didn’t have cute Post It notes like Jolie, so I chopped up an index card instead. That’s right, 20 pieces of index card, all with a goal to write another 1000 words. I didn’t display them all at once–just in groups of five. And, after reaching each group of five, I asked myself what I’d like as a reward (I know, I’m very, very indulgent–but, hey, it worked). So, whether the answer was a cup of hot cocoa, or a quick walk with Izzy, it only took 4 rewards to get me through the necessary word count.

    The reason this worked for me was that I’d been checking my word count non stop to see how much closer I was to 50,000 words. By breaking it into a manageable 1000 words, and knowing it took me about 20 minutes to write 1000 words, I simply checked my word count every 25 minutes to see if I’d met my goal. When I had, I wrote my updated word count on the associated slice of index card, along with the time, and set that card aside. Goal met. Yea me.

  7. Seek out advice that works for other people and give it a fair shake. Had I not come upon Jolie’s post, I very well might not have made it to 50,000 words. Had I come upon Jolie’s post and disregarded it as a silly idea, I definitely wouldn’t have made it to 50,000 words.
  8. So, here’s what you do–when you’ve got a goal at hand, especially if it’s something you’ve never done before (or, in my case, haven’t done in quite a while), get some advice before you jump in. Find someone who’s done what you want to do (or close), get their advice, and give it a committed try.

    Don’t disregard their advice as something that “won’t work for you” even if you’ve tried something similar in the past. You’re in a new place, you’ve grown as a person, and, hey, they met the goal you’re trying to meet.

  9. You know what to do. So do it.
  10. I’ve never written 20,000 words in a weekend before, but I have written 7000 words in a day. I knew I could do this. I knew *how* to do this.

    Ultimately, it involved sitting in a chair, in front of the computer, and TYPING (not surfing or “studying” or “learning” or staring blankly into space). Some of Most of what I wrote was absolute crap. But the goal wasn’t to write 20,000 amazing words in a weekend. The goal was to get those 20,000 words down on paper and make significant progress in my story. I did that. And you can do it too.

So, whether you’d like to write 20,000 words in a weekend, or 1000 words today, this is how you do it. Good luck!