Monday, November 19, 2012

My 6 Hour Writing Marathon

The people at National Novel Writing Month host a huge 6 hour writing marathon every year in San Francisco. Obviously I can't fly from Mississippi for that. However, some local chapters like to do the same event on their own, and my group in Hattiesburg decided to do the same thing.

I was pretty nervous about this event. Last year I was so on fire that not only did I write all six hours, but I hit 50,000 words and finished the book. This year, my book is much more challenging and I've struggled to keep my word count where it should be. Could I really keep writing from 6:00 pm to midnight?

Last year, five of us met at a late-night cafe and wrote there. Hattiesburg doesn't have a venue like that, but by a huge stroke of luck, one of our Wrimos worked at a hotel and was able to get us a conference room for free.

We made it a potluck and brought a ton of food. This was great because it offered sustenance the whole night. About a dozen people showed up, which was a better turn-out than I had hoped for.

Write-ins are amusing because people always have different ideas about how much talking you can do. One of us wanted complete silence while another one of us wanted to spend ten minutes discussing how "Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo" is a complete sentence.

Personally, I like a little bit of talking because a brief distraction refreshes my mind.

Getting started was difficult. At about 8:00 pm I remember looking at the clock and wondering how I was going to make it another four hours. I decided going home early in shame would be too embarrassing, so I would stare at the screen if I had to.

Whenever I got stuck, I went to the food table to get an extra snack. I eventually got so full I only ate hummus and vegetables because it's lighter. At one point someone thought my frequent trips to the food table was ridiculous and told me I couldn't get another snack until I wrote 2,000 words.

"How about 500 words?" I asked, knowing I would want more hummus before then.

"Nope," he said. "2,000."

Five hundred words later I went back for more hummus and he asked me if I had written 2,000.

"Yup," I said. Then out of guilt, "No, these are forbidden vegetables."

When he left early, I celebrated by treating myself to guilt-free hummus.

At the end of the night, I asked everyone who wrote the most words.

"I wrote 3,000," said someone.

"4,000 for me," said another.

The guy who left early had written 6,000, so I think he won.

"How about you?" someone asked me.

"It looks like I wrote..." I looked at my Nano stats screen. "7,000 words. Wait, that can't be right. I spent the whole night talking and eating hummus."

I was so surprised that I even recounted the words. Sure enough, I had written 7,000!

The moral of the story: if you think you're stuck and can only stare at the computer screen, push through anyway. You might do something amazing.


  1. Awesomesauce! I've never done a Write-in, but I think it would be a blast. Personally I prefer the quiet hours of the night when the family is in bed and I can type out 20+pages without a disturbance. Of course, I can do the same when they're buzzing about me, but the guilt over ignoring them... Well, let's just say, they're my hummus. =)

  2. Greetings, earthling!! Shouldn’t be long, gotta run back to Heaven; however, in the meantime, take anything and everything you wanna from our wonderfull, plethora of thot to write the next great masterpeAce _/IF\_ I can but kiss your gorgeous, adorable feets and/or cuddle withe greatest, ex-mortal-girly ever to arrive in Seventh Heaven. Think about it. Do it. Get back to me Upstairs …

  3. gosh wish I had the space and time to write for six hours, that's great!

  4. Way to go, Teralyn! I don't think I could do six hours straight of writing.

    1. You should give it a try. I bet you'd be surprised!

  5. I kind of had the same experience when I was first given a camera and told to film a story. Had no idea what one was and nor did anybody else. We just filmed "bits" of scene and put them together hoping they'd make sense. That's sort of the same as an improv writing exercise. That's when I realized that knowing story structure and the meaning of each scene in context to the overall arc is critical -


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