10,000 words in a Day? Impossible!

By guest blogger Milli Thornton 10K-Day-header-cropped

10,000 words in a day? Impossible!

That's what I said in 2006 when my friend Jenny Turner asked me to do a "10K Day."

To be accurate, I didn't say it was impossible for Jenny. I already knew she could do it. I said it was impossible for me.

I had my reasons. I'm a slow writer. I'm a believer in creativity. Creativity is not about hammering out words like some maniac on an acid trip, right?

Funny how hard we can cherish our beliefs–that sometimes turn out to be nothing but assumptions.

There are ten rules for the 10K Day. I know, I know. It already sounds like a forced march of writing, and having rules just makes it sound more militant. But it's an unbelievably fun way to spend a day. And the rules really help. When I followed them on my very first 10K Day, I ended up (to my great surprise) writing 10,277 words. I had started with very low expectations that day, but there's something about the rhythm and momentum of the 10K Day that pulls it out of you.

Breaking the barrier left me feeling liberated in a way I could not have imagined before I tried it.

Here are the rules:

1. No editing or rewriting.

2. No looking back over what you’ve written. Keep forging ahead.

3. No rummaging–either in notebooks or in your computer files–for writing you did some other time.

4. No research. Make it up.

5. Don’t fuss about the rules of writing. Just write.

6. Don’t fuss with structure. You can format, add chapter headings (or whatever) some other time.

7. No struggling. ("Allow yourself to be crappy." – J.R. Turner)

8. Take a 15-minute break every two hours. Use this break to refresh your body, brain and spirit.

9. Report to your writing companions during your break. Use the check-in page that shows the correct date for the event you’re attending.

10. No agonizing over your word count. Yes, the goal is 10,000 words, but not at the cost of your peace of mind. This is not a competition–not even with yourself! Have fun instead.

Adapted with permission from 10K in a Day by J.R. Turner

The problem with assumptions (mine, anyway) is that they usually focus on the wrong thing. In a vague way, if we think it through at all (I sure didn't), when we hear "10K Day" we automatically react by assuming the writing will be the problem. What will I write all day long? Or what if my writing sucks? That type of thing. But a simple plan can take care of the first one–and Rule #7 should take care of the second.

No, what I've noticed (in more than four years of running this monthly event) is that the writing is not the problem. Our waffly boundaries are.

Many of us believe, somewhere deep inside, that everybody else's needs come before our writing. (If you don't think so, watch how you react next time an interruption comes along while you're writing.) There are also myriad distractions in this cyber-world to tempt us away from our writing dreams. The 10K Day asks us to set aside one day a month for our writing. And if we actually DO set aside the whole day–which means rescheduling the needs of others and shutting out distractions–it really is possible to write that many words.

The other trick is to take regular breaks and drink enough water. If your brain gets burned out, you'll have to quit early. That can easily be avoided by taking regular breaks. We recommend every two hours.

The most inspirational thing about the 10K Day is the writer-to-writer support. There are no comparisons made, and everybody's word count is cause for celebration. There's no pressure to reach 10,000. We cheer for anyone and everyone who shows up and gets some writing done!

So. Just one day a month. That's not much for your writing to ask of you. But the rewards can be great.

P.S. Remember Jenny, the friend who introduced me to the 10K Day? She has eight novels published as J.R. Turner. Jenny has used the 10K Day many times over the years to help her write her books.

Want to join us for a 10K Day? We offer a Wednesday and a Saturday every month. Check out November's event dates at 10K Day for Writers.For those who enjoy some extra learning, guidance and support, there's also an online course called Ace Your 10K Day!


Milli-Thornton-Nov-2011-bio-sizeMilli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course and Unleash Your Writing!, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and Screenwriting in the Boonies and coaches her amazing clients at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.

, , , , ,

24 Responses to 10,000 words in a Day? Impossible!

  1. Don Williams 11/19/2013 at 07:02 #

    Sounds like fun, and maybe even doable, but, unless, of course, your like myself and have a tendonitis wrist ….. OUCH!

  2. Julia Munroe Martin 11/19/2013 at 07:33 #

    PERFECT timing, Milli & Charlotte… I’m mid-NaNo and although I’m right on target, I didn’t write yesterday (due to unfortunate finger injury) and want to get the mental boost of a big writing day. These tips are very helpful!

  3. Milli Thornton 11/19/2013 at 07:36 #

    Don, so sorry to hear about your tendonitis wrist. I had a pinched nerve in my writing arm last year that went on for months, despite all kinds of treatment. I can really empathize with your situation.

    Thank you for reading my guest post!

  4. Charlotte Dixon 11/19/2013 at 07:38 #

    I’m so glad you find Milli’s post helpful, Julia! Hope you get a ton of writing done today.

  5. Milli Thornton 11/19/2013 at 07:40 #

    Charlotte, thank you so much for hosting me today. This is wonderful! :~)

  6. Carole Jane Treggett 11/19/2013 at 07:42 #

    What an inspirational post :) I’ve participated in the 10K writing days a handful of times and I’ve always enjoyed them immensely. One time I wrote over 8,000 words in one single day – a feat I’ve never been able to pull off on my own. So I would encourage any of Charlotte’s readers to give it a whirl – the camaraderie and support Milli and the other writers give to each other really does provide a touchstone of motivation and stamina to get a big chunk of writing done in one day.

  7. Milli Thornton 11/19/2013 at 07:43 #

    Julia, I’m so sorry to hear about your finger injury. I hope it’s only temporary pain and no lasting damage. But that’s awesome about being right on target with your NaNoWriMo! Feel free to swing over tomorrow to the 10K Day Live While It’s Happening post and tell us how you did with your 10K quest. :~)

  8. Charlotte Dixon 11/19/2013 at 07:43 #

    It is my pleasure, Milli!  I'm such a huge fan of your work encouraging writers in so many ways.

  9. Milli Thornton 11/19/2013 at 08:30 #

    Thank you, Carole. As you know, I’m very excited you can join us again this month. Thanks for reminding me about your 8,000 words. I took a long sabbatical from the online world and I’m still finding my old stride. Your 8K inspires me for this week!

  10. Sandra Pawula 11/19/2013 at 09:15 #

    What a terrific idea! And, it so true, as subtle as it may sometimes be, that all other needs come before writing – others and mine own too. I would love to try this. This feels like something I could do. Thanks!

  11. Milli Thornton 11/19/2013 at 10:28 #

    Hi Sandra,

    I’m so pleased to hear you found it encouraging. And I love your feeling that this is something you could do. I believe you! :~)

  12. Charlotte Dixon 11/19/2013 at 13:36 #

    I betcha you could do it, Sandra!  I'm going to try it myself.

  13. Jessica Baverstock 11/19/2013 at 17:33 #

    I’ve heard of the 10k day before, but I hadn’t really paid attention. Thanks to your post I definitely want to give it a go!

    This month is a wash-out but I’m definitely up for next month! Can’t wait. Was dreaming last night of the projects I could boost with 10k.

    Thanks for your guest post, Milli!

  14. Ledger D' Main 11/19/2013 at 23:58 #

    All happy agreeing comments—however…

  15. Charlotte Dixon 11/20/2013 at 06:02 #

    Does this mean you disagree Ledger? It’s not like you to be so, well, brief, in your comments! I miss the loquacious Ledger!

  16. jturner4@charter.net 11/20/2013 at 06:50 #

    I think it’s so absolutely cool that Milli is providing this for writers out there. When I wrote that first article all those years ago, I did it for my writing group Artistic License and figured I’d slap it up on my website for kicks. Now today it’s still something that I enjoy doing and Milli gives the perfect outlet for this–how cool is that??? I’m going to do my first 10K day in a year this weekend, and I really need the boost!

    Thank you bunches, Charlotte, too, for having Milli post here about this really helpful tool. I think the very best thing that I come away with each time I do one is how deeply connected I get to the characters and the story. Afterward the books just seem to write themselves!

    (A.K.A. J.R. Turner)

  17. Charlotte Dixon 11/20/2013 at 07:02 #

    It is my absolute pleasure to host Milli on the blog.  Thanks for coming by!

  18. Ledger D' Main 11/20/2013 at 10:49 #

    That’s not writing that’s typing 101, with no more forethought than that of a goat sticking its head in a bucket…if one’s goal is to write a Harlequin Romance novel then its fine, but perhaps the goal should be to best this line…‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known’…after all words are ‘the things that dreams are made of’…How’d I do? Did I insult everybody?…

  19. Charlotte Dixon 11/20/2013 at 10:59 #

    Yay!  The Ledger we know and love is back!  And yes, I'd say you managed to insult a couple of people…except they no doubt realize, like I do, that much of what you write is tongue in cheek.  Right?  As for the 10K words, at least you have something on the page which can later be rewritten.

  20. Ledger D' Main 11/20/2013 at 11:38 #

    Or to paraphrase: ‘It is a far, far better NOVEL that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better SLEEP that I go to, than I have ever known, FOR MY BRAIN IS EMPTY OF ALL ITS WORTH’…Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, are the canons of writing, so to put 10k of wiggly, piggly on the page seems to me to be like a blind man riding a bicycle backwards, it just increases the rewrites (that nobody likes to do) and if they type as bad as I do, well let’s just say that the delete button would come into a lot of use…if I can get 500 worthy words pulled out of my derriere per day then I’ve done good…

  21. Charlotte Dixon 11/20/2013 at 14:41 #

    Hmmm, well I think there are two camps here, Ledge, dear, and you fall into the "make every word perfect as I go" camp.  Whereas many of the rest of us are much more into the "throw words onto the page to be rewritten later" camp.  Viva la difference! 

  22. Ledger D' Main 11/20/2013 at 15:47 #

    Ah, my camp appears to be vacant save one. From the evidence on your comments page I appear to be the ‘lone coyote in a desert of roadrunners’…but I must confess that I too have dashed along merrily typing wiggly piggly but for only about two pages, then I have to go back and correct the uncorrectable, else I’ll never be able to decipher WTF I wrote…

  23. cecilia buyswheeler gunther 12/03/2013 at 17:58 #

    Oh I SO want to do this.. what an excellent burn out the cobwebs idea! I am IN. jst as soon as i can find where the IN button is! c

  24. Charlotte Dixon 12/03/2013 at 18:02 #

    Cecilia, the "in" button is on Milli's blog–just head on over to http://www.10kdayforwriters.com and you'll find all the info.  Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply