The last few weeks I've been hanging out on Twitter a lot. It's not what you think. I'm not procrastinating. OK, I'm not alway procrastinating on Twitter. I have been following the 1k1hr hashtag. Writers jump in and try to write a thousand words in a single hour and then come back and report the outcome. It's been wonderfully productive for me. I finished my first draft, writing at a pace that I hadn't duplicated since NaNo. More importantly, it didn't feel like work at all. I'm far enough along in the book that I won't be doing much in the way of 1k1hr for a while. Which sounds like a wonderful thing, but I'm a bit conflicted. I'm a bit disappointed not to have the camaraderie and motivation of my writing buddies.
I saw the link to this blog via @Lili_Tufel and it got me thinking about why the 1k1hr challenges worked so well for me. The author raises some really good problems with these writing sprints or even the longer challenge of something like NaNo. Some of the ways I deal with these problems were just luck, but some were a choice and some where the result of the cool writers that are doing 1k1hr.
The race is the point I think part of the appeal of contests for unpublished writers is that external deadline. It is hard for me to make the writing a real priority when there is no deadline. It's pretty easy to ignore the writing and distant goals in favor of the army of dust bunnies invading my house and the piles of laundry right in front of me. For me the fact that I have to check back in at the end of the hour means that I can ignore the phone and emails for a bit and just focus. Pushing hard, knowing everyone else is writing, gives me that extra competitiveness to get writing. I don't always win. There are a couple of writers who I know will double my word count most days. The wining isn't the point, it's the race that pushes me to try harder.
The quality varies Some days I read over what I wrote and I'm very pleased. Other days I know I'm going to delete half of it. But the other half is something unexpected and wonderful. All of it could use some tightening, but I tend to be pretty wordy in the best of circumstances. The easiest scenes to write that quickly are the ones where I know just what happens and I just type the words. But some of the best things I've written have been when I have a crap word count and little idea of what comes next.
Huge pressure for only 60 minutes For an hour you are writing full out. Sometimes the time flies by too quickly. Sometimes I am interrupted. Sometimes I can't believe the time is up because I've been so caught up in the story. Sometimes I am counting the minutes at the end trying to put enough words on the page to get even close to a thousand. But if I don't make 1K, I don't worry about it. The other participants cheer when you've hit the goal, but are quick to point out that even if it's only 500 words, it's 500 new words. Or even 250. If it goes well, I'm extra happy and there are people to celebrate with. If it doesn't go well, I just let it go. I do another sprint. Or just figure that tomorrow is another day.
I think at the end of it, that is what makes the 1k1hr work so well for me. Even if it is a complete failure, it was only an hour. If I delete the entire scene because I want to go in a different direction, it was just an hour of my life. That doesn't seem such a terrible commitment.