I’ve come up with an interesting idea for a writing challenge. It’s called the Hourly 500, and it is designed to drive word production and to help writers get their inner editors to shut up for a while. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I certainly intend to as soon as an appropriate day for it comes along.
Here’s how it works:
1. You pick a day that you can devote to writing, perhaps a weekend that you were going to spend sitting around watching TV or something equally unproductive.
2. You choose an hourly word count that is something under your normal writing pace and make that your hourly goal. I normally write about 1,000 words in an hour, so I’m choosing 500 as something sustainable that won’t burn me out over the course of the challenge day.
3. You hit that goal every hour of the day, for 24 hours.
Now for the best part.
Even though I’ve called it the Hourly 500, the challenge is really flexible. You can set your hourly word count to something as small as 10 words an hour if you want, and you can set your time goal to be every other hour, though of course you won’t get as much production benefit if you make your goals that small. But if you’re in a rut and having trouble putting even a single sentence on the page, sometimes the small, easy goals are what you need to boost your confidence again.
The only rule that is solid, carved in stone, unchangeable, is that each hour (or whatever your chosen unit of time is) is separate from the others. In the noon hour, you must write your word count goal. When the time hits 1:00, you must write a whole new 500 words, and COMPLETELY IGNORE the previous ones. I mean don’t touch them. Don’t edit them, don’t delete them. The point is to end the day with a nice big chunk of wordage.
You can go back and edit it later, if you really must, but this is where the whole 24 hour part comes in. You’ll crash at the end of it, and therefore will have to sleep on your work. Letting your work settle in your brain is an important part of the creative process, after all, and if you immediately jump in and mess with your first draft right after finishing it you lose that important ‘pondering’ period. You might remove something that was really good just because your knee-jerk reaction was that it sucked!
Remember that it’s OKAY if you don’t hit your word goal every single hour. Don’t worry about dinner taking up a large piece of your 6:00 hour, or about the unexpected phone call from your mother. But do STRIVE to hit your goal, and definitely don’t look back on the work from the hours that have already passed. It’s also OKAY if you can’t quite make 24 hours. Not everyone is capable of staying awake that long. The purpose is to push production and to tell your inner editor to take a hike.
If you want to share your challenge with your friends and family, post your hourly word production on facebook, or tweet it with the hashtag #hourly500 or something like that. This is the sort of thing that people will get behind and cheer you on, I know it.
So if you think this sounds like a challenge you’d like to try, do it! Post about it! Just set your date, your unit of time, and your word count goal, and get writing!