Writing daily high word counts requires conditioning and slowly working up to it. You don’t suddenly do it all day and every day without suffering. However, sometimes deadlines require you to have a day where you need to write a higher word count than normal, and you don’t want to burn out after doing it.
Strategies for long writing sessions and high word counts
The following strategies will help you write a high word count in a single day with less risk of burnout.
#1 Write in bursts
If you aren’t already used to sitting down for long hours of high concentration on writing, you will want to break up your writing sessions into smaller bursts. In between the bursts, take a short break to reorient yourself and keep your body in top shape.
Typical writing bursts (or sprints or wars in the NaNoWriMo community) last anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes. I’d suggest starting with a more comfortable 15 or 20 minutes, with a break in between that’s about 1/5th to 1/4th the length of the writing burst (my preference is to write for 20 minutes then break for 5 minutes).
During the burst, just focus on writing. Don’t open up a browser, don’t scroll back to previous pages to look something up. If you can’t remember someone’s hair color, just make a note and move on. You can do the research on your break. Stay in the writing zone and keep your fingers moving.
#2 Increase your writing burst times
If you’re feeling interrupted when the timer goes off and it’s time to take a break, increase your writing session by 5 minutes. If you’re still feeling like you’re in the zone at the end of the burst, increase it again.
The exact length of the writing burst should be comfortable for you but still give you the mini-mental and -physical breaks you need. Not everyone does well writing for 40 minutes or 60 minutes at a time, but if you do, go for it. Just make sure you take an adequate break so you don’t risk burnout.
#3 Decrease your writing burst time
If you feel like you’re pulling teeth by the time you hit 20 minutes and the timer goes off, decrease your sprint time by 5 minutes. You may feel more comfortable with a shorter burst length, such as 10 minutes or 15 minutes.
However, write for at least 10 minutes. Anything shorter makes it more difficult to reach the word counts you need for the day.
#4 Use your breaks effectively
You want to keep your head in the game during your breaks, and you also need to take care of your body. Sitting and typing for long periods of time or most of the day puts pressure and stress on your body. You can’t skip self-care.
Use the restroom. Stretch your wrists. Massage your neck. Stretch your legs with mild exercise. Write a few sentences on paper about what you want to write next. Don’t look at your computer screen if you can avoid it and give your eyes a rest.
If you need to and the break is long enough, go back and address notes you made as you wrote. If your break isn’t long enough, take a longer break every 3-5 writing bursts so you can fix a group of notes all at once.
#5 Keep yourself hydrated
Don’t only just drink coffee or tea or soda. Include water in the rotation so you’re getting the hydration your body needs.
#6 Don’t skip meals
Your body and mind need energy to focus and write all day. And while you may be on a time crunch, don’t skip food. Take a break and eat something healthy with the nutrients needed to power through another longer writing session. Use the time for a mental break from your story and do something else while you eat (avoid watching tv if possible; your eyes still need a break from screens). Or just enjoy your food without other stimuli and then return to your computer.
It helps when you can plan ahead and have food already ready, or have something quick to make.