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What are Word Wars?
Word warring (also called word sprinting) is simple: a group of people get together either in-person or virtually, set a time-frame, and try to write as many words as possible during that time frame. NaNoWriMo Word wars are generally short -usually lasting between 10 and 30 minutes.
Though some word wars are competitive, most of the time everyone is considered a winner for writing (as they should be!). Word wars are most often seen in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, and the term is accepted as having originated with the NaNoWriMo group.
Why are Word Wars Beneficial?
The principal behind the word war is that it is better to write a large volume of words quickly than to agonize over every sentence and ultimately be less productive. Word wars also offer some camaraderie and moral support for writing, an otherwise lonely endeavor. They’re especially helpful during NaNoWriMo, when the object is to write a large amount of words in a short amount of time.
If you’re worried that writing quickly will reduce the quality of your work… well, it might, a little, but not as much as you’d think. I was skeptical when I first tried word wars, but looking back now, I can’t tell which parts of my work were written while word warring and which weren’t. The only difference is that I wrote those sections MUCH more quickly.
How to Word War Like a Pro
So how can you make the time you spend word warring as beneficial as possible? Read on for The Writersaurus’ word war tips!
Let that backspace be
One time, I was word warring with a writer who consistently wrote 900-1000 words in 15 minutes (and I thought my writing 500 words was good!). I commented on her speed, and she responded, “You should see the typos.”
If you’re really committed to writing a lot of words in a short amount of time, you have to be ok with sometimes spelling ‘enough’ with a j instead of an h and missing periods and commas. You’re going to edit later, anyway, right? You can fix these things after you’ve finished that shiny manuscript, and honey, finishing is the hardest part! Some WriMos actually remove the backspace button from their keyboard. I didn’t even know you could do that.
This is especially difficult for me, because I’m constantly revising in my head and worried that I won’t remember this much-better sentence structure or word choice when it comes time to edit. But then I have to breathe, and remind myself that I’m a smart cookie, and that most likely won’t change in the next few months.
You’re a smart cookie, too. So let that backspace be!
Never Word War Alone
I write at weird times because of my schedule, so I often head into the chat room to find that I’m the only one word warring. Do I still war? You bet I do, but I’m much less productive at these times. I guess word wars are like regular wars – they’re hard to do by yourself. There’s no competition, of course, and then you start thinking, well, no one’s going to notice if my word count’s low, and I won’t have to explain that I spent the last 10 minutes looking up pictures of Grumpy Cat. Oh, look, a funny cat video… just one won’t hurt…
And that’s all it takes for you to get sucked into a meowing spin-cycle of hitting the next video button for an entire hour.
Remember: Writers don’t let other writers watch cat videos.
Don’t know any writers? You can find other NaNoWriMos willing to word war on Facebook (The NaNoWriMo page is a good place to start), in the NaNoWriMo forums, and on twitter at @NaNoWriMoSprints. I’ve also had a lot of luck in the NaNoWriMo Chat rooms. The chat rooms are nice because there is a timer that dings to tell you how much time you have left – less reason to check the clock means more words!
Do Some Planning
If you’ve done a good amount of pre-writing, you have a good idea about where you want your novel to go, at least on the macro-level.
But no matter how much you outline or how well you organize your plot board, you WILL find yourself at a point where you have no idea what to write next. This will probably be at the start of a new scene – you have a general idea about what’s supposed to happen, but you’re not sure what that looks like, or how the dialogue sounds coming out of your characters’ mouths.
You may be tempted to start writing filler just to get some words out, but don’t do this if you can help it. It will just be cut later. Sit out a word war, and spend that 15 minutes thinking about what specifically needs to happen next in the plot, and how that looks acted out in a scene.
I do this every time I start a scene (I type it in red so that it’s easily discernable from the rest of the text), and it usually looks something like this:
MC meets love interest
-MC meets love interest at the ice cream shop where she works
-MC makes a joke about frozen yogurt tasting better than ice cream, and she gets offended
-MC’s nemesis starts talking to the love interest, and they both find they have the same favorite ice cream flavor
So on and so forth. This serves as a great mini-outline to follow for the rest of the scene, and it reduces the risk of cutting it later, and makes sure that your plot doesn’t veer off in some random, unmanageable direction.
So that’s it!
Happy writing, my friends! Do you do word wars? Why or why not? Any tips for making word wars more productive that I haven’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments!