Posted by on Nov 5, 2009 in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), On Writing: Craft and Commiseration | 0 comments

A Word War (also called a Word Sprint) is a time honored NaNoWriMo tradition but, if this your first NaNo, you may not be familiar with the term.

Simply put, a word war is a challenge to push yourself to write more words. You can do this yourself, with a group (such as at a write-in, on Twitter or the NaNo forums) or with a buddy. (The official source of word sprints and wars on Twitter is @NaNoWordSprints.)

I highly recommend word wars as they are a great way to force yourself to keep going when you really want to quit and the competition can make you really push yourself.

There are no rules when it comes to word wars so feel free to make up your own. Race for a set amount of time to see who writes more words in a given time period or just see what can add a certain pre-set word count first. The point is just to increase your word count in a competitive way.

Here are two simple ideas to get your started.

How to do a simple solo word war:

  • Get yourself a stop watch and set a word count goal (such as 1,000 words). If you don’t have a stopwatch handy, note the exact time when you start.
  • Start the stop watch and write until you meet the goal, stopping the watch when you finish. Log the time on the watch (or note the time if you weren’t using a watch).
  • Keep a record of the time it took you to reach that word count.
  • Now try to reach that same word count again, this time in less time.

How to do a simple word war with a buddy or group:

  • Determine a set word count (such as 1,000 words) to add to your existing word count. (This is important because it doesn’t exclude anyone who is behind. If Billy has 2,000, he writes to 3,000. If Sally only has 500, she writes to 1,500.)
  • With a count of Ready, Set, Go! everyone in the group starts to write.
  • Whoever reaches the pre-set point first indicates as such. (This is most fun if you have to indicate you won with a bell, air horn or other such obnoxious noisemaker kept in the center of the room so it becomes more fun to triumphantly sound your victory. For online buddies, a celebratory IM or tweet works as well.)

Are you a word warrior? Please share your ideas and experiences below. Above are just two ideas. How do you prefer to do it?