The 7 Day Setting Design Challenge: Day 1

This is Day 1 of my 7 Day Setting Design Challenge, so I’ve decided to front-load concept work. It seems like the best approach, since I only need to write 3,000 words today, as opposed to 9,000 words at the end of the week. I’ve looked over my outline, and I’ve been skimming over my research materials to embellish and annotate that outline. I want to avoid stalling out later in the week, when the daily word count goals are higher, because of uncertainty around what I need to write. This means that today has also involved a lot of brainstorming.

The Day 1 Breakdown

I put on my headphones, queued up some ambient coffee shop recording to drown out street traffic and neighbor-noise, opened up my outline, and got down to it. In the first hour, I banged out 1,309 words. A good start, and over the goal of 1,000 words per hour. I took a 20 minute break, which included getting more coffee, having a snack, and taking down some notes for this journal entry. I realize that 20 minutes every hour won’t be practical, because that will turn Day 7 into a 12-hour day (at least).

For the second hour, I got down 1,097 words. That felt disappointing after the first hour, but there was more concept work involved. I had to think about what I needed to say in a couple of sections, what angle I wanted to take. I felt a headache coming on, so I took a 30 minute break, again realizing that these long breaks were going to get me into trouble in a few days unless I can break the habit quickly.

In the final hour, I wrote 1,113 words. Then I took a nap, because I still had a headache and began running a low-grade fever. Better to get sick on Day 1 when the stakes are low and the word count is easy than later in the week. I just hope that this is a 24 hour bug that I can get over by tomorrow. I also wish that I could have squeezed in an extra hour, to shave a thousand words or so off the Day 7 goal.

The Day 1 Learnings

Before I began writing I realized that I hadn’t set up a system for tracking my time. It’s a bad habit, and something I need to be better at overall. I have tried the Pomodoro technique before, and it doesn’t work for me. When I get into a flow state, it’s interruptive; I don’t want to stop every 25 minutes and take a break. However, I do want to enforce some structure on myself. I set the alarm on my phone for one hour, and started with word sprints. At the end of the hour I could get up, stretch, and take as long of a break as I needed.

I realize that today, when I only need to do three word sprints and hit 3,000 words, this might be relatively easy. Later in the week, the breaks will have to be shorter until I want to stretch nine hours of writing out over 18 or 20 hours. To that end, I realized that I can “cheat” on the challenge and not limit myself to the daily word count. Not stopping at 3,000 words on Day 1 shaves down the word count goal for Day 7.

The Day 1 Results

With that, things are going well so far. Aside from being sick, this seems achievable. Onward to Day 2!

Day 1 total: 3,519 words against a goal of 3,000
Week to Date total: 3,519 words against a goal of 3,000
That’s 519 words in the bank against future word count goals

Hours spent writing today: 3
Hours spent writing week to date: 3

You can read the rest of the entries in this series at this link.

Dean Wesley Smith’s book Writing a Novel in Seven Days: A Hands-On Example is available from Amazon in Kindle format and paperback editions. My book Setting Design for Writers and Roleplayers is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF, ebook, and Kindle formats.