I had never heard of word sprints, word wars or really any form of writing game before Nano. I was oblivious to the tricks of the word count game. And then one year, as I was roaming through the message boards willfully ignoring my project, I came across the section that contained these magical little creations. You seen, while Nano is one of the most exciting challenges that I have taken part in, there reaches a point (some years it strikes much sooner than others) when you find yourself with a 100-yard stare and Cheetos stuck in your hair. You are exhausted, your creative juices are tapped, and you cant help but wonder if you should be carted straight off to the nearest mental health institution for simply signing up for such an impossible task. It doesn’t matter how great your start was- you will hit this wall, you wont be wearing a helmet, and it will hurt. Bad.
When this happens- there is only one thing to do to keep your word count on point: play a couple of games. I don’t know who began these creative ploys to reignite that competitive spark, but they deserve to sit in the Iron Throne and control all of the realms- they are that good. Over the next few weeks I am going to be periodically posting some of my own creations, but, as none of those have been completed or tested, today I am going to share just a few of my favorite pre-existing challenges that have helped me through some rough writing patches. These are pretty versatile and can be used in just about any first draft you could be working on- blogs included.
- Word Sprints and Word Wars: This is one is very simple, you pick the length of time you want to write for, set your timer and hit the ground running. It’s best if used while competing with another person using the same time limit. Although I tend to prefer a ‘time trials’ version where I compete against myself. Rewards are optional (personally, I strongly suggest Rollo’s if you beat your previous ‘high score,’ but I am very food driven.)
- Carrot and Stick: This can fall into the sprinting category, although technically you can use it anywhere. This is a very simple reward/punishment premise. You set a goal (for example, 500 words in 10 minutes), and then you have a reward or an punishment hanging over your head (perhaps if you meet your goal you get to watch an episode of your favorite show. If you don’t then you must do the dishes). This can also come into play with your daily word goals.
- The Fifty-Headed Hydra: Legend has it that the creator of this challenge made the attempt and the only correctly spelled words on his paper after the carnage were ‘fifty’ ‘headed’ and ‘hydra.’ The challenge: to write 500 words in 5 minutes. Obviously spelling doesn’t count, don’t use the backspace, just start flying and correct things later. This is an insanely difficult challenge, but it’s fun when you are speeding so fast that you can’t get too far into your own head.
- Word Crawls: This is my all-time favorite challenge, and it comes in many different forms. A word crawl is basically like an interactive writing game. There is a little bit of a plot, and as you read through it you are given random challenges to complete as you proceed. My favorites tend to revolve around fandoms, though they come in all shapes and sizes. Here is an example from one of my favorite Harry Potter crawls, creator unknown (I will gladly give full credit if I ever learn who made it). This one is a bit more involved than some, but it’s fun nonetheless, if you care to try.
Extreme Harry Potter Crawl: Year 1
Welcome to the Extreme Harry Potter Crawl: Year One! Depending on your writing speed, pick your blood status.
Galleons can be used to purchase round skips. If you don’t want to do a specific challenge, spend a Galleon in order to move on to the next one.
You receive your Hogwarts letter by owl and are completely ecstatic to head out for your first year at Hogwarts. Sprint to 100 to let out your excitement and energy.
You arrive in Diagon Alley and your first stop is Gringotts, wizard bank. Write for ten minutes. The amount of words you write will determine how many Galleons are in your vault.
Less than 100 words: 1 Galleon
100-200 words: 2 Galleons
More than 200 words: 3 Galleons
Less than 150 words: 1 Galleon
150-250 words: 2 Galleons
More than 250 words: 3 Galleons
Less than 250 words: 1 Galleon
250-350 words: 2 Galleons
More than 350 words: 3 Galleons
You step into Ollivander’s wand shop. Roll a die and multiply your roll by 100. Sprint to that many words.
Finally, you’re done shopping! But before you leave, you decide that you want to purchase a pet. Write for 15 minutes as you search for the perfect animal for you. Pick one: owl, cat, toad.
After months of waiting, you’ve arrived on platform 9 ¾ and boarded the Hogwarts Express! Write to the nearest thousand as you settle into your seat and get ready for a long ride. If you need to write more than 500 words for this challenge and choose not to skip this round, take one Galleon.
Anything off the trolley, dear? Buy some sweets to help get you through the ride! Depending on your candy, find your challenge below!
Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans: Participate in a Fifty Headed Hydra as you frantically try to get the taste of vomit out of your mouth.
Chocolate Frog: Write for five minutes as you chase down the frog.
Licorice Wand: Sprint to 150 words
Pumpkin Pasties: Roll a die and multiply by 50. Write that many words.
If you take the lot and complete all the challenges, take one Galleon as well. If you have a toad, you may skip this round for free.
You arrive at the castle and wait in the hall with the rest of the first years. You notice a boy with messy black hair and glasses talking with a redheaded boy, a girl with bushy hair whispering to the people around her, and a boy with pale… well, everything. Write for ten minutesas you attempt to socialize with the people around you.
Professor McGonagall escorts you and your peers into the Great Hall for the Sorting. After the Sorting Hat sings its song and several students walk up timidly, your name is called, and you sit yourself down on the stool, timid and worried about what is about to happen. McGonagall places the hat on your head, and you are sorted into your House. Pick from the four Houses- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.
Gryffindor: Are you brave enough to write ten times your typing speed in 10 minutes?
Hufflepuff: Remain loyal to your word count and write steadily for one hour with no breaks.
Ravenclaw: Calculate how many words it will take for you to write to the nearest 1000.
Slytherin: You’re an ambitious one, aren’t you? Write 1000 words in 30 minutes!
The feast is delicious! Do the Three Digit Challenge as you eat at your House table and talk with those around you, as well as your House ghost. If you have an owl, you may skip this round for free.
You’ve settled into your dormitory quite quickly and nicely, and your first couple weeks of class go well. Write for an hour as you grow accustomed to your new classes and all of the magic you’re learning.
Muggleborns: If you write 750 words within the hour, take 2 Galleons.
Halfbloods: If you write 1,000 words within the hour, take 2 Galleons.
Purebloods: If you write 1,250 words within the hour, take 2 Galleons.
On your way to Potions, the messy haired boy who you now know is Harry Potter stops and asks you if you know where Professor Binns’ classroom is. Write 200 words in 10 minutes as you try to remember where his classroom is.
If you succeed: Harry hurries to Binns’ classroom and gives you a Galleon as a thank you for your help.
If you fail: You spend so much time trying to help Harry that you are both late to your next class. Write another 200 words as you apologize to Snape and try not to lose any points for your House.
You get locked out of your common room and Mrs. Norris finds you! You run with Harry, Ron, and Hermione to the third door corridor, and you find a giant three-headed dog! After making it back to your dormitory safely, roll a die, multiply your roll by 100, and write that many words as you try to calm down. If you have a cat, you can skip this round for free.
Troll! In the dungeon! You go with Harry and Ron to find Hermione and end up fighting the troll with them. Sprint to 500, and try not to get yourself killed.
You go down to Hagrid’s hut to have tea with him. When you try his treacle fudge, your teeth get stuck together! Write for twenty minutesas Hagrid tries to help and Madam Pomfrey magically loosens the cement-like effect the fudge had on your mouth.
Months pass, and it’s Christmas morning! You receive 3 Galleons from your parents, as well as a challenge from the Weasley twins. Write 1000 words in under an hour.
If you succeed: they give you a Galleon.
If you fail: they hit you with snowballs until you’re buried under heavy amounts of snow and make you write 250 more words.
During the Gryffindor vs Slytherin Quidditch game, you get incredibly excited. Roll a die. If even, you’re cheering for Gryffindor; if odd, you’re cheering for Slytherin. Word war for fifteen minutes with someone cheering for the opposite team. If you beat them, you win your bet, and you take 2 of their Galleons. But be careful- if you lose, you give them 2 of your Galleons. A bet’s a bet.
Harry tells you that he suspects that Snape is going after the Philosopher’s Stone and you decide to go with the trio to try to get to the Stone before Snape does. But before you can even go down the trapdoor, you need to make it past Fluffy. Write for ten minutes as you lull him to sleep sneak through the door.
Oh no- you and your friends are trapped in a patch of Devil’s Snare! Hermione tells you that you need to write 250 words in five minutesin order to safely escape.
If you succeed: You make it out of the deadly plant without a scratch and even spot a Galleon on the ground. What luck!
If you fail: Hermione has to set the plant on fire to get you out alive. She thinks very poorly of your skills now, so write another 250 words to impress her.
Harry catches a flying key and opens a large wooden door. Inside the next room is a giant wizard chess set. You and your friends need to replace some of the pieces and play the game. Ron takes the place of a knight, Harry becomes a bishop, and Hermione takes over for a rook. Pick a chess piece and complete the challenge below!
Pawn: You know you won’t be of much use to the game and think it would be wisest to be taken out early. Complete a Fifty Headed Hydraand take a fifteen minute writing break to recover from your injuries.
Rook: You take the place of the other rook and spend the game running across the board, strategically taking out important pieces of the other side’s team. Sprint to 200 and take a five minute writing break once the game is won.
Bishop: You take the place of the other bishop and sneakily take out pawns on the other team. Write for 20 minutes and take a five minute writing break once the game is won.
Knight: You take the place of the other knight and become the wild card of the match. Write 300 words in 15 minutes until you’re taken out by one of the other team’s rooks. Take a fifteen minute writing break to recover from your injuries.
Harry and Hermione move ahead into the next room when you stay with Ron. When Hermione comes back, sprint to 300 as you run to find Dumbledore and explain the situation to him.
The word gets out that Professor Quirrell is the one who wanted the stone, not Snape! Rumors also spread of your bravery in helping Harry, Ron, and Hermione as you four went through the challenges the professors set to protect the stone. Dumbledore awards you fifty points for your courage. Write for five minutes as your peers congratulate and admire you.
Summer vacation is here! Take an hour long writing break– you deserve it! In the meantime, post your words written during your first year at Hogwarts as well as how many Galleons you have left in your vault, and stay tuned for the Extreme Harry Potter Crawl: Year Two!
And there you have it, my friends- some more fun and games to keep you motivated throughout the month. There will be some original ‘games’ coming your way in the next few weeks, if you care to take a gander at them. I am also toying with the idea of a work-out version (ugh, the adult inside is beginning to feel guilty for these long hours in front of the laptop), and perhaps and adult drinking version- although I suspect that would not yield the best results.
Cheers my friends, and may the odds be ever in your favor this writing season.