A Tortoise Writer Picks Up the Pace

Yes. I confess. I’m a member of the Tortoise Writers Club.

I’m not alone. I’ve met other writers who admit to membership in the club, which goes by other names. Some call it the Turtle Writers Club. One friend came up with a great name: Ninja Writers. I could get into that. After all, I do battle with words all too frequently. 🙂

So, what is a Tortoise Writer? Think of The Tortoise and the Hare, one of Aesop’s fables. I’m the slow but steady one of the two, plodding along day after day while some of my writer friends produce words with the speed of the hare.

The comparison stops there, though. Both tortoise and hare writers get the job done. We just go about it differently.

One day last week, I decided to see if I could pick up the pace. I’d seen many of my Rapid Writer friends participate in the #1k1hr challenge on Twitter.

The first time I saw that hashtag, I had no clue what it was. The # is what we in the Twitterverse refer to as a hashtag. Those on Twitter can follow others using the same hashtags, thus creating a sense of community. The 1k1hr means 1,000 words in one hour.

Those who choose to participate in #1k1hr post a tweet using the hashtag and write like the wind. Or try to. For me I was sure it would be more of a gentle breeze.

Since I’m a tortoise writer, I did everything I could to set myself up for success. Here are some steps I took:

  • Filled the cat’s food dishes
  • Refilled my glass of sweet tea
  • Closed my email program
  • Opened my WIP to the place where I’d left off
  • Jotted down my beginning word count
  • Started my writing music playing on iTunes
  • Finished my Ready. Set. Go! #1k1hr tweet
  • Set the timer for one hour

I took a deep breath, sent my tweet, and started the timer. And I typed as fast as I could.

As I worked, I noticed some things that could have slowed my progress:

  • Opening my thesaurus to find the perfect word
  • Searching Google Books to see if a word was used in my story’s time period
  • Spending time coming up with a gesture to serve as a beat
  • Figuring out a way to work in some sensory detail
  • Choosing a name for a minor character

Since I was racing against the clock, I did something I don’t usually do. I forced myself to forgo my perfectionist tendencies and forged ahead. Instead of taking time to deal with the issues listed above, I made notes to myself in the manuscript in all CAPs and kept going.


When the timer went off an hour later, I did the subtraction and found that I’d added 806 words to my WIP. I didn’t make my goal of 1,000 words, but I made significant progress. Several of my new #1k1hr buddies checked back to see how I’d done and congratulated me on my efforts, which was encouraging.

I’ve discovered a useful tool, one I’ll take advantage of on occasion. I produced more words than I would have done normally. Granted they were messy, but I had something to edit, a task I enjoy even more than writing a first draft.

If you’re on Twitter and haven’t tried #1k1hr, I encourage you to give it a whirl.

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On Wednesday one of my writer friends, Erica Vetsch, who regularly rocks #1k1hr will be my guest. She’ll be sharing more tools for increasing our productivity. Check it out.
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Are you a Tortoise Writer or a Rapid Writer?

Have you ever participated in #1k1hr? If so, what was your experience?

What distractions can slow you down when you’re working on a first draft?

image from istockphoto

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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14 Responses to A Tortoise Writer Picks Up the Pace

  1. territiffany says:

    Yeah for you! I’ve seen my writer friends do that but I haven’t tried yet. Like you, I would slow down trying to write it perfectly–but if you did it, then there is hope!

  2. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE #1k1hr. I do it frequently. But I am a NaNoWriMo style writer anyway. I leave myself notes just like you mentioned. (Ask Scott about this kind of gun) (insert cool coffee shop name here). I usually have no problem making 1000 words. But I spend much more time editing. I think it is a trade off.

  3. Wendy says:

    I’m a rapid writer and turtle editor. I cracked up at your list…giving the cat food, getting more sweet tea…that is me during edits! 😀
    ~ Wendy

  4. LOL!

    Card-carrying Tortoise here. Your notes sound exactly like what I do.

  5. When the idea hits, I sit down and write and distractions don’t bother me. I keep going, the ideas are already in my head and I don’t lose them. I take breaks, whether they’re personal or that I have to go pick up one of my kids at school, then I sit back down and continue. I don’t try to write fast or slow. I just write. I don’t like pressure and don’t really know what it would be like to have a deadline. I just signed a contract for my first book and have no idea what it’s going to be like once the editor gets hold of my manuscript. AACK. I hope I’m up to the task!

  6. Beth Vogt says:

    I hadn’t heard about the 1k1hr club either. I just might have to give that a go! I tend to be a tortoise-with-occasional-sprints-as-a-hare. :O) Being an editor, I have a tendency to write/edit/write/edit, which interferes with upping my word count.

  7. cynthiaherron says:

    Wow, and you continue to impress, Keli! : )

    Some of my own distractions: refill on my Starbucks, checking our ol’ friend, Thesaurus, and a trip or two to the powder room from drinking too much Starbucks.

  8. Oh, I’m definitely a fellow tortoise. Perfectionism is my main culprit. Thesaurus.com is the second. 🙂

  9. I’m a tortoise, too… slow and steady most of the time, but when I’m on a roll I usually produce a decent word count, tho’ nothing like 1000 words per hour. I’ve seen the #1k1hr tweets but I’m usually just checking into Twitter briefly before heading in some other direction and don’t have time right then to participate. I’d benefit more if I prearranged with someone for a timed writing stint . I have the free FocusBooster app on my computer so I can time myself if I want to. (More often I use it as an alarm clock when I have to stop for an appointment, etc.)

  10. I’m a tortoise writer too. One of my dear writing friends can get 5000 words done a day, and I’m lucky to hit 1000. When I did NanoWriMo this past November I was terrified that I would fail. 50,000 words in 30 days! So to make my goal I hunkered down and just wrote. I stopped trying to find the “perfect” word. I used adverbs way too much, and left a lot of notes for myself to remind me to go back and fix things or research things later. I finished my goal in 28 days! Sure, it wasn’t my best writing..it was actually pretty craptastic….but that’s what editing is for. Nano taught me to push through and just get it done. Without Nano I don’t think I ever would have finished the first draft.

  11. Tana Adams says:

    I write and edit fast and there is a lot of fall out for it. I’m trying to slow down. *sigh* one day, right?

  12. Jodi says:

    I love the post. It was fun to read. I participated in the 3 day novel contest last year. It showed me if I take out the other distractions I can type endlessly with only a few bathroom breaks. I enjoyed the challenge considering I never get the chance to do that normally. A day job, a family and a messy house all keep the tortoise in me alive.

  13. Emily Casey says:

    I used to be a hare. Then I took a course called How To Revise Your Novel. It changed the way I looked at my work and made me more meticulous.

    Now my first drafts are richer, but they come more slowly. I now proudly accept the label Tortoise Writer!

  14. Oh, I hope to join you on this #1k1hr challenge some time soon, Keli!
    With first drafts I tend toward being a hare, but with editing I think I’m worse than the tortoise, possible the snail. Is there anything slower than a snail? Sigh!

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