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Making the Most of a Marathon

This weekend’s JCW Spring Retreat: Write. Write. Write. has a special focus on writing marathons. Whether you’re going on the retreat or attending Writing Marathon Mayhem!, here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your next marathon experience.
Set some goals. While some writers prefer to write entirely “by the seat of their pants,” it’s good to start a marathon with at least some idea of what you want to accomplish. Maybe there’s a word count you’re hoping to reach. Maybe there’s a plot or character issue you’re hoping to fix. Maybe there’s a specific scene or chapter you want to complete. Or maybe you’re editing an existing work. Whatever your goals are, write them down beforehand, and stick to them as best you can.
…But don’t set too many goals. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to work on multiple works-in-progress in one marathon, or by setting overly lofty goals. Choose one project to work on for the duration. Set a primary goal, and then set secondary goals in case you achieve the primary goal before the marathon is over.
Optimize your environment. Will you need a computer, pen and paper, or both? Can you only concentrate while listening to music, or would you rather listen to the ambiance of your fellow writers typing? Are there any specific snacks you want to bring (or ask the host to provide)? And, most importantly, are there any potential distractions, like your phone or the internet, that you want to limit? Consider these questions before the event, and plan accordingly.
…Including your internal environment. Get a good night’s sleep, eat well, and hydrate. Just like how your body needs to be adequately fueled before running a race, your mind needs to be adequately fueled before an extended writing session.
Don’t overthink. A lot of writers get stymied by self-doubt during marathons in particular, which prevents them from making as much progress as they want. Focus on sticking to the goals you set, and don’t get bogged down in second-guessing every word you add to the page. Remember: you can always go back and edit it later!
Take periodic breaks. It’s a marathon, not a sprint! To prevent yourself from burning out before the end of the event, take short breaks. Get up, stretch, get another beverage, and rest your eyes from the glare of the computer screen. Then, after this brief refresher, dive back in.
Stay positive. Even if you’re facing writer’s block, a plot tangle, or an uncooperative character, remind yourself that you’re still making progress. You can learn a lot even from a slow writing day, and missteps can often help you to improve. Just enjoy the process and the words will come to you more easily.

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