Thursday, January 4, 2018

Word Crawl - A Creative Way to Make Your Word Count Goal

by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I don’t know what kind of writer you are, but I’m the kind of writer that prefers to have at least an hour, preferably a couple of hours, to focus on my story. In a perfect world this would happen every time I sat down to write.

I have a supportive husband and he often sends me to Panera for hours of writing time on the weekend. And I’m exceedingly grateful for those times.

But what about the writing I need to accomplish Monday-Friday? In order to meet my obligations, I need to squeeze writing into any random nook and cranny I can find. But it’s hard to convince myself to open my laptop and pound out one hundred words—and then stop.

Stop after one hundred words? Stop after five minutes? That’s crazy!

But if I knocked out one hundred words, four our five times a day? I’d have five hundred words added to my word count. If I tossed in the occasional five-minute sprint, I could probably get to 1K without breaking a sweat.

I know people do this, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. So I’m always on the lookout for anything that will motivate me to write when I have five or ten minutes at a time.

Last month, I found something.

It’s called a Word Crawl.

Maybe this is old news to you, but I had never heard of word crawls before and I’ll be honest—when I read the details my first thought was, “Who has the time to come up with these?”

But after I got past the jealousy toward these unknown creative individuals and their copious amounts of leisure time, I was intrigued.

Word crawls are very popular on the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) forums and that is where I found most of my information about them. But even if you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo you can access a long list of themed word crawls at the Wikiwrimo website.

So what is a word crawl? Here’s the definition from 

A word crawl is a type of word sprint that collects a number of word wars, prompts, and sprints into one challenge. Generally themed, participants are encouraged to complete each portion of the challenge in order. Many of these challenges take the form of a choose your own adventure-style story, giving participants mini-rewards in the form of the progression of the story or punishments for failures.

Here’s an example from the Write Your House Clean word crawl:

Get Started: You're a brave one, deciding to write and clean at the same time. Begin with a 10-minute word sprint to get yourself motivated.

Start Your Laundry: Is it sorted? Put it in the washer and write for the entire wash cycle. (Mine's 30 minutes, if you want a guideline for not doing your laundry.)

If it's not sorted, sort it, do a 5-minute sprint, then put it in and write for the wash cycle. You should have been prepared!

It goes on from there.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I was quite skeptical of the effectiveness of something like this. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just write two hundred words or write for five minutes and not worry about whether or not you had completed some kind of a challenge?

Probably. IF you actually do it. And therein lies the problem. I usually don’t.

So in the interest of research and curiosity (and a tiny bit of desperation), I decided to tackle the Hamilton word crawl. (If you don’t know, Hamilton is a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton - check your $10 bill if you’ve never heard of him).

Each challenge in this word crawl is based on the title of a song. Here’s a snippet:

Act I
Alexander Hamilton: Put a pencil to your temple, connect it to your brain. Write 500 words to inspire your neighbors to take up a collection to send you to the mainland.
Aaron Burr, Sir: Talk less. Smile more. And write more. Do a 15-minute sprint.
My Shot: Don’t throw away your shot. Sprint to the nearest thousand.
The Story of Tonight: Raise a glass to freedom! Take a break, and write 150 words.
The Schuyler Sisters: Work! Work! Do a 3-digit sprint.

There’s a challenge like this for every song in the show.

A couple of things to note:

First, even if you’ve never heard of Hamilton and you have no idea what “put a pencil to your temple” refers to, you can still do this word crawl. Just ignore all the extraneous information and write 500 words.

Second, if you look at the above challenges, the longest would take thirty to forty-five minutes. The shortest could come in around five minutes. You probably won’t do more than one or two in a single sitting and that’s okay.

So the real question is. Does it work?

My combined word count for the Hamilton challenges above wound up being 2,788 words.

Not too shabby.

The best part was that I enjoyed my short writing spurts. When I knew the next challenge was a 150 word sprint, I didn’t hesitate to squeeze it in while sitting in my car waiting for my kids.

It has helped me see brief moments of time as viable writing opportunities, and for me that’s a win.

Word crawls can be short with challenges that take five to fifteen minutes. These are perfect for shorter projects, or, say when you’re trying to stay motivated during the hectic month of December.

If you’re an overachiever or tackling a long project, there are some lengthy options. There’s a Harry Potter word crawl that has seven “years” worth of challenges.

So if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to write more or just intrigued that there’s a way to combine your love of The Lord of the Rings with the historical romance you’re writing, check out these word crawls. And let us know how it goes!

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Her second book, Hidden Legacy, released in June 2017 and her new Dive Team Investigations series kicks off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018. You can follow her real life happily ever after at and on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.


  1. I love the idea of the word crawl, though like you at first, not sure about the writing challenges portion. I always wanted huge blocks of time to write but have been doing 15 minutes word sprints and have seen how I can meet a 1K/day goal that way. I love the idea of "just write during the wash cycle." I don't have to either write or get life tasks done. Learning to write in small snippets of time is a skill I definitely need to master. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Word crawls is how I get my writing done! :)