#Scrivathon16: the 24hr word sprint


I’m revising, of course. But somehow the more I revise and think the more my brain seems to stretch. So on top of taking a developmental editing class with the incredible Rhay Christou  and another editing class—Before You Hit Send— with Angela James, working my revisions, and learning all about literary agency PR as an intern for Inklings Literary Agency, I’ve been thinking about word sprints.

Word sprints are timed writing spurts with the goal of writing as much as you can, and resisting the urge to edit, usually in tandem with other writers. I did a few wordsprints on Twitter when I needed to do some background digging into my main character. The sprinting was great fun, and a wonderful way to connect with other writers while still being productive.

My brain pulled and twisted and folded the idea of word sprints… and I thought—why not make a marathon-like event? Instead of ad-hoc word sprints, a single event over 24 hours, much like the London Marathon, or Boston Marathon, bringing together a huge group of people word sprinting all at once. And like those wonderful running events, we could bring on a charity and make the event not only about productivity and camaraderie, but also about goodwill and helping others.

And that’s how Scrivathon 2016 was born.

With the wonderful hivemind of #PitchWars warriors, we chose a date in November to coincide with the final stretch of Nanowrimo so we could make those words really count for not only personal deadlines but declared challenges. #Scrivathon16 will start at 00:00 on 12 November 2016 and end 24hrs later at midnight. [Note changed the date to 12 Nov 16 so as not to clash with Nano’s Night of Writing Dangerously.]

The selected charity is Syria Relief, a UK registered charity whose aim is simply to ‘relieve the suffering and support the future.’

Syria Relief are doing an amazing job – I’ve been there, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. They really are saving lives, but they need your help. They need your donations.

 Dr David Nott, Emergency Trauma Surgeon, OBE and recipient of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award

Syria Relief has a solid network of committed management and logistics staff on the ground inside Syria—currently numbering at around 1,600—which means they can deliver humanitarian aid in all areas, including the hard-to-reach rural and some besieged areas. In the short space of time since its inception, Syria Relief has established its reputation as a trusted and efficient humanitarian aid agency on the ground, with a track record of the highest level of transparency and feedback.

We have the activity. We have the date. We have a great charity on the ground in Syria making a difference to people’s lives. All we lack now are the intrepid writers up for a challenge.

I see you jumping up and down, hands up, excited to be part of something that will make you feel good and put words on those blank pages. How do you join this fabulous event, I hear you ask.

There are so many ways to join. Choose your own #Scrivathon16 adventure:


  • Help us spread the word to maximise our impact. Details below.
  • Decide if you’ll donate according to a word-count goal (word-count meter to come), or a preset amount of cold hard cash
  • Offer writerly things as part of our raffle.


You can donate now until a month after the event at: www.justgiving.com/scrivathon.


1. Join our Thunderclap campaign here–a flash social media mob on FB, Twitter, and Tumblr. You only need to click the link, choose your platform, and Thunderclap will schedule your message to go out on the 5th October with the rest of the Thunderclap supporters’ messages.

2. Grab a badge below and tweet! Be sure to include the hashtag #Scrivathon16 and a link to this page aychao.com/scrivathon. Here are some ready-made tweets to copy and share:

  • Join us 12 Nov 16 for a 24 hour word sprint to raise money for Syria Relief #Scrivathon16 aychao.com/scrivathon/
  • #Scrivathon16 writers increasing their word count AND raising money for Syria Relief. aychao.com/scrivathon/
  • It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a writer’s work is solitary–except when sprinting with #Scrivathon16 aychao.com/scrivathon/
  • Get your muse on and sign up to a fabulous mash-up of productivity, camaraderie, and goodwill #Scrivathon16 aychao.com/scrivathon/


If you have something to offer as a raffle prize (first page critique, synopsis critique, signed books, anything literary and writerly related) please email me at aychao[at]aychao[dot]com).


I’ve put together easy step-by-step instructions here aychao.com/scrivathon/fundraising.





Day 1 #pw16revclub #ReYoNo31 #PitchWars


As with all best laid plans, throw a young kraken (read: 4 year old child) into the mix and things get… interesting. Make that a sick young kraken… well I’m sure you get the picture. My kraken makes anarchy look like a twinset and pearls Martha Stewart acolyte.

Despite having a kraken underfoot, I’ve managed to make a start on my revisions. The following are top issues in my revision plan:

+ cut backstory chunks in ch2-7 and reweave
+ analyse secondary characters’ purpose/roles and consolidate/cut where needed
+ bring to the fore main conflict thread

+ review characterisation of my MC–need to walk tightrope between special snowflake, agency, Mary Sue, and unique individual personality (man it’s tough to be a woman!)
+review diversity portrayal (descriptions, as well as English as a second language). 
Difficult one, need to think on this. One of the characters is loosely based on my grandfather. He was a rear admiral in the Kuomintang navy, super clever and multi-talented (poet, writer, artist on top of his military career), but as an immigrant to Canada in his 70s, his English was not fluent. *I* know he was clever, as do most people who have had exposure to dual language, but it’s important there be no ambiguity on this. 

I’m blending a few things together–using Janice Hardy’s excellent 31 day revisions framework but adding a few of my own tweaks. I’m taking Janice Hardy’s day one (plot and structure) and swapping it with her day two (character arc) because I believe story is character arc. As Lisa Cron puts it: A story is about how the things that happen affect someone in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how the person changes internally as a result. So my plan over the next few days:

  1. Day 1: Work through Lisa Cron’s Story Genius to hone main character arc. Halfway there!
  2. Day 2 (today): Finish Lisa Cron’s Story Genius exercises, then plot character arc & story turning points into story grid.
  3. Day 3: Analyse my story grid, make any necessary tweaks. Take scene cards (thank goodness I’d done these before. 62 of them, each with GMC, character arc per scene, plot threads etc) and make a plot graph. Highlight weaknesses. Brain storm how to strengthen.

So that’s my plan. Fellow #amrevising peeps, what are your favourite revision tips?

Happy writing all. May the Muse be with you.

Mirror Mirror You’re the Best


As part of the Pitch Wars experience, some mentors were able to give feedback on submitted manuscripts. I was fortunate to have received not one, but two edit letters. Both were long and detailed and very much appreciated.

I’ll be honest here. I’m no rhino-skinned teflon-coated snowflake. I am sensitive to criticism. Especially when I feel it is unwarranted. If someone speaks to me in a forceful, borderline unkind voice, my hands will shake and tears will threaten. It’s annoying, but I’m guessing a deeply ingrained trait because my daughter reacts the same way.

But critiques on my writing trigger a different response. Don’t get me wrong, I love compliments and praise as much as the next person. But in order to make my writing better, I want to be told where things don’t work for the reader. I need to be told since I can’t see my own writing through a reader’s eyes.

The best way to describe how I feel is to think of my manuscript as a dress. A dress I created from a made-up pattern. In my head, the dress has beautiful lines, nice drape, a good cut. I get out my fabric, scissors, needles, and get to work. I measure, cut, sew, fit, tweak and do my best to reflect the awesome dress in my dreams onto the fabric in my hands. The only thing is, I lack a mirror to see how it looks when worn. If I am unflinchingly honest with myself, I will have an idea of how it might look, but it’s only ball park. I can tell where it doesn’t quite fit, I can look down and see or feel where it bunches. I can do a fair bit of the fixing and picking and restitching etc from my own observations to make that thing as good as I can get it.

But if I want to make that dress amazing? I need to see the dress on me.

I need a mirror.

Critical feedback is that mirror. It offers me the chance to see my work with someone else’s eyes.

That is a gift.

With a mirror, I can decide where to adjust, recut, trim, tuck, re-stitch, reposition. I can make informed decisions. With enough effort, hopefully I’ll end up with something that looks as cool as I imagined. Maybe better.

So, to all my lovely mirrors who have spent time and effort and brain power to provide me a different perspective on my work. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.


Starting Wednesday I’ll loosely follow Janice Hardy’s Revise Your Novel workshop with fellow Pitch Wars contestants. I aim to finish a final edit on my manuscript by mid October. If you’re #amwriting on #pw16revclub, find us on Twitter with #ReYoNo31.