Columns > Published on February 2nd, 2021

24 Hour Writing Challenge: Livestreaming a Full Day of Writing on Twitch

On January 15, 2021, I turned on the livestream for my Twitch channel as soon as I woke up and I started writing. That was my only goal that day, the only thing on my list of things to do. I was going to see how many short stories I could write before midnight that night, all live in front of whoever wanted to watch for as long as they wanted to watch.

I have been streaming on Twitch for a while: writing short stories live, doing interviews with other authors, discussing articles on writing from myself and others, doing live readings and editing stories live, and more. The previous November I had done all my NaNoWriMo writing live on stream. Twenty streams over twenty days got me to 50,000 words. Those videos are over on my Captain Three Kidneys YouTube channel.

I had not done anything longer than a few hours at a time on stream before. Gamers go for hours and the Twitch audience expects that. This was not, however, the first 24 hour writing challenge I had attempted.

The Origins of the 24 Hour Writing Challenge

Years ago, an author who I did not know personally and have not heard from since, claimed on Twitter he had written all 50,000 words of his NaNoWriMo novel in a single day. In a blog about it, he gave details about the story, how he wrote, how he had outlined in advance, and how it turned out. He also claimed he had not written straight through all day. He said he’d stopped for meals, picked up his daughter from school, I believe, and took a couple breaks. Others have made similar claims since.

A few of us were quite dubious of this claim. The more hours you take away, the more perilous the math gets. He claimed it was completed in 15 hours of actual writing. That works out to roughly 3333 words an hour and 55 words a minute. It is more than feasible to get a high wordcount in a single hour or two, and 3333 words in an hour is not a Herculean task for many writers, but once you add on more hours pushing into most of the day, the likelihood of maintaining those numbers drops hour by hour, even excluding quality and accounting for variations in writing speed throughout the day.

The book was “Rindle Dindle the Magic Dance Pony: A Novel I Did Write in 15 Hours Consecutive (No Spellcheck)” by Flula Borg! In a two minute YouTube video from 2011 I’ve since found, it shows the final moments of him finishing the “novel” and celebrating. Maybe he did it. He did use “very” a lot.

Back in September of 2013, when we became aware of Mr. Borg’s claim, a few of us decided to run an experiment to see if any of us could replicate the results. If I had seen the video first, I might not have tried. I did not match Flula Borg’s intensity or enthusiasm, but I did my dead level best. I reached 24,888 words just before midnight on a weird fiction clockwork steampunk retelling of the Bible. That work is unfinished and probably never will be. That is the most words I ever wrote in a day and probably ever will. I’m no Flula Borg. Others who joined in on the experiment that day fell short of that. We concluded, possibly incorrectly, that Borg and others like him did not do as they claimed.

That should have been the end of it, but a week later, the group decided to do it again. Not go for 50,000 words, but to do another 24 hour writing marathon challenge, as we called it, again. The idea was to see how many words we could write in a single day. See how many projects we could move along and finish with that effort. And then we did a third time and then a fourth. More and more authors joined in on these challenges well into 2014, joining the authors there from the beginning that included Max Booth III, Jessica McHugh, Armand Rosamilia, April Hawks, George C. Contronis, and others. It got to be a regular thing until we finally decided it might be killing us and we stopped.

Then I Started Streaming on Twitch

In June of 2019, I started experimenting with Twitch, a streaming platform primarily for video game play. I was considering it for an author platform. I only had my laptop camera and microphone at the time. The camera went out and I stopped for a while.

In the summer of 2020, I decided to invest in some real equipment and give it another go. I was streaming in earnest by September of 2020. I slowly honed what I was doing and improved the quality of what I was creating from stream to stream, including learning to edit videos and clips for YouTube.

I decided to do a 24 hour writing challenge for my stream and promoted it as the date approached, leading into the New Year. Apparently, I had not learned my lesson the first time.

Here’s how it went.

I Prepared More Than I Needed. A Lot More.

The Tuesday before the challenge on Friday I did a stream of story preparation. I took the titles for over 20 story ideas and fleshed them out live on Twitch. I chose names for people, streets, towns, hospitals, prisons, kingdoms, and more. I worked out some backstory details and ideas for where the stories would go.

I didn’t even get to half of them the day of the challenge, but I wanted options and I didn’t want to flounder on details as I was writing. Between Tuesday and Friday, I worked on the brief outlines more and more. Eventually, I expect to write all those stories.

I Rested Before and I Rested After

The fact that I did this challenge again and this time live, may show I didn’t learn much from previous experience. One thing I did learn was that in the days following a 24 hour writing challenge, I was very unproductive and felt spent. It’s one of the main reasons we stopped doing them. This article is the first thing I’ve written since that Friday and today is a Tuesday.

This was a special event I was trying for Twitch, so I rested up in the days before like I was preparing to run a long race and I gave myself a few days after with no work planned so I wouldn’t be struggling creatively.

I would have probably written more words over all those days if I had just written steadily instead of trying to do so much in one day.

Stories Got Shorter as the Day Went On

The first couple stories I wrote as the sun came up and the stream was new were between 3000 and 4000 words. Those are not the longest stories I’ve written, but during a typical live writing stream of one story, I usually write a story between 2000 and 3000 words. I don’t believe I was stretching out either of those first couple stories I wrote, but I do think I was conscious that this was an all-day effort, so I took my time and fleshed out the tales.

As the day went on, stories dropped under 2000 words and then under 1000. The last story I started I didn’t finish. I barely started it. I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t care about the story in that moment and that bothered me because I thought it was a good premise that deserved a good effort. The story before it that had ended up a little over 900 words was a disappointment to me. I liked the premise of that last completed story and still do, but knew I’d come up short. I have plans to rewrite both those stories and improve upon the first efforts.

Breaks Helped Me Recover But Not By Much

I took reasonable breaks to stretch, to eat, and to rest for a bit. I didn’t nap at all and I think part of me was afraid that if I let myself fall asleep that I might just sleep through. During my breaks, I didn’t feel like I was really engaging in anything. I talked to my wife and interacted with my kids, but I sort of felt like I wasn’t really there because I was getting back to the stream shortly.

I did sit back down in my streaming chair each time with my mental faculties restored, but it wasn’t long before I was feeling weary, my mind drifted, and my back hurt like I’d never gotten up at all. I have a really good chair, but I have a bad habit of leaning forward, defeating the purpose of the comfortable back support. This habit became a problem after several hours.

I Had Enough People Watching All Those Hours To Achieve Affiliate Status Before the End of the Stream

There are two monetizing levels streamers on Twitch can achieve. The first is Affiliate and the second is Partner. Reaching Affiliate status unlocks the ability for people to subscribe to your channel and unlocks the option for them to “tip” you using “bits,” an in-platform currency that streamers can get money for every month. Being Affiliate also unlocks other things streamers can do and create with their channels.

Both of these levels involve certain benchmarks achieved over a 30 day period. You have to reach a minimum number of hours streamed over the previous 30 days along with a certain minimum of individual days streamed. For Affiliate, you have to have at least 50 followers. Finally, you have to have an average of 3 concurrent viewers over all those hours and days to be eligible for an invite to Affiliate.

I’m new at all this. As I write this, I have less than 80 followers. Leading up to the day of my 24 hour writing challenge, I was averaging just below 3 viewers over the previous 30 days.

Bold choices come at a cost, but sometimes they pay back.

It shouldn’t have worked. I expected the opposite of achieving Affiliate. Who was going to watch in the early morning? Not the 2:00 AM night owls, I mean, but at 6:00 and 7:00 AM when the majority of Twitch streamers were sleeping it off and everyone else was going to work? Who would watch during my breaks when literally nothing was going on? My guess was that I would average less than one viewer for all those hours of streaming and I’d have to wait 30 days for that stream to roll off before getting a 3 viewer average was even a possibility again.

Lots of people watched though. At one point, I had 30 people on stream at one time. That’s a big deal for me at this point. During the breaks, I ranged between 3 and 10 viewers the whole time. All that was on screen was a sign that said I’d be back at 7:15 PM after dinner. No music even. Just the sign. Never dropped below 3 viewers even during the breaks.

I got invited to Affiliate status during my dinner break. I sat down and filled out all the onboarding forms on another computer before coming back from that break. Kind of defeats the purpose of the break, but it was cool to come back on with the subscription button there when I didn’t have that when I started.

There’s a lot of new stuff to set up for the future that I’m still working on. The primary focus is still to create content that people will want to see. I would not recommend this method of achieving Affiliate, but I’m seeing more and more stories where gamers got there by grinding out a long session, so what do I know?

I Stopped Early But I Didn’t Fail

The goal was always stated as writing as many stories as I could in a 24 hour period. I stopped well before midnight. I ended up with 7 completed stories for a total of 15,611 words. Two or maybe three of those stories are actually good. All of them can get a lot better with editing.

By the end, I realized I was running on fumes. I was just putting words on the screen with no heart behind them. I was sure that I would have a new burst of energy from getting Affiliate and I did for maybe a few paragraphs. I was done, so I signed off.

The actual stream was a little over 13 hours total. Last time I checked, it’s been viewed over 150 times since the day of the stream. That’s something. Yet another thing I didn’t expect.

I Don’t Want To Do This Again, But I’ve Said That Before

I really don’t want to grind out writing like that again. The next day, my wife started to say, “The next time you do that you might consider trying to …”

I held up my hand and interrupted as men tend to do, I guess. “Woah. Woah. Woah.”

She laughed, thank goodness.

Do it again? I shouldn’t have ever tried it the first time! I’m no Flula Borg, but I’ve said that before, haven’t I? Enough years go by and a bad idea starts to look shiny again.

As I was planning my 24 hour writing challenge, I saw other writing streamers doing a story a day for a month. I thought, I could do that. I even looked ahead on the calendar to see what month I might be able to set aside for that. I did not go so far as to actually commit to it yet, but who knows what I might think in another month or two?

I have a lot of things to work on between now and then, but I was rewarded for my efforts, I suppose. Affiliate was a stretch goal for me this year and I got it on the 15th of January. Not bad for a resolution. If only all our notions for the New Year worked out like that. Being a Twitch Affiliate is not an end goal for me but just the beginning of a broader effort. I take it as a good sign though. Bold choices come at a cost, but sometimes they pay back.

About the author

Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in beautiful Conway, South Carolina. He is a full-time writer of horror and speculative fiction. Jay left his job as a teacher to become a full time writer and has never looked back. Well, that’s not entirely true. He wants to be sure he isn’t being followed, so he looks back sometimes.

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