Getting it Done with Writing Sprints

Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today. Hope you’re enjoying this chilly, um, frigid February. Perfect weather for staying indoors to write.

You’re near the end. You can see the end in sight. You want so badly to cross the finish line and celebrate having the first draft of your manuscript completed.

But there are obstacles in the way. Life doesn’t stop because you’re a writer. There are family obligations and some of us work full-time jobs. Most of us blog and connect with readers and other writers through various forms of social media. And if you’re like me, you enjoy reading and want to build time into your schedule for that.

Is it any wonder we often stumble?

I’m nearing the end of a long-overdue 80K plus manuscript. I planned to finish the first draft sometime last year, but it didn’t happen.

Despite my eagerness to complete this project, there are times when I simply don’t want to write. This usually happens when I come to a hard-to-write scene. I know what I want to say but getting it done is another matter. It doesn’t help that I tend to edit as I go and want to get things pretty much right the first time.

A few weeks ago, I had a holiday, and I planned to pen a lot of words. My husband and I had some morning errands to take care of that morning. Naturally, these things took longer than planned. Before I knew it, it was already 3:30 in the afternoon and I hadn’t written ONE SINGLE WORD.

Not good. But instead of opening Scrivener, I started chatting commiserating with Staci via social media. Neither of us had made our word count for the day. But then she challenged me to a writing sprint. An hour later, I’d written over 1300 words and she had written over 1700.

Writing sprints are great ways to achieve your goals. You can do them on your own or partner up with another writer or group of writers. Here’s a few tips to help you be successful.

  • Set aside a specific amount of time to write. It can be thirty minutes, an hour, or even two hours. I don’t recommend longer than two hours, because we all need to take breaks to stretch our legs and clear our minds. I usually set one-hour increments.
  • Tune out everything. Don’t answer your phone, turn off all message notifications, and stay away from social media and the internet. Resist the urge to stop in order to look up a word or research a particular item. I’ve been known to go down a lot of rabbit trails this way and end up not accomplishing anything. If you don’t know the word you want to use, just type a blank space, then go back and fill it in later.
  • Don’t edit. Just write. Easier said than done for some of us but the goal is to get the words down.
  • Having a partner or partners is helpful but remember you aren’t in competition with one another. They are there to cheer you on and vice-versa. If you only write 1000 words and your partner writes 2000, it’s okay. He or she may be at a different level of experience and some people are naturally faster at writing than others.
  • Do not chat with your partners until the designated time is up. Then it’s time to share your success.
  • If you do a sprint without someone else, challenge yourself to write more words than your last one.

A few writing sprints interspersed throughout your day can help you achieve big results. Before you know it, you’re crossing the finish line.

How about you? Have you ever done a writing sprint with someone? On your own? What tips would you offer?

127 thoughts on “Getting it Done with Writing Sprints

  1. What a great post, Joan. You express something that we all deal with and that is time, or the lack thereof. It is hard to balance it all and to keep producing creative work. I love the idea of a writing partner and challenging each other. We all need someone to hold us accountable. And, as you say, it wasn’t the word count that mattered, but the fact that you sat down and produced. I too, tend to want to edit as I write and I know that slows me down, but it’s my OCD that I can’t seem to do much about. Thank you for sharing this! It inspired me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Getting it Done with Writing Sprints – smartgaslk

  3. It’s so hard not to get distracted though! I don’t know how but I always end up watching trailers for obscure movies. Sprints are a good idea but on the application I use to write it’s got a little timer, and I just sit there watching it. Another second. Another second. A minute. And before I know it it’s beeping to say I’m finished. 😞

    Liked by 3 people

      • I was raised in Virginia,and there were plenty of storms, but we always had heat because we had a “fuel oil” floor furnace.The man would come and fill the huge tanks under the house every so often, I guess it was dangerous and “not clean” environmentally, but that was back then when we didn’t know about Global Warming. My Better Half’s family had a coal furnace with a coal bin and all.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The beauty of a creative endeavor like writing is there is more than one way to get to the finish line. I’m still trying to figure out what my process is, but I try to be open-minded to ideas such as this. Maybe an occasional sprint is a way to go. As soon as I think about logging in so many words per day or something like the NaNoWriMo challenge, I lose interest. I think it comes down to some days we feel more creative than others. When the writing mojo just isn’t there, I’m opting for a walk or something else.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Pete, I have a daily writing goal, but many days I don’t make it. We all need a break from time to time. Taking a walk is a great way to clear the mind and get the creative juices flowing. I admit that when I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about writing. If ideas come to me about my WIP or an upcoming story, I jot them down. To me, that’s still productivity.

      I’ve done NaNo, but it just isn’t for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for this post, Joan. Writing sprints, I didn’t know but I do these every weekend. I write non-stop from 6am to 8.00am and sometimes, if I’m lucky until 8.30am with no interruptions. I ignore everything. I do this Saturday and Sunday. If I did not do this, I would never get my books written. I can’t write in the mornings during the week because I don’t get a minutes peach until my kids leave for school and they get up early.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. I totally agree. “And if you’re like me, you enjoy reading and want to build time into your schedule for that.” This is the hardest part. Often it is put on a back burner when one is busy with other things.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Pingback: Sharing #StoryEmpire Post from Joan Hall | The Write Stuff

  8. As someone who compulsively edits as she writes, I do have a hard time challenging myself to write faster. But I think even if I do some small editing as I’m going along, a modified sprint would be a good thing for me to try. Just setting a time to write without stopping (editing or not) and without letting myself be interrupted would surely help. I’m going to see if I can make that work for me, because I’m so far behind on my current WIP. We’ll see how I do. Thanks for the pointers, Joan. Sharing! 🙂

    In the meantime, I hope you are not dealing with the brunt of the Texas storms I keep reading about. It’s so hard to imagine all that ice and snow when we’re in the mid80s already, most days, but I’m thinking about you all. Especially those with no power! Please stay warm and safe!

    Liked by 7 people

    • Joan is dealing with power outages and the like. That’s why we’ve been fielding comments for her. But she is safe. Just currently inconvenienced. Thanks for asking.

      I think you’d find sprints like that very useful, Marcia. It’s hard for me to turn off that inner editor, too, but a “race” like that (for a short amount of time) seems to be just the thing to make it happen. Let us know how it goes if you try.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Thanks for letting me know, Staci. I need to check in with John, too. The images I’ve seen coming out of Texas are just awful! My prayers go out to everyone in the path of these storms!

        I can do a sprint against myself, with my timer, and just not let myself get distracted, even if I do some editing as I go. I think the distractions around me are a bigger issue for me, and learning to block them out would be huge. Gonna give it a try, for sure, and see how much more I get done by sticking to writing for the time I select. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

    • Marcia, we just got electricity for the first time in 43 hours. Hoping it stays on.

      The sprints are useful. It is hard to turn off that internal editor. The only time I’ve ever fully done that is when I did NaNoWriMo. I’m still fixing that mess!

      Liked by 2 people

      • If I turned it off my internal editor completely, Joan, I’d hate myself at the end. I’d probably throw out the manuscript as trash. But I think I can use a modified version of a sprint to make me more productive. I like that idea. And I’m very glad you’ve got power again. Horrible to be without at ANY time, but during the kind of weather you’re having, it’s a nightmare. Hope it stays on now, and you stay safe throughout all of this! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post, Joan and idea 🙂 I have those moments where sprinting would push me to write, and having someone to answer to a motivating factor. I avoid editing until later because so much changes as I go.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I’ve never tried a sprint, but after reading your blog, I just might. I tend to plant my fanny in my chair and slog through my writing time. Some days are better than others:) A sprint now and then might add more pep to my routine. Thanks for sharing! And glad you and Staci got so many words for your WIPs.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Not so much sprints, but I have found that blocking out some time, early in the morning before anything else, has been helpful. It’s hard not to open everything right away, but it has helped me get past a few sticky points. Great advice. Thanks!

    Liked by 7 people

  12. Pingback: Getting it Done with Writing Sprints | Legends of Windemere

  13. Great post, Joan. I did a sprint one time. I had an agent interested in my fourth book but suggested I finish the third and then re-contact them. I sprinted to finish the third did the re-contact, and that agent had left the business. Of course, no one else was interested in the fourth. Total Murphy’s Law situation. The sprint did me some good and taught me I could do it in a pinch, which every author should know.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. I’ve never done a writing sprint. One of my publishers offers group writing sprints. It’s a great motivational tool and many of the writers say they wouldn’t have made the time otherwise. Though I don’t think my internal editor has an off switch. If she does, I’ve never found it. 😉

    Liked by 7 people

  15. I’ve never done a writing sprint, but I definitely have to give it a try. It sounds like a great way to push a stuck WIP forward.

    I consider NaNoWriMo one big long sprint and I make a ton of progress when I dedicate the time for it. I can see myself making equal progress if I dedicated time for writing sprints And I’m one of those writers who edits as I go, too. I don’t think I’ll ever change, but I do know I can turn off the editor during NaNo, so I’m sure I could do it with sprinting.

    A very encouraging and helpful post, Joan!

    Liked by 7 people

  16. I have not done writing sprints before. My writing time is pretty limited, so even when I’m not feeling it I have to force it. Either that, or abandon the time. Being able to switch stories has helped me. I can see the value of these, but they’re not something I’ve tried.

    Liked by 6 people

  17. I remember our old sprinting days, Joan. They were so much fun. Everyone always did so well, and it was so exciting if someone beat a personal best. You really helped me out last week with the sprint, that’s for sure. We should do them more often. Great post.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. My current WIP has been fast drafted mostly through writing spints. I’m a huge fan. They are a great way to get words on the page that can later be edited. I’ve done my sprints through dictation, due to health reasons, and it’s been a game changer. Great post, Joan!

    Liked by 7 people

    • Sprints are great, aren’t they? They get me past slumps better than any other technique I’ve tried. Dictation is something I’ve yet to master, though. I’m sorry for the reason you started using it, but it’s great it’s working for you.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I’m doing the dictation on my cell phone. I do it through my email, send it to myself then copy and paste. The increase in my word count has been tremendous. I had no choice when I started having issues with my wrists, but it’s actually worked in my favor. Not the wrist pain, of course. 😦 I hope you’ll try it, Joan.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was stuck with no electricity for almost two days. I thought about dictating into my phone, but I was trying to conserve the battery. My laptop died as well. I have a friend who dictates while she’s on the treadmill. She’s written a few books that way. Yesterday, I resorted to old-fashioned pen and paper. Of course, I had to transcribed it today.

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  19. Pingback: Getting it Done with Writing Sprints | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  20. Thank you for this post, Joan. I hadn’t thought of a “writing sprint” until reading your explanation and tips. How perfect! Life has a way of taking me in multiple directions at once, but you’ve offered a way to claim a bit of that time just for me. Wow. Simple, workable, and I’m off and running. 😊

    Liked by 8 people

    • Sprints are fun, Gwen. We used to do them in groups, and it didn’t matter who had the biggest number (we weren’t competing with each other). What mattered was we always, without fail, put up more words than we would have than if we had just “worked” for an hour without sprinting. Trying to beat your personal best is fun, too. If you try a sprint, let us know how it goes.

      Liked by 4 people

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