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Writing Like You're Running Out Of Time | On Writing Sprints

Writing is an act of exploration. As we improve our craft, we're often trying out new ideas and experimenting with various methods to see what works best for us and how they can fit into our process.

For many, National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is an opportunity to practice reasonable goal-setting and consistency in their routine while learning to be more efficient with their time—after all, participants have a strict thirty-day timeframe to complete a 50,000-word novel!

One popular technique for writers hoping to make the most of a short time is writing sprints. They're mini-writing challenges, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour (or longer, but I personally wouldn't recommend exceeding sixty minutes at most). During a sprint, your entire focus is on your writing. No distractions. No procrastination.

Establishing a clear, yet small, chunk of time often helps writers who have a habit of losing focus stay on track.

Doing one or two writing sprints every day can promote a consistent habit. It's easier to squeeze fifteen-minute blocks of writing into your day at a designated time, such as early in the morning or after dinner. This is why you're likely to find me doing writing sprints during my lunch breaks at the day job. Even if I don't feel like I've made significant progress with my WIP, knowing I've done that little bit assures me that I am making some progress.

And, hey, slow progress is better than no progress!

Sprints can also make the prospect of writing an entire novel less overwhelming.

In the case of NaNoWriMo, saying you have to write just shy of 1,700 words per day can be intense, whereas saying you'll be doing three writing sprints with a goal of around 560 words in thirty minutes sounds more manageable.

It's like taking a bite off of something rather than trying to swallow it whole and potentially choking on it.

While you can certainly do them on your own, sprints are also fun to do as a group! Consider getting together with some friends, set a timer, and get to it; they work equally well for in-person and virtual hangouts. Some will even turn sprints into competitions to see who can write the most words or pages within the time limit. Between sprints, you might choose to share updates about your progress or talk about the scene you wrote, or exchange feedback as desired.

Sprinting as a group also gives you someone to hold you accountable, which means you might be more likely to stick to your goals. But above all, these group sprints can be encouraging as you're all pushing towards a similar goal.

If your friend group is having a difficult time arranging a time to sprint, check out YouTube. A number of creators post write-alongs or host live streams, during which they'll work on their WIP while viewers work on their own for a set period of time. After time is up, the creator might answer questions from the chat or share writing advice. Even if you can't make it to the stream as it's live, chances are you'll be able to watch it later.

It may not be the exact same experience as meeting with a group of friends, but writing during a YouTuber's stream could make you feel less alone.

Remember, the objective of a writing sprint is not perfection. Focus on getting the words down. You can always go back and polish them up later on.

Additionally, as important as maintaining your focus during a writing sprint is, don't forget to take a break afterward! Give your brain a chance to relax after doing that much work in a short burst of time. For example, you might want to walk around and stretch between sprints.

Writing sprints aren't for everyone. Some feel the time limit adds too much pressure and makes it harder to write. Others would rather write for a continuous period rather than do so in smaller chunks.

The good thing is that writing sprints can be adapted to fit your needs. Even if they're on the shorter side, they can help make you a more efficient and productive writer by creating a sense of routine and allowing you to use the blips of time you have to your advantage.

A little work here and there can go a long way!



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