Excerpt from Muse by Stacia D. Kelly, PhD, MHt
Sprints: Writing Not Running
Writing sprints came about as a fringe benefit when a group of friends and I did nanowrimo together one year. I had already failed one year, and succeeded the following. The third year, I enlisted (although some would say coerced) some writing friends into participating too. And yes, this included my husband as well. We are a creative household. And, as strange as it sounds, we enjoy spending time together, each at our own computer, frantically typing away and creating our stories.
I typed fast. I’ve mentioned that. I won’t tell you how many pages I’ve managed to write tonight, but I’m on a bent. On a good day, I can get in about 800 words in 15 minutes. Thus, my love of writing sprints.
Nano wants 50,000 words in a month. I can do it in 2 weeks now, if I allow myself the time in the evenings and really focus on getting 3000 words done a day. That’s nothing if I’m focused.
You can do a writing sprint live or online. The only requirement is your computer, a timer, and the dedication. (Ignoring the phone and other distractions helps too.) Our group does them online as we’re are spaced out across the country, some of us in the DC Metro area and others in California. We all are on the Instant Messengers of our choice.
Trillian and Adium allow you to combine all the popular IMs into one software. Trillian for the PC and Adium for the Mac.
Here’s the scenario:
One of us, usually me, sets a time, we tend to aim for 1pm EST daily during November. We ALL make sure our calendars can work around it most days. If I don’t run it, Ewoh can, or any other member of our impromptu group.
About 15 minutes ahead of time, we’re all logged in and clearing our schedule, getting ourselves set up. This might mean I’m sending off a few emails, Ewoh is setting up the group chat, and JT is sending out invites into the chat. Cat might be setting up music to fuel our sprint here. Suffice to say, we are ALL on Instant Messenger, and we are all in our preferred software to write. The cell phones are turned down or off. Honestly, it’s 15 minutes.
I review what I’ve written before, at least a page or two if I’m going to continue on a scene. Or, I start fresh on a clean page. I get myself situated with the clock, you’ll see random chatter before we start….mostly fussing about what we’re working on or our days. Drama, you know? We aim for easy watching of the clock. I tried the whole stopwatch thing…it was making me neurotic. I just use the clock on my PC.
I count down, usually ‘five minutes”, ‘two minutes’ and so on. I want people ready and able to write. And, on point…I type GO. Everyone writes until the see the chat session flash again. We have all mastered the art of clicking over and clicking back to writing if need be. I’m watching the clock and typing at the same time. I’m a stickler for when the clock hits the 15 minute mark, I yell STOP in the chat window, and people start checking in.
Now, the LEAST amount of words one of us has done? About 400. Ewoh types slow, but he’s getting faster! Every time we do this, he gets better. Cat and I? We average about 800+. If the phone rings, or the boss walks in, we don’t hold it/count it against you. This is about YOUR goals.
We don’t share the writing unless we want to. The only thing we do is throw out the word count and ENCOURAGE each other. I refuse to allow negativity we get enough of that in our lives. Our goal with these sprints? Encourage the HELL out of each other, because when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.
We are not about the quality of writing. We are about the quantity. Some people will cringe at this. Deal with it. So many people get caught up in themselves and refuse to write because it isn’t perfect the first time. War and Peace was rewritten X times.
Get over yourself. Please.
That’s not said to be harsh. That’s said to get you out of your own head. Really. Get down to it and WRITE. The blank page is your canvas. It is your palette. You can create any realm or reality you want to. It is your escape.
Now write. For 15 minutes, just write. About whatever you want. It can be about the dog growling at the door. About how your kids are driving you insane. It can be a passionate love scene between your characters, or a homilie in your book. Whatever. Just WRITE.