For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing writing sprints with a couple of my critique partners. We agree on a time, e-mail each other a minute or two ahead of it, then write without stopping for 45 minutes. I set use the timer on my phone and more often than not, the ringing startles me out of a deep, trance-like place. Also, more often than not, I have a fresh word count in the vicinity of 1K. After the sprint, we check in and share our progress, then my regularly scheduled writing time resumes.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure this was working for me at first. I’m a fogwalker, so I always write stream of consciousness and I write fairly fast. But not this fast. (I think it’s my competitive nature. My CPs are machines, and I don’t want to look bad when I report my word count!)
In a normal writing session, I don’t leave the sentence I’m on until every word feels perfect (at least for the moment). And I don’t leave the paragraph until I feel it’s expressing exactly what I mean in precisely the right cadence. If I can’t find that right word or cadence, or if I need a bit of information/research to round something out, I stay right there with that sentence/paragraph until I’ve figured everything out.
During a sprint, I leave blanks. I type in empty parentheses or underscores, I write WHAT ELSE? and keep on moving on. Afterwards, there’s generally a good half hour of clean-up, and you might wonder…am I really coming out ahead in the long run?
I believe I am, and here’s why. Sprints kick my brain into high gear. They get me to the desk no matter what, because if I’ve made a commitment to someone else, I will not break it. They keep me from wandering off to check my e-mail when the story feels bumpy or rough, and when I’m writing that fast, there’s no time to get bored with myself and decide I need to take a break and read some blogs. Also, removing my internal editor and my detail obsession (and its sidekick, research addiction) from the equation makes for pure character voice and plot-driven writing. It gets me forward momentum, and the layers are so easily added in once the bones are on the page.
My favorite sprints are the early morning sort, the ones at the very beginning of my writing day. They’re better than a triple-shot latte, and I end up riding the buzz at least until lunchtime. Then, if I can get one of my partners to meet me at one, the remainder of my writing day is equally productive.
Can’t I sprint on my own, you ask? Of course. But what fun is that? Misery loves company, but so does joy – and I love knowing that I’m not working alone for a change. That up in B.C. or way out in upstate New York, one of my friends is churning words onto the page just like me. It’s like having a pal meet you at the gym; you’re both doing your own thing, but you’re in it together.
Tell me, writers. Have you tried sprints or the Twitter version, #1K1hr? If so, how does it work for you?