I was introduced to the idea of writing sprints by Dean Wesley Smith, an author so prolific that I couldn’t help but make him my immediate writing idol.
I have to admit, however, that when I first heard about writing sprints, I wasn’t entirely convinced.
Write in spurts of 15 minutes here and there through the day and end up with thousands of words by the end of it?
But you know me. If I hear an idea I’m intrigued by and that will help make me a better and faster writer, then I have to try it. And so I did, with the intention of logging my progress along the way.
Here’s what happened after the first few days:
Session 1: 40 minutes. 325 words. The first session of a writing day is always the slowest. Throat-clearing. The first hour builds the momentum, then hours 2-4 get super productive. Big mistake writers make: They stop after the first hour.
Session 2: 35 minutes. 725 words. When I first started writing fiction, it was slow. I was learning, as author Harlan Coben says, to get people in and out of rooms. I practiced, I improved. I can focus on speed now because I got good at the basics.
Session 3: 45 minutes. 1,015 words. The first time I saw novelist Dean Wesley Smith write in sessions rather than hours, my entire perspective changed. I no longer force myself to write in hourly intervals and end up writing far more (and have more FUN!)
Session 4: 20 minutes. 475 words. I’m going to spend the next few hours on emails, walking dog, and editing the words I’ve written so far. I edit as I go along. Now that I write clean first drafts, there really is no reason not to.
Session 5: 40 minutes. 1,360 words. Most writers don’t have fun. I used to be one of them. Slogged through my first novel as though it were punishment. Never again. I seek fulfilment in my work but I also seek fun. I refuse now to trade in one for the other.
Session 6: 30 minutes. 780 words. Just done dinner, board game with son, and Netflix. Got a couple more sessions in me for tonight. Isn’t it interesting how much you can write when you’re not limiting yourself with prescribed word counts?
Session 7: 20 minutes. 610 words. For anyone following along, I want to remind you: I am a full-time writer. Writing is what I do, it is how I earn my living. These word counts may look high, but this is what I WANT to do for eight hours a day. So I do.
Session 8: 20 minutes. 630 words. Final session. Pleased with my progress, though goal was higher. That’s fine. Set targets, then release attachment to them. Do your best.
Time spent writing: 4 hours, 10 minutes
Word count: 5,920 words
Here’s the log from another day when I didn’t have as much time:
Session 1: 25 minutes. 790 words. It’s not that you should honor your talents and passions. It’s that you must. Because if you don’t? Then why are you here in the first place?
Session 2: 15 minutes. 520 words. Interestingly, I find that the fiction I’ve been writing recently has given my nonfiction a lot greater depth. Really sinking into this book. It’s going to be the best one in the series yet.
Time spent writing: 40 minutes
Word count: 1,310 words
And finally, a log from a day that started off slow and difficult but ended up in over 3,000 words in less than 2 hours. The only way I could have done it?
Writing in sprints.
Session 1: 15 minutes. 280 words. Didn’t I say the first hour of the writing day is the hardest? Took me FOREVER to get into the writing today and the words have been slow to come. But it’s important to get started. I’ve started.
Session 2: 15 minutes. 610 words. It’s a myth that you need long stretches of time to make any kind of writing progress. You may have noticed that none of my sessions so far have been over 45 minutes. And I still get a lot of writing done!
Session 3: 20 minutes. 450 words. Like many writers, I used to think 1,000 words a day was the writing gold standard. If you’re a full-time writer, though, there’s really just no excuse to do so little with your day.
Session 4: 35 minutes, 1,050 words. Writing fast isn’t the same as typing fast. Writers who write books “fast” are typically just spending more hours in the chair. Want to write fast? Spend more hours writing.
Session 5: 25 minutes. 695 words. Final session of the day. I fit personal projects in between everything. Today: 1-hour client call, editing and research for client, wrote and sent a newsletter, edited videos, created new sales page. And 3,000+ words on this book.
Time spent writing: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Word count: 3,085 words
In WRITE WITH ME 2020, which opens tomorrow, I will be logging my writing sprints daily and sharing them with the group.
I will also be encouraging you to do the same so that not only can you track your speed and progress from beginning to end (and see how you have improved) but also in order to get real honest insight into how you work, when you’re at your best, and how quickly you can write when on the clock.
Writing isn’t, and shouldn’t be, all about word count, but if you want to be a productive and prolific writer, then it is one of the most important metrics to keep your eye on.
I credit sprints with not just giving me speed, but giving me confidence.
Write With Me 2020 opens tomorrow. We’ll start writing on February 1.
I can’t wait to sprint with you!