Writing Sprints

What Are Writing Sprints and Why You Should Use Them

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

Having trouble getting motivated to write? Perhaps you don’t think you have the time available. Maybe you’re stuck with writer’s block and can’t move forward. In any case, writing sprints are proven to be beneficial for authors.

The best part is that they can help even the busiest of writers.

What Are Writing Sprints?

A writing sprint is just like it sounds; a short period of time that is focused purely on writing. The idea is to write without regard for editing or spellcheck while getting as much of your story as possible out before the timer ends.

For example, set a timer for 30 minutes. Then, start writing until the timer goes off. Don’t worry about editing or proofreading the text. The point is to get the story written.

Another example is how I schedule a 2-hour block of time for specifically writing my book. Then, I spend that block of time doing nothing more than hammering out my story.

A writing sprint can be any amount of time that you have available and what you’re able to commit. Not everyone has a 2-hour window in the day specifically for writing a book, especially if you have small children in the home.

Plus, there’s nothing wrong with starting with a few minutes and then eventually working your way up as time permits.

These sprints aren’t merely for authors. Bloggers can also benefit from sprints to help with focus on writing blog posts.

Writing sprints can be done by yourself or with a group. These group sessions are useful because then you also have a sense of accountability. Not to mention that it’s easier to do a task when you’re with others doing the same thing.

If you want to join a group writing sprint, you can find them all over Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. These are usually live videos produced by the host to help drive motivation, productivity, and inspiration from other viewers.

Even WriterSanctuary will be adding writing sprints soon to the YouTube channel.

6 Benefits of Writing Sprints

Now, there are no guarantees that a sprint will instantly turn you into Stephen King or Agatha Christie. However, they can be quite useful for helping you get your writing finished.

How many people do you know who have a folder full of half-written drafts from 10 years ago? In reality, I know quite a few…including myself.

So, what makes writing sprints worthwhile?

Specific Time to Write Without Distraction

One of the great benefits of using writing sprints is that it helps you dedicate a specific chunk of time to write without distractions getting in the way. Of course, that also depends heavily on your lifestyle.

For instance, it’s far more difficult for a mother with a young child to even squeeze in 15 minutes without breaking away.

Still, setting aside even 10 minutes to yourself can help you whip out several hundred words. That’s better than nothing at all.

Motivating Yourself to Write

A lot of aspiring writers have motivational issues. Because there is no sense of urgency or accountability, it’s easy to slack off on social media instead of paying attention to your book.

Writing sprints help provide that motivation, especially if you get it into your head that those chunks of time are “vital” to your success.

Improving Time Efficiency

Setting aside a block of time for writing can help with improving your efficiency. Not only are you focusing more on trying to get as much done as you can within that time frame, but you’re also creating efficient habits.

Get it into your head that you need to push as many words as you can out of your head. The story doesn’t have to be perfect, just written. That’s what editing phases are for; to polish up the story.

Flexibility for Busy Schedules

A great aspect of writing sprints is how just about anyone can use them regardless of their schedule. Keep in mind that technically, a sprint can be any length of time – even if it’s just a few minutes.

If you can’t squirrel away five minutes to write, you might have some deeper issues. Most of us spend more time than that scrolling through TikTok, Facebook, or YouTube without actually reading or watching anything.

Be honest with yourself and how much time you truly have available.

Training to Avoid Perfection

One thing that slows a lot of potential authors down is the prospect of being perfect. The first draft is not the book you’re going to publish.

The point of a writing sprint is to crank out as many words as possible without going back and making edits. When you start doing that, you’ll often find yourself in an endless loop of changing instead of finishing the book.

Get that first draft done and make the edits later. The sense of accomplishment you get after finishing the first draft will ultimately boost your level of confidence.

Gamifying the Word Count

How many words can you write in your book per session? Making a game out of writing sprints can make it fun, which, in turn, keeps you engaged in the process.

Gamification works with so many things in life, which is why businesses often use it for employee retention.

For me, it’s all about breaking personal records. Whether it’s a single day or throughout the entire year, I’m always striving to write more than I did in the past. That’s because I find it fun and am a geek with a spreadsheet.

I keep track of every word I write. So, I am constantly trying to break my “high score” for a word count.

How to Create a Writing Sprint

A writing sprint is relatively easy to set up. The hardest part is actually committing to the time to write. For many of us, that’s another story altogether.

But if you can get that snowball rollin’ down the hill, it gets easier with time.

Step 1: Remove Various Distractions

First, find a way to remove the various distractions of life. This means no social media, no Hulu bingeing, no games…just you and your writing app of choice.

In fact, you may have to take it a step further than that. A lot of us will constantly look for something to do other than write, such as a load of dishes, the laundry, changing the oil in the car, or resurfacing the wooden patio with a new layer of stain.

Stop giving yourself extra chores.

Your block of time for writing needs to be distraction-free.

Step 2: Create a Realistic Goal

Setting realistic goals can help you build momentum. An example of a bad goal would be to say, “I plan on writing 10,000 words today.”

While some people can handle that kind of load, it’s just not realistic for someone who is just starting.

Start with keeping track of the time you write. Then, you can move on to a specific word count once you have an idea about your capabilities.

Step 3: Set Your Timer

How long are you anticipating your writing sprints? Do you have a quick five minutes available, or are you aiming for two hours? It’s really up to you and the time you have set aside.

For me, I don’t focus on anything if it’s fewer than 30 minutes. I mean, a five-minute writing sprint is essentially an email or social post on Facebook. I wouldn’t consider those “writing sprints” for myself, but everyone is different.

It’s all about finding an allotment of time that works best for you. If that means you only have five minutes to spare, then use it to write.

How do you keep track of time? Well, there are a number of ways you can set up a timer for free on the Internet.

If you search “online timer” in Google, the search engine will pop one up for you immediately. The Google timer is quite basic, but you can input the amount of time in hours, minutes, and seconds for virtually any purpose.

Online Timer

There is also a slew of websites that have built-in timers aside from Google. You can also use various browser extensions, and some writing apps have sprints built into them.

Step 4: Start Writing Your Project

Hit the “Start” on the timer and begin typing!

Remember, the entire point of a writing sprint is to focus on writing, not editing. Some of you may be tempted to go back and fix something you wrote. Unfortunately, a lot of writers will get stuck with constantly editing the manuscript before it’s even finished.

I’m not saying every author is this way. In fact, a lot of authors can edit as they write without fear of losing momentum. However, not everyone is capable of not being a perfectionist to the point that nothing gets finished.

This is why you need a distraction-free block of time. The entire exercise is to write your book or blog post without getting sidetracked. And that includes the editing process.

Step 5: Stop and Rest

Once the timer has stopped, take a moment to yourself. Feel pride in the fact that you’ve accomplished something and are that much closer to finishing your book or blog post.

Even if you managed to write a single sentence, that is one less that you won’t have to worry about later.

Don’t compare your productivity to that of someone else. Not everyone is capable of sitting for two hours and cranking out 1500 words. And that’s OK. We all move at our own pace.

Chaining Sprints Together

Chaining writing sprints together can be a very productive way to spend the day. That is as long as you’re capable of setting aside that much time.

For instance, you could write for a solid 30 minutes, take a 10-minute break to stretch or walk around the backyard, and then come in for another 30-minute sprint.

Keep in mind that the length of your sprint is completely up to you. If all you have is a couple of 10-minute windows, you might as well make the most of them.

Because of how my day is structured, I wouldn’t be able to chain sprints in such a fashion. That’s because I have an exceptionally full day most of the time. Not to mention the fact that I write for a two-hour block of time.

Still, it’s not overly difficult to set up shorter sprints with small breaks to help you build steam.

The bottom line is that there really is no right or wrong answer for using writing sprints outside of actually writing. You can use as much or as little time as you have available.

Need help writing your book? Knowing how to structure your manuscript can go a long way to providing a better exeperience for your readers. Take a look at the Reedsy Masterclass for How to Write a Novel. It was perhaps the most influential three months I’ve spent for crafting my books.

Using Your Ultradian Rhythm

I often use an ultradian rhythm to keep my workday balanced. Well, as balanced as I can make it thanks to being in high demand from everyone including clients and kids.

An ultradian rhythm is essentially a biological clock that has various peaks throughout a 24-hour period. It’s the time when you can be the most productive in just about any line of work.

For me, I can usually go from 90 to 120 minutes before losing a bit of steam. At that point, I take a 30-minute break to recharge before tackling another two-hour block of time.

If you’re capable, you should see if you can time your writing sprints to coincide with your ultradian rhythm. You’ll get the most bang for your time while keeping yourself balanced.

In reality, it’s this rhythm that often keeps me successful and has been part of the basis of my career.

How I Use Writing Sprints Throughout the Week

As I said earlier, I use 2-hour blocks of time throughout the week to help me focus on writing my book. Of course, I also use these two-hour blocks of time to work on client projects, blog posts, videos, and anything else I have to handle in the day.

The reason why I started adding the 2-hour writing sprints to my “workday” is because otherwise, I wouldn’t get any work done on writing my book. In the evenings, I am often burned out and my brain is mush.

Or, I’ll want to work on my book and wind up forgetting until I crawl into bed.

Adding the block of time to my day ensures that I can get at least some time squared away to finish my novel. Well, until someone comes up with yet another emergency that sidetracks my efforts.

That happens way too often for my liking.

Overall, setting up these chunks of time for writing sprints helps keep the book in mind throughout the week. Plus, it’s a nice break in between some of the more serious stuff I have to handle throughout the day.

What Keeps You Writing?

What kind of techniques do you use to keep yourself motivated? Between setting goals and making sure I have quality time with my book in the day, I can get quite a bit done.

The thing that slows me down from finishing my books is that I am, indeed, in high demand throughout the day. As I said, clients and kids can tap a good chunk of time.

Luckily, my two-hour writing sprints often result in racking up quite a few words every day.

Michael Brockbank
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