At the Pennwriters Conference this past weekend, I gave a workshop on a writing challenge called Sprinting. To Sprint, a writer shuts off all distractions and writes without interruption for an hour. The goal is to get down 1,000 new words in an hour.
Sprinting is simple and hardly enough content for a one hour workshop. Finding an hour a day to write, and incorporating it into an otherwise busy life, may not be so simple. Also complicated is how to make the most effective use of a writing hour. Those—finding an hour and using the hour—will make up the content of this mini blog series. Here’s the schedule:
Tuesday – How to Write an Hour at a Time
Wednesday – How to Make the Most of a Writing Hour
Thursday – How to Keep a Sprint Journal
A Writing Hour
“Write every day.”
“We all have the same 24 hours in a day.”
If you are a writer, these two quotes are surely familiar. I am an advocate of the first. Writing every day is valuable because it keeps the story in your head. It’s economical because you don’t need to review or refresh yourself after a long chunk of time away from your characters. I believe that successful working writers write every day (or thereabouts) and are motivated by a good work ethic, a deadline, a love of what they do, and/or a mortgage.
The second quote, however, annoys me. It is true that everyone has 24 hours in a day, but not everyone has the same life. This quote is right up there with “If I can do it, so can you,” and “You can do it if you want it badly enough.” In reality, not everyone can find an hour every single day to write. Some people may not—gasp!—want to write every day!
If writing every day does not work for you, so be it. While I am an advocate of a daily writing session, I am not you. This post is about the best use of the time available to you, one hour at a time.
The Sprint Method of Writing
Where did Sprinting come from? I noted above that a Sprint is a one-hour writing challenge, with a goal of 1,000 new words per Sprint. It is also a group phenomenon. As best I can tell, Sprinting originated on Twitter and is still alive there. To Sprint, all you have to do is make an announcement on some social media platform. “At 7:00, I’m going to Sprint. Who’s in?” Anyone who wants to participate at the time responds. Between 7:00 and 8:00, all participants go into radio silence as they shut down interruptions-the Internet, TV, phone calls, etc. After the hour is over, participants report in through a post or a Tweet. “I got 1,213 new words!” “Slow day, only 750.”
What are the advantages of Sprinting? The first, of course, is accountability. If someone announces publically that he or she will do something, he or she is more likely to actually do it. If you tell the world you are going to build a hut on your front lawn by June 1, you can be sure someone is going to come along on June 1 to check out the hut. If there is no hut, that person is going to ask, “What happened to the hut?” If there is a hut, you will get, “Great hut! Maybe I should build a hut on my front lawn too!”
A second pro of Sprinting is the write every day, keep the story in your head, advantage.
A third plus of Sprinting are the 1,000 or more, or less, new words you get down on paper.
A fourth advantage of Sprinting, which I will address more tomorrow, is settling into a regular writing routine. I Sprint every day at 7:00 a.m. Sometimes I write more during the day, sometimes not. Rain or shine, however, I’ll have had my writing hour, thanks to my morning Sprint.
The cons of Sprinting? Hmm….I can’t think of any.
What if you are not writing new words? What if you don’t belong to Twitter and/or Facebook? What if you want to work on your own for an hour? Read ahead.
When you don’t need new words
Sprinting is intended to create new words. What if you are in the revision process of your WIP? Simple answer. Use the hour to revise. What if you have too many words? Use your hour to trim. What if you need to stop and research? Use your hour to research.
If you don’t want to speed write for an hour, that works too. If you don’t want to make an announcement, that’s fine. Do what you want, or need, to do. It’s your hour.
It’s not rocket science. It’s working on your writing for an hour at a time, with no interruptions.
Finding your Best Writing Hour
Consider these questions:
~ What is your most creative time of day?
~ What is the most practical time of day for you to write?
~ Do you now have an available hour of writing time per day?
~ Do you need to carve out an hour of your regular day to write?
~ Is an hour a day impossible?
~ Is there an hour on weekends or every other day you can devote to writing?
~ What is the biggest challenge to writing at your optimum time?
~ Is there someone in your life standing between you and a regular writing hour?
Only you can answer the above questions. Can you find an hour to write each day? A few times a week? On weekends?
Once you find the hour, make writing in that hour a routine–same time, same place, every day/week. Call it your Writing Hour. Put it on your calendar. Integrate it into your life. Honor it with regular attendance.
Now you have a Writing Hour. How do you make the most of it? Come back tomorrow.