Word sprint!

Or: We’ll still be sitting for this, right?

One of the things I discovered during NaNoWriMo was the magic of the word sprint. The name says it all. You sit down to write for a predefined amount of time and stop as soon as your stop watch alerts you. The official NaNo website even has a timer you can use for individual or group sprints. The latter turned out to be very helpful when everyone was at home, stressing over their word count. One of us would create the sprint, share the link and everyone interested would join. Once the time was up, we could each see how many words the others wrote. It was not a competition, per se, but it still helped us do our best and exceed our personal word records.

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So, what’s really the catch? Do I have to sell my soul in order to up my word count?

Before doing the first word sprint, my main question was: “Do we produce legitimate work with word sprints?” If you are struggling to hit 1,667 words in one day, how is a 30-minute word sprint going to help you write more than you usually do? What if you don’t know what to write next?

Well, it turns out it’s all in your head. And when I say “all,” I mean your story. The only thing you have to worry about before your word sprint is the scene that’s going to unravel. You don’t yet know what your characters will say in exact detail, but that will come to you. You are still you. Your writing style won’t suffer. You know why? It’s the time limit. Mind works oddly under pressure and, quite often, more productively. Even though a word sprint is completely casual and non-life-threatening, it can still hack your brain into thinking that you’re in a write-or-die situation.

Also, let’s face it. Once you sit down to write, don’t you get the urge to check your social media? Or go make yourself a quick snack? Or a five-course meal while you’re at it? Word sprints won’t let you have any of that. It’s just you and your story. No distractions. Plus, I’ve noticed the clacking of my fellow writers’ keyboards can pass as a relaxing white noise that is conducive to concentration.

How to make the most of your word sprint

It has to be said, being an outliner can help immensely. You have the blueprint of the scene you want to focus on and you sprint in order to flesh it out. As long as you know how things will go in this scene, sky is the limit. You can spend a few minutes describing the room, or the characters’ hairdo, you have them say their bit, and you are in constant control of the story, since you already know how it will develop. I know people who can write 1,200 words in half an hour on a good day.

Worldbuilding is also crucial, because you won’t have to spend precious minutes looking for a specific character’s eye color or the clothes they had on at a certain time earlier on your story. Does your character need to talk about their late great-grandfather? No problem. You open up their family tree and there you have it. Great-grandpa Leopold to the rescue!

Any drawbacks?

Since word sprints principally focus on writing more, it seems that you will be giving up on time-consuming tasks connected to writing, like research. Again, outlining and a lot of prep work could even help you do away with it, but if you are a pantser, you just have to keep writing and make a quick note to yourself. Do research on untraceable poisons’ or something silly like that. You can work on this in more detail once you’re finished.

Besides, editing is half the fun, right?

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