Week 2 of NaNo Kicking Your Ass? Fight Back with Word Sprints
Welcome to week two of NaNoWriMo. ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?! Just kidding.
According to the favored projections of NaNo, if we’re averaging between 1500-1,666 words a day (or a session, whatever floats your boat), your word count should be in the ballpark of 23,324 words. Sounds easy enough, eh?
If not, don’t let week two kick your head in. Welcome to…
What are Sprints? A Miserable Little Pile of Jumb-fumbled Words?
A good friend told me sprints can be motivating, as it’s a matter of learning your pace. For the uninitiated, writing sprints are 50-minute blocks of writing with group accountability. Well, the timer can be adjusted, but you get the idea. As I mentioned before, in week two, a writer adhering to the suggested word count of 1,666 a day should be topping off at 23,324. Your first 20k in two weeks? That’s twice the milestone! THAT’S NEARLY HALFWAY! I know a LOT of writers who wish they could make that much progress.
But what if you couldn’t make that count? What if you’re still having trouble getting started? I have problems with that as well; I won’t speak like someone who just writes perfectly. Myself, I acknowledge fully that writing is solitary, as much as we’d like to refuse the truth. I believe Stephen King says it better:
Image courtesy of thebricolagery.com
Well, sometimes, just believing isn’t enough. We all need that push, that muse to tip us over and get our hands moving!
How to Use Word Sprints to Forge Discipline
Honestly, it takes a modicum of discipline. That’s exceedingly difficult to muster up all by your lonesome. There’s a buttload of people spouting off that writing takes discipline, but no one’s telling you how to develop it. It’s the same thing with people saying, “I don’t like what you’re writing,” but they won’t sit and discuss alternatives. They’ll leave you flapping in the wind, their piece already said.
Don’t worry, I’ll give you a hand. First, here’s a good article by Jeff Goins on developing discipline. His three tips can also be compared to sprints.
To start, just pick a place. It’s a writing group that’ll keep you sane! I’ll talk more on that down the line; but for me, my space is OWS Word Mafia. NaNo Groups can also serve as your special little “space”. It doesn’t have to be physical, but we’ll go into that more later.
Next, let’s set some timer-related goals. Time is a constant, and you can make it work to your favor. Whatever time you choose each day, consistency is key. You need to show up each day and plant your butt in the chair like you’re going to work. I can’t say it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an idea what to write because not everyone’s brain works like that, but try to have one. It’s the same as making a commitment to a time. If you don’t now, you never will. This is where sprints become advantageous – you set this time aside to destroy the keyboard. Okay, not literally.
Number three! Goals! A hundred words. A thousand words. Whatever it is, be sure to allow yourself some grace just in case you goof it up. Ernest Hemingway was well known for writing 1500 words one day, then downgrading to 300 the following session. To me, 500-1000 is good enough to build a writing habit. You can set mini-goals inside your daily word count. If you mix it up with a sprint, shoot for 100-300 words. You get it ingrained in your mind, you can increase or decrease the word count as you see fit. Nancy Miller offers some great advice about not stressing over the word count.
This discipline comes from writing everyday, but make sure you know what you’re writing. A writing group can help with this – people will place reasonable (I think) expectations on you such as, “So many words each week to read to everyone out loud!” This is the only time peer pressure works in your favor.
How Word Sprints Create Accountability
Also! Accountability comes from doing sprints. Since they’re timed, short bursts equates to, “Stop worrying about crap that slows you down and put your all into writing! Well, for the length of that timer.” In my opinion, I can push out at least 1k in that time period, depending what I’m working on and what I’m blabbing on about. Knowing that others are working on their sprints too alongside you can be a great motivator.
I try to be a social person. I enjoy a good conversation; it helps me learn about people and live vicariously through their words. But! A good way to mitigate the thirst for social interactivity and to get words out is to join a writing group.
Writers are a solitary bunch. We ABSOLUTELY ADORE working alone. Confinement can be greeted as an old friend. As I write this tidbit, I’m alone in my room with lo-fi jazz playing. While solitude is necessary at times to write, completely cutting yourself off from humanity can prove detrimental to your career.
This is where accountability comes in. Although this has added benefits, your partner, friend or sibling can all act as “account agents” to keep you right on track. I suggest you find someone with two traits:
1) High expectations of your work
2) Have something invested in your success.
If they don’t come in with high expectations, you as a writer won’t feel challenged to be more productive under their watch. And if they have something invested in you, they’re probably gonna keep you motivated.
Doing Word Sprints With a Group
I can attest fully the pros, as well as cons, of a writing group. Joining one means you’re nestled with your people. You’re no longer the sore thumb, the odd person out, the one gushing over a new pad, pen or tablet keyboard. Someone next to you feels your pain as you mull over the edits of your rough draft, and they’ll certainly uplift you when you hit “The end” on the bottom of your manuscript.
So back to the subject at hand. Sprinting. Not as physically strenuous as a run, but it serves the same purpose. A short burst of fast and calculated effort for a prolonged period of time. You basically set a timer for forty or fifty minutes and then BLASTOFF! You Write! Until that timer goes “DING” and boom: you got words on the page.
The equally great part of doing a writing sprint with a group is that you’re able to call in your word count as soon as someone calls out “TIME!” You take a break until the hour turns and if you’re still rarin’ to go, repeat the process.
The nice thing about planning a 45-50 minute sprint is that you’re sorting out your breathers as well. You know how some people say get up, stretch, and grab a glass of water after every session of sitting on your can for long periods of time? You know how no one really does that? Well, now you got an excuse to do so.
“But T.D.! What if I want to organize a sprint but everyone I know either lives far or doesn’t use Facebook?! Help me, T.D.!”
Settle your storm, dear reader. There’s an easy fix. Google Hangouts. Discord. Skype. All are alternatives you can use to set up sprints, and what the hey, even organize writing groups to get you through NaNo!
So go off! Get those groups and sprints set up and put some words down! Also, come visit us at ourwriteside.com or on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/owswordmafia.
T.D. McIntosh is a freelance writer, author, and comic book writer. He has written two books and is currently the writer of the webcomic XOGENASYS found on noircaesar.com.