Wednesday 1 October 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Anthology Edition - Word Sprinting

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo or just wanted to write more quickly and found yourself struggling to make the word count,  then word sprinting might be for you. Word sprints are also called word wars and are focused periods of writing with a firm time limit that forces a writer to disregard their inner editor and just concentrate on the words.
     If you are just starting out, it is best to limit yourself to shorter sprints and work yourself up. Ten minute sprints tend to be the average and is the perfect amount of time to allow yourself to get immersed in a scene without it dragging on so long that you start to lose concentration.Of course once you are a sprinting pro you can extend the time or shorten it based on your own preferences.
     The key to a good sprint is to know your own writerly habits.  I'm one of those people who gets distracted easily so I have to have it dead silent while I write. Others need music or snacks. Prepare yourself before you begin to sprint so that you don't have to get up half way through. The other important thing to remember is that there is NO editing during a sprint. Those pesky red lines drive us writers insane but to sprint well you need to ignore them. Once then sprint is over by all means go back and give yourself time to fix up glaring mistakes.
    Word sprints can be done on your own or with sprinting partners though the latter tends to be more fun and adds a bit of extra competitiveness to the process. It's always nice to compare word counts after the sprint and get that kudos from others. If you don't already have writer friends who would like to sprint with you the NaNoWriMo forum has a whole section on word sprints with twitter groups that anyone can join.
     Above all else, sprinting tends to help those writers who are plagued by the dreaded writer's block. A sprint helps you put aside whatever issues you're having with the plot or the character growth in order to get words on paper. Sometimes you have a breakthrough but even if you don't it always gets you writing which is kind of the point isn't it?

This is my entry for the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond in the category of Writing.  I give permission for this entry to be included in the anthology.  Here's my bio: Lan Chan writes young adult dystopia and sci-fi/fantasy. She blogs at


  1. Sprinting is a good idea. For some people, that might be all they need to write a complete book.
    And for those of us who write really slow, our sprints last hours...
    Thanks for contributing to the book!

  2. Sprints are a great way to get through a sticky point in a manuscript. Sometimes it is best to tune out all the noise in our heads and just write.
    Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

  3. I keep telling this to my Year 8 students, but they just won't listen. ;-) They keep stopping to fiddle. I wonder if this would work in the classroom - okay, everyone, your writing time starts NOW! Minus the music and snacks, of course. And I have to supply the theme.

  4. My local writers group does something similar to this and it seems to work. I haven't tried it but I see how it would get one past a block and back into a story.

  5. Yay for word sprints! You've written whole novels now because of all the sprints we've done in our writing group.

  6. I haven't yet tried it myself but it sounds fun. It's all about getting words on the page, which we need if we're going to get anywhere - everything can be edited later, but you can't do much with a blank page. Kind of the whole philosophy of NaNo but intensified. Might have to try it this year!

  7. Ah, I've heard people talk about writing sprints but didn't really know what they meant ;). Nice explanation, Lan. Hope you're doing well!
    Ninja Girl

  8. I haven't heard of this. Interesting. I've been trying fast drafting lately because I'm so slow. I spend to much time editing while I write instead of getting that first draft finishes. Great article. Thanks.

  9. I have tried sprints. They are so much fun.

  10. I love word sprints....they work so well...

  11. Yes, it does seem so useful to have moments of revision- or second-guessing-free writing. Some people I know are doing a NaSoWriMo or National Songwriting Month, where they pledge to write one song per day, rather than spending weeks obsessing over each song, as most writers seem to do. I am not participating because I have been focusing on film scores lately, but it sounds like it would be a useful exercise.


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