Are you ever trying to write, but you keep getting distracted by Instagram or needing to find the perfect playlist for your scene? Or maybe you’re just finding it hard to focus one day.

I think we’re all been there! I certainly have, especially during NaNoWriMo. It’s almost like my brain knows I need to be writing, so it decides to focus on other things.

That’s where writing sprints come in. If you’ve ever gone to a NaNoWriMo event before, your MLs may have hosted writing sprint sessions to help you focus and get some words down. I use writing sprints all the time outside of NaNoWrimo.

Today, let’s go over writing sprints and three ways you can stick to your plan.

What are writing sprints?

Writing sprints are an exercise where you have a set amount of time to write. Sometimes there’s a goal for the sprint, like 500 words in 15 minutes, and other times the goal is simply to write for the stated time.

Writing sprints are how I won NaNoWriMo back in 2019. Something about them clicks with my process, and I use them all the time now.

Sprints can be as long or as short as you want, but I’ve found 15 to 25 minutes is the sweet spot for prime productivity. That time frame is just long enough to focus but short enough to not be torture if you’re having a rough writing day.

What is the point of a writing sprint?

Ideally, a writing sprint will get your mind focused on writing and you’ll find your flow. Your flow is when the words are pouring onto the page effortlessly, and you feel like you’re ‘in the zone.’

The bonus, though, is that even if you don’t find that flow, you can still make progress on your novel!

Three Ways to Practice Writing Sprints

There are three main ways I practice writing sprints, though there may be other strategies.

1. Use the timer on the NaNoWriMo website

When you create an account on the NaNoWriMo website, there’s actually a built-in timer you can set. Navigate to your project page, and you’ll see the plus sign and clock buttons:

Click the clock button, and a pop-up window will appear. You can enter the time for your writing sprint here. As long as you’ve got your sound turned on and something to listen with, like headphones or speakers, you’ll hear the timer go off.

Alternatively, you can also use a timer on your phone or your computer! During NaNoWriMo events, though, I like to use their built-in timer. Once the sprint is over, it prompts you to record your word count for that sprint. It’s an easy way to track how much you’re writing.

2. Join a Discord server

In light of 2020 and social distancing measures, you may not have the opportunity to attend a NaNoWriMo event in person. I know I won’t be going to any.

But that doesn’t mean you have to write alone! There are plenty of Discord servers to join, both for NaNoWriMo and otherwise. Discord is a free program to chat with other people via voice and text options. 

Online communities can not only provide a schedule for writing sprints, but they can also provide some accountability and energy to hit your writing goals.

3. Create 15-minute playlists

If you don’t want a traditional timer, you can also create a variety of 15-minute playlists to serve as timers for your writing sprints. 

Just start the music, then write until the music stops playing!

This may work well for you if you like to create playlists for different scenes and mood within your book. 

It’s the habit, not the final numbers

One more reminder before you dive into NaNoWriMo prep and activities: the 50,000-word goal is great, but what’s most important is that you build your writing habit and figure out what process works best for you.

Happy writing!

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How Writing Sprints Can Help You Focus And Finish Writing Your Novel | Between the Lines Editorial