- Find a place where you feel relaxed and won’t be distracted.
Nothing annoys me more than being distracted when I’m participating in a word sprint. A word sprint is not about who writes the most words—it’s about committing to your book during the time you agreed on with your fellow sprinters. I put my phone upside down so I can’t see the screen, and usually turn off the Wi-Fi (or hotspot) so that I can’t sneakily go on the internet* and check out… whatever website works, basically.
As I do a lot of my writing at work during my lunch breaks, I don’t have a quiet place to retreat to—but I have my headphones. I tell my colleagues I’ll be going on my break (and usually indicate if I’m planning on writing or not), open Spotify, find my playlist (I have one for every book/series) and blast music through those headphones. That is enough for me to create a bubble, and allows me to focus on my story.
*This works. Most of the time.
- Decide/ know where you want to go with your story.
I think especially when it comes to word sprints, it’s good to know where you’re going with your story. It doesn’t matter if you’re a plotter or a pantser. It will change your approach, but not the outcome. And the outcome is that you’ll be focused.
If you’re a plotter, you might have everything thought through—your setting, your characters, your scene, perhaps even dialogue. If you’re a pantser, you might only have a vague idea of where you want the story to go. I consider myself a plantser (plotter meets pantser) and I want to know the following when I start writing my story: my characters and background, setting, main plot points, end. Knowing my main plot points allows me to write from 1 to 2 to 3 and so on. But when I participate in word sprints, I really sit down and think about the scene I’m going to write. Are there any emotional dominos I need to keep in mind? And does my scene have a magical cookie? I *love* words sprints, but I also want to know I’m writing something useful. It also helps me to increase my focus during the sprint, and write more words.
- Set your goal (and reward yourself)
I find setting a goal (i.e. 750 words in 30 minutes) helps me focus. My eyes on that word count helps me push myself to keep going—to keep writing.
However, I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s just that: a goal. If you don’t make it, you’re not failing. You still made an effort, and that counts. It really does. On the flipside, I reward myself if I hit my goal. For me, that can be a break, an episode of a TV show I like (depending on how long I’ve been writing)… or just a snack. ;-) After all, we all need writing fuel!
- Bonustip: ENJOY
Writing should be fun. If you try to sprint and it doesn’t work, then try to go back to your story. Did you take a wrong turn somewhere? Or maybe, now is just not the right time. That’s okay. Try again in a few hours, or tomorrow. But don’t beat yourself up over it.
And there you go!
What are your top tips for NaNoWriMo / word sprints?
With #NaNoWriMo2016 in full swing, I hope you’re having fun! Personally, I love word sprints—I’ve found many new friends through those. Pen Name Publishing tweeted me at the start of November when I was doing a word sprint, and asked if I had tips for writers who are struggling with their focus during word sprints. I realized I had and tweeted them out, but I also feel like sharing them here with you.