Writing in Sprints


Most ebook authors are holding down a full time job, raising a family and might even have a hobby or two.  This means time is a premium, and unless they become a self-sufficient hermit (with wi fi) they will never have a schedule that allows them to write as much as they want.  This has some writers forcing strict schedules on themselves to make up for this, with either a specific time of day that they write (like maybe one or two specific hours each week day, all Saturday,  etc) or a specific goal every week (5000 words is a common one I hear).

My schedule, for whatever reasons I cannot pin down, ends up being too chaotic for specific guidelines.  I still have overall goals I would like to meet (I prefer a minimum of one chapter a week) but I do not always fulfill that.  I try to make up for this by most of the time that I write, I write in sprints, then edit at a slower pace.  Without some words or some guidelines, days can pass with nor progress on the book.  If you force artificial guidelines (I must have an hour to myself!) then it may never get done.  Instead when I sit at that keyboard and I have the spare fifteen minutes to write, I let those fingers fly away as quick as possible to put as much things down in electronic form as fast as I can!

After that, of course, you not only do the obvious spelling/grammar edits, but you can flesh out the scenes, or re word things.  You might even have to redo entire scenes this way, as the idea that sounded great in your head when pounding out a chapter quickly might not translate as well on paper.  That can happen even if you are leisurely typing out a chapter too, meticulously following out a point by point outline.  It’s much easier I have noticed filling out editing in spare minutes, as long as there is something on the page to change. 

Along those lines writing in sprints also means not always doing things in order or stopping at obvious places. Nothing defeats a novel’s formation as much as a blank page at the beginning of a new chapter or at a break in a chapter.  It’s for this reason that normally after I finish a chapter I start typing the next one, even if only a paragraph.  That way when I come back to it I have thoughts to build off of.  For me, once I have a character in a situation I can continue the plot by merely having them react to the situation.  It’s also easier to come up with said situations when finishing another chapter because my “writing brain” is fully engaged and therefore better at pulling plot out of the ether.

Sometimes when writing in sprints real life may keep you from writing for days, or at worst weeks.  When this happens I have noticed it’s very tough to start again.  Things that have helped me before with this is: trying to continue the scene in my head before writing, jumping ahead to another chapter, or erasing the last paragraph or two and re write them differently so that new ideas flourish.

Another thing that helps with writing in short amounts is mentioned above, but can be done even if it has not been a long time between chapters: continuing dialogue, scenes, or other aspects of the novel in your head in between writing.  Often at random times such as at lunch breaks, commuting to work, or even watching TV I am wondering how characters would react to the last thing I wrote for them, or even hypothetical situations that are likely to happen from where I left them last.  When I actually sit down to write it does not always come out the same way I originally imagined it, but doing this helps you work out possibilities without constantly erasing and re-writing.

The most important thing about sprint writing is not giving up, and allowing it to happen as frequently as possible in your schedule.  You won’t type out whole chapters in one sitting like marathon writing does, but you will see progress in a way that can fit even the busiest of schedules.

Well, you will as long as you don’t eat a whole bag of jelly babies beforehand and your mind descends into sugar induced insanity and/or lethargy.

In other news:

The second Allmother’s Fire book is officially over the halfway mark now.  I can’t tell if this novel will be shorter or longer than The Fall of House Nemeni was, but it seems to me to be packing more scenes in less words as a lot of “filler” words are being excised from it.  It’s moving slower due to real life (moving across country in two months) but still expanding at a steady pace.

Also the likely next series is starting to coalesce, and I might even write a short story in that world in between book 2 and 3 of the Allmother’s Fire.  It’s not a large epic like Allmother’s Fire is, but the canvas for it’s world is vast and is also clockpunk.  It’s not however a tale of floating islands and has more of a pulp influence to it.

Also got my first Amazon 5 star review (had some on goodreads before) for The Fall of House Nemeni, and my first Amazon review for Mandatory Paradise!  I can’t describe how much a writer loves reading these things, even when the point out the weak points too (it’s honestly how we grow).

My poll ties into my post, but you can apply to yourself even if you do not write, as I am curious about how different people tackle similar things:

Poll:

When tackling a big project do you prefer to do it:

1)In many short chunks fit in when you can

2)All at one period of time with nothing else in between

World Info:

I have done a lot recently on tidbits from the Allmother’s Fire world, time to diverge for a little bit to Mandatory Paradise, since I am finally getting some feedback from it by people I do not know.  Today’s will be general answers to questions I have gotten, but edited so as to not give spoilers:

1)The cover and occasional points in the book have Alnanla in dark robes, but the first description given of Priestess’ at the Bull Dances are that they and the Priests are pretty scantily clad.  Is this a plot hole?:

Answer:

No, at the dances they do not wear alto as part of the ceremony and because no one wants to be gored by a bull because you were attempting to run around in thick robes.  When not at Bull Dances both Priests and Priestesses are modest, hence the robes.

2)If thesis stones hold such information how come they are not used by the populace in general instead of formalized teaching, reading, memorizing etc.

Answer:

Thesis stones are limited, and the Senate and Judges have a reason to not hand them out like candy.  This will become more apparent why as the story progresses.

3)If most of the populace never gets attacked by the monsters behind the shields, why are they still afraid of them?  Even though they could see them wouldn’t their fear of them go away, and the “threat” the monsters present seem unreal, much like violence has become to some people because of TV?

Answer:

Without debating conclusions drawn in that question, keep in mind that enough Lykatic Vampire attacks happen that on an island as small as that enough people know of a friend, or friend of a friend who has had someone die even if they have not seen the monsters do it themselves.  At the same time many of the citizens often do not look up at night at the monsters, because shield or no shield it’s still frightening to see dragons and gryphons careening around madly only a few hundred feet over your head.

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About mdkenning

E-book clockpunk fantasy author View all posts by mdkenning

4 responses to “Writing in Sprints

  • SuperCraftifFragilistic

    I tend to work better when I can focus for long periods of time, because often the most difficult thing for me is getting started, and once I get started I have momentum. Like this:
    http://lifehacker.com/5895509/train-your-brain-for-monk+like-focus

    So in school I tended to write papers all at once (and usually procrastinate) and on occasions where I’m working on a work or craft project, I like to do it all in one session when I can. Of course life doesn’t always allow this, so you have to do things in small chunks sometimes to get anything done!

    Regarding that last question, I find it interesting that one would assume you get unafraid of something the more you see it. Like a numbing effect? But I think you can still be scared of something in an abstract sense even if you don’t think it will hurt you at the moment. I can see scary monsters on tv and not be completely petrified (usually), but if I saw one in real life I’d be totally freaked out.

  • amkenning

    I tend to need long stretches. Just sit down with some caffeine and knock the whole thing out. Of course, that was mostly academic papers, but when I used to write more for fun it was the same way. My muse would bite me and off I’d go, writing g like crazy before the spark disappeared again.

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